Following the success of her 2006 memoir “How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years,” Kaye Ballard is currently working on a second autobiographical volume tentatively titled “The First 90 Years Are the Hardest.”
“It will be more in-depth about the people I’ve worked with in show business,” said Ballard, who turns 90 on November 20. “It should be out next year.”
With a background dating back to vaudeville and radio, and extending to theater, nightclubs, film and television, Ballard has done it all (seewww.kayeballard.com). But this year, she officially retired from performing after her sold-out “Going out Of Business” farewell show in March in Palm Springs.
“I may still do the occasional benefit show, but that was my last professional performance. I held it at a movie theater, where I first developed a love for entertaining, so that seemed appropriate.”
In “The Girl Most Likely,” her first film in 1958 filled with music and dance numbers, Ballard was inspired by the cast and crew.
“Choreographer Gower Champion would show Jane Powell a routine and she could do it immediately. Seeing other actors learn so quickly was great training for me.”
During her second film, 6 years later, Ballard worked with Shelley Winters with whom she became close friends.
“Later, when she got a role in ‘The Poseidon Adventure,’ Shelley used my pool to practice swimming underwater because the studio wouldn’t let her rehearse until they started shooting. She was a great swimmer but ruined all my flashlights by swimming with them.”
Another long-time friendship developed between Ballard and Eve Arden when the pair starred in “The Mothers-In-Law” in the late 60s.
“Eve was a joy to work with and we never had an unpleasant moment,” Ballard recalled. “She could read a script once and know it almost completely.”
Despite the show’s high ratings, a contractual dispute led to its cancellation after just two seasons.
“Roger C. Carmel played my husband and was the joy of my professional life. But male ego got in the way. Our contracts stated we would all get an extra $250 per episode for the second season, but when we didn’t Roger bumped heads with Desi Arnaz who was the executive producer and director. The rest of us gave in, but Roger refused to on principle and was replaced with Richard Deacon for the second season. After working on ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,’ Richard acted as though ‘The Mothers-In-Law’ was beneath him.”
Ballard remained friends with Arnaz and his wife, Lucille Ball, and still lives in the Rancho Mirage home near Palm Springs once owned by Ball and Arnaz which Ballard purchased in 1970, a decade after the celebrity couple divorced.
“Lucy would come over often and talk about Desi who I don’t think she ever got over. She was a tough, strong woman, and not like her TV character at all.”
Ballard never married, but says she has no regrets.
“I was engaged four times, but couldn’t give my all to a marriage or wanted children unless I could give them my complete attention. But I’ve got to meet so many great people because of my career. Who could regret that?”