Phil Donahue is an American media personality, writer and film producer. He is best known as the creator and host of the long running but now defunct television talk show “The Phil Donahue Show” (aka. “Donahue”, 1967-1996), from which he received nine Daytime Emmy Awards. Donahue also won the Daytime Emmy Special Recognition Award and Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 and 1996, respectively. In 1996, Donahue was ranked No. 42 on the TV Guide list of “50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.” He returned to television as a host of the MSNBC short lived talk show “Donahue” (2002-2003). In 2007, Donahue entered the world of filmmaking with the award winning documentary “Body of War,” which he co-directed, co-wrote and co-written with Ellen Spiro. The film brought him the Hamptons International Film Festival Audience Award and a PGA nomination.
Donahue has been married twice. His first marriage to Marge Cooney lasted from 1958 to 1975. They share five children. Currently, he is married to actress, producer, and social activist Marlo Thomas. The couple have lived in Westport, Connecticut since 1986.
Childhood and Family:
In Cleveland, Ohio, Phillip John Donahue was born on December 21, 1935, to Phillip Donahue, a furniture sales clerk, and Catherine McClory Donahue, a department store shoe clerk. He grew up in a a middle class, religious, Irish Catholic family. After graduating from Our Lady Of Angels elementary school in 1949, he went to St. Edward High School, an all-boys college prep Catholic private high school run by the Congregation of Holy Cross in suburban Lakewood, Ohio, and graduated in 1953. He received a BBA degree from University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, which is also run by the Congregation of Holy Cross, in 1957.
On February 1, 1958, Phillip married Marge Cooney, but they later divorce din 1975. The marriage produced four sons, Michael, Kevin, Daniel and Jim, and one daughter, Mary Rose. He then married “That Girl” star Marlo Thomas (born November 21, 1937) on May 21, 1980. The couple first met when Marlo was a guest on his show during the 1970s.
Body of War
In 1957, Phil Donahue kicked off his career as a production assistant at KYW radio and television in his native of Cleveland, OH. There he also received a chance to become an announcer one day when the regular announcer did not come out. He went on to work as a bank check sorter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but soon became program and news director at WAJB-Radio in Adrian, Michigan. Donahue then became stringer for the CBS Evening News and later, an anchor of the morning newscast at WHIO-TV in Dayton, Ohio. While in Dayton, he also hosted a phone-in afternoon talk show, “Conversation Piece,” on WIHO-Radio from 1963 to 1967. He interviewed war dissenters and many civil activists, including Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..
After leaving WIHO in November 1967, Donahue became the host of a new television program, “The Phil Donahue Show” on WLWD (now WDTN), also in Dayton. At the start, the program was shown only other stations owned by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation (which would later take the name of its parent Avco Company), which also owned WLWD. However, “The Phil Donahue Show” (later known as simply “Donahue”) entered nationwide syndication in January 1970. Donahue relocated the show's base home to Chicago in 1974 and later to New York City in 1984. As the 1990s approached, the talk show field, which had centered on serious issues such as abortion, consumer protection, civil rights and war and targeted female audience members by using emotional intrigues for a number of year, became saturated, and finally Donahue and his program became a victim. Although ratings never slumped, he was dropped at his height due to his views on the Gulf War that led one station, the San Francisco based KGO-TV, owned by ABC, to drop the program at the start of the 1995-1996 season after carrying it for several years. The final original episode of “Donahue” broadcast in May 1996.
“Donahue” amassed a total of 20 wins and 42 nominations throughout its 29 year run, 26 years in syndication. Donahue won nine Daytime Emmys in the categories of Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series (1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980), Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk or Service Series (1982, 1983), Outstanding Host in a Talk or Service Series (1985) and Outstanding Talk or Service Show Host (1986 and 1988). He was garnered with the Daytime Emmy Special Recognition Award in 1993 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. Donahue also won the Peabody Personal Award in 1981 and the Golden Apple for Daytime Star of the Year in 1982.
While hosting his own program, Donahue also became a contributor for the NBC breakfast television show “Today” from 1979 to 1982. He co-hosted a political and social issues-oriented talk show with Vladimir Pozner, an ex-information chief to the Soviet Union, called “Pozner/Donahue” from 1991 to 1994. “Pozner/Donahue” aired both on CNBC and in syndication.
Three years after the demise of his show, Donahue landed a recurring role on the NBC sitcom “Frasier,” where his voice could be heard as Larry in the episodes “Our Parents, Ourselves” and “Shutout in Seattle: Part 1 and 2” (all 1999).
In July 2002, Donahue revisited the small screen to host a new show on MSNBC called “Donahue.” The show, however, was canceled in February 2003 because of low ratings.
In 2007, Donahue directed, wrote and produced the documentary film “Body of War,” with independent filmmaker Ellen Spiro. Following Tomas Young, a severely disabled Iraq War veteran and his turbulent postwar adjustments, the film won a National Board of Review Award for Best Documentary and the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival and was nominated for the PGA Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award in the category of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures.
In 2008, Donahue appeared as Santa killer in an episode of the A&E television series “Watching the Detectives” called “03: Cut to the Chase.”
Hamptons International Film Festival: Audience Award, Best Documentary, “Body of War,” 2007
Daytime Emmy: Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996
Daytime Emmy: Special Recognition Award, 1993
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Talk/Service Show Host, “Donahue,” 1988
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Talk or Service Show Host, “Donahue,” 1986
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host in a Talk or Service Series, “Donahue,” 1985
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk or Service Show, “Donahue,” 1983
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk or Service Series, “Donahue,” 1982
Golden Apple: Daytime Star of the Year, 1982
Peabody: Personal Award, 1981
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series, “Donahue,” 1980
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series, “Donahue,” 1979
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series, “Donahue,” 1978
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series, “Donahue,” 1977