Bob Bondurant, a National Award-winning sportscaster who was once a cast member on CBS’ “The Honeymooners,” has died. He was 88.
Bondurant, of Wellington, died Aug. 23 of natural causes, said Carl Sherlen, his son-in-law.
A devotee of American cars, Bondurant began as a one-eyed, one-legged car racer and worked his way up to an announcer for American Broadcasting Corp.’s Kansas City bureau. He was also a guide at races in the area, providing actors and performers with crash training during NBC’s “The Honeymooners” in the 1950s.
“They would put us out there on the track,” series star Jackie Gleason recalled. “You didn’t get to see us in any of those races. It’s pretty bad going.”
Bondurant joined NBC shortly after returning from World War II, reporting from England and China. His first assignment was for the 1950 Olympics in Helsinki, which he covered for decades. He spoke on NBC of the injustices suffered by American prisoners of war in Germany.
He grew up in Kansas City, a three-sport athlete who played football and basketball at an area high school. But it was his face — in Lawrence, he was known as “Bob the Race” — that began appearing on headlines across the country, called “George G.” in reference to his National Press Club membership.
Answering a call for help from the Lawrence Journal-World in 1949, Bondurant recounted his difficult but ultimately rewarding childhood.
“I was born on the 20th of April in a neighborhood on 20th street and Louisiana, by the railroad tracks in Jefferson City, Mo.,” he wrote in the Journal-World. “The only thing that was sort of reasonably interesting was hanging out at certain parks and getting beat up by a little kid named Frank. I should add that ‘Frank’ wasn’t even a neighbor. I’m just talking about four or five houses up on the hill that I grew up.
“Frank beat me every day,” he added. “He even beat me in school. I think we’d get through a lot more homework if we were beat up.”
In 1954, Bondurant was named sportscaster of the year by the Sporting News. His first National-Award-winning story was titled “Grazing in the Heartland,” a story detailing the car accident that killed Kansas Gov. Victor McGuire, of the so-called greatest generation.
“For its early work on car accidents, the Sporting News is given the J-L Award in November,” Bondurant wrote. “Killed in the crash were Gov. Victor McGuire of Missouri, District E; and Grandson of Indiana, District C, served in the war. His second wife, Mrs. Gay McGuire, lives here in Johnson County.”
When casting the script for the NBC comedy “Honeymooners,” Gleason sought training for his notoriously violent skydiving, skydiving, skydiving character Ralph Kramden.
Bondurant ran away to two West Coast racetracks to obtain crash training for Gleason’s character, and later appeared in a scene at a racetrack.
“We had 10 hours of crash training on TV. I got out the right equipment,” Bondurant recalled. “If it wasn’t for their crash material, he would have taken a bullet. There was no question about it.”
Bondurant’s TV career ended when he received an invitation to attend more races in Milwaukee.
“I said no,” he said. “I don’t need TV.”
A life-long race fan, Bondurant was a founding board member of the Midwest Motorsports Association, which produced the famed Iowa Cornet 250 stock car race held on the grounds of the Iowa Speedway. He also served on the board of the California Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Survivors include his wife, Nancy; son Eric; and five grandchildren.
Copyright Associated Press