Harry Martin

Harry Martin (nee Uhlenberg) was in his first JayRob performance in the final play of the second season, “The Moon is Blue.” Harry was better known in those days as ‘Captain Sacto’ at Channel 3 television in Sacramento. He passed away of cancer about two weeks following his 81st birthday. The following tribute upon his death was written by Laurel Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee.

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Harry Martin, the television personality who delighted Sacramento children with his “Captain Sacto” show in the 1950s and 1960s and went on to interview hundreds of celebrities as a reporter covering show business, died on February 17, 2008.

He was 81, and had recently been diagnosed with cancer, said his daughter, Dayna Larson.

Martin worked for KCRA Channel 3 for more than 30 years, anchoring the news, hosting evening magazine shows and developing a specialty interviewing celebrities. Among them: John Wayne, Bob Hope, Clint Eastwood, Johnny Carson, Leonard Nimoy, John Lennon, Goldie Hawn and Tom Hanks.

“I like to say that I’ve interviewed 2,000 stars and 23 actors!” Martin told The Bee in 1988, when he retired from KCRA.

Martin had a special touch with his interviews, recalled Mark Greczmiel, who was his producer at KCRA in the 1980s. Instead of asking standard questions, he would key in on a bit of trivia about the celebrity. That opened them up and made the interviews unique, Greczmiel said.

“He would always get revealing interviews with people,” he said.

Martin also excelled at snagging interviews in unscripted situations, Greczmiel said. In 1966, when John Wayne came to Sacramento for then-Gov. Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, Martin called his hotel and asked for an interview. It worked.

Another time in the 1960s, Martin was milling around a television studio in Hollywood when he spotted “a guy with a blue tunic and pointed ears,” Greczmiel said. It was Leonard Nimoy. “Star Trek” was a new show at the time, and Martin decided to conduct an interview with Nimoy on the spot.

Nimoy would go on in later years to say it was the only time he did an interview with the pointy ears on, Greczmiel said.

As Martin’s career advanced, he became a mentor to younger television reporters and producers.

“In a business where you have a lot of people with huge egos, he was always willing to share his knowledge. He did not have an ego,” Greczmiel said. “He had a great laugh, and he was always so easy to work with.”

The funny, affable persona Martin portrayed on television carried through to his life at home, said his son Steven Uhlenberg.

Martin was a family man who enjoyed playing with his kids and bringing them along on work-related travel when he could. His daughter remembers tagging along with her father to interview Clint Eastwood. At birthday parties, she said, Martin would play “Captain Sacto” and thrill the kids.

Recently, Larson said, she and her father were at breakfast when a man approached. He remembered Martin from his days playing Captain Sacto. The man had tears in his eyes as he told Martin how much the television character meant to him as a small boy whose father had left home.

“He actually felt a little bit like Dad was a father to him,” Larson said. “It came through the TV that way a very gentle, sweet, kind person.”

Martin was born in Palo Alto and grew up in Redwood City as Harry Martin Uhlenberg; he dropped his last name for television. He served in the Navy in World War II and in the Korean War. He moved to Sacramento after college to take a job with KCCC Channel 40, where he met his future wife, Paulyne Peterson.The couple were married 52 years. They shared a love of the Sacramento Kings, University of the Pacific football and summers at a lake house in Maine. Paulyne Uhlenberg died in August from cancer. Just about a month ago, Martin was diagnosed with cancer, his daughter said.

“He took it very well,” Larson said. “He had no regrets at all, and he was ready to go be with our mother.”

By Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee.