Kaye Ballard, Star of ‘The Mothers-in-Law,’ Dies at 93

Singer-comedienne Kaye Ballard, who starred alongside Eve Arden in the 1960s sitcom “The Mothers-in-Law” died, she was 93. Ballard’s friend, Marguerite Gordon, told WSB Atlanta the actress died Monday night at her home in Rancho Mirage, California. Ballard had been fighting kidney cancer, Gordon said Tuesday.

Just this month, Ballard appeared at a Palm Springs International Film Festival screening of the documentary “Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On.”

Ballard was born Catherine Gloria Balotta in Cleveland, Ohio, one of four children born to Italian immigrant parents, Lena (née Nacarato) and Vincenzo (later Vincent James) Balotta. Her siblings are Orlando, Jean, and Rosalie.

Kaye Ballard photographed by Maurice Seymour (New York) late 1950s.

Ballard established herself as a musical comedian in the 1940s, joining the Spike Jones touring revue of entertainers. Capable of playing broad physical comedy as well as stand-up dialogue routines, she became familiar in television and stage productions. A phrase her mother had used when Kaye was a child, “Good luck with your MOUTH!”, became her catchphrase in her sketches and on television. Ballard made her television debut on Henry Morgan’s Great Talent Hunt,a short-lived NBC program hosted by Henry Morgan which first aired January 26, 1951. In 1954, she was the first person to record the song “Fly Me to the Moon”.

In 1957, she and Alice Ghostley played the two wicked stepsisters in the live telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, starring Julie Andrews in the title role. During the 1961–1963 television seasons, Ballard was a regular on NBC’s The Perry Como Show as part of the Kraft Music Hall Players, along with Don Adams, Paul Lynde, and Sandy Stewart.

Kaye Ballard and John Byner join Judy Carne on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” Monday 29 April 1968 on NBC

In 1962, she released an LP record, Peanuts, on which she played Lucy van Pelt from the comic strip namesake of the album (with Arthur Siegel playing Charlie Brown), and dramatizing a series of vignettes drawn from the strip’s archive. In 1964 she had a guest role on The Patty Duke Show, playing a teacher for would-be models.

From 1967 to 1969, she co-starred as Kaye Buell, a woman whose son marries her next door neighbor’s daughter, in the NBC sitcom The Mothers-in-Law, with Eve Arden playing her neighbor. She also appeared as a regular on The Doris Day Show as restaurant owner Angie Pallucci from 1970 to 1972. She made appearances on the American television game show Match Game. In 1977, she was a guest star on The Muppet Show. She also appeared on the television series Alice, in which she played a kleptomaniac phony medium, as well as Daddy Dearest where she guest-starred opposite Richard Lewis and Don Rickles as a DMV clerk.

Kaye Ballard and Ruth Buzzi co-star in Walt Disney’s FREAKY FRIDAY starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. (1976)

Ballard starred on Broadway as Helen in The Golden Apple, introducing the song “Lazy Afternoon”. She portrayed Rosalie in Carnival!, Ruth in Joseph Papp’s The Pirates of Penzance, and the title role in Molly, an unsuccessful musical adaptation of the popular radio serial The Goldbergs. She created the role of the Countess and closed out-of-town in Marc Blitzstein’s Reuben, Reuben, and played Ruth Sherwood in Wonderful Town at New York City Center in 1963.

In Long Beach, California, she played Mama Morton in Chicago and fought with a vacuum cleaner as Pauline in No, No, Nanette. In 1998, she played Hattie Walker in the Paper Mill Playhouse’s acclaimed 1998 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. In 2005, she appeared in a road-company production of Nunsense, written by Dan Goggin. The following year, she completed her autobiography, How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years.

In 1995, she was awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

She appeared in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! as “Madam A-Go-Go,” a mysterious fortune teller who appears in the episode “Fortune Teller”. She also performed with The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California.

In December 2010, she, Donna McKechnie and Liliane Montevecchi starred in a Santa Fe production of From Broadway with Love, staged at the Lensic Theater.

Ballard was in the 2012 cabaret show Doin’ It for Love, which premiered in Austin, Texas, at the historic Paramount Theatre. Starring Ballard and Montevecchi, the cast included Broadway dancer Lee Roy Reams. (The Austin performance benefited the Texas Humane Legislation Network.). The show then went on to play in Los Angeles on March 8th and 10th of 2012. Ballard announced her official retirement in 2015 at the age of 89.


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