R.I.P. Kaye Ballard of 'The Mothers-in-Law' and 'Freaky Friday'
Image: The Everett Collection
Frank Sinatra was not the first to sing "Fly Me to the Moon." Ol' Blue Eyes turned the tune into a hit in 1964 as America was giddy from the space race. We actually were in the process of going to the moon.
But ten years earlier, not long after Bart Howard wrote the song, Kaye Ballard recorded the first commercial release. Dropped in April 1954, the single featured "Lazy Afternoon" from the musical The Golden Apple on the B-side. At the time, Ballard was currently performing in the Off-Broadway show. So the record was a nice promotional tool, too.
Ballard grew up a flamboyant child. Her mother would often admonish her with a sternly worded, "Good luck with your MOUTH!" Ballard later turned that childhood chiding into a comedic routine. The saying became her catchphrase as she rose through the comedy ranks doing stand-up and physical routines in the 1940s, as part of Spike Jonze's troupe of performers.
In the '50s and into the early-'60s, the Ohio native continued to balance singing, acting and comedy. She did everything from a televised production of Cinderella, in which she played the wicked stepsister, to recording a Peanuts album in 1962 with her in the role Lucy Van Pelt.
At last, in 1967, her talents were put to use as the star of a sitcom when NBC cast her in The Mothers-in-Law alongside Eve Arden. Her character's son married the next-door neighbors' daughter. With veteran writer-creators from I Love Lucy and a live studio audience, The Mothers-in-Law crackled with energy. Desi Arnaz himself served as executive producer, frequent director and occasional guest star. The underrated series even got a little rock 'n' roll when the show featured Los Angeles garage pioneers the Seeds in an episode performing their underground hit "Pushin' Too Hard." The sitcom aired for two seasons.
Throughout the Seventies, Ballard could be seen popping up as a panelist on Match Game or hosting The Muppet Show. Disney fans will fondly recall her as Coach Betsy, Jodie Foster's ball coach, in Freaky Friday.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ballard has passed away. She was 93 years old.