Joe Bellon, CBS pioneer and Port resident, dies at 87

Joseph Bellon, CBS exec and Port Washington resident. (Courtesy of Greg Bellon)

Joseph Bellon, a long-time executive at CBS who helped create “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” died on June 1 in Port Washington. He was 87.

Bellon’s son Greg said his father was a success at CBS because he was always on the lookout for new ways to sell something — inspired by a presentation he saw in grade school that showed how every part of the cow was used to make different products.

Greg Bellon said the cause of death was leukemia, and heart and kidney failure.

Joseph Bellon, who was raised in Astoria, Queens, and graduated from St. John’s Law School, started off in the legal department at CBS News. Shortly after he moved to Port Washington in the 1960s, he began to focus more on content and how news footage could be repackaged. He had morning newscasts and “60 Minutes” placed as in-flight programming on major U.S. airlines and created educational videocassettes.

Among the examples of the latter was a program on the Apollo 11 moon landings with Walter Cronkite and one on the life of Edward R. Murrow. He also used CBS footage to create hugely successful home videocassette collections on World War II and the Vietnam War.

In the early 1980s, Bellon traveled to China, where he began a news film exchange with the Central China Television Network. As part of that agreement, he offered free CBS Sports programming to CCTV, where CBS would sell commercials to international advertisers. CCTV began showing NBA games, and the league remains immensely popular in the country to this day.

Bellon retired from CBS in 1985 but was not done with television. He teamed up with producer Vin Di Bona to make a show centered around humorous home videos. That show became “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” which has now been running on ABC for over 28 years, making it the longest-running primetime entertainment show.

That program, along with the “On the Road” program with Charles Kuralt, was produced through his own company, Bellon Enterprises Inc., which he ran with Greg Bellon until he finally retired for good in 1993.

But aside from his success in television, Greg said his father was a kind, caring person who was involved in the Port Washington community.

“He was a man of the world and a man of the faith, and … he cared so much about people,” Greg said.

During his time in Port, Bellon spent much of his time sailing and developed a passion for growing dahlias. He was also very involved with St. Peter of Alcantara, where he served as a trustee.

“The last 10 years especially, he was very involved with the church when it came to understanding and appreciating the Eucharist,” Greg Bellon said. “He tried to start a national campaign. He wrote to bishops.”

Greg said his father also advocated for improvements to the Long Island Rail Road.

“My father was the type of person who, when he saw something was wrong, he would go out and do something about it himself,” he said.

Bellon is survived by his wife, Marie; his children, Eugene, Greg, and Marianne; and eight grandchildren: Robert, Margaret, Genevieve, Jonathan, Rosemarie, Nick, Christina and Julianna.


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