Mamie Van Doren: The Untamed Youth of Hollywood’s Blonde Bombshell

In 1950s America there were two famous women named Mamie. One, of course,was the First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower.

The other was blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren, whose career put her in the same stratosphere as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

And Mamie was not shy about her sexiness. She had many male acquaintances, shall we call them.

Joan Lucille Olander was born in 1931 in South Dakota. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 11. And, one thing leading to another, she married for the first time at age 17, in a union that ended quickly.

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By age 19 she had a movie contract, launching the career that catapulted her to star status. In the ‘50s and ‘60s she was rarely out of work.

In 1987 Mamie wrote her autobiography, Playing the Field. That’s when I met her and interviewed her – and then we talked again a year later when the book came out in softcover.

So here now, from 1988,. Mamie Van Doren.

Mamie Van Doren.is 93 now, having outlived Marilyn, Jayne, Suzanne, and Farrah.

Howard Fast’s Journey through the Red Scare

The Red Scare that engulfed the U.S. in the years immediately after World War II ruined many careers, and any affiliation with the Communist Party was enough to get you blacklisted.

So it was that popular novelist Howard fast found himself suddenly a pariah because of his membership in the Communist Party USA.

A contentious appearance before the house Un=American Activities Committee in 1950 resulted in a three month prison sentence for contempt of Congress. But it was while serving his sentence that Howard Fast began working on the novel that would turn out to be his most famous work: Spartacus.

By the end of the decade, Fast’s blacklist was over, And he departed from the Communist Party, disenchanted with its leadership.

In 1990 Fast published a memoir called Being Red. And that’s when I have a chance to meet him.

So here now, from 1990, Howard fast

Howard fast died in 2003. He was 88.


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Buffalo Bob Smith

To those of us of a certain age, there is only one answer to this question:

Hey kids, what time is it?

That is how millions of youngsters greeted the opening of the howdy Doody show, which actually ran from 1947 until 1960.

A young radio broadcaster named Bob Smith, from Buffalo, New York, created the Howdy Doody character on the radio, then moved to television when young audiences demanded to actually see Howdy.

Buffalo Bob, Howdy, and a cast of other characters — including a young Bob Keeshan, later known as Captain Kangaroo — enthralled millions of youngsters and defined the early days of television.

Howdy Doody was actually one of the first shows broadcasting color.

Finally, in 1990, after years of hearing people tell him,”you should write a book,” Smith finally wrote one, calling it Howdy And Me.

And that’s when I had a chance to meet him and talk with him. So here now, from 1990, Buffalo Bob Smith.

Buffalo Bob Smith died in 1998. He was 80 years old.


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Eartha Kitt

Orson Welles once called her timeless.

With a sultry and distinctive voice, Eartha Kitt established herself early on as a great singer and actress.

She started performing professionally in the 1940s, and made several hit recordings in the 1950s and ”60s. Her most famous recording is a popular Christmas tune…

Baby Boomers will recall her role as Catwoman on the TV series “Batman.”

Younger audiences will recognize her voice from the voiceover work she did on several Disney productions.

I never got to actually meet Eartha Kitt in person, but we talked on the phone one day in 2001, about her book Rejuvenate! It’s Never Too Llate.

So here now, from 2001, Eartha Kitt.

Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day 2008, just days before her 82nd birthday.


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Edie Adams

Edie Adams was a very popular movie and television star in the 1950s, known widely for her comic impersonations of sexy singers, and her own wonderful singing voice.

But eventually she became even more widely known for being the wife of legendary television comic Ernie Kovacs. The two of them were a hugely popular comic duo.

But their story had a tragic end. In early 1962, Kovacs was killed in an auto accident. He was the only occupant of the car, and it was never known precisely what happened to cause the accident.

I met Edie Adams in 1990, when she finally wrote the book that publishers had been after her to write ever since Ernie kovacs’s death.

So here now, from 1990, Edie Adams.

Edie Adams died in 2008. She was 81.


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Melba Patillo Beals

Photo: Ben Schumin

Imagine a small group of high school students needing armed United States military just to get into school.

In September 1957 9. African American students, the first to enroll at Central high School in Little Rock, Arkansas, were accompanied by armed national guard members

They became known as the Little Rock Nine.

Among them was 15-year-old Melba Patillo, later Melba Patillo Beals. Somehow, she and the rest of a little rock nine escaped any kind of serious physical harm.

I first met her in 1994, when she wrote a memoir of her experience called warriors. Don’t cry.

So here now, from 1994, Melba Patillo Beals.

Melba Patillo Beals is 80 now. She lives in the San Francisco Bay aea.


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Tony Bennett

He had his first number-one song in 1951, a tune called “Because of You” — and Tony Bennett has never slowed down since.

Photo: John Mathew Smith

Over his seven-decade show business career, Bennett has proven to be as popular today, among all age groups as we was when he was just beginning his rise to stardom.

In 1998 Bennett finally wrote his autobiography, a book called “The Good Life.” That’s when I met him, and yes, I was hugely starstruck.

So here now, from 1998, Tony Bennett.

Tony Bennett is 93 now. And still making millions happy with his music,

Dr. Benjamin Spock

Perhaps no one has ever had a bigger impact on an entire generation of children than Dr. Benjamin Spock.

His book Baby and Child Care was published in 1946, just as the first baby boomers were being born. And his calm, reassuring tone quickly found an audience among new parents. Dr. Spock became the go-to guy for advice on child rearing.

Then, in the late 1960s, Dr. Spock became known for something else – his political activism. He even ran for president in 1972.

But Benjamin Spock had long resisted writing his autobiography. Finally, in the late 1980s, his second wife, Mary Morgan, persuaded him it was time. So, with her help, he finally wrote the book called Spock on Spock.

And that’s when I met him. So here now, from 1989, Dr Benjamin Spock.

Dr. Benjamin Spock died in 1998. He was 94 years old.

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Tab Hunter

He was one of the hottest young movie stars in the 1950s…

Tab Hunter — who grew up as Artt Gelien — was a figure skater as a teenager. As a young man, a friend introduced him to a Hollywood agent who specialized in beefcake actors like Rock Hudson and Rober/ Wagner. That agent dubbed Art Gelien “Tab Hunter” and by 1950 he was in the movies.

And by the mid 1950s was major star, the strapping blond hunk of a man every girl wanted. Hunter made over 40 movies, and even recorded a hit song.

Hunger was also a witness to, and a participant in, the end of the Hollywood studio contract era. His movie and TV roles were fewer, until his last film role in 1992.

Then, in 2005, Tab Hunter wrote a memoir called Tab Hunter Confidential. In that book, he acknowledged publicly, for the first time, that he was gay. Turns out those gossip rags back in the day that had him romantically linked with various starlets were all fiction.

So here now, from 2005, Tab Hunter…

Tab Hunter died in 2018, just three days befopre his 87th birthdayl.

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Rock Brynner

In the 1950s, few actors dominated Broadway the way Yul Brynner did.

Playing the lead in the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s play “The King and I,” Brynner eEstablished himself as a top-tier performer.

He won two Tonys for his portrayal of the King of Siam, as well as an Academy Award when the play was adapted to film.

Photo: CBS Television

Later he was cast in such big budget movies as the Ten Commandments, The Magnificent Seven, and Westworld.

His son Rock was born in 1946, and was as captivated as anyone with his father’s strong a persona.

A few years after his father’s untimely death from lung cancer, Rock Brynner wrote a memoir of life with his famous dad. And tha’s when I met him.

So here now, from 1991, Rock Brynner.

At age 75, Rocj Brynn er has now lived 10 years longer than his father did. He is a professor of history..

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