Australian pioneer was known as 'The Lanky Yank'

Don Lane, a pioneer of Oz’s late-night chat show skein, has died in Sydney after a long battle with dementia. He was 75.

Channel Nine spotted Lane, who became known Down Under as The Lanky Yank, singing in a Hawaiian nightclub called the Copacabana in the mid 1960s. He was rushed to Nine’s Sydney studios as a temporary host but in just a few weeks the show — “Tonight with Don Lane”, based on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” — was a hit and Lane inked a long-term deal.

In 1975, a similar skein, “The Don Lane Show,” cemented his position as one of the biggest names in Australian TV.  A hangover from his song-and-dance days was his easy rapport with visiting US stars such as Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and to local auds he seemed exotic; his brash sense of humour brilliantly balanced by his long-term partnership with local TV vet Bert Newton.

His chat show became an essential stop for anyone touring Australia and a recommendation from Lane could sell out huge venues, such was his influence.

A keen sportsman and fitness nut, in the 1990s he introduced Oz auds to a range of Stateside sports fare as host of Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII, a reporter on NCAA basketball for pubcaster the ABC and commentating on the NBL on pay box Foxtel.

During his time he won 15 Logie kudos including the Gold Logie, Oz’s top TV kudo.

He is survived by his son P.J. Isaacson, a former professional basketball player.

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