Hal Simms

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Born

6/10/1919 , Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Died

7/2/2002

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Biography:

Hal Simms' name may not ring a bell, but his voice was certainly familiar to a generation of TV viewers who tuned in to "The Edge of Night," "Beat the Clock" and "The Frank Sinatra Show" during the early days of network television. He was a CBS announcer from 1948 until 1972, but was really a jack-of-all-trades who also acted, reported, and delivered weather forecasts while the new medium was defining itself.



Mr. Simms, 83, who grew up in Boston's old West End, died July 2, 2002 at Goddard House, a Brookline MA nursing facility.



"For a kid from a tenement, it was really quite a life," his son Adam said yesterday. "He was there when Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid were young men in a new medium. He got to work with sports figures such as Frank Gifford and entertainers like Frank Sinatra - figures who were larger than life."



In 1958, he recalled the early days when "a three-station hook-up was a major network, and you reached a couple of hundred thousand people at peak hours." He and his colleagues "practically froze" at the thought of telecasting into homes in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia simultaneously, when that was the extent of network TV.



"No one dreamed of a network spanning the entire nation, making it possible to be seen and heard by millions upon millions of viewers," he said.



Mr. Simms often recounted the time he was told to cover the races at New York's Belmont Park. "He had never been to a racetrack and hadn't any idea what win, place, and show meant," said his son. An editor of the Racing Form gave him a quick tutorial and that afternoon Mr. Simms was at Belmont calling the races.



He was the announcer for the game shows "Beat the Clock" and "To Tell the Truth," the soap opera "The Guiding Light," and many other TV shows. He also announced radio shows and for 10 years prior to his retirement was announcer in chief of CBS. Nobody knows how many times he delivered the lines "CBS presents this program in color" or introduced "The Edge of Night," with the emphasis on the word "edge," a hallmark of the show for many years.



He was also an announcer-actor on the "The Morning Show" with Jack Paar. One morning, when the two finished a skit wearing gorilla costumes, the cue came to deliver the weather forecast. Never one to miss a cue, Mr. Simms delivered the weather in the gorilla suit. The CBS switchboard lit up.



One evening, he was announcing the "Songs for Sale" show, and host Jan Murray contracted laryngitis and couldn't go on, so Mr. Simms hosted the show. "Never in my life was I so scared," he said. "Luckily, things went off without a hitch."



And there was the time he and a crew taped the "The Frank Sinatra Show" at the Paramount Theater in New York City, where "old blue eyes" was performing. When they returned to CBS, they realized they had forgotten to load the camera. Sinatra had decamped for Hollywood, so Mr. Simms and his colleagues followed the singer to the West Coast to retape the show. "Frankie couldn't believe his eyes when we walked in," said Mr. Simms.



Mr. Simms graduated from the University of Michigan, working his way through school by selling shoes and newspapers and working in the school's kitchen. During school breaks, he hitchhiked to Boston to visit his family.



He began his career in radio in Portsmouth, N.H., where he earned the princely sum of $20 a month. He was working for a Philadelphia radio station, his son said, when his college friends Robert Q. Lewis and Mike Wallace persuaded him to move to New York and join CBS.



Early in his career, Mr. Simms was asked to go to Hollywood, step out of the announcer's booth and into the limelight and take a chance at a big-time career. He declined because his children were young and he didn't want to relocate. "He passed on the pursuit of glamor," said his son, "and he never regretted it."



He leaves another son, Hank; a daughter, Sarah Simms Rosenthal; and three grandchildren. funeral service was held.



By Tom Long, Boston Globe Staff, 7/12/2002