Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 29th, 2008
Bob Dale, San Diego TV legend and host of the famed animal program, “Zoorama,” died at 83, on Monday, May 26, 2008. He had been in declining health for some time, but his daughter, Linda, said he kept his wonderful spirit and wit right up to the end.
People who grew up in southern California in the 1950s and 1960s, may remember Dale’s stylist bowtie and good humor.
“Few people connect with an audience the way Bob did,” NBC 7/39 Vice President of News Greg Dawson said Wednesday. “As a television personality, he did it all. For those of us who worked with him, it was an honor.”
Dale, whose real name was Robert Dale Bergmayr (1925-2008), began his broadcasting career in 1948 at Cleveland’s WEWS-TV where he did a variety of live shows.
In 1956, the World War II veteran came to San Diego and made his first debut on local television at KFMB-TV. His versatile talent was utilized doing weather reports, afternoon movies, morning news, various specials and “Zoorama.”
KFMB’s mobile van was ground-breaking at the time, and broadcast remotely from the zoo.
“Zoorama” became a wildly popular children’s TV show and brought San Diego to the rest of the nation. In 1964, it was estimated the program was worth a million dollars in publicity to the San Diego Zoo. Bob Dale sold the zoo and the area to the world.
Since the show was filmed right at the San Diego Zoo, zoo director Charles Schroeder made sure that no one who watched the program ever saw it rain in San Diego; on drizzly days, he directed Bob Dale and his crew to the reptile house.
“Zoorama,” by the end of its run, was famous in every location where there was a television set. The program began in 1955. In 1965, it went to CBS Sundays, and in 1968, was syndicated. It lasted nationally through 1970.
Dale was an early “television animal man,” like cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, who was the first nationally televised “animal man” on the old “Gary Moore Show,” which became “The Today Show.” Bob Dale’s “Zoorama” also existed at a time when Marlin Perkins (famed for his involvement in the Abominable Snowman-World Book expedition of 1960) was doing “Zoo Parade,” out of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and then later “Wild Kingdom,” at the St. Louis Zoo. The three divided up the USA, with Sanderson on the East Coast, Perkins in the Midwest, and Dale out West, although they all were well-known nationally.
Sanderson is gone, and Perkins, as well. Now, Bob Dale, who did so much to popularize the San Diego Zoo, the region’s climate, and its animals, has died too. An end of an era has come to pass.
Dale was cremated on Wednesday, May 28, 2008. No memorial is planned, as were his wishes.