Lew Klein, a Philadelphia television executive who was a producer of “American Bandstand” and founded the National Assn. of Television Program Executives, died Wednesday at his home near Philadelphia. He was 91.
Klein was a longtime president of NATPE. He launched the organization’s educational arm, NATPE Foundation, in 1978 and remained its head until his death.
“Lew was the soul and inspiration for NATPE,” said NATPE chairman Andy Kaplan. “We will dearly miss his wise counsel, smiling face and his class. He was one of a kind.”
He also worked as an adjunct professor at Temple University for 65 years. In 2017, the school renamed its school of media and communication as the Lew Klein College of Media and Communication.
“Lew Klein has left an indelible imprint on the lives of countless Temple students who have gone on to build successful careers in media, communication and related fields,” said Temple University president Richard Englert. “Those graduates are Lew’s true gift to journalism. His influence will be felt for generations to come.”
Klein began his career in the early 1950s at Philadelphia’s WFIL-TV, which now operates as WPVI and is owned by ABC. He’s credited with helping to launch the career of Dick Clark in his role as executive producer of “American Bandstand,” the teen dance show that was a local Philadelphia phenomenon before going national in 1957.
Klein was a leading figure among the handful of TV station executives that formed what would become NATPE in 1964. The association organizes the annual NATPE conference and programming market. In its heyday in the 1980s and ’90s, NATPE was a make-or-break market for sales of first-run and off-network series to local TV stations buyers.
From 1984 to 1993, Klein was president of Gateway Communications, which owned four TV stations in Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia.
Klein was feted with NATPE’s President’s Award, among other honors.
Klein is survived by his wife, Janet; a daughter, Ellen; a son, Stephen; a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.
(Pictured: Lew Klein celebrates the 40th year of the NATPE Foundation at the 2018 NATPE conference in Miami.)