Joey Heatherton

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Joey Heatherton
Heatherton and her father Ray performing in 1975
Davenie Johanna Heatherton

(1944-09-14) September 14, 1944 (age 79)
EducationSaint Agnes Academy
Occupation(s)Actress, singer, dancer
Years active1959–present
(m. 1969; div. 1972)

Davenie Johanna "Joey" Heatherton (born September 14, 1944) is an American actress, dancer, and singer. A sex symbol of the 1960s and 1970s, she is best known for her many television appearances during that time, particularly as a frequent variety show performer, although she also appeared in acting roles. She performed for over a decade on USO tours presented by Bob Hope and starred in several feature films, including My Blood Runs Cold (1965) and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977).[1]

Early life[edit]

Davenie Johanna Heatherton was born in New York City and raised in Rockville Centre, New York, a town of Nassau County close to New York City.[2] She was nicknamed "Joey" as a child, a combination of her first name Davenie and her middle name Johanna.[3] Her father, Ray Heatherton, was a Broadway star (Babes in Arms) and television pioneer.[2] He was famous in the greater New York area as the star of the long-running children's television show The Merry Mailman.[4] Her mother, also named Davenie, was a dancer who met Ray Heatherton when both were performing in Babes in Arms.[5] Heatherton has a brother, Dick (born October 19, 1943), who later became a disc jockey.[6]

Heatherton attended Saint Agnes Academy, a Catholic grade and high school.[7] At the age of six, she began studying ballet at the Dixon McAfee School of Dance and went on to four years of study under George Balanchine, and then went on to study modern jazz dance, voice, and dramatics.[5]


Early career[edit]

Heatherton began her career as a child actress. She first appeared on television on her father's show The Merry Mailman, a popular children's show in New York. In 1959, when she was age 15, she became a member of the ensemble and an understudy in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music,[1][2][8][9] and received her first sustained national exposure that same year as a semi-regular on The Perry Como Show (later called Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall), playing an exuberant teenager with a perpetual crush on Perry Como.[6] She also released her first single that year, titled "That's How It Goes"/"I'll Be Seeing You", but failed to have a hit with it or with the three additional singles she released over the next few years.[1]

Heatherton returned to Broadway in 1960, co-starring in the short lived There Was a Little Girl opposite Jane Fonda.[10][11] Heatherton's first television role as a dramatic actress came that same year when she guest-starred as a wealthy, spoiled teen on an early episode of Route 66. During the early 1960s, Heatherton was frequently cast as a troubled teenager owing to her "sexy-kid look".[5]


Beginning in the mid-1960s, Heatherton began to gain attention for her sensual dancing on television, which some viewers considered shocking and some critics derided as "sleazy eroticism".[5][6] In 1964 she appeared on The Tonight Show, where she coached Johnny Carson on the finer points of dancing "The Frug". She received major publicity following her guest appearance on the January 1965 premiere episode of the teen dance show Hullabaloo.[6][12] She was featured on several more episodes of the show and released "Hullabaloo", a song that she had performed on the show, on Coral Records. At the invitation of Dean Martin, Heatherton also appeared extensively on The Dean Martin Show starting with the premiere episode of September 16, 1965. She was a mystery guest on the game show What's My Line? on November 7, 1965, the last show on which Dorothy Kilgallen appeared.[13]

From June to September 1968, along with Frank Sinatra, Jr., Heatherton co-hosted Martin's summer-substitute musical comedy hour Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers. She also made multiple appearances on other 1960s television variety shows, such as The Andy Williams Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Ed Sullivan Show, and This Is Tom Jones.

Heatherton dancing on the USS Ticonderoga, December 27, 1965

From 1965 to 1977, Heatherton performed live with Bob Hope's touring USO troupe, entertaining the GIs with her singing, dancing, and provocative outfits. Excerpts from the USO tours were televised as part of Hope's long-running series of NBC monthly specials, culminating in the top-rated Christmas shows, where Heatherton's segments were regularly featured.[7]

Throughout the 1960s, Heatherton interspersed her variety show appearances with dramatic turns on episodes of numerous television series, including Mr. Novak, The Virginian, The Nurses, I Spy, and It Takes a Thief.[6]

Heatherton also appeared in the movies Twilight of Honor (1963), Where Love Has Gone (1964), and My Blood Runs Cold (1965).[14] In her film debut, Twilight of Honor, she played the young wife of an accused murderer (Oscar-nominee Nick Adams). The only one of the three films to be made in color, 1964's Where Love Has Gone was a big-budget melodrama based on Harold Robbins' roman à clef about the scandalous Lana Turner-Cheryl Crane-Johnny Stompanato manslaughter case, with Heatherton playing the daughter of the Turner character (Susan Hayward).[15] The William Conrad thriller My Blood Runs Cold marked Heatherton's first leading role in a film, opposite Troy Donahue.


By the 1970s, Heatherton's career was slowing down, but she was still popular enough to do a series of television ads for RC Cola and Serta mattresses. She performed in Las Vegas and acted in a few television shows and films, including the 1972 thriller Bluebeard (with Richard Burton in the title role), wherein she did her only onscreen nude scene. In 1972, Heatherton also released her first album, The Joey Heatherton Album. The first single, a cover of the 1957 Ferlin Husky song "Gone", spent 15 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100, peaking at #24. "Gone" also peaked at #38 in Australia.[16] The second single, "I'm Sorry", peaked at #87.[17] The album was re-released in 2004 with a nude photo of Joey on the cover taken by photographer Harry Langdon Jr. She posed for the topless image while filming Bluebeard.

A brief high point came in July 1975 when she headlined Joey & Dad, a four-week Sunday night summer replacement series for Cher's 1975–76 variety show in which Heatherton performed alongside her father.[18] Each episode involved Ray Heatherton waxing nostalgic over life with his daughter while rooting through his attic.

In 1977, Heatherton played the starring role as Xaviera Hollander in the Watergate-inspired The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington. In 1990, she returned to the screen with a small role as a religious fanatic in John Waters' teen musical comedy film Cry-Baby.[19] In 1997, Heatherton appeared nude in an issue of Playboy.[20]

Personal life[edit]

In April 1969, Heatherton married Lance Rentzel, a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, in New York City.[21] In November 1970, Rentzel was arrested for exposing himself to a 10-year-old girl.[22] He pled guilty, promised to undergo psychiatric treatment, and was given a suspended sentence. Heatherton filed for divorce in September 1971 and her career lost its luster; some say she never recovered from the psychological shock of Rentzel’s offense.[23] The divorce became final in 1972.[21]

On July 8, 1985, she was arrested and charged with interfering with a government agent's duties and disturbing the peace after she allegedly slapped and pulled the hair of a clerk at Manhattan's U.S. Passport Agency office.[24][25] She was acquitted of both charges in September 1986.[24]

Also in July, she was arrested and charged with theft of services for refusing to pay a $4,906 bill from a hotel and spa in Long Island where she stayed in 1984. She pled not guilty.[26]

On August 30, 1986, Heatherton was arrested for assault in Hillcrest, Rockland County, New York, after she stabbed Jerry Fisher, her former boyfriend and ex-manager, in the hand with a steak knife during an argument. Fisher was later treated at a local hospital and released.[27] After her arrest, Heatherton told police who she was, but they did not believe her. She then handed one of the officers her purse to verify her identity. While looking through it, the officer found a foil packet with less than a gram of cocaine. Heatherton was charged with assault and misdemeanor drug possession. In October 1987, a court ruled that the search was unconstitutional as Heatherton was not advised that she could refuse a purse search. As a result, the misdemeanor drug possession was dropped.[28] Jerry Fisher later dropped the charge of assault against Heatherton.

TV and filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1960 Route 66 Karen Emerson Episode: "Three Sides"
1962 to 1963 The Doctors and the Nurses Janet Clark
Ellen Denby
2 episodes
1963 The Virginian Gloria Blaine 1 episode
1963 Twilight of Honor Laura Mae Brown Feature film (Alternative title: The Charge is Murder)
1963 Mr. Novak Holly Metcalfe Episode: "To Break a Camel's Back"
1963 Arrest and Trial Edith Episode: "Some Weeks Are All Mondays"
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Cress Episode: "Runaway"
1964 Channing Episode: "The Trouble with Girls"
1964 Breaking Point Dory Costain Episode: "I, the Dancer"
1964 Where Love Has Gone Danielle Valerie Miller Feature film
1965 My Blood Runs Cold Julie Merriday Feature film
1966 I Spy Katie 2 episodes
1968 Of Mice and Men Curley's Wife Television movie
1969 It Takes a Thief Dodie DuBois 2 episodes "A Matter of Grey Matter"
1969 The Jackie Gleason Show Emily Gogolak Episode: "The Honeymooners: Happiness Is a Rich Uncle"
1969 The Ballad of Andy Crocker Lisa Television movie
1970 Love, American Style Tippy Segment: "Love and the Hitchhiker"
1970 The Hollywood Palace Herself Episode: Don Knotts hosting
1971 The Powder Room Television movie
1972 Bluebeard Anne Feature film
1973 Old Faithful Herself Television movie
1976 Doug Henning's World of Magic 2 Herself Television special
1977 The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington Xaviera Hollander Feature film
1981 Laverne & Shirley Herself Episode: "Night at the Awards"
1986 The Perils of P.K. Feature film
1990 Cry-Baby Mrs. Hackett Feature film
2002 Reflections of Evil Serta Spokeswoman (archival footage) Feature film

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title of work
1964 Golden Laurel Award Top Female New Face
1966 Golden Laurel Award New Faces, Female
1964 Golden Globe Awards Most Promising Newcomer - Female Twilight of Honor


  1. ^ a b c Strodder, Chris (2007). The Encyclopedia of Sixties Cool: A Celebration of the Grooviest People, Events, and Artifacts of the 1960s. Santa Monica, California: Santa Monica Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 9781595809865.
  2. ^ a b c Oppenheimer, Peer J. (April 16, 1967). "The Switched-On Kid". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 7. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  3. ^ Wilson, Earl (December 6, 1963). "Starlet Joey Heatherton Revolutionizes Her Home". Toledo Blade. p. 9. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  4. ^ "Ray Heatherton, 88, Merry Mailman". Sun-Sentinel. August 21, 1997. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Astor, Gerald (February 8, 1966). "Joey Heatherton: Heavenly Body Entering Orbit". Look. Des Moines, Iowa: Cowles Media. pp. 24–26.
  6. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Earl (January 28, 1968). "Joey's Image A-Go-Go After Serious TV Role". Reading Eagle. p. 30. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Bowden, Robert (February 9, 1980). "A trouper remembers the joy, fear, sorrow of Vietnam". St. Petersburg Times. p. 5B. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  8. ^ Sources vary on Heatherton's age at the time she joined the original cast of The Sound of Music, with some saying she was age 13 and others saying she was age 15. In view of Heatherton's sourced date of birth and the premiere date of The Sound of Music, age 15 appears to be correct.
  9. ^ Raddatz, Leslie (August 31, 1963). "This Is Joey". TV Guide. Radnor, Pennsylvania: Triangle Publications. pp. 24–25.
  10. ^ "There Was a Little Girl – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB". Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  11. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (July 25, 2018). "Jane Fonda HBO Documentary to Air This September". Playbill. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  12. ^ "'Hullabaloo' is a Vibrant Vehicle for Pop, Artists". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. January 23, 1965. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  13. ^ Shaw, Mark (2016). The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen. New York City: Post Hill Press. p. 129. ISBN 9781682610978.
  14. ^ Wilson, Earl (January 17, 1968). "Joey Heatherton To Be Strangled". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 19. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  15. ^ Wilson, Andrew (2011). Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-608--196586.
  16. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 136. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  17. ^ "Joey Heatherton: Chart History". Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  18. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2008). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010, 2d ed (2 ed.). McFarland. p. 538. ISBN 978-0-786-48641-0.
  19. ^ Novak, Ralph (April 16, 1990). "Picks and Pans Review: Cry-Baby". Archived from the original on November 18, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  20. ^ "Joey Heatherton recaptures status". Rome News-Tribune. March 12, 1997. pp. 12–A. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  21. ^ a b "Arrested for Drugs and Assault, Perennial Starlet Joey Heatherton Finally Crashes to Earth". September 15, 1986. Archived from the original on October 23, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  22. ^ Teitelbaum, Stanley H. (2008). Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols. U of Nebraska Press. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-8032-1644-0.
  23. ^ "Joey Heatherton Sues Rentzel For Divorce". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. September 18, 1971. p. 1. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  24. ^ a b "Joey Heatherton acquitted". The Day. September 18, 1986. p. F3. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  25. ^ "Woman says Joey Heatherton slapped her, pulled hair". Lakeland Ledger. September 17, 1986. p. 2A. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  26. ^ "Joey Heatherton Charged With Theft". Ocala Star-Banner. July 18, 1985. p. 6B. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  27. ^ "Joey Heatherton charged in stabbing". The Milwaukee Sentinel. September 1, 1986. p. 3. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  28. ^ "Joey Heatherton Drug Charges To Be Dropped". Schenectady Gazette. October 3, 1987. p. 2. Retrieved May 29, 2014.

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