April 26, 2015 at 2:43 am #10019Craig_AdamsParticipant
Today April 26, 1927 Eugene Louis “Gene” Brendler was born in Madison, Wisconsin to Kathryn Ann (Trainor) and Louis Henry “Louie” Brendler. Gene had three younger brothers: Charles O., John J. and Louis Henry “Lou” Brendler, Jr. By 1930 the Brendler family was living in Blooming Grove, Wisc., a suburb of Madison.
Gene graduated from high school in 1945 and was drafted into the Army. He did basic training in Tyler, Texas and was sent to Berlin, Germany. By this time, the war had ended and Berlin was being occupied by the allies. Gene began his broadcast career at Armed Forces Radio Network. It was in Berlin, that he met his future wife Patricia, at the time, a dental assistant with the British Royal Air Force.
On November 22, 1947 Eugene Louis Brendler, 19, married 22 year old Janet “Patricia” Harris, in Berlin. Gene’s best man was Leon Tokatyan, who would later go on to write the pilot for the “Lou Grant” TV Series. The wedding was not approved by either family and it was revealed Patricia could not have children. The Brendler’s moved immediately from Europe to Madison, Wisc. to live on Gene’s parents farm, where Patricia was introduced to “America, Land of Milk & Honey.”
However, the Brendler farm was not honey sweet, their water closet was a hole in the ground sewer. Patricia was not embracing her new life in America and made Gene well aware, a change had to be made. That’s about when Gene came up with The Plan! They both had an interest getting into show business. Gene’s strategy, drive to Hollywood and become Movie Stars!! This would also solve their lack of ready CA$H!
In January 1948 they took off. On their way, it was decided the Brendler’s would stop and visit friends for a few days in Portland, Oregon. While in the Rose City, Patricia, suddenly wasn’t feeling “up to snuff.” That’s when Gene found out his wife was pregnant. It was decided the Brendler’s would stay in Portland until the baby was born. Then, continue on to Hollywood Stardom! Gene needed to get a job in the meantime. His first attempt was selling stoves for “Portland Gas and Coke Co.”, for which he was not successful. “We got so far in debt, we never got out — of debt or Portland,” Gene later joked.
On February 22, 1948 Gene & Patricia welcomed their daughter Candyce R. “Candy” Brendler. The Brendler family were living at: 1127 North Crosby Ave. and were flat broke with three mouths to feed. Gene stuffed a packaged ham up his shirt in a grocery store and was immediately busted for shoplifting. Finally Gene landed a fill-in job at KWJJ on the perfect program “Make Believe Ballroom.” By mid 1950 Gene had landed a full-time gig at KXL as an Announcer. On July 13, 1953 Gene Brendler left KXL for KPTV channel 27, becoming a staff announcer. He was later viewed as one of Portland’s early Television Pioneers. At the time it was said Brendler was one of the best announcers in Portland.
On August 16, 1953 just two weeks after “Wedding Belles” debuted on KPTV, Gene Brendler replaced Brad Reynolds as host. “Featuring bridal fashions, gifts for guest brides and the Bride-of-The-Week contest!” Sundays 12:30pm to 1:00pm. By September 1953 Gene’s wife Patricia was working for KOIN AM/FM in Traffic. She would also work at KPOJ AM/FM.
On December 23, 1953 KPTV’s “World On View” weeknight program began at 6:45pm for 10 minutes with Gene as host. On April 26, 1954 “World On View” moved to 6:15pm for 10 minutes. By August 1954 Gene was hosting “Night Owl Theater” weeknights beginning at 11:00pm. On September 22, 1954 the last broadcast for “World On View” took place. On September 27, 1954 the debut of KPTV’s “See Hear” local live, informal, musical variety show starring pianist Al Davis, organist Chuck Fendall, vocalist Patty Baldwin with Gene Brendler, emcee at 6:00pm to 6:25pm. This was Portland’s first daily musical variety show.
On September 26, 1955 “Dinner At Bart’s” debuted Monday’s at 10:30pm to 11:00pm live from “Bart’s Charcoal Broiler” restaurant with Gene as host. Viewers saw women modeling clothes, dinner guests interviewed, sometimes weird happenings on camera from patrons. On December 18, 1955 “Wedding Belles” aired for the last time. On December 19, 1955 “Dinner At Bart’s” last televised. On January 16, 1956 debut date: “Gene Brendler is host and weather forecaster on KPTV’s “News Central” weeknights 6:00 P.M.” for 30 minutes. Gene became KPTV News Director. The following year Gene was said to be a news commentator.
On July 12 1956 Gene Brendler interviewed contestants for the “Miss Oregon” contest at Fox Theater. Gene would continue as master of ceremonies every year to 1966, many of the pageants carried on KPTV. By August 1956 Gene was doing a Saturday disc-jockey show on KHFS 1150kc in Vancouver 9:30am to 4:30pm. On September 1, 1956 “Night Owl Theater” made its last hoot. On November 3, 1956 “See Hear” aired for the last time. On April 9, 1957 “Wolfard’s Supper Club” began on KPTV at 6:30pm with Gene as emcee. The live local show presented a half hour of popular music and easy humor, sponsored by Wolfard Ford. Last program on July 26th.
On August 12, 1957 “High Time” debuted on KPTV at 4:45pm to 5:30pm. The local live daily show “will be a teen-age dance party, giving Portland high school students their own television show for the first time. Gene Brendler will emcee the dance, interview the teen-agers, visiting personalities, school track stars & supervise contests. Parents are invited to watch the show from the viewer’s gallery.” At its peak 400 dancers were on the floor. Tickets for the shows were distributed and there were lines around the block and down to Multnomah Stadium. On August 19, 1957 “High Time” moved to 4:15pm to 5:15pm. On September 16, 1957 “High Time” moved to 4:30pm to 5:30pm. By November 1957 the Brendler’s were living at: 5133 S.E. Alderway Ave.
On April 16, 1958 SPECIAL: “What will YOU do if Portland is attacked? Gene Brendler narrates “Portland’s Civil Defense” DON’T MISS, KPTV COMMUNITY PROJECTS 6:30 P.M. Film of preparedness and training for survival in case of national attack, also showing one of Portland’s evacuation routes to a mass feeding center. Produced & narrated by Gene Brendler and written by Bob Burns, Portland Civil Defense Education officer.” The documentary featured local scenes and local persons, plus non-target areas care of evacuees from Portland.
On June 10, 1958 Gene Brendler was appointed KPTV Director of Special Events, after John Salisbury took over Gene’s “News Central” program as News Director. On May 24, 1960 “High Time” moved to 3:30pm for 30 minutes. The last “High Time” program aired on September 23, 1960. By December 1960 Gene had taken over as host of “The Better Half” show weekdays at 9:30am, from Charlie LaFranchise.
On September 6, 1961 Gene Brendler substituted for the vacationing Dick Clark on ABC’s “American Bandstand” from Philadelphia. The hour program was saluting Portland & Oregon, including greetings from Gov. Mark Hatfield, Mayor, Terry Schrunk & Rose Festival Queen, Linda Fuqua (Cleveland HS). On January 2, 1962 “The Better Half” aired for the last time. On February 10, 1962 the KPTV Saturday program “For Teenagers Only” began at 2:00pm for 30 minutes, with Gene as host & featured high school salutes of the week and school musical performances. Last broadcast was on June 2nd. On November 24, 1962 KPTV presented “Off Campus” Saturday’s at 2:00pm. Gene hosted this half hour of high school and college news with representatives from various schools, until January 5, 1963.
On April 15, 1963 Gene Brendler began teaching a broadcasting course at “Pacific Northwest Electronics Workshop” at 409 S.W. 13th Ave. On July 1, 1963 “TV Bingo” began on KPTV with Gene as host of the game show, 11am to 11:30am. On October 19, 1963 KPTV’s “Hootenanny” debuted Saturday’s at 2:30pm. Gene hosted local amateur Folk music groups for 30 minutes. (ABC’s “Hootenanny aired Saturday’s at 7:30pm on KPTV). On November 30, 1963 now called “KPTV Hootenanny” moved to 6:00pm Saturday’s. On December 27, 1963 “TV Bingo” aired for the last time. On February 29, 1964 “KPTV Hootenanny” at 1:30pm aired for the last time, most likely because “Hootenanny” & ABC moved to KATU.
On March 2, 1964 KPTV’s “12 In The Morning” made its debut with host Gene Brendler. The weekday 3 1/2 hour show featured movies, cartoons, news, sports, Hollywood news, weather and interviews. On May 19, 1964 Gene & Patricia welcomed their son Beau Harris Brendler. On July 1, 1964 “12 In The Morning” ended but was revived on September 3rd, in a half hour format, then expanded to an hour on September 14th. “12 In The Morning” would continue off and on for decades but Gene hosted to 1972. On April 2, 1967 KPTV’s “Cancer Hotline” was presented by The Oregon Cancer Society at 11:00am for an hour with host Gene Brendler, through 1970.
On February 5, 1968 KPTV became the Portland franchise for the use of the program title “Dialing For Dollars” with host Gene Brendler at 10:00am to 11:25am weekdays (formally known as “The Dollar Movie”). By this time Gene was hosting “TV Show of Homes” Saturday’s, noon to 12:30pm. On July 1, 1968 “Dialing For Dollars” moved to 11:00am-Noon. On September 2, 1968 “Dialing For Dollars” moved to 2:30pm-3:30pm. On December 6, 1968 the last “Dialing For Dollars” show aired. On January 10, 1971 Gene took over as moderator of KPTV’s “Columbia Crossroads” from Gerry Pratt, 9-10pm Sundays. On September 15, 1971 KPTV debuted “Number 12 Northwest” 10:30pm Wednesday’s with moderator Gene Brendler.
Gene’s wife, Patricia had really missed living back in England all these years so on September 30, 1972 after 20 years at KPTV Gene left channel 12 and moved with wife back to merry old England. The Oregon Advertising Club had a luncheon for Gene on September 27th. Brendler with 20 years of Television broadcasting under his belt, thought he could land a job at the BBC or some station. In the end, no one in British broadcasting would hire an American to do on-air announcing, and they weren’t shy about telling him that.
By February 1975 Gene had returned to Portland, rejoining KPTV but had to start all over again from the bottom. Gene began working the all night announcer shift, breaking into end credits. “Coming up next on KPTV Channel 12, it’s “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!” followed by “Pop Goes The Country.” By February 1976 Gene was moderator on “Columbia Crossroads.” On April 17, 1976 Gene’s father Louis Henry Brendler died at age 86 in Madison, Wisc.
On August 27, 1976 it was announced Gene Brendler was appointed KPTV Public Affairs Director and began the program “Newsweek Bylines.” By 1977 Gene Brendler was teaching a broadcasting course at Portland Community College, Sylvania campus, under Keith Allen. By July 1977 Gene was seen again on “Number 12 Northwest” as moderator. In October 1980 Gene’s mother Kathryn Ann Brendler died at age 75 in Madison, Wisc.
On May 22, 1983 KPTV began the weekend program “Viewer’s Digest” with host Gene Brendler, seen Saturday mornings 6:00am to 7:00am and then repeated Sunday nights at 9:30pm. Also by this time “Newsweek Bylines” had changed its title to “Northwest Bylines.” On May 1, 1992 Gene Brendler retired from KPTV and announced on May 4th that he would become KMUZ Gresham, Special Program & Projects Director and would do daily commentaries. “This is an exiting opportunity for a guy who isn’t ready to wrap up his broadcasting career at this point in his life.” said Brendler. He worked for KMUZ until 1993.
On January 17, 1998 Gene Brendler passed away at age 70 in Portland. On January 31, 1998 a memorial service was held at 1:00pm in Riverview Cemetery. George Ross, who worked with Mr. Brendler at KPTV for more than 30 years, remembered him as an “unflappable pro” who kept his composure despite the best efforts by others in the studio to break him up or distract him when he was on camera.
Special Thanks to Beau Brendler and Joel Miller who helped make this biography more complete.
References: comcast/kptv, The Oregonian.
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