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Stefan Hatos

1920 - 1999

Stefan Hatos was born in Aurora, Illinois, on August 20, 1920, during a tornado that tore shingles from the roof.   He was a first generation American, with Hungarian parents.  His father was an iron puddler by trade. Stef was the second of three sons and a daughter. He attended East Aurora High School in Illinois, Wayne University in Detroit, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor and the U.S.N.R. Midshipman Academy at Columbia University in New York.


Stef began playing piano and oboe at age eight.  While attending college on a music (and basketball) scholarship, he played Oboe and English Horn with the Detroit Civic Symphony, occasionally under the baton of Leopold Stokowski.  He also played Tenor & Bass Saxophone in dance bands to work his way through school.


While majoring in Creative Writing, Music, History, and Philosophy at Michigan at the end of his senior year,  he went to Detroit to audition for a job as Staff Announcer at Radio Station WJLB. The nineteen-year-old was hired on the spot… at $35 per week. Three months later he became a Staff Announcer for the Blue Network of the NBC Station WXYZ in Detroit.

He was always more interested in writing and production than in performing.  While an announcer, he wrote episodes of The Lone Ranger (1940), The Green Hornet, and a psycho-thriller Hermit’s Cave… all of which were on the national or regional networks of NBC Blue.

Then, after functioning as a "Stringer" Producer-Director-Writer for the Detroit-Cleveland area on March of Time, he moved on to New York.  It was the best of times for young writers because freelancing was the name of the game. He wrote episodes of Nick Carter, Counter-Spy, Treasury Agent, Inner Sanctum and the soaper David Harum.

World War II

Stef was working as a CBS Producer-Director-Writer at the start of World War II.   He was commissioned in the Navy in 1942 and subsequently became the Commanding Officer of  PT Boat 328.  He served in the Mediterranean and the Pacific Theater - a total of 37 months overseas. He was wounded twice. He was among those photographed for LIFE magazine at the liberation of a Prisoner of War camp at Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo in August, 1945.

More Radio

In 1946 after the war, Stef returned to CBS Radio as a Staff Director and Writer in New York and Chicago.  He next joined ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding as staff Producer-Director for radio shows Readers Digest with big name stars and The Wayne King Show (CBS Radio).  He directed Lucky Strike Hit Parade for NBC Radio.  Fairfax Cone, his boss at Foote, Cone and Belding, introduced Stef to the daytime radio business to produce and direct Ladies Be Seated for the Toni Company on what had become the ABC Radio Network. The show starred Johnny Olsen and Tom Moore.


Fairfax Cone also forced him to learn the television business (although Stef thought it was still 20 years off) at a time when there were only two operational TV stations in the United States – WBKB in Chicago and the Dumont Station in New York. Stef became a television pioneer.  When he started directing television in 1948,  the cameras were Iconoscopes, the lenses were kept in cotton-lined boxes tended by lens boys, and the incandescent lighting turned the sound stages into saunas.  In those early days the director did his own switching.

Stef produced and directed Welcome Travelers for Proctor and Gamble, starring Tommy Bartlett on NBC Radio, 1948-1951 – he created and produced the Peabody-award winning show The Adventures of Uncle Mistletoe for ABC-TV – he created and produced Panhandle Pete and Jennifer, a children’s show on NBC-TV.

In 1949, he created and produced one of the first nighttime game shows on the first inter-connected network of seventeen TV stations on ABC-TV. The name of the show was Fun for the Money.  It starred Johnny Olsen and was sponsored by Kleenex.

Stef's radio and television projects were concomitant. Those were the days before TV stations programmed continuously, and the meager offering of shows was scheduled spasmodically in the late afternoon and evening. Hatos was having a ball!

In 1950 Stef was "discovered" by Bob Hope’s agent, Jimmy Saphier.   Stef produced Hope's early television shows, and Saphier became Stef's lifelong agent.  Saphier lured him to California in late 1951 to produce the television revival of the popular radio show Al Pearce and His Gang for CBS-TV.  Stef did the show daytime and nighttime for 26 weeks.  

While toiling in television, Stef’s tireless agent had him produce and direct The Beulah Show on CBS Radio for three seasons (1952-1955) and Meet Corliss Archer on CBS Radio for two seasons (1953-1955).  Additionally, he...

Produced and Directed  -- There’s One In Every Family for CBS-TV in 1953.

Created, Produced and Directed for Ralph Edwards  -- It Pays To Be Married starring Jay Stewart on NBC Radio 1953-1956 and on NBC-TV starring Bill Goodwin in 1955.

Produced -- The Tony Martin Show – NBC-TV – 1955.

Produced and Directed  -- The Curt Massey Show --- CBS Radio – 1955 and 1956.

Produced -- It Could Be You, starring Bill Leyden for Ralph Edwards.  Daytime and Nighttime, NBC-TV, 1956-1961.

Produced --- Your First Impression starring Bill Leyden on NBC-TV from 1962-1964.  It was there that he met Monty Hall, who was the Executive Producer. 

    Then it all began!

Let's Make A Deal!

With Monty Hall, Stef co-created Let’s Make A Deal in 1963. Over the years the classic game show has logged sixteen years daytime and ten years nighttime – more than 4,600 shows.

Hatos-Hall also created or produced the following shows:

Chain Letter on NBC-TV 1965, starring Jan Murray.

Split Second on ABC-TV 1972-1975, starring Tom Kennedy.

It Pays To Be Ignorant for syndication in 1973-1974, starring Joe Flynn, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jo Anne Worley, and Billy Baxter.

Masquerade Party for syndication in 1974, starring Richard Dawson.

Mind Readers starring Lyle Waggoner.

Three For The Money and World Quiz Show on NBC-TV in 1975, starring Dick Enberg.

It’s Anybody’s Guess on NBC-TV, starring Monty Hall.

As well as many pilots made over the years that didn’t make it - with personalities who subsequently did (in other vehicles).

At one point in time, a publicist figured that Stef Hatos had been involved in over 20,000 hours of network radio and television programming in his lifetime.

Never leaving music behind, Stef whistled his way through life.  He also never lost his double-reed embouchure which he demonstrated occasionally.  In the last years of his life, he majored in Cruises and Golf Courses all over the world.  He and his wife of 37 years, Shirley, enjoyed their homes in Beverly Hills and Pebble Beach.  He had three daughters.

Stef died of a heart condition on the evening of March 2, 1999, in one of his favorite places – the steam room at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake, California.   His sudden passing was a great shock to us all.

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