OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Dr. Joyce Brothers, a famed brain, dies at age 85

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-05-15T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Dr. Joyce Brothers, a famed brain, dies at age 85By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Joyce Brothers, the psychologist-turned-pop culture personality, died Monday at age 85 of respiratory failure in New York City, according to her publicist Sanford Brokaw.

Brothers published 15 books and made cameo appearances on popular shows of the day, spanning "Happy Days," "Mama's Family" and "The Simpsons" to "Hollywood Squares," "Taxi," "The Gong Show," "Love, American Style," "Police Woman" and "WKRP in Cincinnati," while also visiting Johnny Carson's couch on "The Tonight Show" nearly 100 times.

For decades, from 1983 until 2006, The Times also ran her syndicated advice column, which was distributed by King Features to more than 300 newspapers.

In February 2002 Brothers traveled to Northwest Indiana and stayed at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville to be one of the celebrity judges for the live March 1 telecast of the Miss USA Pageant, owned by Donald Trump, broadcast live that year from the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, seen by 300 million viewers around the world.

Brothers, who lived just outside of New York City at her home in Fort Lee, N.J., was always a great interview.

"Even when I've been to places like Malaysia, I'm recognized, which is very flattering," Brothers told me during one of our chats.

"Long ago, before reality television shows, there really were not many ways a woman could become a famous household name overnight. Except for one, of course, and that was the realm of pageants."

After receiving her doctorate from Columbia University in 1953, Brothers and her husband Dr. Milton Brothers (who died in 1989) agreed she would give up her teaching and research career temporarily to raise the couple's only child, Lisa. The decision cut the couple's income in half, which prompted Brothers to earn money in a way that would not sacrifice her family duties. She appeared on the most popular quiz show of the day, "The $64,000 Question."

Brothers immediately was booked by producers in 1955 since her description as "a female psychologist who is an expert on the subject of boxing" piqued the interest of both sponsors and viewers.

"I memorized 20 volumes of a boxing encyclopedia, studying from 6 a.m. to midnight while doing my other duties at home," she said.

The preparation paid off, literally, since Brothers won a total of $134,000 by 1957, after repeated appearances, even after the game show was renamed, "The $64,000 Challenge." (The show's sponsor Charles Revson of Revlon Cosmetics wanted her eliminated since she refused to wear makeup.)

Brothers survived the scandal of the congressional hearings in 1959, which found many game shows of the day to be rigged, with contestants providing answers to questions in advance. The incidents were chronicled in Robert Redford's 1994 Oscar-nominated movie, "Quiz Show." And like other notable names of the day, such as child star Patty Duke and Charles Van Doren, Brothers was called to testify.

"They were going to knock me out with impossible questions, but they didn't, since I'd memorized everything it is possible to know on the subject," she said.

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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