NATPE’s Lew Klein Dies, Helped Create ‘American Bandstand’

A native of Philadelphia, Klein served as executive producer of American Bandstand, the popular music performance and dance television show hosted by Clark. Klein is credited with launching Clark's career and served on the board of Dick Clark Productions.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lew Klein, a broadcast pioneer who helped create “American Bandstand” and launched the careers of Dick Clark and Bob Saget, as well as founding NATPE, has died at 91.

Klein died Wednesday, according to Temple University, where Klein taught and mentored students for more than six decades.

In 2017, Temple renamed the College of Media and Communications in his honor. During a ceremony, which included remarks from comedian Saget, Klein said he was “so proud and very thankful” to be honored by the university.

Saget, on Facebook before the ceremony, called Klein a “great influencer.”

He began working at WFIL-TV, now WPVI, where he directed “Romper Room” and co-created “Captain Noah and His Magical Ark,” two popular children’s programs in the 1960s that attracted a bigger local audience than “Sesame Street.”

A native of Philadelphia, Klein served as executive producer of “American Bandstand,” the popular music performance and dance television show hosted by Clark. Klein is credited with launching Clark’s career and served on the board of Dick Clark Productions.

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He spent 15 years producing telecasts for the Philadelphia Phillies and also helped with the careers of players-turned-sportscasters including Richie Ashburn and Tim McCarver.

Only a couple years after he graduated with an English degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Klein started teaching at Temple. He stayed for more than 65 years.

Kevin Negandhi, a sports anchor for ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” tweeted that Klein was a great role model. “He was sharp. He was kind. His impact will be felt for generations,” Negandhi said.

Joe Conti, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, called Klein a “titan within the broadcast community.”

“He was a compassionate leader, tireless advocate and mentor to generations of broadcast television and radio professionals,” he said in an emailed statement.

Klein started his career in the 1950’s in the programming department of WFIL. From 1984 to 1993, he was president of Gateway Communications, which owned four CBS affiliates in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Klein is the founder and former president of NATPE, the world’s largest nonprofit content association, and the founder and president of the NATPE Educational Foundation.

Following his passion for teaching a new generation about the industry, Klein held the position of adjunct professor at the School of Communications at Temple University in Philadelphia for 65 years. Klein was honored several times at Temple for his service to the university and in 2017 the university’s School of Media and Communication was renamed the Lew Klein College of Media and Communication.

Klein was the recipient of NATPE’s President’s Award and the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Gold Medal. He was also named “Broadcaster of the Year” by the Broadcast Pioneer’s Philadelphia Chapter and earned the Distinguished Education Service Award from the Broadcast Education Association.

He is survived by his wife, Janet, his children Ellen and Stephen, granddaughter Anna and her husband, John, and great-grandchildren Oscar and Miriam. A memorial service will be held for. Klein at a later date.

NATPE Chairman Andy Kaplan said: “It is with the deepest regret that we inform you that Lew Klein (91), NATPE’s founder and guiding light, has passed away. Lew was the soul and inspiration for NATPE and was tireless in his work and support of both NATPE and the NATPE Foundation, which he founded and served as president until his passing.

Our condolences go out to Janet, Lew’s wife, who was by his side for a lifetime and always present at NATPE events, and to Lew’s entire family.  We will dearly miss his wise counsel, smiling face and his class. He was one of a kind.”


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MattKeye says:

June 13, 2019 at 9:41 pm

Lew was a gentle superstar in making TV live up to its highest possibilities. He also was one of the founders of NATPE and ran a group of stations. Took a keen interest in helping youngsters fall in love with TV. Our industry has lost a titan.


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