Monday, December 9, 2013
By Melanie Creamer firstname.lastname@example.org
FALMOUTH — David Astor, a cultural icon who produced one of Maine's best-loved homegrown TV shows and inspired countless young people to pursue careers in music, died on Saturday. He was 92.
A February 2007 photo of Dave Astor. Every week, students flocked to his home on Pitt Street in Portland to rehearse for the show.
File photo/The Portland Press Herald
Astor developed and hosted his "American Bandstand"-esque show, "The Dave Astor Show: For Teenagers Only," which hit the airwaves in 1956. The show featured live performances from local high school kids dancing, lip-synching and singing.
"The show was amazing," said Tony Boffa, a well-known Maine musician who performed regularly on the show. "It was like the local 'Ed Sullivan Show.' In the 1960s, everyone gathered around the TV to watch it."
The weekly episodes featured a core group of students who performed hit songs by popular rock musicians. Astor and some of those students would then go to local high schools to scope out new talent for the show.
To participate, students had to maintain good grades and behavior.
Every week, students flocked to Astor's home on Pitt Street in Portland to practice. Then they met at the studio for a final rehearsal before the live show.
The TV show aired from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays on WGME 13 and WCSH 6. The show ended in 1971.
Boffa said during a break at his own music gig on Sunday that Astor was a mentor to him and many other teenagers over the years.
"It's a loss, a tremendous loss to the area," Boffa said of his passing. "Dave left behind an incredible legacy. I still live in hope that someone again, in the mold that Dave so beautifully created, will redo 'For Teenagers Only' and start a show for local teens."
In June, Astor sat down with Boffa and musician Steve Romanoff for a reunion at Port City Music Hall. More than 200 or so people attended the event, which featured alums of his show and loyal followers who remembered watching the show at home.
In an audio recording from that event, posted on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network's website, Romanoff said Astor helped shape his music career.
"Dave is an icon," Romanoff said in the recording. "He changed people's lives. He certainly changed mine. The name Dave Astor represents an era that is absolutely irreplaceable, but is so much a part of Portland and the state of Maine."
At the end of that audio recording, Astor choked up.
"I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes," Astor said. "To hear this kind of feedback is just overwhelming. It's too much for an old man. I'm deeply appreciative."
Astor grew up in Portland. He was a World War II veteran who served in the 6th U.S. Marine Division. In his later years, he gave talks to local groups about his experiences during the war.
He was a devoted husband to Esta Astor, his wife for 61 years. The couple met in Portland's East End neighborhood, on Morning Street, where they both lived.
His son, Ken Astor of Falmouth, said they were happy together.
"They enjoyed each other's company," he said. "He was a great father and family man. He was very attentive, loyal and extremely interested in what my sister and I did in school. I'll miss his companionship."
Astor suffered a heart attack on Saturday just after eating lunch with his family.
"The lunch he had was the biggest corned beef sandwich he had ever seen," his son remarked, chuckling. "My father loved corned beef. He died a happy man. If he could have written the script about his final hour, he would have written this."
Astor was a resident of OceanView at Falmouth. He was active in the community. His obituary said he was a lifelong member of Temple Beth El and served on various committees at Portland's Jewish Community Center.
A friend, Rabbi Harry Sky, former longtime leader of Temple Beth El, remembered Astor Sunday as a kind and creative person, who often gave his time to help others.
"He was a nice person to be with," said Sky, who now lives in Greensboro, N.C. "I didn't always agree with him politically, but that had nothing to do with friendship. I admired his values. He was a wonderful man very kind and always concerned about someone."
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: