Wednesday 6 July 2016

Alice of the Hula Hoop

“It was just pure, solid, truthful humor, and I think that explains why it lasted so long.” That’s how Audrey Meadows summed up the enduring popularity of The Honeymooners.

It’s hard to think of Meadows as anybody but Alice Kramden, partly because her characterisation was so strong and partly because she didn’t do much more than guest appearances the rest of her career (yes, she had a regular role years later on Too Close For Comfort, but the show is forgettable at best).

It’s a bit of a surprise to learn that Meadows left show business for a couple of years, but the story is related in this column from the National Enterprise Association feature syndicate. Around the time this story appeared in papers (November 13, 1958), Meadows was in talks to star in My Sister Eileen, which finally came to television in 1960 with Elaine Stritch and Shirley Bonne in the main roles. Meadows never did get her own show like fans had wanted. And, for whatever reason, Jackie Gleason didn’t want her back for his own 1958 variety show comeback—evidently he wanted to showcase only himself to viewers.

TV Looks Prettier Now Since Audrey Meadows Has Returned

NEW YORK—(NEA)—When the history of television is written, the 58-’59 season may not go down as anything great. But, in a small way, it’s already chalked up one happy historical fact it’s the season when Audrey Meadows came back.
Perhaps you haven’t even missed her. Perhaps you’ve been seeing the filmed reruns of "The Honeymooners" during the past two years, in which she starred starred as Alice Kramden to Jackie Gleason’s Ralph. But those were made before Audrey retired for two years, a period she devoted to a marriage that, unhappily, has since failed.
Now she’s back, live, and it does make the screen seem a prettier sight. This is especially true if you have a color set, because Audrey Meadows is the kind of girl color TV was invented for with her red gold hair, greenish eyes and lovely complexion.
At the moment, she’s confining her TV work to some panel shows—on "Keep Talking" and "Masquerade Party"—plus occasional guest shots.
“When you’re but of the business for two years,” she says, “it isn’t easy to get back. But I thought it would take longer than it has. I think the fact that 'The Honeymooners' is still around has helped.”
She’s too modest. What "really" helped most was the simple truth is that she was missed. She’s a solid actress, first, with the gift of comedy that is all too rare. The fact that she’s also beautiful is just so much gravy.
Attesting to her popularity is her admission that she’s had “hundreds of offers” to do a TV series. “I may do one next year, she says.
“But, really, I don’t feel much like faking on those headaches. I much prefer working for someone else.
“You see, there’s very little I need in the way of tangible things. I do like clothes and I love shoes — but I can buy all I want on what I make now.” She thought for a moment, then added something else, with a little smile.
“There is one thing I’d like to have. If I had my own show, I might buy some trotters. A girl can’t buy a football team or a baseball team, so trotters are the next best thing.”
Meanwhile, she’s happy with her panel shows. Audrey says it takes “a certain type” to play a television game.
“I wish I could name names,” she says. “I’d tell you about some big people who were auditioned and just could not play ‘Masquerade Party.’ ” She says she and her sister, Jayne Meadows (Mrs. Steve Allen), are game players from way back. They’ve played all the parlor games and still like to try new ones. They’ve even sampled the hula hoop.
“I was pretty good,” she admits. “I could walk with it. But I had pains all through my ribs and up and down my back. A doctor friend says hoops are not good for adults. Kids are more supple, but adults shouldn’t try them.”
If the possible series for next season fails to materialize, Audrey may do a Broadway play. She has Broadway experience, so it wouldn’t be to gain it. She’d just simply like to do one, “but it would have to be just right.”
“I read one I liked,” she says, “so I sent it to Jack Benny. He’s a good friend and I respect his opinion so much. He sent it back to me — he said the trouble was it was too easy for me. He said, ‘I could hear you saying every line — you want something that isn’t so much like you.’ ”
Going to Benny with the play is in line with Audrey’s philosophy of going to the best for advice. It started when she was in "Top Banana" with Phil Silvers. She had one song in the show and everybody was happy with the way she was doing it — except Audrey Meadows.
“So I sent Jose Ferrer two tickets, even though I didn’t know him, and asked him to see it and tell me how to do the song better. He did. His advice was that I was trying to make too much of the song. So I took it easier after that, and I liked it better.
“Later, Ferrer sent me a check for the two tickets. He said be enjoyed the show too much not to pay for it. So from then on I’ve always gone to the best people for advice.”
And now some of the best people come to her.


  1. Always loved her in that ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS episode 'Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat.' Hitch directed that one himself, and on several occasions pointed out its relative effectiveness hinged on the casting (Les Tremayne played her husband.)

  2. Audrey married the CEO of Continental Airlines and extensively traveled with him, and even designed the interior of Continental's planes and the flight attendant uniforms. She declined to go back as Alice wen Jackie moved back to Miami because she did not want to be away from her husband. She was also a terrific businesswoman. A woman of many talents and also a kind and humble soul. After her husband died she did more guest appearances on shows and worked more. Incredible lady.