Monday, October 19, 2015

Original Petticoat Junction babe Pat Woodell dead at 71 - Curt Massey sings theme

There were 3 "sisters" on the old sitcom "Petticoat Junction." The eye-catching opening for the show had the three of them (Betty Jo, Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo) skinny-dipping in the water tower. The wet silo was above the "Shady Rest" hotel, and giving the show its name, the girls' elaborate petticoats seemed to always be up there hanging out to dry.

It was a naive age, wasn't it? Kids growing up in the 60's were supposed to sigh and think of which one would be their ideal sweetheart. And ooh, petticoats! That was naughty enough back then!

I'll confess, of the originals, I preferred the kinda slutty Jeannine Riley. It seems most thought she was the hottest, which is why Jeannine stayed around only two seasons, replaced by Gunilla Hutton and then Meredith MacRae. Also leaving at the same time was our recently departed Pat Woodell (replaced by Lori Saunders). In Pat's case, the lure was a singing career and a record contract. The one woman who never left the show was Linda Henning...who happened to be the daughter of the show's producer, Paul Henning.

In a strange twist of fate, the late Woodell's replacement Lori Saunders, was scheduled to appear at the infamous "Chiller Theatre" convention in pathetic Parsippany this weekend (23rd-25th). Lori was ready to allow various old hoobastanks to pose with her and get her autograph. Alas, she had to cancel due to health problems. The show does have Henning, and one of Riley's replacements, Gunilla Hutton. But it's eerie that she cancelled and, as it turns out, Woodell had gotten The Big Cancellation a few weeks earlier.

Yes, Pat Woodell actually died a few weeks ago (July 12, 1944 – September 29, 2015) but for some reason, nobody found out till today, October 19th. The news was broken by the L.A. Times and Variety. She had been ill with cancer for many, many years.

Born far from Hooterville, in Winthrop, Massachusetts, Pat got her break at the Warner Bros. lot, appearing in their various TV shows including "Cheyenne," "Hawaiian Eye" and "77 Sunset Strip." Within a year of these guest spots, she was cast for "Petticoat Junction." Probably her favorite memory of the show was when she and the other sisters pretended to be the female Beatles, "The Ladybugs." Aside from doing songs on the show, "The Ladybugs" managed to get a booking on Ed Sullivan's show. It was nowhere near as earthshaking as The Beatles.

Pat had a promising new start as a singer, opening for Jack Benny across the country, and releasing an album. Pop music in the late 60's was switching from wholesome types to rockin' babes. She switched back to acting, and made a few films in the early 70's, but retired after a few discouraging years. Perhaps somebody told her to have her head examined, because she left show biz for the Erhard Seminars Training group ("est") which offered bizarre pop-cult "awareness" techniques.

She made herself available for some "Petticoat Junction" nostalgists (she was on a documentary about the show) and was still married to husband #2 when she suffered the health problems that eventually led to her demise.

Below is the theme song as recorded by Curt Massey, who co-wrote it (with producer Paul Henning).

And what good would it do to offer one of Pat Woodell's solo songs? Well, it would show that she really could sing. So below is "What Good Would It Do." Pat's legacy remains tied to a petticoat on a sitcom some still remember with fondness and a teaspoonful of lust.

CURT MASSEY Petticoat Junction Theme PAT WOODELL What Good Would It Do?

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