On an otherwise humdrum Hollywood evening, plagued by customary traffic congestion, smog, hot dog street commerce, hot dog noshing, accompanied by fictional furry or comely characters competing for a donation or two, the lobby of the Hollywood Museum was jam packed in kind, albeit in most non-polluted, and perfumed manner, with a real life fictional character all her own. All this in celebration of a birthday to beat all birthdays: That of a most magically gridlock-clearing (if asked nicely) Jeannie that ever walked the televised earth/garden – Ms. Barbara Eden!
Roughly 2000 years in Jeannie chronology, circa 1966, her ever youthful human looks belie that of a mere 2006 year old Jeannie to her credibility defying 88 earth years.
Bestowing us all a slice of parallel whimsy emulating what a party-going crowd might have approximated inside Jeannie’s diminutive bottle, the majestic, marble floored lobby of the Hollywood Museum was filled to capacity to standing room, neck craning, and gingerly inspired “excuse me-cancel-your-space, but not the clutter” culture the floor over.
Aside from demonstrable excitement pending a birthday cake to be eaten, (nearly the size of Eden herself) the anticipation was palpable leading up to the unveiling of the original I Dream of Jeannie costume, along with the archetypal Jeannie Bottle (circa 1967-1969)! Not only that, to add to the intrigue and 3-D aromatic appeal, as legend would have it, and according to Eden’s husband Jon: The famed magical bottle, “Still has a faint aroma from all the smoke pellets that were dropped in the bottle for effect!”
The above presentation: All part of The Hollywood Museum’s relatively new and voraciously venerated Lobby Series which pays topical, yet temporary, tribute to set pieces, props, costumes, and all manner of memorabilia from some of TV and films’ most acclaimed stars and programs. Former honorees include Lucille Ball, Tippi Hedren, Loretta Swit, Rich Little, and then some…
Those in attendance included the likes of Anson Williams aka Potsie of Happy Days’ fame, noted film historian and critic, Leonard Maltin, who honored and enumerated some of Eden’s additional and lesser known, but no less memorable, credits, Elliott Gould, best known for his work on MASH, Friends, ER, Doubt (and a Disney/Muppet Film or two), Dawn Wells aka Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, Ilene Graff, Mr. Belvedere’s boss (‘cause seriously, it was never Bob Ueker? – I mean, seriously…c’mon!!!), The Hollywood Squares’ Peter Marshall, and fellow blonde, and friend-for-life Loni Anderson aka the incomparable and intelligent Jennifer on WKRP.
Hollywood Museum President and Founder Donelle Dadigan kicked off the evening by imparting a surprising concurrent stat: Barbara Eden and Marilyn Monroe were represented by the same stand-in actress, Ms. Evelyn Moriarty! Coincidentally the blonde room on the first floor of the Hollywood Museum was a near apparent second home to Monroe when Max Factor was inventing and maintaining her look.
And of course, as one might expect from such a tight-knight crowd, pending the time-honored, six-degrees-of-separation sensibility so commonly afforded by Hollywood employ, many-a-guest had first hand knowledge of not only Eden’s work, but primary experience pertaining to working with her.
According to Anson Williams: “Barbara spoiled me. She starred in the first film I directed and was so easy to work with, that I recall thinking ‘I can’t be this lucky my first time out!’”
Elliott Gould indulged us all to a tale of playing a blind mute in the film Quick Let’s get Married, pertaining to his first cinematic gig. Top billed stars included Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland, including Ms. Eden herself whom Gould could only describe as possessing “Beauty, talent and professionalism, all in one package!”
Dawn Wells frequently got compared to Eden by merit of the most terrestrial of body parts. Their nicknames when mentioned side by side, and as coined by Wells herself: “Belly Button Buddies”, as both women were constantly dressed to hilt and stern at the behest, and chagrin, of the censors – 60s-style.
Ilene Graff color-appropriately, and coincidentally enough, (years before Mr. Belvedere did HER bidding) shared the screen with Major Nelson’s, then servant, playing Barbara Eden’s sister in an I Dream of Jeannie episode entitled Opposites Attract.
Hollywood Squares’ Peter Marshall reminisced some of his outside-the-box work with Eden describing her as a “remarkable lady” pertaining to their co-casting in the sonorous 60’s film Swingin’ Along.
Longtime Eden enthusiast and amiable companion Loni Anderson could not help but sing her praises both personally and professionally as she recounted their decades’ long friendship by referencing numerous Bob Hope Specials in which they costarred. Anderson also regaled us with a classic slice-of-life tale of the most real-life yet reel to realistic kind, via her recollection of the night Eden wore her Jeannie costume to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood.
Eden then delighted us all with tales of the her most famous roles’ self-incarnation, admitting all the while, that the part of Jeannie was initially slated for a tall brunette, not a short (aka normal sized/diminutive – to the LA Beat anyway) blonde. From there she took the audition by storm waxing so enthusiastic she claims she “scared Larry Hagman”!
Ultimately a cake as large as roughly 4 of Major Healey’s (not to be confused with Major Nelson’s, it HAS to be Major Healey’s) life support packs stacked upon one another (courtesy of Sweet Lady Jane’s) was wheeled out to no turned up noses as everyone started to sing!
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