George Pierrot, 1965

The Way It Was
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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE WALTER P. REUTHER LIBRARY, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY

1965 With his raspy voice, drowsy countenance, and portly physique, George Pierrot hardly seemed anyone’s idea of a riveting TV personality. But Pierrot, host of the World Adventure Series, which morphed into George Pierrot Presents, gained such a following that his show aired every weekday afternoon — and for a time on Sundays, too. It debuted on Channel 7 in 1948, and soon moved to Channel 4. The premise was simple: On an unadorned set, Pierrot and a guest provided color commentary as a film of Turkey, Finland, or Burma unreeled. Pierrot himself was a world traveler, author, and raconteur. He’s pictured above, circa mid-’60s, holding the whole world in his hands. Pierrot was born in Chicago in 1898, but grew up in Washington state. He came to Detroit in the early 1920s to edit The American Boy magazine. Pierrot’s TV show’s roots went back to 1933, when he premiered the World Adventure Series at the Detroit Institute of Arts. For a quarter, Depression-weary Detroiters were transported to exotic, faraway places by watching a travelogue and hearing Pierrot’s lecture. The TV program took its final excursion in 1976, but the DIA series continued until 1979. Pierrot had a deep affection for Detroit and made his home in the city’s Indian Village neighborhood. He also had a wicked wit, as Tim Kiska notes in his book on Detroit television history, From Soupy to Nuts! The author mentions Pierrot was fond of reciting naughty limericks, and his humor was intact to the end. As the ambulance drivers arrived to spirit Pierrot away, Kiska reports the aging globetrotter quipped, “One of you boys better drive. I don’t feel up to it.” Pierrot’s excellent adventure ended in 1980.

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