I want to talk about a recent get-together of the cast of Josie and the Pussycats.
The Marriott Convention Center in Burbank was the location for the Hollywood Show, an elegantly done memorabilia event with an awesome gathering of celebrities. David Elkouby and Kevin Martin were thoughtful hosts (they even had swag bags). And I’m grateful to them for reuniting the Josie gang. It was a bittersweet time. While having this fun, news of lost treasured friends and colleagues filtered through the room. I could watch faces around the room as they learned of the passing of some of our favorite people. Peggy, Ken, Betty …
We had worked on this cartoon together for nearly five years, starting around 1970, and were a working family. Janet Waldo, a brilliant and quite famous radio star, played Josie. All I could think when I met her was, “Corliss Archer!” Such an honor to have a mike next to hers. I played Melody, the ditzy blonde drummer; she was cute as a button and I loved being her voice. The third Pussycat, gorgeous Barbara Pariot, who was the first African American lead character in a cartoon, played Valerie. Sherry Alberoni was a Mouseketeer before she played the nasty Alexandra, but she is anything but nasty and a happy granny.
The men we worked with were Jerry Dexter who played Alan (he was with us). Casey Kasem, a radio and animation king, played Alexander, and the cat Sebastian was meowily purred by Don Messick. Love them all. We all agreed that this was a dream job. No wardrobe, hair or makeup. No memorizing. We got our script, did a read through and then stood at our mikes and became the characters. If needed, at the end of the taping, we would redo a line here and there. And if we were unavailable, it was possible to come in another time and record alone. Such a cool job! Fast forward, it was great to meet the fans who were very happy for us to autograph pictures on our cartoon bodies.
It was thrilling for me to reconnect with some of the other players who were such a treat for the crowds. Tolucan Alan Thicke was as fun as ever, Della Reese touched my heart (she is an angel). We were sitting with Angie (looking gorgeous) Dickinson at lunch. She is guileless — no pretensions — just Angie who was having fun. It was hot seeing Pam Grier, Richard Poundstone and Fred Williamson, who were among the many who signed pictures for Actors and Others for Animals. Loni Anderson looked like a Valentine, with a little heart like set up for signing and picture taking. And, I always love seeing Angela Cartwright, who gifted Toluca Lake with the best gift shop, Rubber Boots, for years. Now we can shop on line for her beautiful art. Also loved seeing the two Junes, June Lockhart and June Foray, who are tiny women and giants in their fields. OK, I have to stop naming names, I’m running out of space, but look up the Hollywood Show and see for yourself — the next one is in April.
So the show went on, with many heavy hearts. Great entertainers had passed on. Toluca Lake’s Peggy Rea, much loved for roles in The Waltons, The Dukes of Hazzard, All in the Family (Cousin Bertha) and so much more. Thanks for your goodness Peggy. Kenneth Mars, a fine friend and a great father. Ken was indelible playing the crazed Nazi playwright in Mel Brooks first film version of The Producers. And then there is Betty. Betty Garrett’s endless vitality, even at her advanced age, made it seem impossible that she could just … stop. She told me she could still put her pants on standing up. Please look up her history on Wikipedia — more interesting than we know. She brightened Garry Marshall and Norman Lear sitcoms, and MGM Musicals were where fans knew her best, but locally Betty Garrett gave us Theater West, the non-profit organization she helped found. She was still teaching there a few days before her great heart was stilled. Lost and found, that’s what keeps happening. Enjoy surprises.