Barbara Eden: A 'Jeannie Out of the Bottle'


Fox sound stages in those days were huge, like small cities, and this one is a massive cavern, with a little lighted circle in the middle. A trailer in the background serves as Marilyn's dressing room, where the legendary costume designer Jean Louis is working with her on her wardrobe for Something's Got to Give as well as the sensational figure- hugging gown she will soon be wearing when she sings "Happy Birthday" to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.

But, of course, none of us knows any of that yet. Nor do we have a glimmer that Something's Got to Give will be Marilyn's fi nal movie. Had we known what lay ahead for her, we would have been shocked to the core.

Then the trailer door opens, and Marilyn materializes on the set. Evie grabs my hand and utters the immortal line, "Marilyn, I want you to meet my other star. . . ."

My other star—that's how Evie describes me, the former Barbara Jean Huffman, to Marilyn Monroe!

I step into the spotlight with Marilyn. She takes my hand. We have a conversation, during which I try to put everything Evie has revealed to me about Marilyn firmly out of my mind (I'll tell you more later) and instead do my utmost to focus on this vision of loveliness in front of me.

So I'm standing there, the image of Bozo the Clown on a bad day, but Marilyn is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. She just glows. There is something in the ether swirling about her, in her, through her, around her, and if James Cameron, the director of Avatar, had seen her, he'd have cast her as one of his special people. She's every inch a star, but after what Evie has confi ded to me, I don't envy Marilyn, not an iota.

And I don't envy any of the other stars I've met and worked with up till now, either. None of them, not Elvis Presley (who tried to seduce me by confiding his vulnerabilities to me), not Paul Newman (who, strangely enough, had a complex about his physical appearance), not Lucille Ball (who was forced to cope with her husband's very public infidelity on practically a daily basis). Stars each and every one of them. But happy and fulfilled? I wonder.

As for me, right now I'm an actress, not a star, and I'm content with that. But here in the limousine speeding back to Hollywood after the fi rst day of filming the I Dream of Jeannie pilot is Larry Hagman, clearly burning with red- hot ambition to become a star, and, more important, passionately believing that I Dream of Jeannie will instantly make him one.

This is what Sidney Sheldon said many years later about Larry's unbridled ambition: "Suddenly, Larry found himself in a show with a beautiful half- naked girl and there was no way that it would be his show. I tried everything, but it was always only Jeannie the public was interested in, and through fi ve seasons he became frustrated and very angry."

On a good day, I understood and sympathized with Larry's frustration and anger. On a bad day . . . well, I'll tell you about those bad days, and you can judge for yourselves. First, though, another Jeannie blink.

It's 1938 and I'm at school in San Francisco. I'm one of the poorest children in the school, and certainly not one of the prettiest. I may be proud of my school shoes (the only other pair I own are church shoes), but I'm not in the least bit crazy about the pigtails my mom wants me to wear all the time because she thinks they look cute.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...