Some have called Richard Mincer a legend, and those who have enjoyed “The Phil Donahue Show” would
Mincer was executive producer for the show, which broke barriers in television as one of the first to make the audience a part of the show. For Mincer, the show was the centerpiece in a long career in television.
In the time preceding the show, a college-aged Mincer was working at a television station in Dayton, Ohio, when he heard a radio program that made him do a double take: Phil Donahue interviewed the likes of celebrities and politicians who called in remotely.
In a brainstorming session, Mincer and his boss at the station wondered if they could adapt the program to television, and “The Phil Donahue Show” was born.
At first, it resembled other interview talk shows with a mostly silent audience. But, the true beginning of the show as we now know it happened during a commercial break about a year in, Mincer said.
“Because the audience did not participate, this woman said, ‘Well, I have a question that I’d like you to ask,’ and Phil said, ‘Why don’t you ask the question?’ And she did, and hands just went up in the audience. And we got back to our offices, and we just kind of looked at one another and said, ‘What do we have?’ Because nobody, nobody was doing what we were about to do.”
In another ground-breaking decision, the show also moved cameras in front of the audience to behind it, allowing the cameras also to move up the aisle so the audience could be part of the whole.
“And that was my accomplishment,” Mincer said. “I did that.”
As a testament to that accomplishment, three out of the five national Emmy awards he earned as executive producer sit on display at his home in the Village of Calumet Grove home.
Mincer and his wife, Deanne, consider Richard’s career to be two-fold, the first being his time from sixth-10th grade with the esteemed Columbus Boychoir School in Ohio, now known as the American Boychoir School.
Mincer traveled around the country with the Boychoir as lead soprano soloist in shows twice a year in addition to local shows. During that time, he met Arturo Toscanini and even Albert Einstein, who invited the group in to his home while they were caroling.
That music background would eventually come in handy while working in television.
“He says there’s a rhythm to every program,” Deanne said.
“I directed with the idea of, this is a piece of music, and in many ways, it worked for me,” Mincer added. “It was my philosophy.”
Mincer worked for 18 years on the show, working most of that time as executive producer.
During that time, he learned how to think quickly to solve problems, like booking shows after last-minute cancellations, encouraging celebrities with a fear of flying onto planes and dealing with some who, like Sophia Loren, had stage fright.
Yet another unique aspect of the show was the hour-long time slot which Mincer often used to tackle serious subjects with a single guest.
Mincer went on to become vice president for program development with the company that owned the show, Multimedia Inc., and produced other programs like “The Rush Limbaugh Show” before working as a consulting poducer until age 78. But, he considers “The Phil Donahue Show” to be the centerpiece of his career.
A testament to his impact, Mincer recalled a time when a young woman recognized him in an elevator when he had just started working at Fox Business and deemed him “the legend.”
The best part of his career, he said, was growing from a local show in Dayton, Ohio, to 200 markets across the country, a feat beyond his and Donahue’s wildest dreams.
“It was really an amazing period of time. That that show was completely unique,” Deanne said. “Just like (“The Oprah Winfrey Show”) is completely a unique program. Donahue was really unique to its time.”
“And I’m proud to say we were the first,” Mincer said.