Mondays on Memory Lane – I DREAM OF JEANNIE 30 and 40 YEARS LATER: I have met Barbara Eden 1-1/2 times in my lifetime. The first time was in the year 2000 while I was working in downtown Manhattan. I was on my lunch break and would usually have my lunch near City Hall Park. On Wednesday, February 16th at 12 noon I got to the park and I could see this huge, huge line of almost only men outside of the mega store J&R Music and Computer World at 15 Park Row just opposite City Hall. There was this unusual heightened buzz of excitement about them so naturally I had to go over to investigate. I thought it was probably a Playboy Bunny or pin-up girl or some hot girl rocker. The line snaked out of the store and down the block. It was three to four men deep. The closer they got to the entrance of the store, they would all stand on their tippy toes to see “her” inside. “It’s Jeannie! It’s really Jeannie! Man, she looks great!”
‘Jeannie who’ I wondered, what Jeannie in 2000 could cause such a stir of excitement? I went to the guard at the door and tried to claim I was just going to shop – but no dice “Gotta get in line, all the other men are dreamin’ of Jeannie too, bud.” That Jeannie?! I was filled with excitement and headed around the corner to the back of the line, with at least 100 – 150 men ahead of me. What was so extraordinary about this frenzy was . . . this was way before Barbara Eden was heavily promoting the old beloved TV series as she does now and signing replicas of the famous bottle. She was there to promote the now defunct Cygion Cyber Genie, a micro PBX cordless phone system.
Since it was a promotional tour, her time schedule was limited. You could hear the J&R personnel saying that they had not expected such an enormous turnout. So, by the time I got inside the door, only to see her far on the other end of the store, the announcement was made, “I’m sorry fellas, but Miss Eden would love to meet you all, but she has to go.” That started a big roar of boos but also wolf call whistles to let her know how ‘hot’ they thought she was. Now in retrospect, I think working for Cygion must have been part of the wake up call to Barbara Eden to realize how still very beloved and popular she was thirty years after the show’s end.
Fast forward to Friday, October 27, 2010, ten years later and I am about to have my “Dream” come true! I am attending the Chiller Theater Autograph Show in Parsippany, New Jersey, where TV, movie, sci-fi, and music stars come for you to meet them and get their autographs and photos for a price. Finally I was going to meet Jeannie. I got there early and the lines were very long. Patty Duke was there, John Astin of ‘Addams Family’, Linda Blair, Richard Roundtree of ‘Shaft’ fame, LeVar Burton of ‘Roots’, the entire surviving cast of ‘Jeannie’ and ‘Dallas’ including Larry Hagman and so, so many more. So you’d think with that many stars inside, the crowd would evenly be distributed inside, the way water seeks it’s own level. No. Most people raced to the Jeannie/Dallas room, the wait in the hot hotel hallway was about two hours. (Larry Hagman passed me in the hallway on the way to the bathroom, lol, surreal.)
The wait was worth it. She was and is radiant. She beams love. There is an incredible gentility to her. She looked amazing! There was a man selling replicas of the bottle, which I had, had to have! I bought the bottle clenching it in my hand as I waited to meet Jeannie forty years later! How is it that I had aged and Jeannie hadn’t…yeah I know, she really is a genie! The moment came, I was next in line! My heart pounded, my palms started to sweat, my knees a little shaky, this was so surreal…a few steps more…a few steps more and I was in the arms of Barbara Eden. I had died and gone to heaven!
In 2010 I had met an extraordinary amount of celebrities on my wish list, including my obsession Cher (whom I had met before), but out of allll those stars, it was Jeannie that was the biggest thrill. To look at my nightstand today and see the signed bottle next to my bed is awesome, so I can truly ‘dream’ of Jeannie ♥.
MONDAYS ON MEMORY LANE – BACK STAGE WITH AGNES MOOREHEAD: It is Sunday,February 4th, 1973 and Agnes Moorehead, better known to mortals as Endora, was giving her last performance in the George Bernard Shaw play “Don Juan In Hell” at the old Palace Theatre in Times Square New York. I had to attend the performance since the shocking notice had been in the papers that past Friday that Sunday the 4th would be the final performance after only a total run of 24 performances.
Shocking? Yes. You see the cast included: Paul Henreid of ultra film classic “Cassablanca” and “Now Voyager”, Edward Mulhare of the TV series “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, Ricardo Montalban latin film star as lover and villain and of Star Trek fame. Directed by esteemed actor John Houseman. But most of all…there was Endora. From 1964 till 1972, one of my sheer pleasures was watching witty, chic, acid tongued Agnes Moorehead play Endora, mother-in-law to Darrin Stevens on the beloved TV classic series “Bewitched.”
I was still a bell-bottomed sophmore in high school and unfortunately not smart enough to secure the autographs of the entire incredible cast, my main goal was Endora/Agnes! So after the show I ran to the stage door and waited and watched for the luminaries to leave. Paul Henreid left, Edward Mulhare left and Ricardo Montalban left. Ninety minutes went by and the nervous question was – where was Agnes?!
In a panic I ran into the main entrance of the theatre to enquire if she was still in the theater (perhaps she had snuck out.) One of the ushers who still there cleaning up pleasantly said “Oh she’s still here! You want to meet her?!”
Huh? This doesn’t readily happen. These were still innocent times though. The history of celebrity security is basically divided in two. Before December 8, 1980/John Lennon’s assassination and after December 8th 1980. No one thought anything to stop this star struck kid in the platform shoes and huge bellbottoms from running to find Agnes Moorehead in that huge, huge theater. I raced down the aisle. “Wait!”, I thought, “slow down, don’t appear too eager or as if you don’t belong.” I slowed my pace but my heart beat only faster. The cavernous theater’s aisles led me to the side of the stage where a stagehand volunteered to show me to her dressing room. I was in disbelief! You know how incredible it was to be behind stage of the legendary theater where the greatest of the greats had performed? In the vaudeville days it was Ethel Barrymore, Bert Lahr, Fanny Brice, the Marx Brothers, Will Rogers and Lillian Russell. In modern times such incredible luminaries as Judy Garland, Bette Midler’s first show, Liza Minnelli, Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall, Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross. The film “Citizen Kane” premiered here on May 1, 1941 . . .and there I was. To quote Eve Harrington in “All About Eve” ‘You can breathe it, can’t you?!’
The stagehand led me through the winding corridors to one remaining dressing room where the light was still on. “Miss Moorehead…someone here to see you.” There she was, methodically packing her blue suitcase. She came to the open door, “Yes?” as she looked at me inquisitively. “What is it dear boy?” That unmistakable voice, the mannerisms, the posture, the red hair – it was Endora saying ‘speak up!’ I was in awe. I nervously told her had wound my way backstage because I couldn’t run the risk of missing her and just to shake her hand. Her right hand had rows and rows of bracelets that clinked as she took my hand. I had brought with me a rare photo that ABC TV local stations used to focus the camera on when they went to commercial. I nervously watched as she signed it with my ink pen which didn’t take on the glossy photo (this is pre-Flair pen days) and she didn’t have another pen either, so the autograph is sort of scratched into the photo. She surprisingly asked me “Oh, Endora eh? So which was your favorite Darrin Stevens name?” “Durwood” I replied. “Mine too!” she said, “it was so easy and fun for me to say, it was the name we used the most. Is there anything else? I must pack.” I asked if I may take her picture with my little instamatic camera. She regally struck a profile pose. “Now young man, I must go.” She headed back into her dressing room and I wandered unescorted through those wonderful backstage hallways and walkways of theatrical history. Not knowing where I was going, I found myself at the edge of the stage. The lone single ghost light was standing center stage. ‘Why not?’ I thought, this would be my only chance! I peaked out from behind the curtain – no one. I took my first step. My clunky wooden platform shoes echoed on the wooden floorboards as I crossed the stage Judy Garland and all the legends had stood on. When I came to center stage, I stood there for a second and breathed – you can breathe it! I took a silent bow . . . and left.
ENDORA’S NAMES FOR DARRIN STEVENS:
Dagwood, Darwood, Durwood, Durweed, Beady eyes, Charm Boy, Dalton, Dar-Dar, Darius, Darwick, Darwin, David, Dawson, Boy, Delbert, Dennis, Denton, Derek, Derwin, Dexter, Digby, Dino, Dobbin, Dogwood, Donald, Dorian, Dulcin, Dulfin, Dum Dum, Dumbo, Dumpkin, Duncan, Featherhead, Glum-Dum, Tinker Bell, What’s his name and Low-grade mortal.