Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Judy Norton: Catching up with Mary Ellen Walton

Today is Judy Norton's 55th birthday.  Born on January 29, 1958 in Santa Monica, California to Harry and Constance (nee Glazebrook) Norton, Judy started acting on stage and television at an early age.  She had an uncredited part in the 1967 film version of Arthur Hailey's Hotel.  In 1968, she portrayed a character named Karen Collins in an episode of a TV crime series, The Felony Squad, entitled "The Distant Shore."

When Judy was 13, she landed the role of Mary Ellen Walton, the eldest of the three Walton daughters, in the television movie The Homecoming:: A Christmas Story. The Homecoming aired on December 19. 1971 on the CBS network.  It was the story of events that occurred in the lives of a rural American family on Christmas Eve in 1933 and it served as the pilot for the highly successful series The Waltons.  The Waltons was created by Earl Hamner, Jr., based on his book Spencer's Mountain.  Set in a small mountain community in Virginia during The Depression and World War II, the show debuted in September of 1972 and ran for nine seasons.  Judy's character, Mary Ellen, is strong-willed and spunky.  She eventually becomes a doctor.

The cast of The Waltons

In 1976, at the age of 19, Judy Norton married a young singer-musician named Douglas Taylor.  They met at a Scientology workshop and both became designated ministers.  In an October 1976 interview with Kim Garfield of Pop Scene Service, Judy stated, "I got into Scientology when I was 13.  My older sister was having boyfriend problems at the time, so my stepmother took us to one of the meetings."  She also said that Scientology had worked for her because it had increased her self-confidence and helped her as an actress.  "This is a back-stabbing business," she told Garfield, "where 100 people can be up for the same job.  To me, Scientology is a way of getting rid of the barriers that get in your way . . . whether it's your career or your relationships."

A shared enthusiasm for Scientology, however, failed to save Judy's marriage to Doug Taylor.  It was short-lived and the couple divorced in 1978.  Norton, however, remains a follower of Scientology.

After The Waltons ended its run in 1981, Judy portrayed Mary Ellen in subsequent Walton specials: A Wedding on Walton's Mountain (1982), Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain (1982), A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain (1982), A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion (1993), A Walton Wedding (1995) and A Walton Easter (1997).

When the show went off the air, Judy's career stagnated.  Hollywood continued to view her as a child actress despite the fact that she was 23 years old.  During the 1980s, With the exception of three Waltons television movies, her only television work was an appearance in a 1982 episode of The Love Boat.  In an attempt to shed her wholesome Waltons image, Judy posed nude in the August 1985 issue of Playboy magazine.

On April 8, 1991, Judy married Randy Apostle, a Canadian who operates a chain of dinner theatres.  They had one child, a son named Devin, before divorcing  in 2001.   Born and raised in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, Apostle currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is the Artistic Director of Jubilee Dinner Theatres in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton.

Randy Apostle

According to her official website, Judy spent eight years as the co-artistic director for two theatres in Canada:: Celebrations in Winnipeg and Jubilation's in Edmonton. As a writer and director, she was involved in more than 40 productions that have also been produced in theatres in Western Canada.

During the 1990s, Judy appeared in three more Walton TV specials and two TV movies  The Lost Daughter (1997) and The Inspectors (1998),  She made guest appearances on series such as Millennium (1997) and Cold Squad (1999).  Millennium was a crime drama that aired on the Fox Network from 1996 until 1999.  Jusy appeared in two episodes of the series: "Paper Dove" (Season 1, Episode 22, Air Date: May 16, 1997) and "Monster" (Season 2, Episode 4, Air Date: October 17, 1997).  Cold Squad was a Canadian police drama filled in Vancouver.  It ran from 1998 to 2005.

On August 11, 2002, Judy Norton married her third husband, Robert Graves. A multi-faceted entertainer, she remains extremely active with stage, television and film work. In 2010, she originated the role of Judge Sophia Wyndomin in the Canadian web series, Poker Girls.  The crime drama (IMbd. com, describes it as a cross between Desperate Housewives and Criminal Minds) is produced in Calgary Alberta. It has moved to television and has been revamped and retitled.  It's new name is bLUFF and Judy is set to write and direct several episodes.of the series.

This spring, Judy is scheduled to direct her first feature film, Butterfly, in Jackson, Tennessee.


* Judy Norton is a fine athlete.  She has participated in activities such as skydiving, flying trapeze and competitive horse jumping in addition to playing tennis and skiing.She appeared three times on The Battle of the Network Stars, a competition of sport events featuring network television stars.  The show was hosted by the late Howard Cosell who described Judy as the best female celebrity athlete who had competed on the show.

* After her marriage to Douglas Taylor, Judy began billing herself as Judy Norton-Taylor.  Sometime during the late 1990s, she dropped the "Taylor" and reverted to calling herself Judy Norton.

- Joanne

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pregnancies and births on television shows

No television birth was as hotly anticipated as the birth of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo's baby on I Love Lucy.  There have been some other notable pregnancies and births on American network television.  Let's look at some of them in addition to the birth of Little Ricky Ricardo.


Before there was Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, there was Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns.  This real-life married couple were the stars of American television's first situation comedy.  Their show, Mary Kay and Johnny, aired from 1947 until 1950.  It ended before I Love Lucy debuted in October of 1951.

Mary Kay and Johnny began as a 15-minute program on the old DuMont network on November 18, 1947.  The sitcom aired on DuMont until August of 1948.  In subsequent years, however, it was broadcast on CBS and NBC.  The Stearns played themselves in a domestic comedy about the lives of a newly married couple in New York.  Johnny Stearns' character was employed at a bank and he and Mary Kay resided in a Greenwich Village apartment.  The show was filmed live in front of a New York studio audience.  Unfortunately, very little footage remains in existence.

In December of 1948, the real Mary Kay Stearns gave birth to the couple's son, Christopher William Stearns.  The child's birth was incorporated into the script and worked into an episode on the exact day that Mary Kay actually delivered the baby. Since the show was done live, Mary Kay had to be absent.  An anxious Johnny, however, was shown pacing the floor.  Their infant son, Chris, joined the cast less than one month after his birth.

Johnny Stearns passed away on December 5, 2001 after complications from a fall. He was 85 years old at the time of his death in a Newport Beach, California hospital. Mary Kay Stearns, born October 27, 1925, is 87 years old.  Chris Stearns is 64.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: Mary Kay Stearns passed away on November 17, 2018.  She died in Newport Beach, California at the age of 93.


In the spring of 1952, the hit comedy series I Love Lucy faced a crisis.  It's real-life married stars, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, were expecting their second child.  What was the CBS network to do about Lucy's pregnancy?   They were worried about offending viewers by showing a pregnant woman on screen despite the fact that Mary Kay and Johnny had dealt with a pregnancy in 1948.  Network executives and the show's advertisers were squeamish about the matter.  They were finally persuaded to approve the on-screen pregnancy of Lucy Ricardo although they remained adamant the word "pregnant" could not be uttered on the show.  It never was.  The word "expecting" was used instead.

Lucy's pregnancy, however, was played for laughs. Viewers enthusiastically followed the challenges and pratfalls of their favourite redhead as she prepared for impending motherhood.  The birth of her real son, Desi Arnaz, Jr., occurred on the same day as the taped episode of Little Ricky's birth, "Lucy Goes to the Hospital," was shown on television - January 19, 1953.  The episode about the arrival of the Ricardo child was deliberately timed to coincide with the delivery of the Arnaz child by Caesarian section.  Unlike the son of May Kay and Johnny Stearns, Desi Arnaz, Jr. never portrayed Little Ricky. That role was eventually played by Keith Thibodeaux

Pictured below is the  I LOVE LUCY BABY.doll produced by American Character when Lucy's pregnancy was announced in 1952.  The doll is very rare and is up for sale on eBay for $449.00 (U.S.).  It is 41 cm. (16 inch).  At the time the doll was manufactured, it was not known whether Lucy was having a boy or a girl.  It was decided to produce a girl doll based on the doll Lucy is holding in the photo above from an episode called "Pregnant Women are Unpredictabe." (Season 2, Episode 16, December 15, 1952).  In case you were wondering, the word "pregnant" was used because the show never displayed episode titles on air.


Wilma Flintstone was the first character to be portrayed as pregnant on a regular animated television show.  In Season 3 of The Flintstones, Wilma becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter.  Pebbles Flintstone was born on an  episode of the series entitled "The Blessed Event".  It was aired on Feb. 22, 1963 (Hey, that means that Pebbles Flintstone is almost 50 years old unless you consider that she was born in the Stone  Age).

Wilma was depicted as pregnant in several several episodes during Season 3 leading up to the birth of Pebbles.  There was even a "hospital rehearsal" storyline similar to the one on I Love Lucy.  Although the word "pregnancy" was never mentioned on the show, although Wilma was shown wearing a maternity outfit.
She was under the care of Dr. Rockpile.

To view the episode "The Blessed Event," click on the link below.  You will see Wilma's maternity clothes.



Joey Stivic, the grandson of Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) and his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), was born during All in the Family's sixth season.  The character was first shown as a newborn baby in a two part episode of the series entitled "Birth of the Baby: Part 1" and "Birth of the Baby: Part 2" which aired on December 8 and December 15, 1975.  Joey was portrayed by alternating twins, Jason and Justin Draeger.

Little Joey was a source of conflict even before his birth.  In an episode entitled "The Little Atheist" (Season 6 Episode 11, Air Date: November 24, 1975), his parents (Archie and Edith's daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and her liberal husband, Mike "Meathead" Stivic (Rob Reiner) clash with Archie on Thanksgiving over the unborn child's religion.  Archie wants his grandchild to baptized and raised a Christian while Mike and Gloria want the child to make his or her choice about the matter.

Several episodes dealt with Gloria's pregnancy.  For example, in "Mike Faces Life" (Season 6, Episode 7, Air Date: October 27, 1975),  Gloria is laid off from her department store sales job.  Both she and Mike suspect she has been discriminated against due to her pregnancy.  In another episode, "Gloria Suspects Mike" (Season 6, Episode 10, November 17, 1975), Gloria, who is seven moths pregnant, feels unattractive and fears that Mike is cheating on her with the  young woman he is tutoring.

After getting stuck in a telephone booth while dining with Mike at an Italian restaurant, Gloria goes into labour.  The couple gets stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital where their baby boy is born.  They name the baby Joseph Michael Stivic.

Believe it or not, there was even a Joey Stivic doll which attracted quite a great deal of attention because it was "anatomically correct."  The doll's box is pictured below.


 Murphy Brown and baby Avery

In the final episode of the fourth season of Murphy Brown, television reporter Murphy Brown (Candace Bergen) gave birth to a son named Avery.  Murphy's unwed pregnancy really rankled then-Vice President Dan Quayle.  In May of 1992, during the presidential election campaign, Quayle made a speech in San Francisco linking the fictional TV anchor with the recent Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles.  He argued that the riots were partially caused by a "poverty of values" including the acceptance and celebration of unwed motherhood on popular television shows such as Murphy Brown.

The vice president's remarks sparked a great deal of controversy and debate.throughout the summer of 1992.  When Murphy Brown returned in the fall, the ratings for its season opener were sky high.  In the 60-minute episode entitled "You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato" (a reference to Quayle's misspelling of the word), a clip from the speech was shown.  Displaying a sense of humour, Quayle later sent the fictional baby Avery a toy elephant.

- Joanne

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jack Klugman: He just loved acting

For 50 years, acting was the reason I got up in the morning.
- Jack Klugman

Veteran character actor Jack Klugman died on December 24, 2012 at the age of 90. He will always be remembered for his roles as Oscar Madison, the sloppy sportswriter in the television version of The Odd Couple and as Dr. R. Quincy, a Los Angeles medical examiner, on Quincy, M.E..  In real life, he was a very colourful and vibrant individual.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Jack was born Jacob Joachim Klugman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 27, 1922.  His father, Max Klugman, worked as a house painter and his mother, Rose, made hats.  He had five siblings.  His older brother, Maurice (born July 13, 1914), was a producer who died in 1981 and his sister Deborah is a writer known for her work on Quincy, M.E.

Jack became active in theatre while attending The Carnegie Institute of Technology. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he returned to the stage, performing in summer stock and off-Broadway productions. He made his first Broadway appearance in a 1952 revival of Golden Boy.  He later became involved in film and television work.

Jack portrayed one of the jurors in the classic 1957 film, 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet. In the murder trial drama, he played Juror #5, a modest man from the wrong side of the tracks.who prefers not to talk about his background.  However, when the defendant's poor neighbourhood is cited as evidence of his guilt, Jack's character finally lets his voice be heard.  It is interesting to note that at the time of Klugman's death, he was the last surviving member of a cast that included Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb.

Jack Klugman in 12 Angry Men

During the 1960s, Jack Klugman was a guest star on a number of television shows, most notably The Twilight Zone and The Defenders.  As a big fan of The Twilight Zone, I would be remiss not to mention that Klugman appeared in four episodes of the Rod Serling series between 1960 and 1963.  The four episodes are "A Passage for Trumpet" (Season 1, Episode 32, Air Date: May 20, 1960), "A Game of Pool" (Season 3, Episode 5, Air Date: October 13, 1961), "Death Ship" (Season 4, Episode 6, Air Date: February 7, 1963) and "In Praise of Pip" (Season 5, Episode 1, Air Date: September 27, 1963).

I am particularly impressed by Jack's performance in "Passage for Trumpet" in which he portrayed Joey Crown, a down-and-out trumpet player.  After stepping into the path of a speeding truck, Joey awakens to find he himself in a world of dead people where he and another trumpet player, Gabe (the Angel Gabriel played by John Anderson), appear to be the only living beings.  To watch a video clip of Jack Klugman in "Passage for Trumpet.," click on the link below.


From 1961 to 1964, Klugman had a role in three episodes of the legal drama, The Defenders. In 1964, he won a prime time Emmy Award for his guest appearance on an episode of the series entitled "The Blacklist." (Season 3, Episode 16, Air Date: January 18, 1964).  In "The Blacklist," Jack played the role of Joe Larch, a character actor who was blacklisted in the 1950s and is unable to find work in films.

In 1970, Jack was catapulted to stardom when he was cast in the television adaptation of Neil Simon's hit play, The Odd Couple, a comedy about two divorced men who share a New York apartment.  Although Walter Mathau had played the role of Oscar Madiison in the 1968 film version, it was Jack who portrayed the slovenly sportswriter on Broadway.  With Tony Randall co-starring as fastidious photographer Felix Unger, the small screen version of The Odd Couple was a resounding hit. Television audiences enjoyed watching the weekly trials of Oscar the slob and Felix the neat freak.  The on screen chemistry between old pros Klugman and Randall was a major reason for the show's success.

Klugman and Randall in The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple aired on the ABC television network for five seasons from 1970 until 1975.  114 episodes of the series were produced and it concluded neatly with the reconciliation of Felix Unger and his ex-wife, Gloria, played by Janis Hansen.  In the final episode, Felix leaves the apartment to remarry Gloria and Oscar revels in his freedom to be as messy as he pleases.

Jack Klugman enjoyed a second major hit series with Qunincy, M.E..  In a departure from comedy, he took on the role of Dr. Quincy, a man who relinquished a prosperous private medical practice to become a "medical examiner" for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office (hence the initials "M.E.").  Dr. Quincy's knowledge of forensic medicine resulted in him questioning so-called normal deaths and concluding that they were actually homicides.  Thus, he evolved  into more of a detective than a pathologist.  Trivia Note:  Quincy's first name was never disclosed.  In a third season episode entitled "Accomplice to Murder," however, his business card read "Dr. R. Quincy."  When asked, Klugman would joke that Quincy's first name was "Doctor."

Qunicy M.E. debuted in 1976 as one of four rotating shows in the 1976-1977 season of NBC Sunday Mystery Movie (the other 90-minute shows were Columbo, McCloud and McMillan.   It  proved so popular that NBC decided to turn it into a one hour weekly series and  moved it to its own spot on Friday nights.  The successful series ran for seven seasons and ended in 1983 after 148 episodes.

Between 1986 and 1987, Jack starred in a comedy called You Again? with a young John Stamos.  He played Henry Willows, a long divorced supermarket manager whose life is turned upside down when his 17-year-old son , Matt (Stamos), unexpectedly comes to live with him.  The show, based on a British series called Home to Roost, was short lived.  Only 26 episodes were produced.

Stamos and Klugman in You Again?

Jack, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974.  Of his smoking, Klugman remarked, "I saw John Garfield smoke.  He was my idol.  I even smoked like him."  In 1996, he said that the "only really stupid thing I ever did in my life was to start smoking."  After his cancer returned in the 1980s, Jack lost a vocal chord and he was left with a raspy voice.  It was Tony Randall who encouraged him to continue acting.

In 1953, Jack married Canadian-born actress and comedienne Brett Somers.  The couple had two sons, David Somers Klugman (born February 20, 1959) and Adam Somers Klugman (born July 11, 1963).  Klugman and Somers separated in 1974 but never formerly divorced.  They remained married until Somers' death from cancer on September 15, 2007.  She was 83.  Bret Somers was best known as a celebrity panelist on the 1970s game show The Match Game.  She also had a recurring role on The Odd Couple as Blanche, Oscar Madison's ex-wife.

Adam Klugman

Adam Klugman, now 49, is a media strategist and a campaign consultant.  A self-proclaimed liberal, is the former host of a three hour radio program called Mad as Hell in America on KPOJ 620 in Portland, Oregon.  In November of 2012, the station changed from a progressive talk format to a sports talk format affiliated with Fox Sports Radio.  Adam had a cameo role in two 1974 episodes of  The Odd Couple in which he portrayed Oscar Madison as a child.

On May 17, 2004, Tony Randall, died in his sleep after contracting pneumonia. He was 84 at the time of his death and had undergone triple heart bypass surgery the previous December.   Although their television characters had many disagreements, Jack and Tony were good friends off screen. Jack even wrote a book, Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship (2005, Goodhill Press), detailing their relationship.  At the time of Tony's passing, Jack told CNN that "A world without Tony Randall is a world that I cannot recognize."

In the late 1980s, Jack Klugman began living with actress Peggy Crosby, ex-wife of Bing Crosby's son Phillip.  The two wed on February 2, 2008 at The Little Brown Church in Studio City, California.  Jack was 85 and his bride was 67 years old. According to the website 1WeddingSource.com., "The wedding ceremony was small with just a few close friends and family members.  Everyone was delighted to see the steady couple tie the knot.  Crosby wore a simple white gown with matching jacket, while Klugman went all out in a black tuxedo and white tie."  To view their wedding photo, click on the link below.


After a period of declining health, Jack Klugman died at his home in Woodland Hills, California.  In the words of his son Adam,  the actor "had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it, and he would encourage others to do the same."  He is survived by his widow Peggy, his two sons, David and Adam and two grandchildren.

To watch a video tribute to Jack Klugman, click on the link below.


Jack Klugman was an avid thoroughbred horse racing fan.  He eventually owned and bred his own horses.  at a horse farm in Temecula, California.  One of his racehorses, Jacklin Klugman, finished third in the 1980 Kentucky Derby.

- Joanne