Barbara Eden's Visits
Numerous celebrity visits to the Space Coast of Florida are reported in the national and local press. Popular entertainer visits include singers; Frank Sinatra and Tammy Wynette, funny men; Jack Benny and Don Knotts, movie stars; Gregory Peck and Eva Gabor. and TV icon, Barbara Eden. This first of a series on VIP and celebrity visits begins with Cocoa Beach’s most beloved actress, Barbara Eden. A preview of the local press reveals the Space Coast's love affair with this blond Jeannie from Hollywood.
“Your Wish is Your Command, Master” those words and many similar dialogues were first heard across the nation in the early nineteen sixty’s on prime time TV. This popular sitcom about an astronaut finding a Jeannie Bottle on a deserted island made Cocoa Beach a household name. Due to the show’s success Barbara Eden and the cast paid a few visits to the local area.
Ms Eden's made her first visit in 1969 making it 40 years ago on June 2009 will. The local papers reported, “The Festivities started with Miss Eden arriving at Merritt Island Airport in county commissioner Lee Wenner's plane. The activities of the day dubbed "Jeannie Day" started early."
Opening the day the blond actress was given a tour of Kennedy Space Center and the US Air Force Museum. The newspapers reported a number of highlights of her visit including when she pressed a button to launch a rocket carrying a weather satellite at Complex 43. Accompanying Barbara was her husband Micheal Ansara.
Later in the day a Chamber of Commerce luncheon was held at the Sheraton, followed by a motorcade parade to downtown Cocoa Beach and a key-to-the-city ceremony at city hall. This opportunity gave Miss Eden a chance to greet her many fans and sign autographs. Dressed in a blue mini-dress she wowed them all reported the press. It was a typical hot day here in Central Florida and Mayor Robert Murkshe wiped the sweat off his face and stated it was hot and everything seemed to be wet. He jokingly said to the blonde star, "I wish you would snap your fingers or something Barbara and make it snow out here.”
Next it was dinner at Bernard’s Surf in Cocoa Beach. Local restaurateur, Rusty Fischer, recalls the occasion with the cast at his popular eatery. He tells to this day how he received a call from Sidney Sheldon the creator of the show to get an agreement in letting the name Bernard’s Surf be used. "They did and every now and then you would hear, "Well let's make a reservation at the Surf." Said Fischer.
Rusty recalls even in recent times that patrons would come into the restaurant and ask to sit where Barbara Eden sat. Lee Caron was Miss Eden's official host during her 1969 visit and concluded with an awards presentation at his Carnival Club. It was reported that here she received the Commodore's award.(1) The newspaper snapped a memorable picture of her kissing astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the cheek in this Cocoa Beach lounge. The caption read, Aldrin performs successful docking maneuver.
Barbara Eden and some cast members returned 27 years later for the Space Day at Kennedy Space Center. Cocoa Beach city officials created a special Jeannie Day which included renaming Primrose Ave to “I Dream Of Jeannie Lane.“ An official document indicates it was officially dedicated on July 12, 1996 by the City of Cocoa Beach, to commemorate the role of the “I Dream of Jeannie" show on Cocoa Beach. Although she could not make it to the actual ceremony of the new street name, a road sign bearing the name “I Dream of Jeannie Lane” was carried and presented to her at the Kennedy Space Center by Cocoa Beach Mayor Joe Morgan .
The final report of this event was published by Florida Today reporter Milt Salamon, along with a humorous story including his interview with Barbara Eden. Milt wrote, "Barbra's reaction to the million faces we saw yelling her name is typical of show biz fortitude.
Salamon: "How about being inextricably tied to a character named Jeannie
for 31 years? Would you just soon lose her for a while?"
Eden: " I like Jeannie, I guess," she smiled. "I don't feel that she's gotten in my way, because I've done so much other work, so many different things. It's fine with me and it's never been off the air, so.."
Salamon: We asked about her memorable costume, following an interviewing tradition begun more that three decades ago. Did she like it? Did she have a hand in it?
Eden: "I love my costume, I really did," she told us. "The only influence
I had was the color. I chose the color. I'm trying to remember the woman's name who designed it, because she did win an award for it."
Milt closed his interview asking her if she remember her two visits in 1969, whereupon she said, "Oh yes!" she said. "Oh my, it was amazing to all of us, just mind-boggling, and it still is to me. The Space program is very exciting.
The people? Oh, yes I do remember them. And it's good to be here, good to see you all again."
Jeannie Day was born-again in September of 2005 with a “Jeannie Look A-Like contest marking the 40th anniversary of “I Dream Of Jeannie” TV show. Winners were 12 year old Jessica Stavrakas and 24 year old Crystal Louthan, both of Merritt Island, who won the Teenie Jeannie and Jeannie categories.
The legend continues, Visit Ray Osborne' weekly History on Wednesdays from 5 pm to 6 pm at the Resort of Cocoa Beach where this and other local tales are told.
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