June Lockhart on her 80 year career—From Kukla, Fran & Ollie to Daytime Parade coverage and General Hospital

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Ms. June Lockhart will be a presenter at this year’s Creative Arts Daytime EMMY Awards ceremony on June 20th, 2014, at the Los Angeles Bonaventure.

“I am thrilled to be part of the Creative Arts presentation.  After all, if it weren’t for the creative minds behind this industry of entertainment, I wouldn’t be here today,” says June.  Explaining, that “Thomas Edison, a very savvy man when it came to promoting his newest inventions, used a company of actors to present his products to buyers.  Two particular performers he hired and introduced to each other were Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Arthur-Lockhart.  If it weren’t for one of the biggest, behind the scenes, creative men, I wouldn’t be here at all.  So, generationally speaking, you could say I am one of Edison’s good ideas.”

Ms. Lockhart has just celebrated her 80th year as a entertainment professional.  She received her first professional check 80 years ago for $2.50.  She says “It’s still larger than some of the residuals I receive.”  She co-starred in films with individuals such as Bette Davis in “All This and Heaven” and Judy Garland in “Meet Me In St. Louis,” and would, of course, later become one of TV’s most celebrated moms.   June fondly recalls one of her favorite TV mom roles (and her first as a grandmother) as Maria Ramirez on the daytime drama, “General Hospital,” from 1984 to 1986, returning in 1988, then again from 1990 to1992, and finally in 1998.  When asked if she would consider re-creating Maria Ramirez,  she replied, “Yes!  In fact, as I understand it, they have kept her alive.  Fans are always pointing out that they still refer to her every so often.  She is apparently down in Texas on her ranch.  I think it would be very interesting to do something again with her.”  One of June’s earliest Daytime memories, was her first appearance on “Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” in 1953.  “Of course I think all of us who appreciated the brilliant humor, adored Burt Tillstrom.  He was one of the kindest men I ever knew and I did the show several times with him.  Burt and I became close friends.  I usually flew to Chicago to do it, but once, I went to NY with Jose Greco when we both visited “Kukla, Fran and Ollie.”

June made her professional debut at age eight in a Metropolitan Opera production of Peter Ibbetson, playing Mimsey in the dream sequence and her screen debut in MGM’s version of A Christmas Carol, playing–appropriately enough– the daughter of stars Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart. June appeared in a dozen or more movies before 1947, when she made her Broadway bow as the ingénue in the comedy “For Love or Money” with John Loder, winning the Tony (known then as The Antoinette Perry Award) in the category of “Best Debut.”  The overnight toast of Broadway, she then went on to become one of TV’s most recognizable moms, co-starring in popular series like “Lassie,” “Lost in Space” and “Petticoat Junction.” There are currently five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the Lockhart family, she was included among the first nine legendary ladies of stage and screen to have her career inducted into the Smithsonian Institution’s first permanent “Entertainment Exhibit,” and late last year June received what she describes as her greatest honors, when the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) presented her with their Exceptional Public Achievement Medal.  June, a former Miss Western Airlines, has been on hand for nineteen launches, including the day they played her father’s song, “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise,” as a wake-up call for the astronauts aboard the shuttle.  “Astronaut, Ken Reightler, said that it was particularly appropriate because there was a new sunrise in space every hour and a half,” recalls June.  “I have always had a consuming enthusiasm for space.  My first opportunity to work with astronauts was Jan 1, 1970.  I was hosting Daytime coverage for the Rose Bowl parade and given the opportunity to interview Charles Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean.  They had just returned from Apollo 12 in Nov of 69.  They did two moonwalks lasting 7 1/2 hours.” Subsequently, a signed poster of Ms Lockhart was taken up and placed on the wall aboard the International Space Station. Effectively making her the first pin-up in space.

“I simply can’t wait to see everyone at the Creative Arts ceremony,” declares June.  Adding, “It will be the perfect way to celebrate my 89th birthday that week.”

Photos at top (lft to rt): June Interviewing Astronauts for Daytime Parade coverage Charles Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean.  June with fellow GH cast members Kristina Wagner and Robyn Richards. June’s TONY Awards from 1949.

Below Photo: June receives the Exceptional Public Achievement Medal from NASA / Video Clip : June on The Kukla, Fran & Ollie show