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Joanne Jordan dies at 88; television spokesmodel in 1950s

OBITUARY

She was best known for touting 'long-lasting' Hazel Bishop lipstick during commercial breaks on 'This Is Your Life' but also was an actress and TV host.

September 24, 2009|Valerie J. Nelson

Joanne Jordan, one of the top spokesmodels on television in the 1950s who was best known for touting "long-lasting" Hazel Bishop lipstick during commercial breaks on "This Is Your Life," has died. She was 88.

Jordan, who also was an actress and TV host, died from complications of Parkinson's disease July 29 at a Calabasas care facility, said her son, Murray MacLeod. Her death was announced this week.

As one of television's top saleswomen, she and others "struck a balance between glamour and unpretentiousness," Marsha Francis Cassidy wrote in the 2005 book "What Women Watched."

While pioneering pitchwoman Betty Furness was the face of Westinghouse appliances, Jordan became synonymous with Hazel Bishop, which marketed "smear-proof" lipstick.

Six of the industry's best-paid spokesmodels -- including Furness, Jordan and Bess Myerson -- were featured in a 1956 photograph in TV Guide. The caption lauded the model-perfect "salesgirls" for doing "man-size sales jobs" while earning "queen-size salaries."

Jordan made $50,000 a year, according to the magazine.

After breaking into television on KTLA-TV Channel 5 about 1950, she became an early adopter of cue cards after accidentally encouraging viewers of the Sunday night movie program she co-hosted to enjoy Star-Kist tuna on "crappers," instead of crackers, said Tom Hatten, a longtime KTLA host.

"She had little bits and pieces of her script sometimes attached to the camera," Hatten said. "But she was fabulous. She was the best pitch lady I ever saw. . . . And so pretty, very pulled together."

Among the products Jordan promoted were Cashmere Bouquet Soap, Sta Nu Magic ironing spray -- demonstrated while she ironed -- and Benrus watches, according to biographical references.

Jordan also was a spokeswoman for Johnson's Clear Wax, Dove dish detergent, Lilt home permanents and Eastman Kodak, her family said.

Born in 1920 in Topeka, Kan., she was the second of two daughters of Clarence and Marian Jordan. Her father was a pharmacist, and her parents were inventors who moved to Long Beach when she was a young girl.

Eventually, her family settled in Beverly Hills, but lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929 and her parents soon divorced.

While attending Beverly Hills High School, Jordan modeled professionally, but quit when she married at age 19.

The couple settled on a ranch in Riverside, raising cattle and chickens. To deal with a surplus of chickens, she turned the first floor of her home into a short-lived fried-chicken restaurant, her son said.

Divorced at 30, and with three children to raise, Jordan returned to the Los Angeles area to pursue a show-business career.

Although she had parts in several films, including 1955's "I Cover the Underworld" and "Son of Sinbad," she preferred the convenience of TV "day jobs" and regularly appeared on half-hour shows that starred Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Art Linkletter and others, her family said.

On ABC's "Space Patrol," which started out on local television in 1950, she played the evil Queen Mirtha.

Jordan was Bud Collyer's assistant on the quiz show "Beat the Clock" in 1956 and 1957, and promoted Hazel Bishop on NBC's "This Is Your Life" with Ralph Edwards until the late 1950s.

When she came down with a mild case of polio in 1956, her sister Barbara filled in for her as a spokesmodel at KTLA.

With Dean Miller, Jordan co-hosted the first season of "Here's Hollywood," a daily talk show that debuted in 1960 on NBC.

After retiring in 1978, she was a devoted student of the Hindu discipline, lived in rural Virginia and received commissions to paint copies of Impressionist masters, her son said.

"She had a take-charge personality," he said. "She and her sister both did. That's what got them through life. They didn't waffle on things."

Her sister, Barbara Nevin Gray, who lived in Coronado, died Aug. 27 at 92.

Her son, Murray, of Los Angeles, is married to TV personality Stephanie Edwards.

Jordan also is survived by two other children, Melinda Patterson of Annandale, Va., and Duncan MacLeod of Olympia, Wash.; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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