Jan Carr, an energetic and enthusiastic New Orleans television and radio presence for 60 years alongside her husband, Bob Carr, died Friday at Christwood Retirement Community in Covington. She was 91 years old.
Beginning in 1960, the Carrs, who had been married for 71 years, opened local television and radio shows with an endlessly cheerful greeting: “It’s Bob!” “And here is Jan! They did so until August, when they still produced and hosted a regular video program interviewing residents, staff and other guests at Christwood.
As a married couple and parents of four children whom they frequently talked about on air, the Carrs were called “New Orleans’ first television family”. They became household names in the 1960s and 1970s for their appearances on WDSU-TV, first on a morning show called “Second Cup” and later on the station’s hugely popular “Midday” show.
Their segments focused on family, parenting, fashion and lifestyle. WDSU promoted them as “the likable young married couple” and a “happy marriage of fun and common sense” who “informs, rings and bickers at times.” In short, Jan and Bob bring a warm, opinionated, entertaining and happy marriage to New Orleans television sets.
The Carrs followed the same formula on TV, radio and print for six decades. A broadcasting pioneer, Jan Carr was a role model of the importance of staying active well past retirement age. Friends half his age marveled at his energy and enthusiasm, even in his 80s.
She was quick to explain the secret to us: “I love working with my husband. That’s the big deal,” she told New Orleans Magazine.
Carr was born Janet Lee Fitzsimmons on December 12, 1930 in Pittsburgh. Her mother died when Carr was four. She was sent to Ohio to be raised by her grandparents. An early interest in the show was nurtured by dance and elocution lessons. Carr went on to earn a degree in speech and communications from Chatham College, now Chatham University, in Pittsburgh.
She met Bob Carr in 1950 in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University, where both were pursuing theater studies.
The couple married a year later and graduated in 1952. They moved to New York to pursue careers in show business: Bob worked as a model and actor, and Jan worked in the casting office of CBS and trained as a dancer with the Rockettes in Radio City. Music hall.
A family friend of Jan’s grandparents owned a new television station in Wheeling, West Virginia, and offered the young couple a job. As television pioneers, they literally built a talk show, called “Calling All Carrs”, from scratch, helping to assemble the cameras and build the set. He co-starred with a dog named Jillopy.
From Wheeling they moved to Huntington, West Virginia, and produced and hosted shows called “At Home with the Carrs” and “Current with the Carrs”.
Move to New Orleans
In 1960 the couple moved to New Orleans for employment with WWL-AM, with studios at the Roosevelt Hotel. A husband-and-wife broadcast team was such a novelty that management had to ask the station’s owners at the time, the Loyola University Jesuits, for permission to hire them.
Once on the air, they hosted a lunchtime show featuring “topical tunes and advice for housewives”, which was how the station promoted the Carrs’ family dishes.
They also did commercials for advertisers such as Cafe Luzianne. While producing a first spot, advertising executive Peter Mayer suggested the couple introduce themselves individually: “It’s Bob!” “And here is Jan! For Lucianne! After the ads ended, the slogan continued.
In 1961, while attending a party in the French Quarter hosted by friend and WWL colleague Margie O’Dair, the Carrs met Al Shea. The future WDSU star, then mostly working behind the scenes as a producer, encouraged the pair to audition for a new morning show, “Second Cup.” It was broadcast live every morning from the rooftop of the Royal Orleans Hotel, which had just opened right next to the station’s studios on Royal Street.
“We went up to see [station executives] Louis Read and Jerry Romig, did an audition and some commercials for them, and they fell in love with us and hired us on the spot,” Jan Carr said in a 2003 WYES-TV interview.
In 1963, the Carrs moved on to WDSU’s “Midday,” the daily show whose cast included a roster of local television legends: host and producer Terry Flettrich and co-stars Wayne Mack, Al Shea and Nash Roberts, plus Newsroom contributors Alec Gifford, Ed Planer and Iris Kelso.
“‘Midday’ was a magazine show, inspired by the ‘Today’ show, with news and weather, then topics tailored to the New Orleans area,” Jan Carr said. As on their other programs, she and Bob contributed segments on family and lifestyle, and talked about raising children and the ups and downs of family life. This resonated with viewers.
“New Orleans identifies with Jan and Bob Carr,” a WDSU promotional article explained. “It’s the husband-and-wife broadcast team that shatters the clichés, that doesn’t begin to pretend that marriage is a rippleless pond or that their four children are the very models of youthful enlightenment.”
Bob Carr credited his wife with successfully balancing the demands of raising four children while building a career in broadcasting, then a male-dominated field.
“Jan and Terry [Flettrich] were women who worked with families and who could make a career. It was unusual in the 60s,” he said.
Even more unusual was where the Carrs raised these children for several years: in a house on Bourbon Street. Bob Carr wrote about the experiences in his 2010 memoir “Raising Our Kids on Bourbon: A French Quarter Love Affair”. The family also lived for a time in the Garden District, where they restored a historic home.
After WDSU was sold in 1972, the Carrs left. Jan Carr opened his own convention planning business and worked in the hospitality industry. Later, she was a fundraiser for the Louisiana Mental Health Association and a spokesperson for clients such as East Jefferson General Hospital.
But broadcasting was her real joy, and before long she was hosting radio and television shows again. As she and Bob grew older with their listeners, station managers and advertisers realized they could reach older audiences.
In 1989, she returned to television on WLAE with a talk show, “The Jan Carr Show”, and a seniors show called “Silver Network”. She also produced programs and managed fundraising for REACH, a local religious cable channel.
She has done radio shows for WBYU-AM. In 1999, she convinced Bob to join her as a co-host, although he had happily retired after a second career at the World Trade Center.
“I wanted to work with Bob again,” Jan said in a 1999 Times-Picayune article. “It may seem like a strange thing to say about my husband. But I was always happiest when we worked together.”
Their WBYU show, and later a Saturday morning show on WGSO-AM, featured their banter and celebrity interviews along with 1950s and 1960s pop music, crooners, and songs from the big band era. They also edited Prime Magazine, a monthly publication for seniors.
When off the air, Jan Carr frequently appeared in local theater and was involved with dozens of non-profit groups such as Patio Planters; Spring Festival ; Owners, Residents and Associates of the Vieux Carré; the Garden District Association; Preservation Resource Center; and Christ Church Cathedral. She and her husband have also traveled the world.
The Carrs were inducted into the New Orleans Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1994 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Press Club of New Orleans in 2003.
“I like working in broadcasting. It keeps me alert, it keeps me going, it allows me to meet people I would probably never meet otherwise,” Jan Carr said in 1999.
In addition to her husband, survivors include four children: Timothy Carr of St. Charles, Missouri; Tammy Richardson of Rome, Georgia; Tom Carr of Atlanta; and Tiffany Rieveschl of New Orleans; seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held Sept. 30 at 11 a.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 2919 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans. Visits will begin at 10 a.m.