The photo above could be used in a "Whatever Happened To ..." book because none of these actresses went on to much of a career either in television or films. Pat Woodell, left, was considered the most promising of the three, though Jeannine Riley, right, was busier when it came to work in prime time television shows.
Linda Kaye Henning (center) was the daughter of producer Paul Henning who had a talent for creating schlocky sitcoms, one of which was "Petticoat Junction," which managed to run for seven seasons on CBS. (Henning also created "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres.") Anyway, Linda Kaye Henning hung around the longest, making occasional TV appearances up until 2000. Check imdb.com and you'll see a movie credit for her in 2007. (You may also discover that Dennis Hopper, of all people, made a guest appearance on "Petticoat Junction" in 1964.)
The three actresses went on the road in the early fall of 1963 to publicize "Petticoat Junction" and stopped in Cleveland for an appearance on "The Mike Douglas Show," which is how I happened to interview them. I kept the photo, but cannot find any copy of the story I wrote, probably because (1) I only watched the program the obligatory one time, and (2) it's often difficult to get an interesting interview from three people simultaneously, especially when they don't have any shared anecdotes to pass along. With Ms. Henning as the boss's daughter, the other two were very careful about their comments, though Ms. Riley was more loose-lipped than the others, though her comments were more of the you-had-to-be-there variety.
So all I got out of the interview is this photo, which reminds me of that line you often see on t-shirts.
I put this meeting in the speed dating category because my meeting with the three actresses didn't amount to much and was finished rather quickly. Only Ms. Henning would remain with the series through its seven-season run.
Woodell left the series after two seasons and was replaced by Lori Saunders; Riley did the same, but her replacement, Gunilla Hutton, lasted only one year before she was replaced by Meredith MacRae, daughter of Gordon and Sheila MacRae. And if there was such a thing as a standout on this show, it was Meredith MacRae, whose life, tragically, was cut short by brain cancer in 2000. She was 56 years old.
"Petticoat Junction" was set, I think, in Arkansas at a place called the Shady Rest Hotel, located halfway between the tiny towns of Pixley and Hooterville. The actresses played sisters named Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo, which tells you more than you need to know about the show, which in the beginning did star two very talented performers, Bea Benaderet, as the girls' mother and proprietor of the hotel, and character actor Edgar Buchanan, as Uncle Joe.
I had a phone interview with Benaderet before the show began. She was a versatile actress, best known for her work on radio and for doing voice work in cartoons and commercials. She was the female Mel Blanc. The story that came out of that interview may be hiding in a box in our garage attic, but so far I've been unable to find it.
Benaderet did appear in several television shows, and one played one character on three different series: She was Blanche Morton on "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show," "The Bob Cumming Show," and "The George Burns Show," which Burns did after his wife retired.
As Kate Bradley, her "Petticoat Junction" character, she also appeared in six episode of "Green Acres," and also was cousin Pearl Bodine in 22 episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies. She was Lucille Ball's first choice to play Ethel Mertz, but had to turn down the role because of her committment to "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show."
Benaderet died of lung cancer in 1968, and was replaced by June Lockhart, who was cast in a different role, a hotel resident who became a mother figure for the sisters.
But back to my rather brief meeting with the three program's original daughters, I've got to figure Woodell's early retirement from acting meant she had found other things that interested her more. She also was a singer who made at least one album. She died in September, 2015.
Riley, born in 1940, was the oldest of those who played Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo or Billie Jo. She also appeared in a short-lived comedy series called "Dusty's Trail" (1973-74), and before that spent two years on "Hee-Haw."
Linda Kaye Henning, also born in 1944, married Ashby Adams in 1994, and, as mentioned earlier, has the most recent screen credit, a film short called "Wrangling Coach Rankin," in 2007.
Lori Saunders, born in 1941, also appeared in "Dusty's Trail." Her last screen credit was for a film called "Captive" in 1980. She and Bernard Sandler, have been married 62 years.
Gunilla Hutton, born in 1944, faded from view after appearing in an episode of "Fantasy Island" in 1981. She is best remembered for her affair with Nat King Cole, and how she overplayed her hand by phoning his wife, Maria Cole, to tell her to divorce him. Instead, Cole ended his relationship with Hutton, though by this time the singer had a bigger problem — he learned he was dying of lung cancer.