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article imageOp-Ed: Barbara Eden Day is proclaimed in San Francisco to honor the star Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jul 11, 2011 in Entertainment
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee proclaimed July 10 Barbara Eden Day, as she appeared at the Castro Theater to promote her new book and to talk and reminisce about her career.
The interior of San Francisco's Castro Theater was illuminated with deep shades of shimmering pink stage light patterns to simulate the ambiance of the TV show "I Dream of Jeannie." The series which debuted in 1964 helped make actress Barbara Eden a star and establish a career that has lasted for over 40 years.
Born in Tucson, Arizona, Eden's family moved to San Francisco when she was three. The Great Depression affected her family and they like many during that time lived very frugally. Yet despite the hardship of the times, Eden's family life at home was surrounded by loving relatives.
Interestingly, Eden's venture into acting and movies was because of singing. She initially wanted to be a singer. Yet it was recommended that she take acting classes to help her improve her confidence and presentation of a song.
Once in acting class, Eden enjoyed it and so that set her on the path to movies and then television. Like many aspiring actors of her generation coming of age in the 1950's, she was eager to get into movies and became a contract player with 20th Century Fox. But with the advent of television, among other things, the Hollywood studio system was changing. Eden like many emerging hopefuls at the time, struggled to find work in the changing industry.
She appeared in numerous films. In fact, the "7 Faces of Dr. Lao" was her 17th film by the time she was chosen to star in "I Dream of Jeannie" in 1964. And, Ironically at that Eden was not the first choice for the series. "They were looking at brunettes to play the part," she said.
Eden was in town to promote her new book "Jeannie Out of the Bottle." She stopped by KGO News Talk Radio AM 810 to chat with host Brian Copeland at 9: AM Sunday morning. The autobiography written with the help of NY Times Best-selling author Wendy Leigh is a memoir of Eden's life and career.
From the afternoon until late in evening, The Castro Theater featured the film the "7 Faces of Dr. Lao" and clips from Eden's numerous television and stage appearances. A giant ornate bottle was set on stage and as film clips projected on the large screen, the huge bottled decorated with gem-like ornaments gently sparkled in the reflective light from the screen.
Eden was scheduled to appear on stage at 8 PM to be interviewed by host Marc Huestis. Dozens of people arrived early such as this reporter eager to catch a glimpse of Eden.
Huestis provided local entertainment antics as a precursor to Eden's on-stage interview that Sunday evening. Live belly dancers, a drag queen singing the theme song from Eden's 1978 movie "Harper Valley PTA" (based upon the 1968 country hit song) and a 'Jeannie-look-alike' contest.
The audience appreciated the good humor of the dancers, the singer in go-go boots and the 'Jeannie-look-a-like' contestants. Yet the film clips stirred the audience much more as with each clip applause would resonate. When Eden was escorted to the stage in front of the large screen of the classic neighborhood movie palace, the audience rose to their feet. They gave Eden a standing ovation.
Eden who grew up in San Francisco, affirmed almost immediately after the audience settled in their seats, "San Francisco is the greatest city in the world." Her most favorite sound is that of the fog horn. It reminds her of happy times spent with family and the days when San Francisco was her home.
Still very glamorous at age 77, Eden still is very much the warm hearted, fun-loving character TV audiences remembered from the "I Dream of Jeannie" series. She admitted to Huestis and the audience that "I see someone else up there, because it was some time ago," said Eden.
She shared lots of memories with the audience, of which most are in her "Jeannie Out of the Bottle" book.
Eden talked about the legendary people she met and worked with like Elvis Presley, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Andy Griffith, Sammy Davis Jr. and Marilyn Monroe.
Eden spoke well of them all and affirmed the best qualities of them. For example she said that "Elvis was very much a gentleman and well mannered on set." Eden co-starred with Presley in the 1960 movie, "Flaming Star."
"Elvis was a serious actor and wanted very much to be considered as a serious actor," she said. "Flaming Star was well received by the critics but did not make a penny at the box office," said Eden. Presley dies in the end, he did not sing or dance as he usually did and so the film was a disappointment to his fans.
But Eden treasured the opportunity to work with him. Monroe she described as a "vision of loveliness" and who just glowed and yes, according to Eden, Marilyn really did talk that way, with the lilting voice and sweet demeanor.
Eden was very impressed with Lucile Ball who according to Eden was the most generous to her when Eden made an appearance on the "I Love Lucy Show," early in her career.
While Eden's career was successful, it was not without some tribulations. Working at Wells Fargo Bank, a fellow aspiring actress encouraged her to find more work in show business.
This got Eden a job as a line-dancer at the famous Ciro's, a place to see and be seen. Her work a Ciro's night club in Hollywood was exciting but difficult because Eden was not a dancer. And, she confided in her book that many of her fellow dancer-show girls at Ciro's were not friendly. "The locked me in the bathroom, so I missed my singing spot in the floor show," she said. "I cried," she said.
So she was relieved when her boss at Ciro's let her go. Most of all Eden valued honesty in everything, especially marriage. She said on stage Sunday evening what she speaks about in detail in her book. Marriage for her is something special and when she was tempted by many handsome men, she stood her ground and reminded them she was married.
Oh and yes, in her memoir Eden mentions that she too was approached by a handsome Senator Kennedy who she wrote had "had the clearest, most hypnotic eyes in the universe."
But true to her marriage she looked away and ripped up the note with his phone number on it.
She admitted to the audience that marriage in show business is not easy, especially when both are working, often separated by long work schedules and distances. Her personal life was also filled with tribulations some of that is very heart-breaking.
Yet, she said writing the book was difficult because of the "roller-coaster" of remembering those ups and downs. She hopes the writing about the painful aspects of her life helps others.
Eden for the audience at the Castro Theater focused on the happy times. Of the "I Dream of Jeannie" series she enjoyed working with everyone, even co-star Larry Hagman who at times could be very difficult. Eden spoke highly of the show's producer Sidney Sheldon, who is also among those she dedicates the book to.
To conclude the evening Huestis introduced the current Miss San Francisco for 2011 Crystal Lee and her court. The presented a plaque on behalf of the Mayor proclaiming July 10, 2011 Barbara Eden Day. Back in 1951 Eden had been crowned as Miss San Francisco. And again, her entering the pageant was recommended to her as a way to overcome her shyness and help her singing.
"This makes me feel wonderful," she told the audience as Lee and her four fellow title-holders applauded and embraced Eden.
When asked what she thought made the "I Dream of Jeannie" show so popular, Eden said, "I don't know, people like the show." "Well, she added, it's fantasy and it's another world, taking you away from the troubles of life."
Eden noted that in her travels that is one aspect people said that they liked about the show it made them laugh. And, for five seasons and 139 episodes it was magic. Much more about the show and Eden's life is featured in her 2011 book, "Jeannie Out of the Bottle."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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