LOS ANGELES – Ralph Story, a television and radio broadcaster for three decades and host of the hugely popular quiz show "The $64,000 Challenge" in the 1950s, has died. He was 86.
Story died Tuesday at his home in Santa Ynez, north of Santa Barbara, after a long battle with emphysema, said his longtime colleague and friend, Dan Gingold.
"He was a wonderfully warm gentleman and an extremely talented journalist," Gingold said. "He was not only a good narrator, but was in his own right a producer and writer who became the unofficial historian of Southern California."
Born Ralph Bernard Snyder in Kalamazoo, Mich., he started his broadcasting career in the late 1940s after serving as an Army Air Corps flight instructor and fighter pilot during World War II.
Snyder got his big break in broadcasting 1948 when he was hired to host and direct an early morning show on KNX radio in Los Angeles. At the suggestion of the station's managers, he changed his name to Ralph Story.
Story's casual style and witty observations about life in Los Angeles made him a popular host and won him national recognition.
"Even when he's complaining, as he does occasionally, Ralph is cheerful and amusing," read a 1952 Associated Press profile of Story.
Story later moved into network television, where in 1956 he began hosting the hugely popular quiz show "The $64,000 Challenge." The CBS show was canceled in 1958 while several networks were embroiled in allegations that popular contestants were supplied with answers in advance.
Story, who was not implicated in the scandal, returned to local broadcasting in 1960. He anchored a radio news show on KNX and later joined "The Big News," one of the nation's first hour-long local TV newscasts. His regular feature, "Human Predicament," about people caught in unusual events and situations, became a popular segment. It developed into a local newsmagazine show about the people and places of Los Angeles called "Ralph Story's Los Angeles," which aired for six years.
"It was quite a remarkable broadcast, and won a lot of awards," said Gingold, who produced the show.
Story joined KABC-TV in the 1970s and co-hosted a morning news show that became the precursor to "Good Morning America," Gingold said. When it moved to New York City, Story stayed in Los Angeles where he continued working as a writer, producer and reporter for several TV stations.
In the mid-1980s, Story retired and moved with his third wife, Diana, to Santa Barbara County's wine region where they operated an art gallery in Los Olivos. He volunteered for numerous civic groups, serving as a fundraiser for public television stations, narrator for the Hollywood Bowl and judge of the Rose Parade.
Besides his wife Diana, Story is survived by his son, Bradley Snyder.
A memorial service was planned for Oct. 8 in Los Olivos, Gingold said.