Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Jackie Joseph: A Delightful Dumpette


A vocalist, a television weather girl, an animal rights activist, the co-founder of a support/recovery group for divorced wives of Hollywood stars, a chorus dancer in The Billy Barnes Revue, a member of the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild, a strong proponent for adoption, and queen of the Horror film dingbats! This rambling resume belongs to eclectic character actress Jackie Joseph, a California native born in Los Angeles on November 7, 1934.

Joseph, who has appeared in 16 feature films, proliferated the small screen with guest-starring stints in 36 television series, had recurrent roles in another 13, and written for the television series Barnaby Jones, is best known for her big screen role as bubble-brained flower shop hostess "Audrey Fulquard", the original Miss Malaprop of the legendary 1960 B-Horror/Comedy flick The Little Shop of Horrors whom the film's "creature", a man-eating hybrid venus flytrap named "Audrey Jr." was named after.

In an interview with writer Tom Weaver for The Astounding B-Monster archives, Joseph explained her job interview and duties as a Los Angeles TV weather girl. "There was a different girl for each day, and I was Miss Monday. On Monday you'd go in, and no one would be there to tell you how to do it. They stuck me in front of a camera and said, "Okay, be a weatherperson," and what I did amazed them. I said, "There are small craft warnings, so if you have a small craft, you better warn it!"

It was this innocent, unflappable spontaneity that endeared Joseph to Little Shop of Horrors director Roger Corman. "I think the quality involved in all of this was an innate ... well, rather than just saying stupidity, let's say innocence. That appealed to Roger Corman. I heard Roger say afterwards that the quality he wanted in Audrey [Joseph's Little Shop character] was sincere innocence. Audrey just believed everything that was put in front of her. (Which isn't a bad thing -- I have to defend that, because I tend to be someone who believes everything that's put in front of me!)"

With roles ranging from a salesgirl who waits on Elvis in the 1958 feature King Creole, an on-going role as "herself" in comedian Bob Newhart's first television series in 1961, to that of an interviewer in the 1977 made-for-TV film Sex and the Married Woman, Joseph has not been limited by her legendary two-day film shoot for Corman. In fact, she is quite grateful for the cult status that has accompanied the "Audrey" persona and for the opportunity to work with actors such as Mel Welles, Jonathan Haze, and Dick Miller. "Dick Miller and I played husband-and-wife [Mr. and Mrs. Futterman] in Gremlins, and I like that they resurrected Dick and me in Gremlins 2. I was sure we were really wiped out pretty good in Gremlins, the first one -- I mean, if you're run over by a snowplow or a building comes down upon you ..."

In 1985, Joseph co-founded The Ladies Club aka The Hollywood Dumpettes (the name parodying that of many of the vocal girl groups of the 1960s), an organization comprised exclusively of the ex-wives of celebrities. The organization provides psychological support services, legal counsel (in the form of handing out phone numbers of reputable divorce lawyers), career advice, and business networking. As club president, Jackie recalled "I went to a Hollywood function where a member's husband was being honored as 'Family Man of the Year.' He gave this incredible tribute about 'I could not have done it without this amazing wife who I love so much,' and that night he moved out."

In December, 2003, Joseph, divorced since 1977 from actor Ken Berry, married David Lawrence. From support group president to dingbat and dumpette, Jackie Joseph (who received only $500 for her work in The Little Shop of Horrors), despite her current marital status, remains the film world's most amiable feminist.

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