Walter O'Keefe

Walter O'Keefe
Elmer Holloway / NBC Photo


Walter O'Keefe
Radio: North side of the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Radio Host
Born Aug. 18, 1900 in Hartford, CT
Died June 26, 1983 of congestive heart failure in Little Company of Mary Hospital, CA

The career of Walter O'Keefe moved from the hallowed hallways of the University of Notre Dame to the boisterous bistros of Prohibition.

The veteran humorist, lyricist and radio quiz show host was one of the last of the versatile entertainers who learned their craft while still in school and then took their songs and monologues into the nation's saloons and clubs, moving from there to radio and eventually television.

O'Keefe became best known to American audiences as the longtime host of "Double or Nothing," a popular quiz show of the 1940s.

In 1925, O'Keefe went to New York "with a straw suitcase, a heart full of confidence and 85 cents."

He used most of the money to send a note by messenger to Texas Guinan, hostess at the El Fey Club, one of the city's most famous speakeasies. The next day Guinan sent him out on stage with his ukulele to sing and tell jokes to her raucous customers. He became a mainstay at the club at $50 a week.

By 1931 he was starring with Beatrice Lillie in "The Third Little Show" in which he sang "When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba" and beginning to compose song lyrics.

O'Keefe moved to national radio in 1938 with "Battle of the Sexes" and in the late 1940s took over as emcee of "Double or Nothing" in which contestants could take the money they had already won answering questions or try to double it.

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