Just What the Doctor Ordered: The Career of Bernie Kopell

Throughout the past year, I have been researching actors and actresses who have had long-standing careers.  We continue that trend this week looking at the career of Bernie Kopell. Kopell is best known for his role as Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat; ironically, he has played a doctor in 13 series, a coroner in 2, and an apothecary in 1. Kopell’s career is still going strong this year.  Let’s look at his varied and full career.

Bernie Kopell, his real name, was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY in 1933 He told People magazine in an interview that when he was 13, he was drawn to acting because “It was a tremendous opportunity not to be me.” He graduated from New York University in 1955, majoring in Dramatic Art.

From 1955-1957, Kopell was in the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Iowa. Part of the time, the boat was stationed at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.  Bernie was a librarian and made the comment that “I don’t like to talk about my heroism, but what the hell; I was a librarian.  I kept America safe from overdue books.” When his Navy service was fulfilled, Kopell moved to Los Angeles.  He worked several odd jobs including vacuum salesman and cab driver.  One night he talked about his wish to be an actor to a passenger, Dick Einfeld who was producing The Oregon Trail starring Fred MacMurray.  Einfeld gave him a small part as President Polk’s Secretary.

Bernie was marred to Celia Whitney, an actress, but they divorced in 1962. He married another actress, Yoland Veloz in 1974; this marriage also ended in divorce in 1995. At age 64 in 1997, he married for a third time—this time to Catrina Honadle and had a son Adam in 1998 and a son Joshua in 2003.

During his career, Kopell has been in 96 different television series, 10 made-for-tv movies, and 18 feature movies.

His first television role was in Whispering Smith in 1961. During the 1960s, he appeared in many of the most popular shows including McHale’s Navy, Jack Benny, Petticoat Junction, Ben Casey, Green Acres, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Flying Nun.

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From 1966-1969 he appeared as Siegfried, a KAOS agent in Get Smart.  (He would also have a cameo role the movie version of Get Smart in 2008). At the same time, he played on Get Smart, he played Jerry Bauman, Don’s coworker who marries Ann’s neighbor Ruthie on That Girl from 1966-1971.

Throughout the 1970s, he continued appearing in series including Love American Style, The Odd Couple, The Bob Newhart Show, The Doris Day Show, MacMillan and Wife, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Kojak.

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He starred in two different series during this time. He was in Needles and Pins where he played a salesman and in When Things Were Rotten as Alan-a-Dale. This show was about Robin Hood and his men.

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On Bewitched, he appeared on nine episodes playing a variety of characters including an apothecary and a hippy.

He only appeared in a handful of shows during the 1980s.  Most of this decade was devoted to his role of Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat.  The show was on the air from 1977-1987, and Kopell appeared on all 250 episodes. The show was seen in 98 countries around the world.  During an interview, Bernie was asked about his life working on the show.  He shared the following memories:

Oh yeah, it was exhausting. Such exhausting work on Love Boat.  In fact, to be for real, my frame of reference for acting was this: Okay, I do The Doris Day Show, and it’d be three or four days on a Hollywood soundstage. Then you come out, and you’re in Hollywood, and that’s lovely and fine. On The Love Boat, you’re on a ship. It goes out beyond the 12-mile limit. You’re going out into the world of London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Athens, Cairo, Tel Aviv, The People’s Republic of China, Japan. It was such a treat. And I’d been in the Navy. So, in the Navy, I was the lowest of the low. I was just a seaman apprentice. I remember being late one day coming in from Istanbul, and I had to spend the whole next day scrubbing out bread pans. That was less fun than being treated royally on The Love Boat.

Pacific Princess, Island Princess . . . all of these beautiful, sleek, luxurious ships. Some days, you didn’t even have to work. My background was this:  I drove a taxi in L.A. I tried to sell Kirby vacuums in L.A. It was quite a while before I got going. And I’m just thinking about his professor I had at NYU. He would smoke Berings and Coronas, these marvelous cigars, and every once in a while, he would smoke a stink-a-roo. I said, “Professor, why are you smoking that awful cigar?” And he said, “For the balance. So, you know the difference between a stink-a-roo and a really good cigar.” I’m not advocating anybody start smoking cigars, but it’s a life lesson. You can’t eat filet mignon every day, because it gets to be meaningless after a while. You have a cheap hamburger every once in a while just to get the difference.

Anyway, so much for that. It was heaven. It was absolutely heaven, and they pay your more money every year. It went on for 10 years, and I got away with murder. My character could say to any woman he found attractive, “Take your clothes off, I’ll be right in.” I got to have love scenes with some of the most beautiful ladies. Jill St. John, Juliet Prowse. . . lovely, lovely people.  We had stars.  We had Academy Award winners. Ray Milland, Eva Marie Saint, Ernie Borgnine, Shelly Winters. . . I mean on and on and on. And Greer Garson; I was so awed. Of course, with my age, I saw Mrs. Miniver and I saw that Forsythe Woman with Greer Garson, this gorgeous red-headed lady in a green velvet gown. I approache her, and I said, “Excuse me, Miss Garson?’ and she said, “Yes, dear, what would you like?” and I said, “Why are you doing this?” And she laughed and she said, “I thought it would be a lovely way to say hello to old friends.” And, of course, it was, and it was a great privilege to have her.  We had Ethel Merman, we had Cab Calloway, we had Dick Shawn.

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Bernie was also credited as a writer for four Love Boat episodes.  In addition to The Love Boat, he played Dr. Adam Bricker on Charlie’s Angels, Martin, and The Love Boat: The Next Wave.

Kopell continued his television and movie work during the 1990s and the 2000s. He was featured in Diagnosis Murder, Beverly Hills 90210, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Monk, Arrested Development, and Raising Hope. He continues his active career, appearing in several shows in 2017 including Hawaii Five-O and Superstore.  He has also been in several movies the past three years.

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Bernie has also appeared in his share of game shows (Hollywood Squares, Pyramid, Tattletales, and Family Feud), talk shows (Mike Douglas, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Letterman), award shows, and documentaries (The Love Boat for Entertainment Tonight, Bewitched for E’s biography of Elizabeth Montgomery, and The Love Boat and That Girl for A&E specials).

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On Letterman, he was in the audience when David did his Top Ten List.  One of the entries poked fun at Dr. Bricker on The Love Boat, and when the camera cut to Kopell, he stormed out of the theater.  He was then shown being reseated only to have another entry make fun of him again, when he raised his fists and stormed out again.

Kopell has also been involved in theater the past few decades.  He starred in Neil Simon’s Rumors and played in Viagara Falls in Toronto for two years before making is New York Off-Broadway debut. He also hosted a show on the Travel Channel, Railway Adventures Across Europe.

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He participates in a lot of celebrity tennis tournaments for charities all over the world.  He has also hosted his own tennis and golf tournaments in Florida for the Alzheimer’s Association. He also swims regularly.

Happy Birthday Bernie Kopell!

 

 

 

 

Fashions Fade, Style is Eternal – Yves Saint Laurent

Fashion trends tend to come and go, but series about the world of models and clothing designers come and go even quicker. Let’s look at a few of the series that centered around the fashion industry.

Love That Jill (1958).  While Love That Bob was about a photographer who did take models’ photos from time to time, Love That Jill was about the heads of two rival Manhattan model agencies (played by real life married couple Anne Jeffreys and Robert Sterling). The show only lasted three months. Jill Johnson runs a top modeling agency, putting her in direct competition with one headed by Jack Gibson. Jack is not above trying to steal her clients, but Jill, with the help of her secretary Richard (Jimmy Lydon), holds her own.  Jack also tries to steal her heart, and when they are not fighting about business, Jack and Jill find time for romancing each other. Some of the models on the show were Betty Lynn as Pearl, Polly Rose as Myrtle, Barbara Nichols as Ginger, Nancy Hadley as Melody, and Kay Elhardt as Peaches.

 

 

Diana (1973). Diana Rigg (previously Emma Peel on The Avengers) was a divorced woman seeking new life in America.  She was a fashion coordinator at Butley’s, a fashionable Fifth Avenue department store, where she was in charge of merchandising and advertising. Her brother has rented an apartment for her, but numerous other people seem to have keys to it as well which leads to some interesting situations. Some of the other characters included commercial model Holly Green (Carol Androsky), Butley’s president Norman Brodnik (David Sheiner), Brodnik’s wife Norma (Barbara Barrie), copywriter and office mate Howard Tolbrook (Richard B . Shull), and window dresser Marshall Tyler (Robert Moore). After four months, Diana switched jobs when her series was cancelled.

 

 

Needles and Pins (1973). This show was set in New York’s garment district. Nathan Davidson (Norman Fell) owned the Lorelei Fashion House which created women’s clothing. His brother and partner was Harry (Louis Nye) and their designer was Wendy (Deidre Lenihan) who came from Nebraska. Other characters included Sonia the bookkeeper (Sandra Deel), Charlie, a salesman (Bernie Kopell), Max a fabric cutter (Larry Gelman), Myron the patternmaker (Alex Henteloff), and Julius Singer (Milton Selzer) who was their competition in the industry. Apparently, the cast had a right to be on needles and pins because the show only lasted half a season.

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Veronica’s Closet (1997-2000).  Veronica is the best romance expert around. Unfortunately, her expertise only works for others. If the details about this show and its characters seem confusing to you, you are not alone.

Veronica Chase (Kirstie Alley) owns a lingerie company called Veronica’s Closet. After divorcing her husband of many years (after discovering that he has been cheating on her), she throws herself into her work. She is aided by her best friend, Olive (Kathy Najimy); Josh (Wallace Langham), her secretary whom everybody says is gay but he says he is not; and Leo (Daryl Mitchell) and Perry (Dan Cortese), two other employees.

Ok, get ready to pay attention. At the end of the first season, she took in a partner who died and the dead woman’s inept son took control of the company, wrecking it. In the next season, Alec Bilson, her previous partner’s ex-husband, bought the company from his stepson and decided to work with Veronica, or Ronnie as she is called. And while she didn’t like the arrangement, she liked him. In the third season, after Ronnie and Alec had a fight, he left abruptly and died in an accident, but before he did he married a girl named June who inherited his fortune which included Veronica’s Closet, and she drove Ronnie up the wall.

Apparently, the network felt there were too many fatal accidents and cut the show before another character was killed. While this show lasted three seasons, it actually was almost like three different series.

 

 

Just Shoot Me (1997-2003). Hot-tempered journalist Maya Gallo (Laura San Giancomo) got herself fired from yet another job when she made an anchorwoman cry on the air with some gag copy on the teleprompter. Unable to find a job anywhere else and facing eviction, she is forced to go work for Blush, her father’s (Jack Gallo played by George Segal) fashion magazine. Maya’s father was a workaholic while she was growing up and has been divorced four times.  Their time working together provides them the opportunity to heal their relationship, and Jack eventually turns over the company to his daughter. Personality conflicts quickly ensue with high-strung ex-model who can’t accept the fact that she has aged and her fans have forgotten her, Nina van Horn (Wendie Malick), philandering photographer Elliot DiMauro (Enrico Colantoni), and wise-guy secretary Dennis Finch (David Spade).

This show won its time slot most seasons which is amazing because the network moved it around quite often.  The first six episodes were shown in one month.  The next season it was given a great schedule on Thursday night between Friends and Seinfeld.  When Seinfeld ended its show, Just Shoot Me was moved to Tuesday. For the fifth season, it was moved back to Thursdays between Will & Grace and ER where it remained for two years, getting high ratings. However, for the seventh season, several characters left the show, and it once again aired on Tuesdays. The ratings never recovered and it was cancelled.

 

 

Ugly Betty (2006-2010). This show was based on a Colombian telenovela, “Yo soy Betty, la fea” published in 1999. A young and wise woman named Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), from Queens, goes on a journey to find her inner beauty. The only problem is that it’s hard for an unattractive woman to find her beauty surrounded by tall skinny models at a fashion magazine, but Betty doesn’t let this stop her or her positive attitude towards her work.

When publishing mogul Bradford Meade puts his son Daniel (Eric Mabius) in charge of his Mode magazine, he hires Betty to be Daniel’s new assistant — mostly because he knows that she may be the only woman in Manhattan with whom the younger man won’t sleep. Betty’s hard work and determination earn Daniel’s respect, as she helps him find his way through hurdles of the fashion industry. Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz, Becki Newton, Michael Urie, Mark Indelicato, Vanessa Williams, and Judith Light also play characters on the show.

This is the other fashion show that made it more than three years, and it was also moved around the schedule.  The first three years it had its highest ratings on Thursday nights. When ratings dropped after season 3, it was moved to Fridays.  Fans protested and the show moved to Wednesdays airing with Modern Family and Cougar Town, but it never recovered its previous high ratings and was cancelled. In the finale, Betty accepts a job in London, and Daniel leaves the magazine.

 

 

Lipstick Jungle (2008).  A look at the lives of Nico Reilly, the editor-in-chief of Bonfire magazine (Kim Raver), Wendy Healy, former president of Parador Pictures (Brooke Shields), and Victory Ford, a fashion designer (Lindsay Price) — three of “New York’s 50 Most Powerful Women,” according to The New York Post.  I’m not saying they are shallow, but apparently there was not much to look at because the show only lasted 20 episodes. Andrew McCarthy, Paul Blackthorne, and Robert Buckley also were part of the regular cast.

This was another series based on a novel, Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell. Although the show debuted during the year a major writer’s strike was taking place, it never picked up any substantial ratings and was cancelled.

 

 

That Girl (1966-1971). While That Girl was not technically about on the fashion industry, Anne Marie is known for her incredible wardrobe. In a blog about fashion series, I felt it had to be included.

A young girl who moves to New York City to try to make it as an actress may not sound like revolutionary television, but this was 1966, and Marlo Thomas was an “unlikely pioneer in a flip coif and a Technicolor minidress.” She said this was the first show where a single, perky career gal learned to navigate the big city. She based the concept on her life about a girl who graduated from college, whose parents wanted her to get married while she wants to be an actress. Fans watched the show to see how Ann Marie would fare in the big city, but they also tuned in to see what she was wearing. Thomas personally chose her entire wardrobe for the show and wore many  current designers’ creations. One of the designers she chose was Marilyn Lewis.

Six years before the show debuted, Lewis and her husband Harry ran a restaurant chain called Hamburger Hamlet. She decided to launch a ready-to-wear line of clothing. She could not sew but wanted to design quality apparel. She named her collection Cardinali, and Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman couldn’t get enough of her designs. Marlo Thomas, along with other celebrities such as Nancy Reagan, Betsy Bloomingdale, and Dyan Cannon also bought her outfits. A feature on Marilyn Lewis provided the following details about the designer in 2007:

As a girl growing up in Cleveland, Lewis invented the name Cardinali in homage to her absent father. She was told that he was living in Italy, and at 5 she rechristened herself Cardinali. In her first year of designing, Lewis created a 35-piece collection of suits, dresses and gowns. Her clothes, which Cameron Silver, who owns the Los Angeles vintage boutique Decades, will be showcasing in early June, are a mix of hard and soft: a tweed maxi skirt paired with a floral chiffon blouse, a wool jersey turtleneck halter gown with a plunging back. And Cardinali loved accouterment — a wool bouclé winter coat has a bag and hat to match; a floaty summer day dress comes with its own attached scarf. There is a metallic jumpsuit that Dyan Cannon wore on her first date with Cary Grant, and there is a demure silk gown with ruffles that Nancy Reagan ordered in red. Perhaps Lewis’s most famous designs were worn by Marlo Thomas in the TV show “That Girl.” The chiffon floral dress with its matching frilly umbrella that Thomas twirls during the opening credits says everything about being young and enthralled by Manhattan.

The Cardinali archive is currently stored in the Lewises’ condominium near Century City. Marilyn and Harry rent out their home in Beverly Hills and live in the 5,000-square-foot penthouse, with its breathtaking views of Los Angeles. The condo is decorated with Hamlet memorabilia, modern art and posters from Marilyn’s third career, as a movie producer. Her documentary, “Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol,” was critically acclaimed, and “The Passion of Ayn Rand,” which starred Helen Mirren, was on Showtime in 1998; Mirren won an Emmy for her performance. “As usual, when I became a producer, my husband thought I was crazy,” Lewis said in her apartment, as she presented each piece of Cardinali. “As usual, I never had doubt, but Harry always has the doubt for me. Luckily he trusts me. I could never have done any of this alone. Harry was always my producer.” She paused. “And I still can’t figure him out after all these years.”

 

With the fashion industry such an influence in our pop culture, it’s hard to believe that there have been only a few sitcoms about the design and modeling business. Although, I must admit that while I’m writing this, I realize that the only one of these shows I watched before I researched this blog was That Girl. Maybe the fashion business is too cut-throat to be funny, or maybe the fashion trends would date the show too much.  While That Girl was one of my favorite shows, I will also admit that one of the reasons I watch today is to watch all those adorable outfits Anne Marie wears.

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The Full and Amazing Career of Fred Willard, Part 1

During my short history as a blogger, I have looked at great actors, comedians, writers, voice actors, and humanitarians, but rarely do I encounter someone who fits all the above categories.  Today we look at the career of Fred Willard — actor, singer, comedian, writer, voice actor, and humanitarian.

Fred was born September 18, 1939 in Ohio.  His father worked in a bank. He sounds like he was a great dad; unfortunately he died when Fred was only 11.   He played baseball and dreamed of a career in the major leagues. He attended the Kentucky Military Institute playing baseball and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with an English degree.  After graduation, he joined the army.  He moved to New York after his army stint and enrolled in the Showcase Theater, an acting school. He is a Second City alumnus. In 1968, he married his current spouse, Mary Lovell; they have one daughter and one grandson.

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In 1962, he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show doing a comedy act with Vic Greco and his career took off from there.

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He was part of the Ace Trucking Company in the 1960s and early 1970s. Ace consisted of George Memmoli, Michael Mislove, Bill Saluga, Patti Deutsch, and Fred Willard.  They did innovative sketch comedy long before Saturday Night Live. Anyone who watched LaughIn or Match Game in the 70s will remember Patti Deutsch.  The rest of the company had successful acting careers, but no one could touch Willard’s filmography.

During his career, Willard has appeared in 148 television shows, 45 television movies, and 75 big-screen movies. He has raised money for Big Brothers/Big Sisters; Actors and Others for Animals; and the City of Hope, the John Wayne Cancer Society, among many others. He has hosted Market Warriors on PBS. Fred Willard has three Emmy nominations for his role of Hank MacDougal, Robert’s father-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond and another Emmy nomination for his role of Frank Dunphy on Modern Family. He has also won a variety of entertainment awards. Fred has also appeared in commercials, being the voice of Kelloggs Cereal, Sierra Mist, Old Navy, and LaQuinta Inns.

In addition to his acting and comedic career, Willard has appeared as himself in 157 different shows including documentaries, Fox NFL Sunday, $100,000 Pyramid, Hollywood Game Night, Celebrity Family Feud with his family, Ellen, Siskel and Ebert, Rachel Ray, and every late-night talk show you can think of:  Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Conan O’Brien, and Craig Kilborn.

Unfortunately, much of the news about Willard the past couple of years has stemmed from his arrest in Hollywood.  Because that was a major news story about him, I’ll address the incident briefly. In 2012, he was at the Tiki Theater, a porn theater.  The management said they had never seen him there before that night. An anti-prostitution law enforcement group monitors three theaters in the area. When they entered the theater, they spotted Willard in the back row. He was handcuffed and taken out of the theater. Another policeman went back into the theater, apparently to look for evidence. He was arrested for suspicion of engaging in a misdemeanor lewd act. He was never charged with the offense.  He referred to this time as very painful and embarrassing for him. He was forced to complete a sex education diversion program. While I don’t condone his choice of theaters that evening, I think it is extremely hypocritical and unrealistic of the Hollywood law enforcement to allow these theaters to operate but not expect certain behaviors to take place. It’s like an organization building a stadium and bringing in a professional team, but then telling the fans not to cheer. We all have made questionable choices and bad decisions, and I hate to see a poor decision made at age 72 define a man or tarnish his career so I prefer to concentrate on his long and amazing career.

Willard began his acting career in the 1960s, appearing in four shows including Get Smart.  In the 1970s, was in many sitcoms including Love American Style, The Bob Newhart Show, Laverne and Shirley, and Sirota’s Court, but the show that made him a household name was Fernwood Tonight.  He appeared in 37 episodes of Fernwood Tonight, one in Forever Fernwood, and 65 in American 2-Night. In 1976, a new show, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, debuted. This show aired daily, racking up 325 episodes the year it was on. Mary was a strange housewife living in Fernwood, Ohio.  During the first episodes, she experienced mass murder, adultery, venereal disease, religious cults, and UFO sightings. She broke down on a national television talk show, Fernwood Tonight. Barth Gimble played by Martin Mull, was the host and his sidekick Jerry Hubbard was played by Fred Willard. Fernwood Tonight began as a spin-off and  was a parody of talk shows.  When famous people appeared, they had to have a reason for being in Fernwood. One example was when Tom Waite’s bus broke down there. Dabney Coleman appeared as the mayor of Fernwood.  The second season the show became American 2-Night when the talk show moved to California.

Willard continued his television work in the1980s appearing in Mama’s Family, Trapper John MD, The Love Boat, and Fame, among others. During the 1990s, he appeared in 34 shows. He was in Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote, Married with Children, Murphy Brown, Friends, Roseanne, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Just Shoot Me, and Mad About You.

He has not slowed down in this new century.  He has appeared in 82 shows, some of them animated series. He has been on Drew Carey, Hot in Cleveland, Community, and Modern Family. From 2007-2008, he had a recurring role on Back to You. I’m not sure why this show didn’t make it, considering the cast. Kelsey Grammer plays a news anchor who is forced to leave LA and take a job at the Pittsburgh station he left for the big time. He works with his ex-wife played by Patricia Heaton, his co-anchor; Ty Burrell as an inept field reporter; and Fred Willard, an overconfident and, often inaccurate, sportscaster. A few years later Willard would again work with Burrell, playing his father on Modern Family.

I’m getting tired just writing about everything he’s done, and we haven’t even discussed his movie career.  Among the 75 movies, the ones that stand out to me are Silver Streak, Fun with Dick and Jane, This is Spinal Tap, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Wedding Planner, Anchorman, Anchorman 2, Wall-E, and Roxanne.

In an interview written not long ago, Fred shared that he still writes a sketch a week and has boxes full. At 78 he is still going strong and doesn’t appear to be slowing down, so watch for Part 2 of the career of Fred Willard in ten years or so.

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Fred remains humble, often giving others credit and talking about their talents.  Here is what he had to say about working with Johnny Carson:  I remember Johnny Carson laughing effusively when I made my “Tonight” show debut in the early 1970’s as part of a sketch comedy group called the Ace Trucking Company. We didn’t even have a name when we first did the show, but one of my favorite moments was looking over to see him laughing, falling off his chair. This was topped only by another kind of tribute often paid by Johnny: imitation. We did a sketch about tough motorcyclists stopping into a shop and demanding shoes and coming away with handbags and ruffled blouses and stuff, and after it was over, Johnny kept saying, “I want some shoes,” like one of the characters, and that was just a kind of salute. To have him pick up a catchphrase and repeat it was just amazing.

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So how do you end a blog about someone who has such a zest for life.  Let’s end with some life lessons directly from Fred Willard:

You think you want to be famous. Then you see twenty or thirty people with cameras running after somebody coming out of a restaurant. And you say, “That might be fun for a night.” The idea is to be just famous enough that when you walk into a restaurant, the maître d’ says, “Oh, I have a nice table.”

Ballet I love for about five minutes. Then I want to see a comic come out.

When I was a kid, I remember one aunt drinking on Thanksgiving and falling asleep at the dinner table. Her husband said, “Betty, wake up and finish your drink.”

Opera has made me consider suicide.

Flying into Bora Bora makes you feel like you’re in The Wizard of Oz and suddenly it’s Technicolor.

There was ABC, CBS, and NBC when I was a kid. That was it. How difficult it must’ve been to be successful back then. Now I look up and notice I’m watching Channel 504. Everyone is a star of some show.

The remote has saved my sanity.

If you’re going to take a risk as a comic, make sure it’s surrounded by other things that you’re certain are funny.

When I was a kid, hearing something from the president was like hearing something from God. Now I hear the president and think, What is he, crazy?

My daughter thinks I’m a little more on the straight and narrow than I actually am.

If you like Albert Brooks, you’ll like anything he does.

Comedy relieves you. A lot of times we think we’re the only people bothered by certain things. Then you hear a comic say, “Don’t you hate it when . . .” And it’s “Oh, my God! Of course!”

Animated voice-over guys have it good.

A great director is someone who makes you feel like you’re moving forward.

I’ll tell you what does bother me: English actors doing American accents. I wouldn’t want to see five Americans doing Monty Python.

Another thing that annoys me: They do the inductions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York. The museum is in Cleveland.

I remember hearing that when James Dean finished East of Eden, he sat in his dressing room and cried because the filming was ending. When they say, “That’s a wrap for Mr. Willard,” I say, “Oh, boy, thank you.”

It seems to me you’re always retired in this business. You know, after your last job.

When you get to a certain age, it’s kind of the same thing. There’s no new school to go to, no new teachers. There’s some comfort in that.

My father died when I was young. He was out delivering Christmas packages like he did every year. My mom said that after he delivered the packages, people looked down at him from the buildings and he always turned around and waved, but he didn’t that day. He got in his car, had a heart attack or something, and died. He was buried on Christmas Eve. I had no brothers and sisters, so I was all by myself. It really changes you. For the rest of your life you’re always expecting something bad to happen.

I had a ham-and-cheese sandwich last night. It was the best sandwich I ever had. Just wonderful. White bread, American cheese, ham, tomato, mustard. Mary made it. Mary says I’ll tell you virtually every meal I eat is the best I’ve ever had. She’s right.

I’ve heard a lot of comedians were young when their parents divorced, or when a parent died or was killed. It forces you to have a sense of humor.

One of the great things about kids is, they haven’t heard a lot of the old jokes. You can get away with the corny ones.

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Just Another Day at The Office

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It’s National Paper Clip Day, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that than to remember The Office.

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Before The Office was developed, we had series about an office, but not about the office.  The Dick Van Dyke Show was set in the writers’ office in parts of many episodes, but the cast’s personal lives were also a large part of the show. Barney Miller was set in the office, but that show was more about the crime in New York. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was set in the television station, but that was also more about the employees’ relationships away from the office. For many years, The Office only concentrated on work relationships.

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Based on a BBC sitcom, The Office was a mockmentary about office workers—their egos, their inappropriate behavior, their boredom, their bizarre situations, and the way they eventually became a family.  In the first season, I think the show was more about a mediocre paper company with mediocre employees that had a mediocre amount of happiness in their lives, but as the show continued, the characters became more three-dimensional and likable, despite their quirks.

Ironically, the exterior shot of the building used in the show is in Scranton, across from a bar called “The Office.” I’m not sure how enthused the city of Scranton was when the show first began, but they developed an affection for the show, and the Chamber has a page dedicated to Dunder Mifflin. Many real businesses were mentioned on the show.

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One of the surprising things was that a show with such a huge cast kept viewers interested in the entire crew.  Each character was real and unique. Although characters joined and departed the cast throughout the nine seasons, 17 characters were in at least 55% of the episodes, and 7 characters were on every episode of the series. All of the cast has had successful and busy careers since The Office ended. Let’s look at the major characters.

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Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker) Stanley is a sales man who can be a bit grumpy. He is a hard worker but underappreciated. In the finale, divorced, he retires and moves to the Everglades where he carves birds. Since the show ended he’s been in 8 tv series and 4 movies.

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Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner) Kevin, an accountant, gambles and will place bets on items and events ranging from the NCAA basketball tournament to how much candy is at the receptionist’s desk. He is in a band, is a Philadelphia Eagles fan, likes naval history, bowling, and cooking. He leaves to manage a bar and eventually becomes a co-owner. He’s been very busy since the show ended with 17 tv series, 3 movies and a movie in production in his credits.

angela martin

Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey) Angela is a corporate accountant for Dunder Mifflin. She is rigid and often unnecessarily callous to coworkers like Phyllis and Pam. She claims to be a good Christian woman but often contradicts herself through micromanaging and being extremely judgmental of others. She loves photos of babies dressed like adults. At the finale, Angela is marrying Dwight. Martin has been in 16 tv series since 2013 many of them with recurring roles, 6 movies and has 3 movies in production.

phyllis vance

Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith) Married to Bob Vance, Phyllis is a saleswoman for Dunder Mifflin. She is quiet and friendly and loves gossip.  Michael often refers to her as “old” yet they graduated in the same class. In the finale, she moved to St. Louis to knit.  She has appeared in 3 movies, including Inside Out which she did the voice of Sadness.

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Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery) She was described as both an accountant and office buyer for supplies. Admittedly an alcoholic and a flasher, Meredith was one of the sadder characters. If someone is accidentally hurt at work, it typically is Meredith who had her hair set on fire, got rabies from a bat, was hit by Michael’s car, and took a football to the face. With 8 tv appearances, 9 movies and 3 movies in production, she has also kept busy.

creed bratton

Creed Bratton (Creed Bratton) Creed sometimes sleeps in the office building under his desk, only has four toes on one of his feet, loves stealing things, and only recently got a fridge for the first time. He doesn’t have a great memory due to drug use, so he doesn’t really remember what his job entails and he constantly uses the wrong names on his co-workers. He faked his death but was eventually arrested. In real life, Creed Bratton was part of the Grass Roots. Like his other cast members, Bratton has been in 5 tv shows, 9 movies, and has 3 movies in production.

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Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez) Oscar is an openly gay accountant.  He is intelligent, efficient and rational.  With Pam and Jim, he refers to the trio as the Coalition for Reason. He left to run for the senate. With 17 tv series, including one with a regular role, 6 movies, and 2 movies in production, he has been quite busy since the show’s end.

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Ryan Howard (BJ Novak) Ryan went through various phases during the show as he comes and goes as an employee.  Michael tries to be his friend, but Ryan obviously dislikes his employees. He ran away with Kelly during Dwight’s wedding. In real life, he and Kaling dated but are just friends. He has written two books, a short story collection and a children’s book The Book with No Pictures. He has also appeared in 5 tv series and 5 movies.

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Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) Kelly is a customer service representative.  She is a bit of a chatterbox; loves shopping and fashion, and can’t wait to get married and have kids.  She ends up with Ryan. After the show, Kaling wrote a book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  She developed The Mindy Project, has appeared in 3 other tv series, 3 movies including Inside Out as Disgust, and has 3 movies in production.

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Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) Andy comes in as management.  He is self-centered and arrogant.  He and Angela have a relationship but that does not work out. In the finale, he is working at Cornell, his alma mater. In real life, he is in a bluegrass band The Lonesome Trio. Bernard has been in 7 tv shows, 7 movies, and has a whopping 7 movies in production.

toby flenderson

Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) Toby is a human resources representative. He is very quiet and likes most of his colleagues.  However, he is the one person Michael can’t stand. At one point, he moves to Costa Rica, but returns to Dunder Mifflin after a zip line accident. At the end of the show, he moved to New York City to be a writer. Flenderson was one of the producers for The Office.  He has continued his career in production, but has also been in 4 tv series and is currently acting in and producing a movie in production.

darryl philbin

Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson) Competent and ambitious, Darryl is the foreman of the warehouse. He is hired at Athlead, the same company Jim works for. He came back for Dwight’s wedding. In real life, he began his career as a music teacher. With 6 tv shows, 9 movies, and 5 movies in production, Philbin too has had a steady career since he was Darryl.

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Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) She is the new receptionist when Pam leaves. She is just nice and actually admires Michael and Dwight. In the finale, she met her biological parents. She has kept as busy as her other cast members with 12 tv appearances and 6 movies to her credit.

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Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) Dwight is essentially kind, and means well, however he is just socially inept. Everyone has a Dwight in their office. In addition to marrying Angela, he still has his beet farm and becomes the regional manager for Dunder Mifflin. Originally, he auditioned for the part of Michael Scott, but received the role of Dwight, beating out Seth Rogan. Since The Office ended, Wilson had a recurring role on Backstrom, appeared in four tv series, five movies and has five movies coming out in the next few years as well as appearances on Star Trek: Discovery.

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Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) Jim matures the most of any other character on the show.  He started out as a bit of a goof-off, became a hopeless romantic wooing Pam, and then the ideal husband.  Near the end of the show, he moved to Austin to work in a sports corporation. Since the show ended, Krasinski has been busy.  He had quite a few movies debut during the run of The Office, has appeared in four tv series, six movies and has a role in Jack Ryan, a television series debuting in 2017, as well as three movies in production.

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Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) Married to Jim with two kids, she gives up her ambitions and moves to Austin for Jim’s career. In real life, she is best friends with Angela Kinsey. Since the show ended, Fischer has appeared in 3 movies and been in 8 series, many of them as a recurring character.

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Michael Scott (Steve Carell) Michael means well but never seems to say the right thing. Even when he’s being sincere, he’s a racist and a chauvinist. He has a huge need to be liked. He’s also very lonely.  In one episode, he buys a new phone.  He can get unlimited calling for his five top friends, but he can’t come up with five friends. During the finale, he says “I feel like all my kids grew up and married each other. It’s every parent’s dream.” Even as we realize it’s a sweet sentiment, it also makes us cringe. After seven seasons, he married his true love Holly and moves to Colorado with her, one of the toughest choices he had to make. He comes back to be Dwight’s best man for his wedding. He truly cares about his employees and never loses his dream.

The Office - Season 9

The show debuted to praise from the critics, winning four Emmys during its tenure. None of the actors were well known when the show started, but Steve Carell’s role in the Forty-Year-Old Virgin propelled him to national stardom, which aided in the show’s success.

Many of the cast members were also writers on the show. When you watch reruns, notice that the actors are on their computers while other things are going on.  Each of them was hooked up to the internet, so the actors were playing games, shopping online, and doing their taxes during the show.

Many of the characters have a love/hate relationship with each other, although they end up respecting each other eventually.  Jim was known as the office prankster. When Michael tells him to hire a male stripper for Phyllis’s office bridal shower, Jim calls the Scholastic Speakers of Pennsylvania and hires Benjamin Franklin to give an informative talk.  One day, Jim finds Dwight’s wallet in the parking lot.  He tries to decide what to do with it, but Pam convinces him that the only right decision is to give it back.  He does, but Dwight can’t believe there isn’t more to the story and ends up cancelling all his credit cards. When Michael was on vacation, Jim was supposed to run the meeting.  Dwight records it so he will have it on tape. Partway through the meeting, Jim says, “Dwight, what are you doing?  You can’t take your pants off in the office. It’s making me uncomfortable.  This is sexual harassment.” When Andy is added to the cast, he is not exempt from Jim’s gags.  Jim puts Andy’s phone in the ceiling tiles and then he and Pam take turns calling the phone just to drive Andy crazy, trying to figure out where it is.

Like any family, these characters have no choice in spending so much of their time together.  The show has conflicts, joyous occasions, sad situations, and funny moments. There is a quote from the show to fit almost any life situation. Despite being stuck in a job with not a lot of advancement options, the American dream still exists.  That’s really what everyone wants – a dream.

The show created many fans who designed costumes, fan clubs, games, mugs, and Lego displays.  A blog at blog.drawbotics.com maps out versions of sitcom settings and put together one for The Office.

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Some great quotes from the series include:

Dwight: Your pencils are creating a health hazard.  I could fall and pierce an organ.

Michael: I guess the atmosphere that I’ve tried to create here is that I’m a friend first and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third.

Michael: I wouldn’t miss it for the world, but if something else came up, I would definitely not go.

Dwight: Michael says KISS – keep it simple stupid.  Hurts my feelings every time.

Michael: Please do not drink and drive because you might hit a bump and spill your drink.

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I think my favorite episode was “Business School” from season 3. In this episode, Michael goes to Ryan’s business school to do a presentation.  He wants to inspire the class, but they find him obsolete, and he leaves humiliated and feeling ignorant. At the same time, Pam has found a gallery to display her art.  However, none of her co-workers or her fiancé have any interest in her work. Both characters are feeling sad and wondering how talented they might really be. At the end of the show, Michael shows up at the gallery even though no one else is there. He is genuinely interested in Pam’s paintings and seems to have a true appreciation for her art. He buys a painting and puts it on his wall at home. With them feeling like comrades, Pam gives him a hug. That small action says a lot about their relationship, being able to count on each other.

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Pam’s quote at the end of the show sums things up perfectly. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that the point?”

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The Butler Did It

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When we mention the word butler, we usually think of the prim and proper English gentleman, stern-faced, polishing the silver, decanting the wine, and keeping an eye on the staff.

According to the International Butler Academy, there are a few million butlers serving today. They typically take care of travel arrangements, packing, household finances, and other general duties. Salaries vary from $50,000-$150,000 per year, but most include room and board, the use of a car, a cell phone, and 4 weeks of vacation.

When we think about butlers on television, some might come to mind quickly:  Lurch on The Addams Family, Alfred from Batman, Hudson from Upstairs, Downstairs, Benson from Soap, and Mr. Caron from Downton Abby.

Today, let’s look at shows that feature a butler as one of the main characters. This was an interesting blog for me.  I had only seen 1 of these 5 shows, so I learned a lot this week.

Our Man Higgins (1962-63)

Alice and Duncan MacRoberts are looking forward to receiving an unexpected inheritance from Scotland.  You can only imagine what they were hoping for.  Instead, they received a butler, Higgins. Higgins is the proper butler who lends a hand with their adventurous children while they teach him how to relax and have fun. Sterling Holloway played Higgins.  After 34 episodes, the network gave Higgins way more than 4 weeks of vacation.

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The Good Life (1971)

In between I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas, Larry Hagman starred in this show with Donna Mills, David Wayne, Danny Goldman, and Hermione Baddeley. Albert and Jane Miller were middle class citizens, tired of their boring routines.  They got the crazy idea to find work as servants for a wealthy family. Their employer, Charles Dutton, hires them as a butler and cook, not realizing they haven’t been professionally trained.  His wife is constantly trying to find ways to get them fired.  Dutton’s son Nick discovers their true identity and thinks the whole thing is hilarious, so he never gives their secret away.  The network apparently didn’t see the humor Nick did because they cancelled the show after 13 weeks.  In the show’s defense, it was up against All in The Family which scored incredible ratings when it aired.

The Two of Us (1981-82)

Nan Gallagher (Mimi Kennedy) is a television talk show host and a single mother.  She decides to place an ad to hire a nanny and ends up with Robert Brentwood (Peter Cook), an English butler. He is able to use his many talents, including being multilingual and a gourmet cook.  The show also features Nan’s agent Cubby Royce (Oliver Clarke) and her daughter Gabrielle (Dana Hill). The show came in as a replacement in 1981 and the critics gave it high praise.  Most of them wrote about the intelligent writing and the chemistry between the cast.  Unfortunately, when it entered the schedule the next fall, the ratings fell.  After 20 episodes, the network decided to send Brentwood back to England.

 

Mr. Belvedere (1985-1990)

Based on a novel and a movie, Mr. Belvedere debuted in 1985. Christopher Hewitt plays Lynn Aloysius Belvedere, a proper English butler, who previously worked for Winston Churchill and has connections to the royal family. The Owens place an ad for someone to help watch the kids and guess who answers the ad?  Mr. Belvedere has an ulterior purpose. He is recording their experiences in his diary so he can write a novel later. George Owens, played perfectly by Bob Uecker, is a sportswriter and his wife Marsha (Ilene Graff) is a law student.  Mr. Belvedere bonds with the kids no matter how hard he tries not to: teen Kevin (Rob Stone), tweener Heather (Tracy Wells), and grade school age Wesley (Brice Beckham).

Marblehead Manor

Randolf Stonehill (Bob Fraser) is the third generation to own Marblehead Manor which is somewhere in New England. Albert Dudley (Paxton Whitehead) is the third generation to work as a butler at Marblehead Manor. Randolf is the heir to a corn oil fortune. He is married to Hillary (Linda Thorson). The staff at the manor is quite a bunch of eccentrics.  There’s Jerry (Phil Morris) the chauffeur, Dwayne (Rodney Scott Hudson) the handyman, Lupe (Dyana Ortelli) the cook and her son Elvis (Humberto Ortiz), and Rick (Michael Richards) the gardner. To add an even weirder spin, the characters often dress as other people for comic effect.

After watching a few of these episodes, you just might decide to attend the International Butler Academy. It looks like an interesting life.

 

 

Shelly Fabares: A Life Spent in the Entertainment Industry

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Michele Ann Marie (Shelly) Fabares was born in 1944 in California.  She began acting at 3 and at age 10 she appeared in her first television show. Her aunt was the actress Nanette Fabray who also began acting as a child, and then went on to musical theater.

During the 1950s, Shelly appeared in several television shows including Annie Oakley, The Loretta Young Show, and the Twilight Zone, in addition to 8 others. She was part of the cast of Annette in 1958, playing Moselle Corey.  The star of the show was Annette Funicello.  She is an orphan who grew up in the country and now lives with her wealthy aunt and uncle, not fitting into the snobby community. The show was cancelled after 19 episodes. Annette was a life-long friend of Shelly’s. They met in seventh grade, and Shelly was at her bedside when she passed away from multiple sclerosis in 2013.

Later that year she was offered the part of Mary Stone on The Donna Reed Show. The show was on the air seven years. Shelly left the show in 1963 to pursue a film career but stayed close to the cast, especially Donna Reed who was a second mother to her. Paul Petersen and Fabares both described how amazing Donna Reed and Carl Betz were during their time on the show.  Realizing how tough the industry can be for young kids, they protected them and loved them as second parents. Both Shelly and Petersen pursued their music interests on the Donna Reed Show. In 1962, she recorded “Johnny Angel” which went to number 1 on the Billboard 100.

Shelly appeared in 13 films in the 1950s and 1960s, including three with Elvis Presley—Girl Happy in 1965, Spinout in 1966, and Clambake in 1967. She also appeared on television on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Daniel Boone, Lancer, and Bracken’s World. Shelly married Lou Adler in 1964.

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Her acting career continued to skyrocket in the 1970s.  She appeared as Joy Piccolo in Brian’s Song in 1971. She appeared in 26 television shows, three of them regular series. The Brian Keith Show was on the air from 1972-74. Keith was Dr. Sean Jamison and Shelly played his daughter, Dr. Ann Jamison.  The two of them ran a free pediatric clinic in Hawaii financed by a wealthy patron. Sticking with the medical theme, she joined the cast of The Practice in 1976-77 working with Danny Thomas. She played Jenny Bedford, the daughter of Dr. Jules Bedford. At the end of the decade she tried another sitcom, Highcliff Manor, which only lasted 6 episodes. I don’t remember this sitcom, but it seems an odd one: the manor, owned by Fabares’ character, Helen Blacke, was home to the Blacke Foundation, a research institute staffed by an eclectic group of eccentric characters. It sounds a bit like Scorpion, maybe just a couple decades’ too early.

She continued working on television in the 1980s, appearing on Fantasy Island, Mork and Mindy, Matt Houston, The Love Boat, Newhart, and Murder She Wrote.  She joined the cast of One Day at a Time, playing Francine Webster between 1978-1984. She also made the movie Hot Pursuit in 1987. The description of the movie is that young Danny is following his rich girlfriend’s family to the Caribbean. But suddenly he simply must take a chemistry test and cannot go with them. After they have left, he gets a leave from his professor and takes a plane to find them. But he is not quite sure where they are, and meets smugglers, crazy captains, and murderers. Fabares’ marriage to Lou Adler legally ended in 1980, although they had been separated since 1966. In 1984, she married M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell.

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Entering her 5th decade of acting, she made her last film, Love or Money in 1990. She continued her television work appearing in A Whole New Ballgame and the Justice League.  She also had a regular gig providing the voice for Martha Kent in Superman from 1996-99. In addition to the Donna Reed Show, the show that Fabares is best known for was Coach which ran throughout most of the 90s, from 1989-1997. As Christine Armstrong, she is the girlfriend, and later, wife of Coach Hayden Fox, played by Craig T. Nelson.  The show revolves around the football team that Fox coaches.  He lives for sports while Christine is not the least interested.  This causes a bit of friction and miscommunication in their relationship.

Fabares had a long and full career.  While her career kept her busy, she had to deal with several major life situations:

DONNA REED;SHELLEY FABARES

Donna Reed, her second mother, passed away in 1986 from pancreatic cancer.  Shelly adored Donna, and Donna’s final words were to make sure Shelly’s birthday gift was wrapped and delivered.

At the same time Reed was dying, Fabares’ mother was suffering from Alzheimers.

In 2000, Shelly needed a liver transplant because she had autoimmune hepatitis.

She had to deal with the death of her life-long friend Annette Funicello in 2013.

Few actors can begin acting as a child, transition into teen parts, transition into movie roles, and then continue acting as an adult in sitcom series, but she did that beautifully. Hopefully she and hubby Mike Farrell continue to enjoy a long and well-deserved retirement.

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Verrry Interrresting!

Occasionally, a show is so entrenched in the time and culture it debuts in, it becomes almost impossible to describe or understand away from its original setting. Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were nightclub comics who co-hosted a special called Laugh-In in 1967.  The name was a play on words based on the love-in’s and sit-in’s happening in the 1960s.  The special was so popular it was turned into a weekly series. I think of Laugh-In as Sesame Street for adults.  Both shows debuted in the late 60s and had a rapid-fire approach, continually moving on to the next segment so the viewer would not get bored. The show captured the counterculture movement and the lime green, turquoise, fuschia, deep orange, bright yellow, and paisley flowers kept our eyes moving as quickly as the jokes did. The show lasted six seasons.

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Regular cast members who went on to other careers included Ruth Buzzi, Gary Owens, Alan Sues, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin, Richard Dawson, Jo Anne Worley, Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Dave Madden, and Flip Wilson.

Numerous celebrities flocked to the show.  Movie stars that were reeled in included John Wayne, Jack Benny, Peter Lawford, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Debbie Reynolds, Rock Hudson, Jack Lemmon, Edward G. Robinson, Sally Field, Orson Welles, and Rita Hayworth.  Noted musicians included Sammy Davis Jr., Dinah Shore, Johnny Cash, Perry Como, Liberace, Bing Crosby, Cher, Rosemary Clooney, and Liza Minelli. Sports stars tackled the chore including Joe Namath, Wilt Chamberlin, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Howard Cosell.  Comedians who laughed their way on the show included Rich Little, Don Rickles, Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Paul Lynde, and Carol Burnett. Classic tv stars who accepted starring roles were Tim Conway, Carl Reiner, Steve Allen, Jim Backus, Ernest Borgnine, Eve Arden, Andy Griffith, Desi Arnaz, and Wally Cox.

The format rarely changed from week to week.  Rowan and Martin opened each show with a dialogue; Rowan acted as the straight man, and Martin took on the gullible role. Then the regular cast, along with celebrities, danced against a psychedelic background, firing off one-liners and short gags. Comedy bits, taped segments, and sketches filled in the rest of the hour and always ended with Rowan telling Martin to “Say goodnight, Dick” and Dick replying, “Goodnight Dick.”

Some of the regular features were:

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The Cocktail Party where the cast stood around spouting politically and sexually suggestive jokes.

Letters to Laugh-In where the cast read letters.

ROWAN AND MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN,  Teresa Graves, Pamela Rodgers, 1969-1970.

It’s a Mod, Mod World where go-go dancers danced in bikinis with puns and word play phrases painted on their bodies.

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The Farkel Family about a group of red-headed, freckled family members.

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The Flying Fickel Finger of Fate Award where dubious achievements were celebrated.

Laugh-In Looks as the News was comparable to the Saturday Night Live news sketches of today.

New Talent Time showing various weird skills.

Many of the regular cast members had their own skits that were repeated during the series’ run:

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Judy Carne was always tricked into saying “Sock it to Me” which then caused her to get doused with water, fall through a trap door, or endure some other indignity. Sometimes celebrities ended up being the ones to say “Sock it to me,” the most famous being Richard Nixon when he was campaigning for president.

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Arte Johnson played Tyrone, an inappropriate senior citizen who tries to seduce geriatric Ruth Buzzi as Gladys, forcing her to eventually hit him with her purse.

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Henry Gibson came on stage holding an oversized paper flower, reciting poetry.

Lily Tomlin performed skits as Ernestine, a telephone operator or Edith Ann, a young girl sitting in a rocking chair. (Personal note:  When I was in 4th grade, I performed an Ernestine and an Edith Ann skit for our talent show.  Why a 9-year-old was watching Laugh-In and the school approved the skits, I can’t say, but I remember getting a lot of compliments.  And Lily Tomlin didn’t sue me for stealing her material!)

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Alan Sues portrayed Uncle Al, a children’s show host, who was short tempered and often in bad shape from his late partying nights.

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Flip Wilson was Geraldine.

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Jo Anne Worley would say “Bor-ing” in the midst of jokes.

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Goldie Hawn as the ditzy blonde.

The series also became known for some of its catch phrases including “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls,” “You bet your sweet bippie,” “Beautiful downtown Burbank,” “Is that a chicken joke?,” “Sock it to me,” “Here come de judge,” and “Verrrry Interesting.”

The show was one of the highest rated shows in the late 1960s. It was in the top 4 of the top 40 shows for its entire run. It won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The Nielsen polling determined it was the most-watched show in seasons 1 and 2.

The show had its own magazine for a year.  Trading cards were sold with catch phrases and images from the show. Several records were produced capturing the humor of the time.  There was even a set of View-master reels made, as well as lunch boxes and other memorabilia.

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Laugh-In debuted fifty years ago, but still feels new and edgy. Because the show has not been syndicated in re-runs, it is hard for the current generation to imagine how very different this show was from anything else that appeared on television before it.  The closest show to capturing any of its essence since then is Saturday Night Live.  This was a time when everything was changing: civil rights, Vietnam, women’s lib, the hippie lifestyle, psychoactive drugs, anti-authoritarianism, freedom of speech and assembly, and environmental concerns, especially littering and pollution.

The Generation Gap was a real concept in the 1960s but this show might have come as close as anything else to bridge that gap. Families sat down together to watch the show. Many of the phrases still have a life of their own decades later even thought decades of kids have never seen the show.  Plan your own little sit-in when you check out a couple of the you-tube videos to get a flavor of what the series was like.

How a Cat Becomes An Angel

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Today we look at one of the most popular shows on television forty years ago: Charlie’s Angels.  The show propelled the entire cast into national superstars.  Viewing the show today might cause someone to question what the big deal was about the show, but in 1976-77, it was a new twist on contemporary crime shows.

Forty years later, the show still has maintained its spot in pop culture history, primarily due to reruns, the movie remakes from 2000 and 2003, and an updated show from 2011.

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Aaron Spelling developed the series.  Although he had a successful track record, ABC did not feel that this show had potential. The original script called for a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead.  It was titled “Alley Cats” and the three crime solvers—Alison, Catherine and Lee—apparently hung out in alleys and carried whips and chains which they used to subdue criminals.  I can certainly understand the network thinking Spelling was losing his touch.

Kate Jackson, a brunette, was hired and cast as Kelly Garrett; the characters were now renamed Kelly Garrett, Sabrina Duncan, and Jill Munroe.  Jackson felt more affinity with the Sabrina Duncan character, so the producers moved her into that role and gave her semi control of the series development.

Spelling then hired Farrah Fawcett, a blonde, based on her role in Logan’s Run, a film from 1976.

Hundreds of actresses auditioned for the role of Kelly Garrett.  Eventually the producers set aside their wish for a redhead and hired Jaclyn Smith, based on her onscreen chemistry with Jackson and Fawcett.

Jackson disliked the concept of the whips and chains aspect of the show (thank you Kate Jackson!!!), so the girls became graduates of the police academy.  The head of the agency was a wealthy man who is never seen by his detectives. The three girls excelled at the police academy where they went to school but were forced into gender-based careers of a meter maid, an office worker, and a crossing guard, so he hires them to solve crimes for him.

One day, Jackson noticed a picture of three angels in Spelling’s office, and she suggested the name Harry’s Angels. The network thought Harry’s Angels might get confused with one of their other shows, Harry O, so it then became Charlie’s Angels.

Gig Young was brought in to read for the role of Charlie, but showed up too intoxicated, so Spelling went to ask his friend, John Forsythe to take the role.

David Doyle was then hired as John Bosley, Charlie’s assistant and office manager.  Bosley is the only one of the cast who ever sees Charlie in person. I always wondered why they named him Bosley, given that David Doyle and Tom Bosley look a lot alike and this might have contributed to the confusion.

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The pilot received enormous ratings, but ABC wanted it tested again.  Still thinking that this was one of the worst concepts for a show they had ever heard, the network wanted to double check the numbers. It still scored high, so on the air it went.

Each show began with the girls surrounding the speaker phone to get the case details from Charlie.  They then went on to solve the case and ended the show back in the office getting congratulated by Charlie.

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Before Season 2, Fawcett decided she wanted to leave the show to pursue a film career.  One issue stopping her was the fact that all three stars had signed five-year contracts. After much negotiation, the network allowed her to leave, with the concession that she return for three appearances in season 3 and three appearances in season 4. Cheryl Ladd was approached to take her place but she declined the role. When asked to reconsider, she changed her mind and accepted the role of Kris Munroe, Jill’s sister.

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In season 4, Kate Jackson also left. The year before she was offered the lead role in Kramer vs Kramer.  The network would not allow her time off to do the film.  The role then went to Meryl Streep who won an Oscar. Jackson refused to come back for season 4.

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Many actresses were considered including Barbara Bach, Connie Sellaca, Shari Belafonte, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The network opted for Shelly Hack who came on board as Tiffany Wells, a Boston police graduate. In November of Season 1, more than half the available viewers were tuned in to Charlie’s Angels, but Season 4 saw a 40% decline in its audience. Hack was fired, and season 5 welcomed Tanya Roberts to the cast as Julie Rogers, a prior model and private investigator. However, the ratings continued to decline, and the show was then cancelled.

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Why the show was so successful the first two years has been hotly debated.  Was it just a case of “Jiggle TV” as it was often labeled?  Several critics at the time, commented that despite the sexy apparel of the female detectives, the characters were still intelligent women successfully working in a predominantly man’s world. (There was $20,000 allocated per episode for wardrobe, the equivalent of $90,000 today.  Most characters averaged 8 changes per show.) This was one of the first times an all-female cast appeared in a work situation typically reserved for men’s roles.  The original cast was very close and had a chemistry never matched by their replacements.  The three women continued to be friends, each enduring a battle with cancer which Fawcett lost in 2006.

So, which Angel was the most successful?

Kate Jackson. Born in Alabama in 1948, Jackson started attending The University of Mississippi, but then transferred to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She worked as a page at Rockefeller Center and appeared in summer stock plays in Vermont.  Her first break was being cast as Daphne in Dark Shadows.  In the 1970s, she accepted the role of Jill Danko on The Rookies. That led to Spelling offering her the Charlie’s Angel job. She later went on to star in two other series, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Baby Boom.  She appeared in 9 films, 5 series, 15 episodes of other shows, and 29 made-for-tv movies.

Farrah Fawcett. Born in Texas in 1947, Fawcett attended the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in art.  After her junior year, her parents gave their permission for her to move to California to try a modeling and acting career. She received a contract with Screen Gems and began appearing in commercials including Noxzema, Max Factor, and Beautyrest.  She began appearing on a variety of series including The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeannie, The Partridge Family, and Marcus Welby.  She was married to Lee Majors from 1973-1982 and involved with Ryan O’Neal from 1979-1997.

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Her iconic poster was photographed in 1976.  Many cites indicate the poster company reached out to Farrah and that led to her Logan’s Run role.  However, the photographer Bruce McBloom, who was a family friend, gave his account differently. He says ABC approached all three stars of Charlie’s Angels and offered to shoot posters for each one, with the stars getting a percentage of the sales.  Smith and Jackson declined, but Fawcett agreed. She didn’t like the original shots and asked for McBloom. She was supposed to be shot in a bikini but that was not working, so McBloom asked her what else she had in her closet because they were shooting at her home. (She did her own hair and makeup). She came out in the red one-piece and they both felt it was the one.  Fawcett picked out the photos she liked best, and more than 12 million posters were sold. The suit now resides in the Smithsonian, along with Fonzie’s leather jacket and Archie Bunker’s chair.

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Farrah ended up appearing on 21 tv shows, two of which she co-starred in. (She went on to appear in Good Sports with her then-boyfriend Ryan O’Neal.) She was in 16 films, including Logan’s Run and Cannonball Run. Like her co-stars, she also made 22 made-for-tv movies.

Jaclyn Smith.  Born in 1945 in Texas, she wanted to be a ballerina. In 1973, she received national notice as a Breck Shampoo girl and accepted the Charlie’s Angel role in 1976. Before Charlie’s Angels, Smith appeared in 6 tv shows and had small roles in 3 movies.  She appeared in 9 shows after Charlie’s Angels and 4 films.  Like Jackson, she spent most of her time in made-for-tv-movies, 30 in all.

Cheryl Ladd. Born in South Dakota in 1951, Ladd worked as a carhop during high school. Her intentions were to attempt a music career, and in 1970 she was hired to sing for “Melody” on the animated series, Josie and the Pussycats. She began accepting tv roles, appearing in The Rookies, Harry O, and The Partridge Family, among others. She was considered for the role of Nancy on Family which eventually went to Meredith Baxter. She was married to David Ladd from 1973-1980, and has been married to Brian Russell since 1981.

Ladd appeared in 31 tv series, co-starring in 5 of them.  She was in 15 films and made 30 made-for-tv films.  Still working, she appears in a new film this year, Unforgettable.

Shelly Hack. Born in 1947, Hack became a model at 16 and is well known as the Revlon Charlie Perfume girl before she was the Charlie’s Angel girl. She took a bit part in Annie Hall in 1977 and was cast as an Angel in 1979. She continued to accept tv roles after Charlie’s Angels, appearing in 11 total, co-starring in two. She was in 10 films, most of them in the 1980s, and as the trend seen by her co-stars, made 12 made-for-tv movies.

In the late 1990s, Hack left acting for a political career.  She became a voting registrar and polling station supervisor in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She produced several foreign political debates and became a media consultant for pre-and post-conflict countries, primarily in Eastern Europe. She has been married to Harry Winer since 1990.

Tanya Roberts. The youngest of the Angels, Roberts was born in 1955 and dropped out of school at 15. She studied acting while earning a living as a model and Arthur Murray instructor. She briefly married but that was annulled.  In 1974, she married Barry Roberts who passed away in 2006.

After Charlie’s Angels was cancelled, she appeared in 13 other shows, co-starring in Hot Line and That Seventies Show.  She appeared in 19 movies, the most famous being A View to a Kill in 1985 and also made 4 made-for-tv movies.

John Forsythe. It’s hard to compare any of these stars to John Forsythe.  As Charlie’s Angels debuted, he was at the end of a long and full career, while his co-stars were entering the prime of their careers.   I have shared much of his career in prior blogs.  After Charlie’s Angels, he would go on to star in Dynasty from 1981-89 and in Powers That Be from 1992-3. Overall, he appeared in 48 television series, co-starring in 6. He made 23 films and 27 made-for-tv movies.

David Doyle. Born in 1929 in Nebraska, David was the third-generation family member to become a lawyer.  Wisconsin can claim him because he graduated from Prairie du Chien high school. He went to college with Johnny Carson who remained a friend.  He gave up his law career to try his hand at acting and received his first movie role in 1956. In 1956, he married his wife Rachel and she passed away due to a fall in 1968. In 1969, he married Ann and their marriage continued until his death. He made 26 films, 18 made-for-tv movies and appeared in 62 tv shows, co-starring in Charlie’s Angels and Bridget Loves Bernie, along with several animation series.  Younger viewers might remember him as the voice of Grandfather Lou Pickles in Rug Rats. He passed away in 1997 from a heart attack.

So, which Angel was the most successful?  I’ll let you make that determination, but I might lean toward the non-female cast member David Doyle  (removing John Forsythe from the equation). It’s hard to deny any of the cast members’ success when looking at the popularity of the show.

Life Changes in the Blink of an Eye: The Career of Barbara Eden

Many baby boomers equate Barbara Eden with I Dream of Jeannie.  While she never escaped her iconic role as Jeannie, she has had a long and full career.

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Barbara Jean Morehead was born in Tucson, Arizona in August of 1931. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she then took her stepfather’s last name of Huff. Moving to California, she went to high school in San Francisco and then studied at the San Francisco City College, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Elizabeth Holloway School of Theatre. In 1951, she was crowned Miss San Francisco.

She began working in television in 1956, and her career has been going strong ever since. In 1958, she married actor Michael Ansara.  They had a son in 1965 who passed away from a drug overdose.  Eden said of his struggle, “He won a lot of battles, but he lost his personal war.”  She and Ansara divorced in 1974. From 1977-1983 she was married to Charles Donald Fegert.  In 1991, she married her current husband, Jon Eicholtz, and they live in Beverly Hills.

In addition to her screen and television career, she performed in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City. She had an album produced in 1967 and performed on many variety shows.  She traveled with Bob Hope and starred in many musicals and plays.

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She received a Walk of Fame star in 1998.

In 2011, she wrote her autobiography, Jeanne Out of the Bottle.

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She has used her celebrity status to help many nonprofits, raising money for The Trail of the Painted Ponies Breast Cancer Research, the American Cancer Society, the Wellness Community, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the March of Dimes, the American Heart Association, Save the Children, and Childhelp, USA.

Her television career can be divided into three phases, each including a major series.

She began her acting career making appearances in many shows from 1956-1958 including West Point, Highway Patrol, I Love Lucy, The Millionaire, Crossroads, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Bachelor Father, December Bride, Father Knows Best, and The Lineup.

In 1957, she received her first starring role in a sitcom, 52 episodes of How to Marry a Millionaire. Based on a movie (starring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable), she starred as Loco Jones, a model. Her friends were Michele Page (Merry Anders), a secretary, and Greta Lindquist (Lori Nelson), a quiz host.  The three women lived together in Manhattan, all sharing the goal of finding a wealthy husband.

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In the 1960s, she made appearances in many more well-known shows including Adventures in Paradise, The Andy Griffith Show, Target: The Corruptors, Cain’s Hundred, Saints and Sinners, Dr. Kildare, Route 66, The Virginian, Rawhide, Burke’s Law, Slattery’s People, The Rogues, and Off to See the Wizard.

In 1965, she took on her role of Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie.  The show lasted five years, filming 139 episodes. Captain Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) finds a bottle when he crash lands on a deserted island in the South Pacific. When he opens it, Jeannie emerges.  He brings her home and tries to keep her a secret from NASA. His best friend Roger (Bill Daily) finds out, and he and Tony perform a lot of stunts to avoid anyone else figuring it out.  In the final year of the show, Jeannie and Tony get married, exposing her to the rest of the crew at NASA who know something is different but never figure out what it is. Personally, I like the Jeannie in the first year who is mischievous and intelligent. While the show was only on for five years, certainly not one of the longest-running shows, it defined Eden because since it debuted, it has been on television continually in reruns.

After I Dream of Jeannie, her television career continued as she appeared on NBC Special Treat, Condominium, A Brand New Life, Dallas, Team Supremo, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, George Lopez, and Army Wives.

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Based on the song by Jeannie C. Riley and a movie also starring Eden, she took on the role of Stella Johnson in Harper Valley PTA from 1981-82 with costar Fannie Flagg. The show lasted for 30 episodes. Stella is a widow who moves to Harper Valley with her 13-year-old daughter which is a town filled with hypocrites.  The other women severely criticize her for wearing miniskirts, and not acting like they thought a mother should.  Meanwhile, the board members were always trying to find ways to discredit her.  Fannie Flagg was the beauty shop owner Cassie Bowman.  The show never really caught on with the public. Maybe Stella was too drastic of a role change from Jeannie.

Along with her range of television acting jobs, Eden also was in 26 movies, including Flaming Star in 1960 with Elvis Presley, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in 1961, The Brass Bottle in 1964 which led to the idea for the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, and Harper Valley PTA in 1978 which led to her third series.

In The Brass Bottle, Tony Randall plays Harold Ventimore, an architect who buys an antique urn that houses a djinn played by Burl Ives.  Grateful for being released, the djinn tries to help Harold to show his gratitude.  However, being unfamiliar with contemporary times, he causes a lot of trouble for Harold, especially with his girlfriend Sylvia, played by Eden.

She also starred in 28 made-for-tv movies.  My favorite was The Feminist and the Fuzz which you never see aired on television anymore.

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The Feminist and the Fuzz aired in 1971.  I remember watching this movie when it originally aired.  The story was about a scientist played by Eden and a cop played by David Hartman.  They both end up at an apartment at the same time and have lost so many apartments that they decide to share it until one of them can find somewhere else to live. She is a feminist, and he dates a playboy bunny played by Farrah Fawcett.  One night, the women’s libbers raid the bunny club, and while most of them are being arrested, Hartman carries Eden to a waiting police car and tells him to get her home.  Fawcett, watching this, realizes they have feelings for each other, even though they don’t acknowledge it themselves yet.  The movie had a great cast with Joann Worley, Herb Edelman, Julie Newmar, John McGiver, and Harry Morgan.

If her television show jobs and movie roles were not enough, Barbara appeared as herself on 177 different television variety and game shows from 1961-2016.

At 85, Eden continues her career with credit in Shimmer and Shine in 2016. She has also been to the Mayberry Conventions to meet her fans. She continued her friendship with Larry Hagman up to his death.

One might assume that Eden would want to distance herself from Jeannie and rely on her other body of work, but that is not the case.  Some actors develop a dislike for the character they are unable to shake off, but Eden’s advice to actors is:  “I would embrace the character, because it won’t do any good if you don’t. And another thing: Don’t whine or talk trash about it. I don’t think you ever demean to your public what you’ve done. You’re insulting them if you demean your work.”

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While Jeannie certainly provided Barbara Eden with a lot of fame, future work opportunities, and money (although probably not so much from the tv show directly), taking a survey of her career proves just how versatile of an actress she was.  No one-hit wonder here.  She accumulated a wealth of roles both on television and in the movies. She traveled around the country appearing in musicals and plays. She sang and danced, performing at some of the top clubs in the country.  She appreciated her fans and never demeaned Jeannie in their eyes.  She used her celebrity to raise money for great causes. She had a full career any actress could be proud of.

Anchors Aweigh

It’s that time of year when the nice weather plays hide and seek, but winter is over, sort of.  Many of us, craving warm weather, tropical flowers, and white beaches, travel to get away, hoping to return home to summer weather.  If you can’t get away this year, come along with me as we set sail to learn about sitcoms set on ships.

Oh Susanna! (1956). Gale Storm stars in this show as Susanna Pomery, the social director of the SS Ocean Queen.  Her best friend is Elvira Nugent (Zasu Pitts), operator of the beauty salon. Roy Roberts plays her boss Captain Huxley. Gale fulfilled her romantic life with the young men she met on the ship. She also was quite the singer and dancer, performing on many of the episodes. The first year, the show beat its formidable competition of Lawrence Welk and the Sid Caesar Show. The series aired on CBS for three years and then moved to ABC for a year before being cancelled.

Baileys of Balboa (1964). Set in Bailey’s Landing, Balboa Beach, California, this series featured the Bailey family who live at a beach resort. Sam (Paul Ford) operates an old and somewhat decrepit charter boat, The Island Princess, as well as a bed and breakfast, Bailey’s Landing. The other residents were wealthy boat owners from the ritzy Balboa Yachting Club, including Commodore Wyntoon. He was head of the yacht club and wanted the Baileys’ land to expand the club. The only other Island Princess crew member was Buck Singleton (Sterling Holloway).  He lived in a van and did the cooking and other odd jobs at the bed and breakfast. The rivals’ children were Jim Bailey (Les Brown Jr.) and Barbara Wyntoon (Judy Carne) who had fallen in love.

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One interesting behind-the-scenes story involved the setting for the filming.  CBS was going to lease an island in Newport Harbor, California near Balboa to film on. Due to the cost, CBS revised its plans.  Six weeks were spent at the CBS studio filming interiors followed by one week on Balboa Island filming exteriors. Every time they switched to Balboa, the sets had to be rebuilt and torn down to capture the realism of the setting.

The show lasted one season. The show competed for air time with Peyton Place, a very popular night-time soap opera, making it hard to gain viewers.

The Queen and I (1968).  Larry Storch and Billy DeWolfe were Charles Duffy and Oliver Nelson.  An aging ocean liner, The Amsterdam Queen, is to be sold for scrap.  The crew looks for several “get-rich-quick” schemes to get enough money to save the ship without Officer Nelson knowing. Other cast members included Pat Morita, Carl Ballantine, Liam Dunn, Dave Willock, Reginald Owen, and Barbara Stuart. After 11 episodes, the series was apparently scrapped.

Love Boat (1977). Of course, no list would be complete without The Love Boat which sailed the seas for ten years.  The cast remained the same, but the passengers and their romantic tales changed from week to week. We’ll visit this show in more detail in July.

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Suite Life on Deck (2008). Disney’s Suite Life of Zach and Cody set in the Tipton Hotel ran from 2005-2008. The twins lived in the hotel because their mother was the lounge singer.  Somewhat like Eloise at the Plaza, the boys got into mischief and interacted with other employees including the wealthy heiress London Tipton, the candy counter salesgirl Maddie Fitzpatrick, and the manger Marion Moseby.  In 2008 the show sailed off, literally, and became Suite Life on Deck running until 2011.

Zack and Cody, along with London Tipton, are in a semester-at-sea school with Moseby in charge of the ship. It cruises the world.  Along with the school, the kids hung out in the lobby, their cabins, the Sky Deck, and the Aqua Lounge. On the show, the ship visited a lot of destinations including Antarctica, Belgium, India, Morocco, and Thailand, along with many more. Of course, Zack and Cody continue to get into trouble along the way.

So, if you’re stuck at home this week, check out one or two of these shows on DVD or YouTube and take a mini vacation.