Kaye Ballard, Indefatigable Comedian and Actress, Dies at 93


Kaye Ballard, whose lengthy profession as a comic, actress and nightclub performer included well-regarded runs in “The Golden Apple” and “Carnival!” on Broadway and a basic flip as a tv mother-in-law, died on Tuesday at her residence in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 93.

Her loss of life was introduced by her lawyer, Mark Sendroff.

Ms. Ballard wasn’t a top-flight singer, an Oscar-caliber actress or a drop-dead magnificence — she as soon as performed one in every of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters — however she made up for any shortcomings with willpower and a sheer love of performing.

Even after she grew to become well-known, Ms. Ballard was not above taking components in touring exhibits and regional theaters, and she rode the nightclub circuit for years, although she discovered the tempo exhausting. In 2000, in her mid-70s, she introduced a cabaret present to Arci’s Place in Manhattan known as “Another Final Farewell Appearance,” however there was nothing closing about it: Later within the decade she was nonetheless onerous at work, together with in excursions of “The Full Monty” and “Nunsense.”

For the final 40 years or so of her performing profession, wherever she was showing individuals would point out one explicit merchandise from her prolonged résumé: “The Mothers-in-Law,” an NBC sitcom through which she and Eve Arden performed neighbors whose kids married, turning the newly minted mothers-in-law into companions in meddling.

Ms. Arden’s character was a haughty upper-crust kind; Ms. Ballard’s was brassy and very Italian. The present made its debut in 1967, and, as with many sitcoms in that period of solely three networks, its characters seared their manner into the general public consciousness with a disproportionate vigor: The collection lasted solely two seasons, however the mother-in-law personas acquired a sure immortality.

“The show was on just long enough to typecast me as a loudmouth Italian actress, but not long enough to ensure that I would earn the kind of money where I wouldn’t have to worry about being typecast,” Ms. Ballard mentioned in “How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years,” a memoir written with Jim Hesselman and printed in 2006.

Ms. Ballard was born Catherine Gloria Balotta in Cleveland on Nov. 20, 1925, the second of 4 kids. Her father, Vincenzo, and her mom, Lena (Nacarato) Balotta, had each immigrated from Italy. Her father laid concrete sidewalks for a residing. “He used to take me all over Cleveland showing me his work,” Ms. Ballard wrote.

Even as a baby she wished to be an entertainer, and she handed up a scholarship to Cleveland Art College to pursue that aim. She received her first laughs doing impressions, a talent that served her properly for many years in her nightclub acts. (She did a reasonably good Bette Davis. She and a second impressionist as soon as appeared on the TV sport present “To Tell the Truth” together with Davis herself; 4 masked panelists requested questions and tried to guess which of the three was the true factor. Davis acquired three votes, however Ms. Ballard received the opposite.)

Ms. Ballard discovered an agent in Cleveland and performed some native spots, calling herself Kay Ballad; the primary title quickly acquired an E and the final an R. Then, not but 20, she was booked on a burlesque tour, doing impressions and skits, which led to a job in Detroit at the Bowery Room, whose proprietor knew the bandleader Spike Jones and spoke extremely of her to him. She hopped a airplane to Los Angeles to attempt to speak her manner into Jones’s present and succeeded, winding up singing and additionally, utilizing her highschool band abilities, enjoying flute and tuba.

Ms. Ballard toured the vaudeville circuit with Jones for nearly two years, however when their present hit New York she was captivated by musical theater; in 1946 she was provided a component in “Three to Make Ready,” a Broadway revue that was about to go on tour, and she took it.

Stage appearances everywhere in the nation adopted within the subsequent a number of years. Then, in 1954, she received the a part of Helen (as in “of Troy”) in “The Golden Apple,” an uncommon musical with guide and lyrics by John Latouche and music by Jerome Moross that drew on “The Iliad” to inform a narrative set in early-20th-century Washington State.

The present opened at the Phoenix Theater within the East Village and, using sturdy opinions, moved to Broadway quickly after, working there for 125 performances. Ms. Ballard’s half included the music “Lazy Afternoon,” which Brooks Atkinson, in The New York Times, known as “a triumphant number and the high point of the show.” The music was later recorded by many artists, together with Barbra Streisand, however Ms. Ballard was the primary to launch it as a single; on the flip aspect of that file she launched one other music later made way more well-known by others (together with, memorably, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra), Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” (then known as “In Other Words”).

Her subsequent Broadway function, in 1961, was additionally in an atypical musical: “Carnival!,” with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill and a guide by Michael Stewart. Unlike “The Golden Apple,” although, this one loved a sustained Broadway run, lasting virtually two years. Ms. Ballard was the Incomparable Rosalie, a magician’s assistant. For one music, “Always, Always You,” she was in a basket into which her boss, Marco the Magnificent (James Mitchell), saved thrusting swords.

Ms. Ballard additionally appeared in two Broadway flops, “The Beast in Me” in 1963 and “Molly” in 1973, a musical utilizing Gertrude Berg’s characters from the tv present “The Goldbergs” and the radio present that preceded it. (For “Molly,” through which Ms. Ballard performed the title character, she dropped the E from “Kaye” in her billing. “Let’s just say that I will never go to a numerologist again for advice!” she wrote in her guide by the use of clarification.)

And she was in a single tv particular with a noteworthy theatrical pedigree: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” created for CBS. It featured Julie Andrews within the lead; Ms. Ballard and Alice Ghostley performed the stepsisters. Its one broadcast, on March 31, 1957, drew an estimated viewers of 107 million, a file at the time.

After that, Ms. Ballard started turning up on tv in visitor spots and on selection exhibits. Desi Arnaz, the manager producer of “The Mothers-in-Law,” finally picked her for the present after deciding that Ann Sothern, who was initially slated for the function, didn’t present sufficient of a distinction to Ms. Arden’s character. In the early 1970s Ms. Ballard additionally had a recurring function on “The Doris Day Show,” and her résumé got here to incorporate visitor appearances on exhibits like “The Love Boat” and “Trapper John, M.D.”

While working usually in tv and making the occasional movie, Ms. Ballard toured nightclubs (Arthur Siegel was her longtime pianist) and made the rounds with “Hey, Ma … Kaye Ballard,” a one-woman present recounting her profession and her clashes along with her mom.

Breast most cancers, recognized in 1994, slowed her down solely briefly. Her successes after that included an look in a broadly acclaimed revival of “Follies” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 1998.

Ms. Ballard, who by no means married however mentioned she had been engaged 4 instances, leaves no fast survivors.

Last week, a brand new documentary about her profession by Dan Wingate, “Kaye Ballard — The Show Goes On!,” was screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Despite her title recognition, Ms. Ballard knew that she was by no means an A-list star. Instead, she seen herself as being within the honorable second tier of performers who work onerous however won’t obtain lasting fame. Another was Billy De Wolfe, a personality actor and good friend who died in 1974, and whom she honored with a short chapter in her guide.

“He’s yet another performer who falls into the category of brilliant ‘supporting players’ who I feel left the public’s consciousness much too soon after they passed away,” she wrote. “Who knows, perhaps I have a fear that the same thing will happen to me.”



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