by Jan Johnson

I have a confession:  I’ve been a TV and movie star groupie ever since early childhood.  Yep, I first got hooked on Lucille Ball in the 1950s.  I watched “I Love Lucy” on our family’s Black & White TV in the mornings after my brother and sister left for school.  There were lots of fun and funny TV shows that kept kids like me entertained in those golden years of television … way before Sesame Street or Mister Rogers Neighborhood.  They were adult sitcoms that played in morning reruns on any of three TV networks.

Does anyone remember Mister Ed the talking horse? How about The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis? Dwayne Hickman played the title role, but the real star was Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) the beatnik who would go apoplectic at the mere mention of the word work. Other classic sitcoms that influenced my life in many ways and left an indelible impression on me were Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show and the Andy Griffith Show, to name a few. 

Those were the sitcoms that got me started writing love letters to the stars. During my third-grade year, when I could actually write in complete sentences, I wrote to Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Donna Douglas, Irene Ryan and Buddy Ebsen, among others, with the goal of snagging an 8×10 glossy of each of them, personally autographed to me.  And, miracle of miracles, they ALL wrote back and sent autographed photos!  Some even took the time and effort to write a brief letter. I think that may have been one of the catalysts that drove me to choose filmmaking as a career.

Now, nearly 60 years later, I wish I knew exactly where those photos are hiding!