September 30, 1926 - June 26, 2021 Joe Behar passed away peacefully on June 26th at his home in Manhattan Beach at the age of 94. Born in Harlem, New York City in 1926, he spent his formative years in the south Bronx during the Great Depression. Along with his younger brother Henry, Joe was the son of Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Turkey and grew up amongst a large family with six uncles on his mother's side and more than a dozen cousins. Family lore has Joe being led into trouble time and again by his older cousin Hank, but, knowing Joe's sharp sense of humor and thirst for adventure, it's not hard to imagine him as an easy accomplice to the rule-breaking fun. Later his family moved to Long Beach, NY where he spent his high school years, working summers setting up beach umbrellas for the day-trippers from NYC and starting what would become a life-long love affair with the beach. His life took many cinematic turns. In 1945, he was drafted into the Army, leaving Hofstra University after just a few years of study. By August of that year, he found himself on a troopship headed overseas to fight in Japan. But mid-trip across the Pacific, both atomic bombs were dropped, and the war was over before they landed ashore. Stationed in Kochi during peaceful occupation, Joe remembered fondly his time in Japan. He convinced the Army to let him open a library and start a printed newspaper for the troops, which allowed for many Jeep trips through Japan seeking news to report, including a memorable journey to Nagasaki. After being discharged, he serendipitously enrolled in TV school in 1948 just as televisions began to sweep the nation, replacing radios in the American living room. As his mother Rita used to say, "In life, you've got to be lucky." But, in addition to the luck that seemed to follow him, Joe's decisive nature went hand-in-hand with the particular challenges of live television. Once on a shoot for Wide Wide World, when the Rocky mountains were unexpectedly obscured by a blizzard, he did not hesitate before sending someone to the gift shop to buy a picture postcard for the camera to zoom in on, fooling the audience, impressing the producers and building his reputation as a director who hit every mark, came in under budget and always got the shot. Early in his career, he cut his teeth working on ground breaking shows including the Ernie Kovacs show, Wide Wide World, and Atom Squad. During this time, he met and married his first wife, Helene Richmond Behar and had two sons, Jeffrey and Steven. Following the momentum of his career, he moved his family to Los Angeles in 1959. There he continued his work on the Ernie Kovacs Show, for which he won a DGA Award in 1961. He went on to direct many successful and long running shows, including Let's Make a Deal for which he directed the pilot, famously coming up with the idea to have models reveal the prizes from behind doors number 1, 2, and 3. He was a long time DGA member and spent the bulk of his career directing Days of Our Lives and General Hospital. In fact, he directed the pilot episode of General Hospital in 1963, then came back 30 years later to direct it for more than 10 more years, winning five daytime Emmys for his work on that show bringing Emmy total to six. He loved his job, and worked until his retirement in 2005 at the age of 79. During this time, he met and married Carolyn Eberhardt Behar, his beloved wife of 53 years, with whom he has a son, Greg. Joe always said he and Carolyn were destined to be together because, as you can see if you look closely, the name Behar is hidden within her maiden name Eberhardt. Carolyn taught Joe to downhill ski when he was nearly 40, which became a favorite pastime for the family. They lived as an example of true love and compatibility, inspiring those around them with their shared sense of humor and love of life – playing cards, traveling, and a passion for musical theater. They traveled the world together and shared a palpable tenderness and mutual understanding until their last moment.Always the director, Joe had a knack for arranging any situation to meet his well-thought out parameters. He famously bent time one New Year's Eve, airing a prerecorded Time Square ball drop at 10pmPST to allow his guests the optimal experience of a jubilant celebration followed by a good night's sleep. His distinctive handwriting on carefully arranged place cards will not soon be forgotten by those who attended his parties and get togethers – in recent years to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary and his 90th birthday, for which he commissioned a cake to say, "Happy 90th. WOW, he's old." His attention to detail was matched only by that dry sense of humor. In his later years, he was an involved grandfather to his grandchildren Alex and Mallory, as well as a beloved figure amongst his neighbors in Manhattan Beach and their young children. Most recently, he turned his humor and attention to the newest members of the Behar family, his grandchildren Niko (3) and Lydia (4 months), and his great-granddaughter, Brooklyn (2). All of these relationships flourished with a mutual sense of joy and wonder. Joe appreciated the importance of small details. He recognized his own luck and reveled in the synchronicities that made life meaningful. To be in his presence was to be part of the production. For those of us lucky enough to be close to him, this is how we felt his love, and these are the ways we will pass on his legacy. In addition to his wife, Joe is survived by his sons, Jeffrey, Steven and Greg Behar, and their partners, Lori Behar, Tim Jenne and Jennifer Driscoll; his grandchildren, Alex, Mallory, Niko and Lydia, as well as Alex's wife Ami and their daughter Brooklyn; and his cousins and their spouses, Hank and Phyllis Behar, Allegreta and Peter Blau, Kip and Sonia Behar, Joe and Kate Behar.
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Published by Los Angeles Times on Jul. 18, 2021.