Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Dr. Joyce Brothers was a celebrity in the truest sense of the word; a person famous for being famous.
She rose to fame in 1955 by competing on the TV program, The $64,000 Question. Dr. Joyce originally entered the show hoping to win enough money to put her husband Milton through medical school. She not only went home $64,000 richer, the quiz show helped to pave the way for one of the unlikeliest showbiz careers of the 20th Century.
The producers initially frowned upon rewarding a psychologist with a huge sum of money in exchange for answering questions in her area of expertise. The sponsors suggested boxing as the topic and the good doctor, and fervent reader, plowed through twenty volumes on the subject in order to take home the top prize. Her sudden notoriety also afforded her the honor of being the first woman ever to call a boxing match.
A meeskite's meeskite, no talent coordinator was booking Dr. Joyce Brothers based solely on her looks and personality. Dr. Joyce's art was convincing America that she was our nation's most trusted name in psychology. It was a brand she gladly peddled to all takers. She also gave great panel.
Imagine Sigmund Freud or B.F. Skinner seated on Merv's couch next to Gunilla Hutton, London Lee, and Mrs. Miller. A wave of TV sets simultaneously going black would sweep the nation. Not so with Dr. Yenta Brothers whose bland efficiency could work even the most somnambulic Lawrence Welk fan into a tizzy.
There was a time in the '70's where you couldn't turn on a television set without seeing her face. She made over 100 appearances on The Tonight Show (Carson, not that Leno shit), filled in countless blanks on The Match Game, set sail on Das Love Boat, and even hosted her own gabfest, Living Easy with Dr. Joyce Brothers in 1973.
Dr. Joyce's popularity was only eclipsed in later years by the rise of the equally diminutive, but infinitely more snuggly Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Dr. Joyce had pretty much fallen off the radar after her husband of forty years, Dr. Milton Brothers, passed away in 1989. Her last public viewing was in an open casket commercial for AlertUSA.
Dr. Joyce Brothers died at her home in Fort Lee,NJ on May 13, 2013 due to respiratory failure. She was 85 and leaves behind her sister Elaine Goldsmith, her daughter, Lisa Brothers Arbisser, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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