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Forgotten Memorable Women

by David Westheimer

 

Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Louise Fazenda, Toby Wing, "Minnow" Rawls, Dorothy Kilgallen, Dorothy Shay, Faye Emerson, Betty Furness, Zasu Pitts, Arlene Francis, Hedda Hopper. All were eminently newsworthy in their day, but are now mostly unknown to generations to whom even the Sixties are history. As a friend of mine puts it, their average age is deceased. So, what made them famous back when?

Peggy Hopkins Joyce — (1893-1957) She acted on stage and screen, was said to be the model for Lorelei Lee in Anita Loos 1925 novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, had two books written about her: Gold Digger: The Outrageous Life of Peggy Hopkins Joyce, by Connie Rosenbloom and The Gentlemen Preferred Blonde, by Eve Golden, but she was best known for was not acting but matrimony. She married six times.

Louise Fazenda — (1895-1962) A film actress who appeared in Mack Sennetts silent comedies and later acted in sound films, six of them produced by her second husband, Hal B. Wallis.

Toby Wing (1915-2001) — An original Goldwyn Girl, billed as "the girl with the face like the morning sun." Her swains included Maurice Chevalier, Alfred Vanderbilt, Franklin Roosevelt, Jr. and Jackie Coogan and her films included Palmy Days, with Eddie Cantor and Busby Berkeleys 42nd Street. She appeared with Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Ida Lupino, Dick Powell, Fred MacMurray, Jack Oakie, Carol Lombard and John Barrymore.

Katherine "Minnow" Rawls — (1918 -) She won a slew of medals in swimming events at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles at the age of 14 and was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year 1937 for swimming. . I was 15 when I saw a picture of her in her swimsuit in Time Magazine and developed an instant crush. Ms. Rawls later became a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots).

Dorothy Kilgallen — (1913-1965) One of the most widely-read, influential and controversial columnists of her day. She wrote for the New York Journal-American. She raced around the world with two other journalists and a book about it, Girl Around the World, was made into a movie. Reubens Restaurant named a sandwich for her. She and her husband co-hosted a daily radio show and on a TV show, Whats My Line, she was on the panel with John Daly. At 52, while working on her files about the JFK assassination, into which she was delving, she was found dead in her room. One theory was she died of a fatal combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. Another was that she was murdered because of information she had in her files.

Dorothy Shay — (1921-1978) A popular caf singer who was billed as "the Park Avenue Hillbilly" because she sprinkled her act with corny hillbilly songs like "Uncle Fud."

Faye Emerson — (1917-1983) A leading television personality of her day, she was once married to Elliot Roosevelt and later to Skitch Henderson, an important musician. Had her own program on television and in 1953 and 1954 did another regular program, Faye and Skitch, with him. Also appeared in a number of movies. What I remember best about her is that she wore low-cut gowns and in those innocent days was obliged to wear a scarf covering her cleavage when on the air.

Betty Furness — (1916-1994). Began modeling at 14 and appeared in films, on the stage, on radio and TV (she was on the Today Show from 1974 until 1990). She was also know away from the cameras as an expert needlepointer.

Zasu Pitts — (1894-1963). Movie actress known for her fluttery hands. First in silent movies and later in many movies with sound. Acted in radio dramas and her TV credits include a costarring role with Gale Storm on "Oh, Susanna." She was pictured on a US commemorative postage stamp in 1994.

Arlene Francis — (1907- 2001) Worked in radio soap operas and was a leading personality on TV best known for What's My Line for 25 years. Also performed on the stage and in movies. From the Sixties until 1990 she hosted a popular radio show in New York.

Hedda Hopper — (1890-1966). A Hollywood gossip columnist, she was a rival of columnist Louella Parsons and was known for her huge collection of hats.

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