OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Betsy Palmer celebrating birthday and move from NYC

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-10-27T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Betsy Palmer celebrating birthday and move from NYCBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

On Friday, Nov. 1, our Northwest Indiana Hollywood claim-to-fame Betsy Palmer celebrates her 87th birthday.

Even though Betsy enjoyed a busy and successful career in movies and on TV for decades, she received a second career with new generations after 1980, when she played a murderess in the Paramount film "Friday the 13th," which also starred a young Kevin Bacon and singer Bing Crosby's son Harry Crosby.

Halloween week is still busy for Betsy, who still gets plenty of requests from young fans for autographs, as well as promoters seeking her to make appearance at scary film conventions around the country, all because of her role as the mother of hockey mask wearing Jason, from the long-running "Friday the 13th" film franchise.

Betsy, a 1944 graduate of East Chicago Roosevelt High School, has also been busy with some major life changes recently. After decades of living in her same beautiful apartment in New York City, late last year, Betsy moved back to Connecticut (where she previously had a residence in the late 1970s) to live near her only child, daughter Melissa.

Shortly after her move, Betsy had a scare of her own, and it was one shared by the entire country.

Her new address isn't far from Newtown, Conn., which is where the tragic shooting happened Dec. 14, 2012 resulting in 20 children and six adult staff members fatally shot in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"Betsy was a little shaken after the school shooting, just as everyone was," her California agent and manager Brad Lemack of Lemack & Company Management, told me by telephone.

"The only difference being, with her recent move, her new home isn't too far from this small town. Otherwise, Betsy is doing just fine."

When I think of Betsy, who was last back home in our region in April 2005 to do a charity play performance of "Love Letters" at Munster High School, she is a beautiful and gracious lady who always has a smile on her face.

As for the "real reason" Betsy agreed to play her Halloween scary fame film role, she explained it all in my last cookbook, "Further From the Farm" (May 2010) which she helped write, including her celebrity foreword and finale chapter featuring her favorite recipes.

"When I agreed to do 'Friday the 13th,' I never expected anyone would ever want to see it," said Betsy, who is also familiar for her 1955 role in "Queen Bee" opposite Joan Crawford and her longtime stint as a celebrity panelist on the CBS game show "I've Got A Secret."

"You know, I'm really only revealed as the killer in the final 15 minutes of the film. For the other 90 minutes, it was a young Greek boy who was the screenwriter's assistant who doubled for me in all the earlier scenes when you only see the killer's feet."

Betsy said at the time she was cast, the film's director and screenwriter came to see her on Broadway while she was appearing in a two-year run of "Same Time Next Year." After they met her backstage after the show, they scheduled a meeting to drive out to her then home in Connecticut and discuss the film over coffee.

"The director really only knew me from my role in the 1955 film 'Mr. Roberts' with Henry Fonda," Betsy said.

"And they wanted this goody-two-shoes type to play this surprise ending killer. When I drove up to the real summer camp where the film was being shot in New Jersey and I saw the sign for 'Camp Crystal Lake,' I took that as a good luck omen since as a girl, I had spent my summers at at Crystal Lake in Warsaw, Ind."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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