A Birthday Salute to A Pioneering ‘Sister’

October 27, 2013 at 9:44 am 2 comments

Dean Martin, Jayne Kennedy
(above) Dean Martin and Jayne Kennedy on the 8th season finale of The Dean Martin Show

Think of one of Dean Martin‘s all-girl ensembles like The Golddiggers or The Dingaling Sisters and probably the last type of song you would imagine them singing is one with a message of female empowerment. After all, back in the early ’70s, a handful of feminists were so outraged by what they considered to be the sexist image of The Golds and The Dings that they occasionally took to picketing NBC’s Burbank studios — much to the delight of Producer Greg Garrison, who, as Lee Hale notes in his book Backstage At The Dean Martin Show, loved all the publicity and attention that the protests drew to the program.

Ironically, if those offended by the portrayal of the ladies on Dean’s show had tuned in to the episode airing the night of December 14, 1972, they would have witnessed The Dingalings perform a very dignified cover version of a popular hit that had not only risen to the top of the charts in the previous 6 months, but also become the de facto anthem of the burgeoning women’s liberation movement: Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman”.

Handling lead vocal on The Dings’ rendition was someone who was a trailblazer in her own right before, during, and after her tenure on Dean’s show — JAYNE KENNEDY. She had been the first African-American to win the title of Miss Ohio before being chosen one of the semi-finalists in the Miss USA pageant, and was the first African-American woman signed as a regular singer-dancer on Dean’s series. In time, she would become the first woman of color to co-host a network sports series — The NFL Today on CBS — and the first to release her own line of exercise videos. Along the way, she also appeared in numerous movie and TV roles, served as a commercial spokeswoman, worked on behalf of many charitable causes, and has long been a devoted wife and mother.

As the song goes: She can do anything…She is Woman.

With today being her birthday, what we’d like to do for Jayne Kennedy is wish her a very Happy, Healthy Birthday, and Many, Many More.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Video Vision  |  October 29, 2013 at 10:10 am

    From the Dean, Golds and Dings Facebook page:

    Florence Bis

    Barry Deslauriers Happy Birthday Jayne

    Renee Anderson Happy birthday Jayne!!!!! I as with all of my Ding-a-Ling Sisters, was blessed to have you as a friend. Hope all is well with you. love, Renee (Tara)

  • 2. Video Vision  |  October 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Jayne Kennedy sent a reply to our birthday tribute to her here on the Dean, Golds and Dings website, and in so doing, she offered a candid and moving insight into her experiences with The Dingaling Sisters that we thought those who follow our site would be interested to read. Here it is, in its entirety:

    I was blessed to run into a group of girls when I first came to Los Angeles in 1971 that were part of the group known as The Ding-A-Ling Sisters. So aptly named… not for the Ding-A-Ling part (although my dad got great pride is telling everyone that he was a Daddy Ding-A-Ling!) … but for the part of the name that referred to us as SISTERS!

    Michelle DellaFave, Helen Funai, and Lindsay Bloom have certainly made their mark on my heart as we traveled throughout the world and throughout life. Forty years later and they are still my sisters. Although we do not get to see each other that often, as with so many people who hold that special place in your life, I consider them a tremendous part of my foundation that gave me the strength to succeed in Hollywood.

    Being on the road with them taught me that it was OK to be me. That I didn’t have to worry about the racism we faced, or more aptly I faced, as we were turned away from restaurants because of my color, or the club that would not seat my sister Shirley Harrison because they did not serve people of color and my stage sisters, Tara Leigh, Lynn Latham, and Helen, supported me as we staged a sit-in. As we toured through the south, Helen, my Asian roommate who had toured with the Broadway musical Flower Drum Song, once told me of the first time she saw the signs on the bathroom that read “Coloreds” and “Whites” She had no idea which to choose so she just got back on the bus. They were my sisters.

    And these four are still with me today. Thank you Michelle DellaFave . Thank you Lindsay Bloom. And thank you Helen Funai. And a special thank you to Michael and the Dean, Golds and Dings site for building this special birthday tribute. You have certainly touched my heart!

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