I usually don’t like it when the death of an individual provides me with a spark to write about them. It seems a bit ghoulish but in this case I’ll make an exception.
”I invented media psychology; I was the first, the founding mother.”
Long before there was a Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr. This or Dr. That dishing out advice on television for what ails you there was another doctor who, depending on your point of view, should be credited with establishing the format that is still in use today.
Her name was Dr. Joyce Brothers and here’s her story.
Joyce Brothers (nee Bauer) was born in Brooklyn, New York to a pair of attorneys who shared a law practice together. She would later go on to attend Cornell University where she majored in home economics (you can major in that?) and psychology. She eventually earned a Ph.D from Columbia University.
She married an internist in 1949 but the couple struggled early on with finances and paying off school debt so a bold move was in order. She decided to audition for the popular game show called The $64,000 Question to try and alleviate their financial situation and even though her expertise was in the field of psychology the producers of the show decided to test her mettle and quiz her on the sport of boxing. She boned up on the books prior to the show and wound up winning the cash. She was the first woman to do so.
Note: She would later be called on to testify regarding the whole scandal surrounding Charles Van Doren and the rigging of certain game shows throughout the 50’s but was eventually absolved from any accusations of cheating.
Based on her performance CBS decided to use her as a gimmick when they had her be a television commentator for a fight between Sugar Ray Robinson and one Carmen Basilio. It’s thought that she was the first woman ever to take on that role when it came to boxing.
It wasn’t long afterwards that Brothers parlayed her success on the game show and landed a gig of her own on television. This time though, she was back on familiar ground and fielded questions from an audience about relationships and other assorted personal matters. This led to a syndicated column that at the height of its popularity was published in over 300 newspapers. She also had a monthly column in Good Housekeeping magazine that appeared for over forty years.
Brothers also had no trouble poking fun at herself. Over the years, she made a host of cameo appearances in various sitcoms where she usually played some kind of version of herself dishing out some much needed psychological advice. Here’s a partial list of some of her more memorable cameo’s.
Over the years, she also made hundreds of appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson where she dished out some sage advice with a hint of humor. All in all, she was the ninth most frequent guest to appear on the show.
Dr. Joyce Brothers passed away yesterday at the age of 85. The cause of death was listed as respiratory failure.
Safe travels Doc, hope to see you doling out your wisdom in the ether when I eventually get there.