Trend-Setting News and Entertainment Pioneer John Barbour Informs, Inspires


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Trend-Setting News, Entertainment, Film Pioneer

John Barbour Inspires, Informs and Dishes Unplugged

About MLK, RFK, Show Business and Much More


By Wayne Madsen and Andrew Kreig 

In the world of television, cinema, investigative reporting, storytelling, and comedy there is no greater a polymath than the multiple Emmy Award-winning John Barbour. Spanning some 75 years, Barbour’s career includes having hosted what many consider was television’s first reality show, Real People, which aired on NBC from 1979 to 1984. Instead of celebrities, the program featured regular folks having unusual jobs, talents, or hobbies.

District Insiders, co-hosted by Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, interviewed Barbour about his impressive and storied career, including his william pepper headshotmost recent major work, a powerful and affectionate documentary about the recently deceased human rights attorney William F. Pepper, right. Pepper devoted decades to documenting shocking revelations challenging conventional court findings and media narratives about the deaths of his close colleagues Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) and Robert F. Kennedy (RFK).

Barbour's video interview, boldly entitled Greatest Piece of Investigative Journalism in 75 Years: Barbour & Osanic's Tribute to Wm. F. Pepper, compiled with historically powerful photos and videos by Black Op radio host Len Osanic, chronicles how Pepper became so convinced that convicted killers James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan could not possibly have killed MLK and RFK, respectively, that Pepper decided to represent Ray and Sirhan in their separate appeals.

Recognizing the challenge that such a fight entailed, particularly when Pepper knew and loved the assassination victims MLK and RFK, Barbour describes in his District Insiders interview how Pepper on his deathbed this spring was able to savor the film's ending whereby Barbour imagines that a National Mall monument to America's greatest lawyers includes Pepper at the side of Abraham Lincoln.

It is a fact, however, that Dr. Bernice King, CEO of the King Center in Atlanta and youngest daughter of MLK and Coretta Scott King, wrote a letter read at Pepper's Memorial Service in Harlem on April 27 describing Pepper as one of the nation's greatest attorneys, as illustrated by his unique courage and expertise in pursuing justice in the assassination of her father.    

More generally regarding Barbour's impressive career, there are very few other figures from the golden age of television and cinema who are able to bear witness to the transition of the media from its apex to the situation in which it finds itself today. Barbour was the nation’s first TV news film critic as KNBC’s Critic-at-Large. Also, he spent ten years as the film critic for Los Angeles Magazine. He served also as the host of KNXT’s (later KCBS) morning show AM Los Angeles, which was followed by a stint as co-host of AM Chicago on the Windy City’s flagship station, WLS.

john barbour garrison tapes part 2 posterBarbour, like many Hollywood talents, including William Shatner, Lorne Greene, Dan Akroyd, Leslie Nielsen, and John Candy, was born in Canada but made his mark in television in the United States. Barbour became known to television audiences by doing comedy stand-up on such programs as The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Dean Martin Show. His 1965 comedy album, It's Tough to Be White, spotlighted the state of race relations in the United States during a time when the subject was treated by network executives as a sensitive subject, even in a comedy setting.

Continuing to tackle sensitive subjects, Barbour directed and wrote the 1992 documentary, The JFK Assassination: The Jim Garrison Tapes, which featured Barbour’s in-depth interview with New Orleans District Attorney General Jim Garrison on his investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That was followed by his 2017 follow-up documentary, The American Media and The Second Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, right, which revealed the lengths to which the news media covered up not only Garrison’s findings but the entire conspiracy surrounding the 1963 coup d’état against Kennedy.di avatar name

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Barbour’s documentary talents also led him to write and narrate Ernie Kovacs: Television’s Original Genius, an acclaimed biography of early TVcomedian and director Ernie Kovacs, one of two noteworthy sons of Trenton, New Jersey (the other infamous export being Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Samuel Alito).

Ken Burns directed the Public Broadcasting System documentary that features interviews with Kovacs, his wife Edie Adams, Steve Allen, JackLemmon, Jean Shepherd, and Robert Wagner. If that list sounds like Barbour can name drop some of the greatest talents ever produced by Hollywood, it’s only scratching the surface.

When Barbour tells his story, the names of those he knew and worked represent a cavalcade of American big and small screenentertainment: Frank Sinatra (for whom Barbour wrote), Bob Hope, Dean Martin (on whose eponymous show he appeared), Redd Foxx (who got Barbour invited to the NBC televised Dean Martin roast of the star of Sanford & Son, on which Barbour appeared as game show host Harry Monte), Groucho Marx, George Burns, Jack Paar, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Jim Nabors, George Carlin, Mort Sahl, Ed Asner, Art Linkletter, Tommy Smothers, fellow Canadian Robert Goulet, Joseph Cotton, Bobby Darin, Milton Berle (who invited John to some raucous and off-color not-for-airing Friar’s Roasts), Jane Fonda, Bob Crane, George Gobel, Forrest Tucker, Van Johnson, Joan Fontaine, Charo, Rip Taylor, Richard Belzer, and Jack Carter. What an enviable circle of friends and acquaintances.

john barbour facebookLest anyone think that Barbour, shown at right in a file photo, was some sort of Hollywood groupie, his sharp-witted criticisms earned him many an enemy as well. Take, for example, his panning of The Jerry Lewis Telethon for KNBC: “They now call this annual event The Jerry Lewis Telethon. They used to call it The Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. They changed the name to Jerry Lewis because one day they’ll find a cure for muscular dystrophy. But they’ll never find a cure for Jerry Lewis.” Anchor Tom Snyder ducked under the desk as Barbour continued, “It is commendable, that this year they raised thirty-four million dollars. Perhaps they could raise twice that amount, though, if very man, woman, and child who never wanted to see him again, sent in a quarter.”

Snyder responded, “The weather next. Very, very hot weather, for some of us,” and quickly broke as groans were heard from throughout the studio. After the news cast, Snyder strode into Barbour’s office, smiling, and said, “I just got off the phone with my pal, Jerry Lewis. He screamed at me to fire you. I told him I would if I could, but I can’t. That’s up to the GM [general manager]. He asked for his number. I told him I didn’t have it handy. Boy, is he pissed.” It didn’t take long for the head honcho at KNBC told Barbour that he was fired and to “get out!”

As should be the case with any successful talent, Barbour can boast of many celebrated friends during his long career but, not being a kiss-ass, he had made a few enemies. But hey, that’s show biz!


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About John Barbour

From publisher's announcement of John Barbour's memoir, "Your Mother's Not a Virgin!"

A high school dropout at 15, and deported from Canada at 17, John Barbour is recognized as "the godfather of reality TV" for his role as the john barbour memoircreator, producer, co-host, and writer of the trendsetting hit Real People.

He won the first of his five Emmys as the original host of AM LA in 1970, where he interviewed controversial anti-war guests like Mohammed Ali, Cesar Chavez, and Jane Fonda. He was the first in America to do film reviews on the news, winning three more consecutive Emmys as KNBC’s Critic-At-Large. He spent ten years as Los Angeles Magazine’s most widely read and quoted critic and early in his career, he made stand-up comedy appearances on The Dean Martin Show, The Tonight Show, and others. In 1992 he wrote and directed the award-winning The Garrison Tapes, which Director Oliver Stone heralded as "the perfect companion piece to my movie, JFK. In 2017 he wrote and directed part two: The American Media and the Second Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which was applauded as "the definitive film on JFK and the rise of Fake News."

In this highly entertaining, deeply informative autobiography, readers will discover why Barbour is such a multifaceted and effective storyteller.


About the "Greatest Piece of Investigative Journalism in 75 Years: Barbour & Osanic's Tribute to Wm. F. Pepper."

This video, Greatest Piece of Investigative Journalism in 75 Years: Barbour & Osanic's Tribute to Wm. F. Pepper, available via YouTube, william pepper plot to kill 2016chronicles how the late human rights lawyer Dr. William F. Pepper became so convinced that convicted killers James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhancould not possibly have killed MLK and RFK, respectively, that Pepper undertook an investigation to assess their innocence. Only after being convinced of innocence did Pepper then represent Ray and james earl ray prison 1955Sirhan, arguing that they had been patsies who could not possibly have been the actual killers of the iconic 1960s civil rights leaders, both of them friends of Pepper's.

Pepper, until his death a board member of the Justice Integrity Project founded by District Insiders co-host Andrew Kreig in 2010, published three books on the topic of MLK's death, most recently The Plot To Kill King (2016). Also, Pepper won a civil trial in Memphis in 1999 obtaining a jury verdict naming a different killer than Ray, shown at left in a 1955 mug shot, who had died in 1998. Pepper argued that Ray had been a small-time criminal groomed by powerful King enemies to travel to King's locale in Memphis at the time of the shooting but had not himself done it and had been pressured by his initial defense attorney to plead no contest to charges to avoid threats of a death penalty.

  • Justice Integrity Project, Legacy Endures For Injustice Fighter William Pepper After April Death, Andrew Kreig, May 11, 2024.  Dr. William (Bill) F. Pepper, an international civil and human rights attorney best known for defending the innocence of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s accused assassin, James Earl Ray, died at age 86 in New York City on April 7 after a long series of illnesses. Pepper had become a friend and close collaborator of King before King's 1968 assassination and then undertook Ray's defense post-conviction at the request of King Family members.


From The Justice Integrity Project on Dec.13, 2017.

Famed news and entertainment leader John Barbour will host two free screenings of his latest film, “The American Media: The Second Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” and will deliver a lecture at the National Press Club over the next 10 days to underscore the media cover-up, continuing “fake news” on TV, and the ongoing importance of the true facts of President Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.

Barbour, the only man to win TV Emmys for both news and entertainment, will premiere in the nation’s capital his documentary at the American University on Nov. 15 and on Capitol Hill on Nov. 22. 

Also, he will deliver a dinner lecture on Nov. 16 at the press club “The Last Hurrah for JFK and America.” All three events are free and open to the public, although the dinner is a no-host, Dutch-treat event before the McClendon Group speaker society. The society, named for famed White House correspondent Sarah McClendon, has featured important speakers with alternative viewpoints at the club for the past quarter century.

John Barbour as co-host of Barbour, 84, a five-time Emmy winner, is also known as “The Godfather of Reality TV” for his co-producing and co-hosting NBC-TV’s No. 1 hit “Real People” credited with spawning the genre. He is shown at left in a photo from the show.

“No matter what people know about the assassination of JFK,” says Barbour, “they will be stunned by what they learn in this film. It is the definitive film about the assassination and the birth of fake news, which plagues us to this day. Fake news impeded New Orleans District Attorney’s Garrison’s 1960s investigation at every turn.”


From publisher's announcement of The Greatest Reviews I've Ever Read by Carol Hoenig.

John Barbour isn't beholden to any network or its advertisers, so he can hate or love anything carol hoenig john barbour greatest reviewshe pleases and tell you why. He's one of the wittiest critics whose reviews sometimes got him in hot water; however, having had an abusive mother and absentee father, being a high school dropout, and deported back to Canada at 17 years old, angering studio heads didn't concern John, which you'll soon discover.

But what happened to all those reviews? John went into a trunk in his garage and hit pay dirt, finding all those issues with his byline where he informed readers about classics such as Network, Grease, The Sting and so many others.

In The Greatest Reviews I've Ever Read, come along with Carol Hoenig as she discusses with John some of the best (and worst) films to ever grace the silver screen!


About District Insiders

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wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen, below left, is an investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist based for many years in Washington, DC. A former U.S. Navy officer and NSA analyst, Madsen has wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallwritten 24 books on various topics, most relating to national security and world affairs, and many oped columns for American and overseas newspapers. He edits wayne madsen, an investigative news website for his own exclusive reporting.

His most recent books, both in 2023 and announced at the National Press Club on Nov. 29, 2023, were:

  • A Parade of New Sovereignties: A Post-Hegemonic World,” an encyclopedia-style, 380-page description of nearly 350 locales that are actual or potential troublespots for the nations governing restive populations;
  • A Woke Coloring Book: Re-adding Color to a Whitewashed History, a children’s book featuring civil rights heroes and heroines whose stories are increasingly suppressed in schools in Republican-controlled states.


Andrew Kreig, shown below left, is a non-profit executive, investigative reporter, author and attorney based in Washington, DC. After careers in Andrew Kreig photojournalism, law and business, he became a founding director of the the Washington, DC-based Justice Integrity Project (Justice-Durham Front Cover Annotated and serves on the boards of several other business, non-profit and civic groups.
His most recent book, to be announced at the National Press Club at a Members' "Book Rap" event on June 18 at 6:30 p.m., Is “The Complete Annotated Durham ‘Russiagate’ Report, an investigation of corruption and cruetly by the U.S. Department of Justice's Special Counsel John Durham, who had been appointed by the Trump Administration to investigate suspects who claimed, correctly, that Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
Kreig began his career as a newspaper reporter for the Hartford Courant in Connecticut and then earned law degrees at Yale and the University of Chicago before serving as law clerk to a U.S. District judge in Boston and working at a national law firm's office in Washington, DC. He then became vice president and then president/CEO of the Wireless Communications Association before becoming a research fellow at two universities.

District Insiders features experts on timely topics affecting “districts” in the United States and globally – congressional, parliamentary or other – that are in the news. Contacts for “District Insiders” hosts for guests, interviews, lectures, questions:

• Andrew Kreig, Andrew [at]
• Wayne Madsen, wmadsen777 [at]