Clare Sidoti Staff Writer
Dr Joyce Brothers, pioneer of advice television shows, has died peacefully yesterday, 13 May. The psychologist had a prolific career as a syndicated columnist, author and television and film personality and paved the way for TV psychologists such as Dr Phil.
Her long-time publicist, Sanford Brokaw, released a statement on Monday saying that Brothers had died in New York City. Brothers’ daughter Lisa said: “She passed away peacefully and in her home… with her family all around her.”
Brothers shot to fame in 1955 following her appearance on the iconic game show, The $64,000 Question, where she became the only woman (and only second person ever) to win the show’s top prize. This appearance set her on course for a long groundbreaking career in which she published 15 books and made cameo appearances as herself in popular TV shows and movies, such as Happy Days, The Simpsons, Beethoven’s 4th (2001) and Analyze That (2002). She also racked up almost 100 appearances on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show.
Speaking to USA Today on Monday, TV psychologist and author Dr Phil McGraw said: “I was a very big fan of hers… I started studying psychology back in 1968 or 1969 and she was a very present force at that time. I truly think she was a pioneer. Here comes a woman who was articulate, educated and very credible. She talked about these things and took them mainstream and laid a lot of important groundwork for those to come later… She wasn’t some pop psychologist. In her advice column and her television work, [she] gave clear analysis and advice”.
Stating that her public career came about “because we were hungry”, she entered The $64,000 Question as a way to get more money for her family following the birth of her daughter and her husband, Milton Brothers, still a student in medical school. Having conquered The $64,000 Question, she moved onto the $64,000 Challenge where she successfully answered every question and earned her place as one of the biggest winners in the history of television quiz shows. Following the American quiz show cheating scandal of the late 50s, she was forced to deny at a 1959 hearing any knowledge of cheating. She was backed up by a producer of the show who exonerated her of any involvement in the scandal.
Her success on the quiz shows, including her expert knowledge on boxing (her chosen area of expertise) led to her stint as co-host of Sports Showcast in 1956 and as commentator for CBS’ coverage of the bout between Carmen Basilio and Sugar Ray Robinson. However, her true calling was psychology and two years later NBC offered her an afternoon slot for her to dispense advice on love, marriage, sex and child-rearing.
What followed was an almost constant presence on screen where she hosted, among others, The Dr. Joyce Brothers Show, Ask Dr. Brothers and Living Easy with Dr. Joyce Brothers. Never one to shy away from taboo topics, her programs covered subjects such as menopause, frigidity, impotence and sexual enjoyment. She also helped pioneer the call-in show and was noted for preventing two people from committing suicide – one in 1965 and the other in 1971.
She was also a prolific columnist and author. For almost four decades she wrote for Good Housekeeping and her daily syndicated advice column appeared in more than 350 newspapers. Some of her best-known books include 1982’s What Every Woman Should Know About Men and Widowed, a 1992 book inspired by the death of her husband of 40 years.
Brothers is survived by her sister Elaine Goldsmith, daughter Lisa Brothers Arbisser, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.