Michael Nicholas Salvatore ‘Mike’ Bongiorno was born on May 26, 1924 in New York City, New York. Mike moved to Turin (his mother's native city), when he was young. His father was a Sicilian American lawyer. During World War II Mike abandoned his studies and joined a group of Italian partisans. He was captured and spent seven months in the San Vittore prison in Milan and was then deported to a German concentration camp. He was liberated before the end of the war due to a prisoners of war exchange between the United States and Germany. He returned to New York and in 1946 started work at the radio headquarters of Il Progresso Italo-Americano (The Italian-American Progress) newspaper.
Bongiorno returned to Italy in 1953. He appeared in the program ‘Arrivi e partenze’ on the TV channel RAI on the very first day of official public TV transmissions in Italy. From 1955 to 1959 he hosted the quiz show ‘Lascia o raddoppia?’, the Italian version of USA's The ‘$64,000 Question’. This was the first successful quiz show on Italian TV, and became one of the most famous Italian TV programs ever. This led to a career of hosting Italian TV shows including ‘Campanile Sera’ (1959-1962), ‘Caccia al numero’ (1962), ‘La Fiera dei Sogni’ (1962–1965), ‘Giochi in Famiglia’ (1966–1969), ‘Rischiatutto’ (1970–1974), ‘Ieri e Oggi’ (1976), ‘Scommettiamo?’ (1976-1978), ‘I sogni nel cassetto’ (1979-1980), ‘Flash’ (1980–1982), ‘Bis’ (1981–1990), ‘Superflash’ (1982–1985), ‘Pentathlon’ (1985–1987), ‘Telemike’ (1987–1992), ‘Tris’ (1990–1991), ‘Tutti per uno’ (1992) and from 1989 to 2003 ‘La ruota della fortuna’.
Mike appeared in seven films during his career one being a cameo as Mike Goodmorning (the English translation of his name) in “The Call Me Providence” (1972), starring Tomás Milián.
From 1991 to 2001 he hosted Bravo, Bravissimo, a festival featuring preteen musicians, dancers and singers from all over the world. He won 24 Telegatto, the Italian TV prize.
Until 2005 he hosted ‘Genius’ on Rete 4. In 2006 and 2007 he hosted the prime-time quiz show ‘Il Migliore’. On December 13, 2007, Mike Bongiorno was awarded an honorary degree Honoris Causa by IULM University of Milan. On 26 March 2009 Bongiorno signed for SKY Italia after Mediaset decided not to renew his contract, where he planned to host a new game show on SKY Uno called RiSKYtutto (a modern edition of his popular show Rischiatutto), which had been scheduled to air in the autumn of 2009.
On September 8, 2009, at the age of 85, Mike Bongiorno died of a heart attack, while leaving Metropole Hotel in Monte Carlo after a short holiday with his wife Daniela.
Today we remember Mike Bongiorno on what would have been his 90th birthday.