|Morganna, The Kissing Bandit|
July 4, 1954
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
Morganna Roberts (born July 4, 1954) is an entertainer who became known as Morganna or Morganna, the Kissing Bandit in baseball and other sports from 1970 through the 1990s. She was also billed as "Morganna the Wild One" when appearing as a dancer in the 1980s.
Morganna famously rushed the field on many occasions and kissed Major League Baseball players including Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, George Brett (twice), Steve Garvey, and Cal Ripken, Jr. She has been described as "baseball's unofficial mascot" and "the grand dame of baseball". She also crashed National Basketball Association games, where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of her most notable victims.
Morganna was born on July 4, 1954, in Louisville, Kentucky. She was a baseball fan from a young age, as her grandfather took her to see the Louisville team. She grew up in a poor family; her mother Jane disowned Morganna as a baby, which led to her grandmother Virginia taking care of her for six years. Morganna was then sent to Mount Mercy Catholic Boarding School just outside Louisville. She initially wanted to be a nun but ran away from the school at the age of 13, hitch-hiking with a friend to Baltimore where she begged shop owners for a job while living on the street and eating out of garbage cans. She was unable to find work because she was too young to get a work permit.
After a month she came across an ad in the window of the Flamingo Club for a "Cigarette Girl or Camera Girl. Must be 18". She told the owner that she was 18 and he quickly decided that she would be better employed as an exotic dancer. She had no idea what that was but said yes, thinking "it had something to do with a camel and veils." Her first appearance on stage did not go well; she could not walk in her high heels and as she danced, the men in the audience kept shouting "Take it off". Thinking they were referring to her, she burst into tears and had to be led off the stage by the manager. After watching some of the other performers, however, she soon got the hang of it and was a well-established and successful exotic dancer by the time she was 17. Her act combined stripping with comedy, wearing two 10-gallon cowboy hats on her chest and impersonating the film critic Gene Shalit. She avoided singing, however, as "when I sing, people think the place is being raided."
She attracted particular attention for what the writer Hank Davis describes as "her ample physical development. Simply put, the woman makes Dolly Parton look developmentally delayed." She gave her measurements as 60"-23"-39", which she referred to as her "baseball stats". She frequently quipped that Parton was "flat-chested" compared to her. Morganna's famously well-endowed physique began developing when she was only nine and, according to her, by the time she was 12 she could pass for 18. She had to wear I cup bras, costing $50 each and custom-made by a firm in Columbus, Ohio: "People ask me where I get my bras and I always tell them the same people who make my bras made the domes for all the stadiums." She also had to spend $45 a month on aerobics classes to help strengthen her back to take the weight of what she called her "stage props." Nonetheless, she insisted: "I'm not a sex symbol. I'm a comedienne. I make folks smile. I make them laugh - and that makes my day. What are we here for, if not that?"
Her on-field career began in 1970 when she rushed onto the field at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati and kissed Reds player Pete Rose. She was prompted by a friend who "dirty-double-dared me to do it. Where I'm from, you don't turn down a dirty-double-dare... at least, not when you're a teenager." Rose reacted with "terrible language" but the next night he tracked her down "to the local nightspot where I was appearing and apologized with a bunch of roses." She obtained the nickname "the Kissing Bandit" from a Cincinnati sportswriter who announced her arrival with the headline "Bandit steals kiss from Pete Rose."
Over the following years, she became a familiar sight at baseball fields, basketball courts and hockey rinks. By 1990 she had kissed 37 Major League baseball players, 12 National Basketball Association players and dozens of minor league baseball, basketball and hockey players, plus various umpires, managers and owners and, on one occasion, The San Diego Chicken. She confined herself to kissing them on the cheek, commenting: "It's more sanitary than the lips, and that way their wives don't get upset. Besides, who wants tobacco stains all over your teeth?" On one occasion, one of her "victims" got his own back. Three weeks after George Brett was kissed as he prepared to bat against the Baltimore Orioles, he marched onto the stage during her performance and, to the cheers of the crowd, gave Morganna a kiss of her own. Few players seemed to mind being kissed by her; Kelly Tripucka of the Detroit Pistons famously commented, "It was like hugging a mattress. When I saw her coming at me, I thought it was like a Mack truck. I had two options – either get hit or get out of the way. I decided to get hit."
Her pastime was not without its hazards, however; she was beaten by security guards in Cincinnati, suffered various injuries jumping from stands onto playing fields, and was hit by a pitch in Milwaukee. She was arrested and charged with trespassing nearly 20 times and was jailed briefly in Anaheim, California. She also stood trial in Houston, Texas, where her lawyer used what he called the "gravity defense" to explain her unauthorized presence on the field, arguing: "This woman with a 112-pound body and 15-pound chest leaned over the rail to see a foul ball. Gravity took its toll, she fell out on the field, and the rest is history." The judge laughed and dismissed the case. Despite the arrests and fines, her fame earned her millions of dollars.
Morganna's involvement with baseball extended to being the star of her own set of bubblegum cards and becoming the part-owner of a minor league club, the Utica Blue Sox. On one occasion she gave them a pep talk when they were 15-7 down and in last place; they went on to win 40 of the next 54 games. She endorsed the "Morganna Kissing Bandit peanuts" brand from Carolina Fine Snacks, which expected a doubling of its sales as a result. She even got featured in a display at the Baseball Hall of Fame, where a picture of her attempting to kiss Frank Howard was put on display. Her popularity with baseball fans grew to the point that minor-league clubs began inviting her to kiss their players as a way of drumming up publicity. The Boise Hawks went further, getting her to enter the field by bungee jumping from a crane, then persuading CNN to feature her jump as its "play of the day". Her appearances proved to be extremely popular, consistently doubling average attendances.
Off the field, Morganna worked as an entertainer, doing comedy and dancing. She worked regularly as an exotic dancer in Las Vegas, Houston and Oklahoma City, sometimes earning as much as $7,000 to $10,000 a week. She was occasionally hired to publicize events, making personal appearances and giving speeches at places such as car shows and trade conventions. She also dabbled with television, appearing on Johnny Carson's and David Letterman's late-night talk shows and occasionally hosting "Good Morning, Columbus," a local TV talk show. A 1978 episode of the game show, "To Tell the Truth" Morganna appeared as the mystery guest. At the age of 22 she married Bill Cottrell, an accountant from Columbus, Ohio. The two met at a World Series game where he offered to help her with her taxes. Six months later, they got engaged; Morganna joked, "This man is saving you money. Better marry him!"
She appeared in Playboy magazine, in June 1983, April 1985 and September 1989. During the 1990s she occasionally kissed minor league players. Her last notable appearance before retirement was in the Farrelly brothers' feature film Kingpin in 1996, appearing as herself. Morganna went into retirement at the end of 1999 and now lives in Ohio. She no longer grants interviews.
On Sept. 26, 2014 she was the subject of the E:60 Pictures film, MORGANNA: The Kissing Bandit, on ESPN, directed by Emmy winning producer Martin Khodabakhshian.
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- Kindred, Dave (2000-05-29). "Now folks, let's not go too crazy". The Sporting News.
- "Morganna now has her own brand of peanuts". The Associated Press. 1990-05-24.
- McDonald, Tim (1989-06-30). "Kissing Bandit strikes". Anchorage Daily News.
- Schiffres, Manuel (October 1992). "Buying Into Baseball". Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. p. 75.
- Video on YouTube
- Raley, Dan (July 10, 2001). "Morganna kisses act goodbye". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.