Parks was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Aaron Jacobson, a Jewish merchant who had emigrated to the United States in 1900 from Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire), and his wife Hattie (Speigel) Jacobson, the daughter of immigrants from Austria-Hungary. He had one older brother, Allen Jacobson.
Parks entered radio broadcasting at age 16, for Atlanta's WGST. Three years later, he moved to New York City and was hired as a singer and straight man on The Eddie Cantor Show. Then, he became a CBS Radio staff announcer. Parks was the host of Break the Bank (1), which premiered on radio in 1945 and was telecast from 1948 to 1957 as well as Stop the Music on radio in 1948 and television from 1949 to 1952. With other celebrities, he hosted NBC radio's Monitor during the 1960s.
Parks' first game show was Party Line on NBC (broadcast from New York City's NBC flagship station WNBT) which involved viewers calling in to answer a question and win $5 prizes. the show ran from June 8 to August 31, 1947. making its one surviving episode the oldest known game show and one of the oldest surviving television shows to have been recorded. Commercial kinescopes did not come out until the Fall of 1947 (co-sponsored by NBC, Dumont and Kodak) and the only kinescopes known to predate Party Line are a few episodes of Kraft Television Theater from February and June 1947. Other game shows Parks has hosted in early television included: Stop the Music, Double or Nothing, Balance Your Budget, Two in Love, Giant Step, Hold That Note, Bid 'N' Buy, County Fair, Masquerade Party, The Big Payoff, Yours for a Song and the 1965 pilot for Hollywood Squares. His final game show hosting job was in 1968 for the pilot of a revival of The Celebrity Game, which did not sell. Parks also helmed a variety show in 1950 simply called The Bert Parks Show as well as appearing on an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. Parks is most famous for hosting the Miss America telecast from 1955 to 1979, after which he was unceremoniously fired by the organization in an attempt to attract a much more youthful audience. Tonight Show host Johnny Carson led an on-air campaign to get Parks rehired, but was unsuccessful. In 1991, for the 70th anniversary of the Miss America pageant, Parks was brought on by host Gary Collins to sing "There She Is". Unfortunately, it was the last time Parks performed the song live.
Recordings & Other WorksEdit
A recording of "There She Is, Miss America" as sung by Parks is still used each year in the Miss America contest as the new reigning titleholder takes her walk down the runway in her newly-earned crown. Parks did take-off of his hosting role in the 1990 film called The Freshman staring Marlon Brando, Matthew Broderick and Bruno Kirby. He played the emcee of a Gourmet Club dinner where guests supposedly eat a Komodo Dragon all while singing a spoof of "There She Is" in a salute to the soon-to-be-deceased-dragon. Parks appeared on a 1980 episode of WKRP in Cincinnati which was called "Herb's Dad", playing as Herb Tarlek Sr., the father of Herb Tarlek Jr. (played by Frank Bonner). In 1988, Parks appeared on an episode of 227 as himself hosting a beauty pagents for young Washington D.C. women and in 1991, Parks appeared on an episode of Night Court as himself as well.
Parks died of lung cancer at La Jolla, California on February 2, 1992 at the age of 77. He was survived by his wife of 49 years named Anette (Liebman) Parks and his three children.