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Meadows in 1959
February 8, 1922
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 3, 1996
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Other names||Audrey Six|
|Occupation||Actress, banker, memoirist|
|Known for||The Honeymooners
Too Close for Comfort
|Spouse(s)||Randolph Rouse (1956–1958; divorced)
Robert Six (1961–1986; his death)
Audrey Meadows (February 8, 1922 – February 3, 1996) was an American actress best known for her role as the deadpan housewife Alice Kramden on the 1950s American television comedy The Honeymooners.
Born as Audrey Cotter in New York City in 1922, the youngest of four siblings. Her parents, the Rev. Francis James Meadows Cotter and his wife, the former Ida Miller Taylor, had been Episcopal missionaries in Wu-ch'ang, China, where her three elder siblings were born. The family returned to live in New York in 1921. Her older sister was actress Jayne Meadows. She attended high school at the Barrington School for Girls in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
After high school, she sang in the Broadway musical Top Banana before becoming a regular on television in The Bob and Ray Show. She was then hired to play Alice on The Jackie Gleason Show after the actress who originated the role, Pert Kelton, was forced to leave the show due to blacklisting, although the official reason given was that Kelton was suffering from a health problem. When The Honeymooners became a half-hour situation comedy on CBS, Meadows continued in the role. She then returned to play Alice after a long hiatus, when Gleason produced occasional Honeymooners specials in the 1970s. Meadows had auditioned for Gleason and was initially turned down for being too chic and pretty to play Alice. Meadows submitted a far different photo of herself, looking much plainer, the next day and won the role of Alice.
The character of Alice became more associated with Meadows than with the others who played her, and she reprised her role as Alice on other shows as well, both in a man on the street interview for The Steve Allen Show and in a parody sketch on The Jack Benny Program.
Meadows was the only member of the Honeymooners cast to earn residuals after the show started airing in reruns. Her lawyers, who were also her brothers, successfully argued in court that she was entitled to them, earning her millions of dollars. None of the show's other cast members, however, reported any ill-will or bad feelings towards her for doing so.
Career outside The Honeymooners
She appeared in feature films, appeared on Dean Martin's television variety shows and celebrity roasts, and years later returned to situation comedy in the 1980s playing Ted Knight's mother-in-law on Too Close for Comfort (1982-85). She guest-starred on The Red Skelton Show show, made an appearance in an episode of Murder, She Wrote ("If the Frame Fits") and made an appearance in an episode of The Simpsons ("Old Money"), wherein she voiced the role of Bea Simmons, Grandpa Simpson's girlfriend. Her last work was an appearance on Dave's World, in which she played the mother of Kenny (Shadoe Stevens).
On August 24, 1961, Meadows married her second husband, Robert F. "Bob" Six, President of Continental Airlines, in Honolulu, Hawaii. They remained married until Six's death on October 6, 1986. She had no children by either marriage. Meadows never remarried.
Banking and marketing career
Meadows served as director of the First National Bank of Denver for eleven years, the first woman to hold this position. From 1961–1981 she was an advisory director of Continental Airlines, where she was actively involved in marketing programs that included the designs of flight attendant and customer service agent uniforms, aircraft interiors, and Continental's exclusive "President's Club" airport club lounges.
In October 1994, Meadows published her memoirs, Love, Alice: My Life As A Honeymooner.
Illness and death
In 1995, Meadows was diagnosed with lung cancer and given a year to live. She declined all but palliative treatment. She died on February 3, 1996 at Cedars Sinai Hospital-Los Angeles after slipping into a coma, five days before her 74th birthday. She was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery, next to her husband.
- Born in 1922, not 1926, notwithstanding Find a Grave as per Social Security Death Index (SSDI) entry for Audrey Six
- Audrey Cotter was born in New York City in 1922, not in China as has been commonly stated. A 1921 passenger list shows the family entering the United States from China via Vancouver (S.S. Empress of Russia arriving at Vancouver from Shanghai, July 10, 1921). A 1927 passenger list shows Audrey's birthplace as New York (S.S. Olympic, arriving at New York from Southamption, May 3, 1927). The 1930 U.S. census, listing the family in Providence, Rhode Island, also shows Audrey's birthplace as New York City and her age as 8 years old in April 1930, which also confirms 1922 as her year of birth.
- Audrey Meadows at the Internet Movie Database
- Serling, Robert J (1974). Maverick: The Story of Robert Six and Continental Airlines. Doubleday & Company. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-385-04057-0.
- Meadows, Audrey (January 1994). Love, Alice: My Life As A Honeymooner. Crown Publishers. ISBN 978-0-517-59881-8.