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  ALLEN FUNT 1914 - 1999

    Allen Funt, creator and original host of the landmark television series Candid Camera, perfected an art that has entertained people for nearly 60 years. From a humble start on radio in 1947, he used hidden microphones and cameras to catch unsuspecting people worldwide—all in the spirit of fun.
    Allen Funt's preoccupation with catching people off-guard and making them laugh at themselves took many forms. Following the success of Candid Microphone on the ABC Radio Network, Candid Camera was launched in 1948 and became a top-rated TV show in both network runs and syndication. In 1968, Funt also produced his first feature-length motion picture, the hidden-camera study of sexuality, "What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?" His other credits included 40 movie shorts for Columbia Pictures, three books—"Eavesdropper at Large," "Candid Kids" and "Candidly, Allen Funt"—seven record albums and more than 100 sales training films for major corporations.
    How does one prepare for a career hiding cameras, dreaming up crazy situations and delighting people with their own foolishness? Allen Funt's early years gave few clues. Born September 16, 1914, in New York City, the son of a diamond merchant, Funt graduated from high school at the precocious age of 15. Too young for college and eager for a career in art, he attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn before entering Cornell University, from which he earned a B.A. in Fine Arts.
    After graduation he attended Columbia University School of Business Administration and then returned to Pratt for additional courses in art, which led to a job in the art department of an advertising agency. He subsequently became a copywriter and then joined the radio department, where he found his true métier. He became a radio idea man, dreaming up gimmicks for shows.
    During World War II, the Army Signal Corps put Funt and his radio experience to good use for five years. While in the service, Funt experimented with the then young art of location recording, using a wire recorder, the predecessor of today's tape recorder. The portability of the contraption led Funt to try out various concealment techniques. The happy result was Candid Microphone, which premiered on ABC Radio soon after Funt left the Army.
    Funt, who never regarded himself as an actor, soon found himself playing many characters in the program—disguised as a dentist, garage mechanic or some other occupation—serving as the catalyst for unsuspecting people whose candid reactions to unusual situations were recorded. Candid Microphone soon gave birth to the television version, Candid Camera, which appeared at one time or another on all three networks and in many foreign countries. The program was an acclaimed hit on CBS-TV from 1960 to 1966.
    The next two decades brought about the New Candid Camera, a weekly half-hour syndicated series that ran for over five years in the mid-70's, as well as adult versions of the popular show created for cable. During this time, Funt also produced several Candid Camera Specials for NBC and CBS. Peter Funt joined him in 1987 for the CBS specials.
    Allen Funt's philanthropic endeavors were many. He turned over to his alma mater, Cornell, the entire library of Candid Camera recordings and films, together with a grant to make this material available the world over for research and other academic uses. For several years he also established a Fellowship at Syracuse University for post-graduate studies in radio and television aimed at providing the broadcast industry with qualified black personnel.
    Due to his continued interest in the effects of laughter on healing, Funt established the "Laughter Therapy" foundation, which makes Candid Camera videocassettes available at no charge to people with serious illnesses.
    Called the "second most ingenious sociologist in America" by no less an authority than super-sociologist David Reisman in his book, "The Lonely Crowd," Funt always considered himself a student of human nature, rather than a practical joker.
    He moved from New York to Central California in 1978, and embarked on cattle ranching and horse breeding at his 1,100-acre Big Sur ranch, bordered on one side by the Pacific and the other by the beautiful Sierra Mountains. Often he could be found ankle-deep in sawdust making furniture or building additions to the ranch. Following a stroke in 1993, he was forced to take things easier, but still with that same Funt appreciation for life's little absurdities—and of course, still sporting a "Smile."
    Allen Funt is survived by five children: Peter, Patricia, John, Juliet and William; and four grandchildren: Stephanie, Daniel, Katherine and Anna.

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