George Putnam, a fixture in Los Angeles television from its beginnings in the 1950s and one of the forbearers of conservative talkradio, died of a kidney ailment Friday in Chino. He was 94.
Putnam landed at KTTV in Los Angeles in 1951 and quickly became a staple of local television. Over the next quarter-century, he worked for most of the market’s independent stations, including KTTV, KCOP, KTLA and KHJ (which is now KCAL), becoming the quintessential celebrity-style newsman.
He was awarded three local Emmy awards and at one time was reportedly the highest-paid and highest-rated news anchor in Los Angeles.
Born in Breckenridge, Minn., he started working in radio in 1934 and soon moved to New York, where his distinctive baritone voice was championed by columnist Walter Winchell. After serving in WWII with the Armed Forces Radio Service and spending a few years in the fledgling TV business in New York, he moved to L.A.
Putnam made the transition into opinion later in his career — becoming an outspoken conservative voice on both TV and radio, and paving the way for some of the talkradio movement embodied by Rush Limbaugh and others. He continued to host “Talk Back” on L.A. radio after leaving TV in the 1970s. More recently, he opposed the Iraq war, wrote a weekly Web column for Newsmax.com and hosted “Talk Back” on CRN Digital Radio until May.
Although he wasn’t as widely known outside Los Angeles, Putnam’s baritone delivery is said to have provided part of the model (along with the white-haired Jerry Dunphy) for Ted Baxter, the local newsman on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Putnam had cameo appearances as a newsman in films including “Independence Day” and “Helter Skelter.” He also appeared for more than 45 years as a horse rider in the Rose Parade.
He is survived by his companion, Sallilee Conlon; two daughters; a brother; and three grandchildren.