OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Columnist and TV personality Dorsey Connors lived storied life

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-04-19T00:00:00Z 2014-04-22T15:20:26Z OFFBEAT: Columnist and TV personality Dorsey Connors lived storied lifeBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

This year marks the 37th anniversary since syndicated columnist Heloise took over her mother's column after she died at age 58 in 1977. The original Heloise founded the column in 1959, which was first called "The Reader's Exchange," before in 1961, when King Features began to syndicate it as "Hints from Heloise," to nearly 600 newspapers.

We've included Heloise's column here in The Times for more than 25 years.

But even before the column launched, Chicagoland readers had already embraced another "Idea Queen" a decade prior.

Dorsey Connors began her career as one of the early female pioneers of television. Her first TV show began in 1948 on WGN-TV, a short program called "Personality Profiles."

It was said in media circles her powerful politician father helped Connors launch her career. She said while she had wanted to act on Broadway after she graduated from the University of Illinois, it was her father, state Sen. William J. Connors, who wanted her "back home in Chicago." Time Magazine once referred to the elder Connors as the "boss of Chicago's hony-tonk 42nd Ward…" which also happened to be the same downtown space where both the Chicago Tribune Tower and NBC studios have their addresses near the swank Streeterville neighborhood the Connors Family called home.

When NBC producer Ted Mills heard of Dorsey's hobby for crafting and her interest in gathering household tips garnered from her housekeeper, he wooed her to his network to launch her housekeeping tips, fashion and crafts show in 1949 on WMAQ, featuring her French poodle Victoria as her co-host for some segments. Her specialty was converting wire coat hangers into useful objects, ranging from cup racks and earring holder to mail caddy, a topic she devoted an entire 250-page hardcover "how-to" book about in 1953 when she published "Dorsey Connors' Book: Gadgets Galore!" (1953 Popular Mechanics Co. Press).

For decades, she wrote a popular reader housekeeping hints advice column for the Chicago Sun-Times, which was also syndicated and ran until 2000.

In 1977, her name also made media headlines connected with a family tragedy involving the disappearance of her 39-year-old daughter Stephanie, who was last seen after leaving a neighbor's house to meet a carpet installer at her home in Palatine, Ill. on Oct. 25, 1977. She left at 9:15 a.m. to keep the 10 a.m. appointment and was driving her blue 1975 station wagon at the time. The carpet installer arrived at Stephanie's house on time, but she never showed up. That same day, her teenage daughter, the oldest of Stephanie's four children, reported her missing. When Edward J. Lyng, Stephanie's husband, unconcerned, returned home at 10 p.m., he was informed his wife had gone missing, and later implicated in the murder.

Four days after Stephanie was last seen, her vehicle was found in a parking lot at O'Hare International Airport. Her husband, a successful businessman who owned a vending machine company and was worth nearly $5 million, arranged for his secretary (and girlfriend), Christina Rezba Knutson, to help him leave Stephanie's car at the airport, which she later confessed to police.

Stephanie's body was never recovered and today, Lyng is still behind bars at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois serving a sentence that's due to last until 2026.

Dorsey Connors died Sept. 5, 2007 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago of complications from a fall. According to her granddaughter, Jennifer Lyng, "she was believed by her family to be in her mid-90s, although she never gave her age and was scrupulous in keeping it out of public records." Lyng said her standard line was: "Age is just a number, and mine is unlisted."

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

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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