Tonight promises to be exciting as East Chicago actress Betsy Palmer is inducted into Northwest Indiana's South Shore Wall of Legends.
I hope to see lots of Times readers at tonight's free program when we salute the class of 1944 East Chicago Roosevelt High School beauty at a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority in Hammond, right off Kennedy Avenue near the exit for the I-94 Expressway. The free event and reception, sponsored by BP's Whiting Business Unit, is open to the public with plenty of seating in the theater auditorium, when I present a program with rare photographs and clips about Palmer's life.
"East Chicago is still home," said Palmer, who now lives near her daughter in Connecticut and has been eagerly asking lots of questions about this event, which she said she would have loved to attend.
For guests who attend tonight, it's also a great time to take a stroll in the large adjoining exhibit hall to see the beautiful display dedicated to another Northwest Indiana's South Shore Wall of Legends inductee, Jean Shepherd and his famed "A Christmas Story." All of the preserved animated figurines in whimsical scenes from the 1983 movie, once featured a decade ago in the grand windows of Macy's department store in New York City, are now right at home in the exhibit hall and open free to the public.
Palmer told me she grew up in a house in the Hessville neighborhood of Hammond, not far from tonight's ceremony.
"I was right across the street from Harding Elementary School and I was friends with Jean Shepherd," Palmer said.
"We both had the same teacher featured in the film, Miss Shields. But in real life, she had beautiful red hair, not dark hair like the actress they had portray her."
She said when she was in fourth grade, her parents moved to East Chicago.
Teacher Miss Shields is also featured as one of the animated figurines in the display, highlighted with gathered students when Flick gets his tongue stuck to the frozen flagpole.
I'm excited to show a rare game show clip tonight with Palmer from 1966. Palmer told me she got her famous gig on the 1950s game show "I've Got A Secret" because the producers and the sponsor Winston Cigarettes wanted her to replace Faye Emerson, who they thought was "too political." For those who don't remember Emerson, she was the first lady to host her own television show and her last name was the inspiration for the Emmy Awards. As for her connection with controversy, she was married to Elliott Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and censors often complained about her plunging dress necklines.
"I guess they thought I was just the opposite of her," Palmer told me.
"And they also figured I'd be a wholesome contrast for Bess Myerson, who was a former Miss America, and comedian Henry Morgan's humor."
Myerson, 89, who lives in New York, is one of the other surviving cast members from the game show. She replaced Steve Allen's wife Jayne Meadows, who is 94 and lives in Beverly Hills.