It ran for only three seasons (1964 to ’67) on CBS. But 18 years later the cast still feels marooned. Not only haven’t the actors earned a dime since 1970, they also often lose out on other roles because of the Gilligan connection. No wonder all have returned for three exploitative but lucrative reunion TV movies. All, that is, except Tina Louise, who thought such work would damage her image as a “dramatic actress.” Retorts Bob Denver, “I don’t know how she can think one two-hour movie can tarnish her image, when Gilligan is showing five times a day everywhere in the country.”
Bob Denver (Gilligan)
“Twenty years have passed. The world is destroyed by nuclear war. Only seven people are left. Guess who the seven people are?” In a coffee shop in Las Vegas, Bob Denver, who recently turned 50, is describing the plot of a TV movie that he hopes will become the next Gilligan sequel. In the meantime he, his wife, Dreama, and their baby, Colin Osborne Denver, drift. For at least a decade Denver has had no permanent home: “Our stuff is never all in one place.” Nor has he felt compelled to keep working. “I took the whole year off three years ago to see if you go bananas. You don’t.” As a result of that discovery, says Denver, “I took off most of last year for the pregnancy. And I’m taking off most of this year to watch the little guy grow. And next year is completely open.” A onetime schoolteacher from New Rochelle, N.Y., Denver rarely returns to L.A., preferring to work dinner theaters (he met his actress wife during a Florida production of Play It Again, Sam). After Gilligan, he spent three years on the CBS sitcom The Good Guys. (“I had a piece of the action,” he says ruefully. “That one they haven’t rerun at all.”) Denver has occasionally spoken to lawyers about suing for Gilligan residuals, but “They say to me, ‘Is this your signature on the bottom of the contract? ‘It’s not going to hurt a company like that to give you one percent of the action,” he adds. “But I’m very happy the way things are. If I had that money, who knows where my life would be?”
Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III)
“I cry a lot. I watch myself three or four times a day on TV, and I don’t get a dime. My relatives think I’m terribly wealthy, but we were only paid for the first five or six reruns of the show. I feel miserable, suicidal.” Compounding Backus’ problems is an illness resembling Parkinson’s disease—doctors haven’t made a definite diagnosis—that has incapacitated him since 1980 (and that is the subject of his recent book, Backus Strikes Back, co-authored with wife Henny). No longer doing the voice of Mr. Magoo, Backus, 72, spends his time at home in Bel Air, Calif. reading, writing and grumbling. “Somebody’s getting the money,” he says. “Producers, the networks, everybody but the actors.”
Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper)
“I was making a movie in India and they called me ‘Skipper Sahib,’ ” says Hale, who is pretty much stuck in the Gilligan mold despite appearances on Love Boat and in the film Johnny Dangerously. Most mornings he plays golf. Then Hale kisses his wife, Trinket, goodbye and heads over to Alan Hale’s Lobster Barrel, a West Hollywood restaurant that he doesn’t own. Wearing a skipper’s hat, Hale, 67, spends his evenings greeting guests and serving as maître d’.
Tina Louise (Ginger)
“I got my credibility back little by little,” observes Louise, 50, who calls Gilligan “an interruption in my career as a dramatic actress.” She studied with Lee Strasberg after Gilligan went off the air and appears in Robert Altman’s upcoming film, O.C. and Stiggs. She is about to put a wrap on playing rich bitch Taylor Chapin in the syndicated soap Rituals.
Russell Johnson (The Professor)
“I started out on TV playing villains. But after Gilligan, I couldn’t get arrested as a heavy.” Still, Johnson, 60, often appeared on Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law and on the dinner theater circuit. These days he’s devoting his time to a business that makes videotape “résumés” for actors.
Dawn Wells (Mary Ann)
“At first I tried to break my Gilligan image, but now it’s a hoot. I’m like the Beaver—part of TV history.” Wells, 47ish, appears frequently onstage. Last year she taught acting at her alma mater, Stephens College in Missouri. She lives in Nashville (“In California, I always feel I should be doing something”), where she has dated Tom Ervin, a TV exec, for nine years.
Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Howell III)
She may be loaded on the show, but in real life Schafer wishes Gilligan’s producers paid her. “It makes me so mad, I won’t watch the reruns.” Between acting gigs, she cuddles up with a Chihuahua named—you guessed it—Lovey.
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER
So suburban-perfect were the Cleavers (on CBS and ABC from 1957 to ’63) that Americans desperately needed to destroy the myth. Rumors abounded—that Jerry Mathers had been killed in Vietnam, that Ken Osmond had become porn star John Holmes, that Tony Dow had married Barbara Billingsley, his TV mom. In truth, all four are still acting—most recently in Still the Beaver, a weekly reprise that has won high ratings on Disney’s cable channel.
Jerry Mathers (Beaver)
He did spend six years in the Air National Guard but never made it overseas. After getting a philosophy degree from Berkeley, Mathers worked as a bank loan officer, real estate salesman and radio talk-show host before returning to acting. He appeared with Tony Dow, still a close friend, in a dinner theater production of So Long, Stanley and in the 1983 TV movie Still the Beaver, in which his character, now grown, faced the traumas of adulthood. That led to the cable series. Mathers, 36, lives outside L.A. with his second wife, a theatrical press agent, and their three children. Like his Beaver co-stars, he earns nothing from the original programs.
Hugh Beaumont (Ward Cleaver)
After a stroke left him partially paralyzed in 1972, he stayed close to his Minneapolis home and to Katherine, his wife of 40 years. In 1982 he went to Munich to visit his son, Eric, a psychology professor. A heart attack killed him during the trip.
Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver)
Now a widow with two children and three grandchildren, Billingsley went from Beaver to the lecture circuit as an expert on motherhood. Though she appeared in the movie Airplane!(as the woman who spoke jive) and recently in Come Blow Your Horn at dinner theaters, she knows which role she will be remembered for. Muses Billingsley, who’s in her 60s, “I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Beaver.”
Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell)
The Cleavers’ smarmy neighbor quit acting to start a helicopter service in L.A. When his chopper crashed in 1966, putting him out of business, Osmond joined the LAPD. “All I wanted to do when I was a kid was be a policeman or a cowboy,” says Ken, 41, “and I never passed the test for cowboy.” While on patrol in 1980, he was shot three times but was saved by his bulletproof vest and his belt buckle. On medical leave from the force, he is awaiting a pension hearing.
Tony Dow (Wally)
After Beaver went off the air, Dow waited for the offers to come rolling in. He wound up doing soaps and studying film at UCLA. Eventually he turned to sculpting, then started a construction company. (“Something has to fill the empty time,” he said of that decision.) Dow, now 39 and married for the second time, is only too happy to appear in Still the Beaver but has misgivings about what the sitcom did to his career. “Even if I play a murderer,” he has said, “people say, ‘Gee, you’re just like Wally.’ ”
Life in a POW camp was all fun and games for six seasons (1965-71). For most of the show’s stars, “liberation” proved a letdown.
Bob Crane (Hogan)
Crane starred in a short-lived NBC series, The Bob Crane Show, in 1975 and stayed active in summer stock. Between appearances at the Windmill Dinner Theater in Scottsdale, Ariz, in June 1978, he was bludgeoned to death in his motel room. Who killed the 49-year-old actor, and why, remains a mystery. “We still get at least one phone call a month with a tip,” says police spokesman Gary Maschner. “All have been dead ends.”
John Banner (Sergeant Schultz)
Banner died of an abdominal hemorrhage in 1973 while on a sentimental journey to Vienna, where he was born in 1910 and was a successful actor before fleeing the Nazis.
Richard Dawson (Corporal Newkirk)
After nine seasons and an estimated 25,000 kisses on Family Feud, Dawson, 50, may soon return to prime time. He is talking with ABC about starring in a sitcom. Something of a recluse, he lives in the Beverly Hills home he once shared with the late British sexpot Diana Dors, and has not given an interview in five years. His personal manager says Dawson prefers “to let his TV work speak for itself.”
Larry Hovis (Lieutenant Carter)
Hovis, 49, who now produces the game show Anything for Money, seen in about 100 markets, is surprised by the recognition the series still brings. Recently, he says, “A little boy told me he watched my son every morning on Hogan’s Heroes.”
Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink)
He shone as a clumsy commandant, but Klemperer, 62, son of the great conductor Otto Klemperer, is a passionate musician and singer. He travels on behalf of the Young Musicians Foundation, which provides scholarships and performances for talented teenagers. He has appeared in singing and non-singing roles at the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center in Washington and Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. He lives with actress Kim Hamilton, 42, and says he has “no trouble at all with the fact that I’m best known for Hogan’s Heroes.”
Robert Clary (Corporal LeBeau)
Many people found the Hogan’s Heroes premise—wacky fun in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—bizarre, to say the least. For French-born actor Clary, the situation was très bizarre—and beyond. As a teenager Clary spent 31 months in Nazi death camps, including Ottmuth and Buchenwald. Twelve members of his family—including his parents—died in the camps. Of the Hogan’s Heroes role, says Clary, “I am an actor, and an actor has to act.” Now, at 58, his own life has come full circle: He has dedicated himself to lecturing about the Holocaust. “Revisionists say the Holocaust never happened,” says Clary, who often speaks at high schools. “We have to tell the truth while some of us are still alive. Kids come to see LeBeau of Hogan’s Heroes, but they stay to hear what I have to say. For the first time in my life, I’m doing something gratifying and worthwhile.”
I LOVE LUCY
Thanks to Lucy and Desi’s insistence on producing the show in L.A.—rather than in New York, where it would have been broadcast live—all 179 episodes were recorded on film. As a result, Lucy became one of the first series in syndication. It may outlast the others. So far, the show, which ran from 1951 to ’59, has grossed more than $300 million in reruns and, like its star, who is now 73, shows no sign of losing steam. “The public doesn’t want me to grow up,” says Lucy. Contemplating the show’s longevity, she says, “It’s a nice way to leave something to the world.”
Lucille Ball (Lucy Ricardo)
The mat on the stoop of the Beverly Hills mansion bears a bold initial M. Inside, a painting of Gary Morton swinging a golf club dominates the den. An assistant dutifully declares, “I’ll tell Mrs. Morton you’re here.” No matter. This will always be the house Mrs. Arnaz built. It was here that Lucy and Desi lived while making the most successful sitcom in TV history. And it is here that she remained despite the constant caravan of tour buses 50 feet from her door (the city restricted large buses in 1984). “You could smell carbon monoxide, and your eyes would tear,” she remembers. “But I’ll never be able to move out of here. There are too many mementos.” Among them are cassettes of all the Lucy episodes. (She and Desi sold the rights to those shows to CBS in 1957 for a then astronomical $5 million.) Lucy often watches Lucy, claiming with characteristic modesty, “I’m enjoying Vivian all over again. I got quite nostalgic when Viv died. As long as Vivian was around, there was always the thought that we could do something together.” Lucy, whose last series went off the air in 1974, would love to do another, but “not just anything. I’ve been trying to find scripts. Nobody’s come up with anything. They’re vulgar or meaningless. And I don’t feel like doing horror movies.” Can she still be funny? “With a script by the Lucy writers,” she declares, “I could be funny.”
Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz)
Divorced from actor Philip Ober, she married a publishing executive and settled into a quiet life of gardening and charity work in Stamford, Conn. But Lucy lured her out to California for three seasons (1962-65) of The Lucy Show. She died of cancer in 1979.
William Frawley (Fred Mertz)
The veteran character actor went straight from Lucy to My Three Sons, which he left in 1964. He suffered a fatal heart attack in 1966.
Desi Arnaz (Ricky Ricardo)
After he and Lucy split, their movie studios declined, and eventually Lucy bought out his half of the operation. Desi became an independent producer(the Eve Arden-Kaye Ballard series The Mothers-in-Law was his), and he also makes occasional TV appearances. “He is in good health, and he always has something going, but he’s not as busy as he used to be in the heyday of I Love Lucy,” reports his son, Desi Jr. Now 68, Arnaz Sr. lives in Las Cruces, Mexico and Del Mar, Calif. with wife Edie.
Keith Thibodeaux (Little Ricky)
Acting under the name Richard Keith, he played Opie’s friend, Johnny Paul, on The Andy Griffith Show. But the real world proved rougher than Mayberry. “I got to the end Of the road, says Thibodeaux. “I was doing heroin, cocaine, LSD, Quaaludes, mescaline, you name it—and I drank quite a bit. Then my mom invited me to a charismatic church, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit, which took away my desire for drugs.” These days Keith, 34, lives in Jackson, Miss, with his wife, Kathy, 28, and 5-year-old daughter Tara. His band, Dave and the Giants, records Christian rock for CBS’ gospel label. Still, he says, “Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say, ‘Hey, you used to be Little Ricky.’ ”
THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES
How many times can you call a swimming pool a “cement pond” and still get laughs? Quite a few, judging from the Clampetts’ nine successful seasons (1962-71) on CBS. Is there anyone who doesn’t know that theme song?
Irene Ryan (Granny)
In 1972, at age 69, she made her stage debut as a geriatric swinger in the Broadway musical Pippin. Granny was a smash. The next year she passed away after a series of small strokes.
Max Baer Jr. (Jethro)
Typecast as a muscled moron, Baer earned only $6,000 as an actor in the three years after Hillbillies went off the air. Then, figuring “I don’t take orders well,” he turned to producing and directing, scoring a hit with the movie Ode to Billy Joe. Baer, 47, refuses to talk about Hillbillies. “We’ve struggled so hard to change his image,” explains his agent. Adds Hillbillies’ Nancy Kulp, “I think he felt a little embarrassed by Jethro.”
Buddy Ebsen (Jed Clampett)
“If The Beverly Hillbillies were on in prime time now, it would be a smash,” says Ebsen, currently starring in ABC’s Matt Houston. “There’s a new color process—they’ve used it on the old Laurel and Hardy films—that would make the show look new.” Not that Ebsen, 66, needs another hit. His earnings from reruns of Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones, his vehicle from 1973 to ’80, are enough to support him nicely, thank you. Of his less fortunate colleagues—the ones who don’t get residuals—the somewhat laconic Ebsen says, “That’s their problem.”
Donna Douglas (Elly May)
When the show went off the air, the Southern-born actress worked as a Beverly Hills real-estate agent. These days she travels the South, “country singing, visiting with ladies’ church groups and helping people who are sick—a lot of good things.” Adds Douglas, who’s in her 40s, “I’m a sunshine person.”
Nancy Kulp (Jane Hathaway)
Last November Kulp, 63, ran for Congress from Pennsylvania’s rural Ninth District. Her opponent, Bud Shuster, a conservative Republican, beat her handily and even received an endorsement from her right-of-center former co-star, Buddy Ebsen. Now Kulp is back in Hollywood, looking for a gig and still mixing acting and politics. Of her failure to receive residuals, she points out, “This is the contract Mr. Reagan negotiated as president of the [Screen Actors] Guild.”
Creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry have made a bundle from the spy spoof, which ran from 1965 to ’70 on NBC and CBS. Among the cast members, only Don Adams makes money from reruns.
Don Adams (Maxwell Smart)
Adams’ Screen Test, a syndicated game show, ran for 26 weeks in 1974. Since then the comic, now 58, has guested on Love Boat, The Fall Guy and several episodes of Fantasy Island, appeared on Foul-ups, Bleeps and Blunders and hosted a trip on the Orient Express for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. He also still plays Smart, most recently in advertisements for Save Mart, the Alabama Transit System and for Chief Auto Parts. Did we say “Chief?”
Edward Platt (The Chief)
A successful film actor, Piatt was found dead of an apparent heart attack in his Santa Monica apartment in 1974. He was 58.
Barbara Feldon (Agent 99)
American comedy’s most sensuous spy—The Avengers’ Diana Rigg holds the British title—now hosts an issue-oriented cable TV show, The ’80s Woman. “The guests are women who have accomplished something; it’s not geared to domesticity.” A New Yorker, she has starred in two feature films and several plays and gives poetry readings around town. Unmarried, Feldon, 43, says she reads voraciously, takes courses and hangs out at classical concerts. “I haven’t gotten any money from reruns for at least 10 years, but I have no complaints. Not a day goes by that someone on the street doesn’t smile or have something nice to say. It makes the world more pleasant.”
Dick Gautier (Hymie, the C.O.N.T.R.O.L. robot)
This spring Putnam will publish Gautier’s semischolarly The Art of Caricature. But Gautier hasn’t quit acting; indeed, he hopes to make a TV movie about Hymie. “Don Adams would come up to me after a take and say, ‘Dick, that was absolutely one-dimensional,’ ” Gautier boasts. “Hymie never stifled my career. He only enhanced it. I know kids who were named Hymie because they looked like me!”
Of the stars of the series, which ran on ABC from 1962 to ’66, only Ernest Borgnine is still getting paid. The checks are small, he says, “but better than a kick in the behind.”
Ernest Borgnine (McHale)
“You would not believe how many people come up to me and ask, ‘Why don’t they bring back McHale’s Navy?’ ” says Borgnine, who in fact has a plan for a new series based on the ’60s hit. So far the network brass isn’t biting. In the meantime Borgnine, 69, stars with Jan-Michael Vincent in the CBS chopper series Airwolf and helps publicize Tova 9, a successful mail-order cosmetics business run by his wife, Tova, 44. “She’s one of the pathfinders of the mail-order business,” he says. “Tova and L.L. Bean.”
Joe Flynn (Captain Binghamton)
Flynn, who played McHale’s commander, drowned in his pool in 1974. The 49-year-old actor apparently suffered a heart attack during a solo nighttime swim.
Edson Stroll (Virgil Farrell)
For the past 20 years Stroll has imported yachts from Taiwan. He has appeared on Murder, She Wrote, General Hospital and a commercial for Skippy.
Tim Conway (Ensign Parker)
The father of seven children, Conway, 51, lives with his second wife, Charlene, 24, in the San Fernando Valley and spends much of his time watching his four Thoroughbreds run at Santa Anita Park. This month he’ll start working on a racing film, The Long Shot.
Billy Sands (Harrison “Tinker” Bell)
Sands, whose career took him from Broadway to the Milton Berle radio show to guest spots on Happy Days and All in the Family, died last year of lung cancer. He was 73.
Carl Ballantine (Lester Gruber)
“It doesn’t seem fair,” says Ballantine, now 65. “None of us gets any money.” His most recent series try—a cable TV pilot titled Hinkus Pincus—”came out and died.” On the bright side, he is making a movie, The Best of Times, with Kurt Russell and Robin Williams. And he’ll always have McHale. “I get a lot of fan letters. The most common line is, ‘I grew up with you.’ ”
Gary Vinson (Christy)
“He was despondent because of lack of attention,” says the actor’s former agent, Herman Zimmerman. “He wasn’t working much. Some can take it, some can’t.” Vinson, 47, committed suicide last October.
A widower, his two sons and their dolphin were stars from 1964 to ’68, but, as Brian Kelly says, “nobody was getting the big bucks then.”
Brian Kelly (Porter Ricks)
Life was going swimmingly for Kelly in 1970—he had just been chosen to star in a movie with Dyan Cannon—when a borrowed motorcycle he was riding exploded, throwing him to the ground. Suffering from a paralyzed right arm, a partially paralyzed right leg and a speech impediment, Kelly used the money from an insurance settlement to build houses and the profit from those houses to get into movie producing. The accident means he will never act again, but Kelly, now 54, muses, “I’m on the air every day, somewhere.”
Luke Halpin (Sandy Ricks)
“Why me?” moans Halpin when asked about his Flipper contract, which contained nothing about reruns. “I was very young. My parents didn’t understand anything about showbiz. I didn’t understand contracts or lawyers or legalese. I don’t know who was responsible for what happened, but, given the popularity of Flipper, it’s ridiculous that I even have to work.” Ridiculous or not, Halpin, 37, separated and the father of two boys, continues laboring on the watery side of showbiz—as a stuntman, diver and speedboat pilot. His credits include Never Say Never Again, Porky’s and, most recently, Miami Vice.
Eight dolphins, most notably Suzy and Kathy, from Miami’s Seaquarium played the title role and were paid in herring. Former trainer Ricou Browning says that Suzy and Kathy may be alive and well—the mammals can live to be 40—but “So many dolphins come and go from Seaquarium that it’s hard to know who’s who.”
Tommy Norden (Bud Ricks)
Fifteen when the show went off the air, he did Search for Tomorrow and commercials before losing his enthusiasm for showbiz. “My agent would call me and I’d say, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there,’ and then I wouldn’t show up.” Norden adds, “The lack of enthusiasm was pretty mutual. There weren’t a million parts around for me.” Eventually he decided he “wanted to go into business and make money.” Now 32, Norden helps run two family enterprises: a recruiting firm for high-level data processors and a Thoroughbred horse farm in upstate New York. With no residuals, all he has to remind him of his Flipper days are the queries he gets from his nieces and nephews: “Did you really do that, Thomas? Did you really swim with that dolphin?” Says the nostalgic Norden, “It was so much fun, I would have done it for nothing.”
A ratings grabber for six seasons, it was canceled, along with Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies, when CBS purged its hick-corns in 1970-71. None of the stars gets a penny.
Eddie Albert (Oliver Wendell Douglas)
Something from the show must have rubbed off: Albert, 75, and onetime actress Margo, his wife of 40 years, grow much of what they eat in the garden and greenhouse of their Brentwood, Calif. home. Albert appears regularly in series and made-for-TV movies, but still misses Green Acres. “It was over the heads of most people,” he says.
Eva Gabor (Lisa Douglas)
Zsa Zsa’s kid sister, now 64, runs an international firm that makes and sells wigs in the style of such celebs as Princess Diana and Dorothy Hamill. She also writes a monthly advice column for Total Health magazine and, after the 1984 breakup of her 10-year marriage to industrialist Frank Jameson, she began lecturing on the topic: “Living Alone and Loving It.”
Tom Lester (Eb)
Lester, 46, who played the Douglas’ moronic hired hand, is a devout Christian who sermonizes at churches across the country. He has made a commercial for Wendy’s hamburgers and appeared on Knight Rider and Little House on the Prairie, but admits, “I’d like to be doing more acting.”
TV’s smartest swine was played by seven different pigs, all trained by Frank Inne, the man who made Benji a star. All the Arnolds have gone to hog heaven.
Pat Buttram (Mr. Haney)
Gene Autry’s sidekick in countless ’40s and ’50s Westerns, Buttram now works as an after-dinner speaker. “I’m the gentile George Jessel,” he says.
Alvy Moore (Hank Kimball)
Having grown tired of dealing with some “20-year-old girl who is playing Miss Casting Director and hasn’t done her homework,” Moore, who played Acres’ agricultural agent, has gone on to produce films, including the 1975 cult classic A Boy and His Dog. He plays in celeb golf tournaments and says that he is bugged for his autograph “just enough to satisfy my ego.”
Jackie Gleason lives in Florida. Audrey Meadows lives in L.A., Joyce Randolph in New York and Art Carney near New Haven. So the original Honeymooners rarely see each other. But last month three of the four (Carney was ill) made it to New York’s 21 Club for a press conference announcing the sale to Showtime of 75 Honeymooners segments taped between 1952 and ’55. The 39 episodes made between 1955 and ’56 have been in constant syndication, but Gleason had kept the earlier shows in storage in Florida all these years. “They were sitting in a room that cost us $100 a week just to air-condition,” he explained. “Finally I said, ‘Let’s either throw them out or get someone to buy them.’ ”
Jackie Gleason (Ralph Kramden)
“Should I address him as the Great One?” asks a reporter waiting to talk to Gleason in a private room at the 21 Club. “No,” replies a colleague, “Mr. Great One.” Inside, between sips of Scotch on the rocks, Gleason is remembering the time, some 30 years ago, when The Honeymooners was about to go on the air—and there was no usable script. “I said to Audrey Meadows, ‘We’ll have an argument, and when it’s going good, Art’ll come in and try to settle it, and then, after he does, he’ll leave, and we’ll make up.’ And we did it, and the audience loved it.” Gleason, 69, who still watches the old shows, is amazed and flattered by their success. “Here are these four people,” he marvels, “roaming around one stinking room, and they were able to make it real entertaining—without resorting to sexual innuendo.” Though he says “there was no altruism” in his sale of the 75 shows, Gleason figures, “The most gratifying thing is when people start to tell you that what you did has value. I don’t think many people sitting around, practically at the end of their careers, suddenly find out they’re wanted.”
Audrey Meadows (Alice)
“I’m the only one who still gets paid,” says a prescient Meadows, who struck a residual deal when the show started. “I have two brothers who are lawyers, and we just kept going, like water on a stone, until we wore the network people out.” These days Meadows gets her business advice from husband Bob Six, retired chairman of Continental Airlines (and onetime spouse of Ethel Merman). Although she has taken on small TV roles, Meadows, 62, says, “I have turned down a million series, mostly because I travel a lot with my husband.”
Joyce Randolph (Trixie)
“We didn’t know to ask for residuals,” says Randolph, who played Norton’s ex-chorus-girl wife. “Who thought The Honeymooners would be the hit it is?” Randolph, 60, who has been married for 30 years to advertising executive Richard Charles, occasionally appears in summer stock or commercials(including one for Parker Bros.’ Nerf Ball Pool) and is constantly recognized, she says, “by truck-driver types. People seem to love us.”
Art Carney (Ed Norton)
“I was very fortunate. I could have been labeled a stooge or a second banana, but I was able to branch out.” Carney has appeared in five Broadway shows (including the original Odd Couple) and 20 movies. He is the owner of an Oscar (for Harry and Tonto) and six Emmys. “There have been no real rough times,” he says. “I’ve never had to knock on doors.” Still, Carney, 66, doesn’t know what he’ll do next. “I’m wide open. It doesn’t have to be the lead.”