Philadelphians of a certain age may remember Howard “Happy the Clown” Jones, Pete Boyle, Bill “Wee Willie” Webber, and newsmen Gunnar Back and John Facenda all pioneers of television broadcasting from the 1940s through 1960s.
However, women were also important in the development of television in Philadelphia in a time when women didn’t necessarily have the small screen spotlight.
Lynne Barrett, 87, now living in Florida as Lynne Bloch, had embraced the Philadelphia limelight, performing her first show in 1949 and steadily working until 1960 for NBC, ABC and CBS.
“I went to New York once to do a Handy Andy commercial for Lever Brothers,” Barrett said during a telephone interview, “and it took us two whole days to film a one-minute spot.”
In the early stages of her career, Barrett sang in clubs and performed at armed forces venues with many 1940s celebrities, including the late singer, composer and conductor Vaughn Monroe.
Known as a performer with her own television shows, Barrett starred in The Girl Next Door, The Couple Next Door and appearances on Life of the Party for WPTZ, NBC’s Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm (the first NBC program to originate out of Philadelphia) and radio roles on KYW’s As You Like It in the 1940s and 1950s.
Barrett also spent the 1940s through 1960s serving as a spokeswoman for countless prerecorded and live commercials.
“[In] the live commercials, almost anything could happen,” Barrett recalled. “When I walked over to do my commercial for Abbott’s Ice Cream because the lights were so hot the ice cream was all melted.”
One of Barrett’s fans, Dr. Abby Brodkin, had been excited to meet Barrett in the 1960s as a student at Bala Cynwyd Junior High in Merion, Pa.
“My friend Judy [Jawer] invited me over to her house and she said she was going to introduce me to her mom,” Brodkin said. “ When we walked in and I saw who her mom was I said, ‘You don’t have to introduce me- that’s Lynne Barrett.’ I used to watch her sell Whirlpool refrigerators on TV.”
Along with the shows, singing roles and commercials, Barrett also recorded voice-overs for Recorded Publications and for companies such as DuPont for commercials and training films, which she did during the 1950s through the 1970s.
While continuing recording voice-overs, Barrett had been taking care of her son Bruce and daughter Judy, children she had in her first marriage with 1995 Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame advertiser, the late Bob Jawer.
The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia will induct its 2014 class of twelve living and eleven posthumous members into its hall of fame Friday, November 22 at the Hilton Philadelphia on City Avenue.
Among the twelve living 2014 inductees, four are women- Agnes Nixon, Connie Roussin, Susan Schiller and Sue Serio.
Although Barrett has been under consideration for the past eight years, perhaps she will get the call to join the likes of Trudy Haines and Sally Starr in the 2015 Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame class.
“It would mean everything to me,” Barrett claimed. “I would be very honored.”
For more information about the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia you can visit https://www.broadcastpioneers.com/.
If you want to read Barrett’s broadcasting bio by Judy Jawer, please visit https://www.broadcastpioneers.com/bp11/lynnebarrett.html.
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