Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Dr. Joyce Brothers, 1927-2013. Requiescat in pace.
Dr. Joyce Brothers, who first attracted national attention in 1955 by winning the top prize (honestly!) on The $64,000 Question, passed away yesterday at the age of eighty-five... the same age my mother would be if she were still walking the planet.
That quiz show appearance catapulted Dr. Brothers into the public eye; once there, she never left.
In the days when television was a relatively nascent medium, Brothers became the first TeeVee Psychologist, dispensing advice on relationships well before Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, and the execrable Dr. Laura and kickstarting a broadcasting career that lasted over forty years. What set Brothers apart was her deep compassion and understanding of the human spirit: she did not need to pander to the sexually repressed, the voyeurs, and the self-righteous.
Having become a household name in the 1960’s, Brothers appeared in numerous films and television shows, most often playing - who else? - Dr. Joyce Brothers. A frequent talk show guest and game show panelist (the latter especially appropriate given the circumstances of her early celebrity), she was possessed of that kind of humorous self-awareness that allows a fortunate few (William Shatner and Robert Goulet come to mind) to enjoy a sustained presence in General Pop-Cultural Awareness by simply being themselves. The benchmark of real success in that arena - to me, at least - is to make a cameo appearance on “The Simpsons” - and Dr. Brothers passed that test handily.
I was privileged to have met Dr. Brothers several times over the past 35+ years, along with her late - and much beloved - husband Milton, who passed away in 1989. Her daughter Lisa is a college classmate of mine, and her parents would come to our periodic reunions to keep an eye on the grandkids while Lisa and her husband Amir would spend time with their old school friends. I remember Dr. B as a charming, petite woman with a warm smile and sparkling blue-green eyes.
She was a Class Act, was Dr. Brothers. I never had the chance to ask her what she thought of today’s generation of TeeVee Psychologists and Doctors, but I suspect she would view many of their antics with a degree of loathing. Alas, her like will not be seen again.
My deepest personal condolences go to Lisa, Amir, and the kids - Micah, Lily, and Talya. Your Mom (and Grandmom) was a special lady - one of a kind.
Requiescat in pace, Dr. Joyce Brothers! Ave atque vale!