Kaye Ballard (1925 - 2019)

Kaye Ballard
1925 - 2019
updated July 16, 2020
Kaye Ballard was born on November 20, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. She died on January 21, 2019 in Rancho Mirage, California at 93 years of age.

By Neil Genzlinger
Jan. 21, 2019
Kaye Ballard, whose long career as a comedian, actress and nightclub performer included well-regarded runs in “The Golden Apple” and “Carnival!” on Broadway and a classic turn as a television mother-in-law, died on Monday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 93.
Her death was announced by her lawyer, Mark Sendroff.
Ms. Ballard wasn’t a top-flight singer, an Oscar-caliber actress or a drop-dead beauty — she once played one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters — but she made up for any shortcomings with determination and a sheer love of performing.
Even after she became well known, Ms. Ballard was not above taking parts in touring shows and regional theaters, and she rode the nightclub circuit for years, though she found the pace exhausting. In 2000, in her mid-70s, she brought a cabaret show to Arci’s Place in Manhattan called “Another Final Farewell Appearance,” but there was nothing final about it: Later in the decade she was still hard at work, including in tours of “The Full Monty” and “Nunsense.” For the last 40 years or so of her performing career, wherever she was appearing people would mention one particular item from her lengthy résumé: “The Mothers-in-Law,” an NBC sitcom in which she and Eve Arden played neighbors whose children married, turning the newly minted mothers-in-law into partners in meddling. Ms. Arden’s character was a haughty upper-crust type; Ms. Ballard’s was brassy and very Italian. The show made its debut in 1967, and, as with many sitcoms in that era of only three networks, its characters seared their way into the public consciousness with a disproportionate vigor: The series lasted only two seasons, but the mother-in-law personas acquired a certain immortality. “The show was on just long enough to typecast me as a loudmouth Italian actress, but not long enough to ensure that I would earn the kind of money where I wouldn’t have to worry about being typecast,” Ms. Ballard said in “How I Lost 10 Pounds in 53 Years,” a memoir written with Jim Hesselman and published in 2006.
Ms. Ballard was born Catherine Gloria Balotta in Cleveland on Nov. 20, 1925, the second of four children. Her father, Vincenzo, and her mother, Lena (Nacarato) Balotta, had both immigrated from Italy. Her father laid concrete sidewalks for a living. “He used to take me all over Cleveland showing me his work,” Ms. Ballard wrote. Even as a child she wanted to be an entertainer, and she passed up a scholarship to Cleveland Art College to pursue that goal. She got her first laughs doing impressions, a skill that served her well for decades in her nightclub acts. (She did a pretty good Bette Davis. She and a second impressionist once appeared on the TV game show “To Tell the Truth” along with Davis herself; four masked panelists asked questions and tried to guess which of the three was the real thing. Davis received three votes, but Ms. Ballard got the other.) Ms. Ballard found an agent in Cleveland and played some local spots, calling herself Kay Ballad; the first name soon acquired an E and the last an R. Then, not yet 20, she was booked on a burlesque tour, doing impressions and skits, which led to a job in Detroit at the Bowery Room, whose owner knew the bandleader Spike Jones and spoke highly of her to him. She hopped a plane to Los Angeles to try to talk her way into Jones’s show and succeeded, winding up singing and also, using her high school band skills, playing flute and tuba. Ms. Ballard toured the vaudeville circuit with Jones for almost two years, but when their show hit New York she was captivated by musical theater; in 1946 she was offered a part in “Three to Make Ready,” a Broadway revue that was about to go on tour, and she took it.Her career encompassed Broadway, television and nightclubs. Stage appearances all over the country followed in the next several years. Then, in 1954, she won the part of Helen (as in “of Troy”) in “The Golden Apple,” an unusual musical with book and lyrics by John Latouche and music by Jerome Moross that drew on “The Iliad” to tell a story set in early-20th-century Washington State. The show opened at the Phoenix Theater in the East Village and, riding strong reviews, moved to Broadway soon after, running there for 125 performances. Ms. Ballard’s part included the song “Lazy Afternoon,” which Brooks Atkinson, in The New York Times, called “a triumphant number and the high point of the show.” The song was later recorded by many artists, including Barbra Streisand, but Ms. Ballard was the first to release it as a single; on the flip side of that record she introduced another song later made far more famous by others (including, memorably, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra), Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” (then called “In Other Words”). Her next Broadway role, in 1961, was also in an atypical musical: “Carnival!,” with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill and a book by Michael Stewart. Unlike “The Golden Apple,” though, this one enjoyed a sustained Broadway run, lasting almost two years. Ms. Ballard was the Incomparable Rosalie, a magician’s assistant. For one song, “Always, Always You,” she was in a basket into which her boss, Marco the Magnificent (James Mitchell), kept thrusting swords. She was in one television special with a noteworthy theatrical pedigree: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” created for CBS. It featured Julie Andrews in the lead; Ms. Ballard and Alice Ghostley played the stepsisters. Its one broadcast, on March 31, 1957, drew an estimated audience of 107 million, a record at the time. After that, Ms. Ballard began turning up on television in guest spots and on variety shows. Desi Arnaz, the executive producer of “The Mothers-in-Law,” eventually picked her for the show after deciding that Ann Sothern, who was originally slated for the role, did not provide enough of a contrast to Ms. Arden’s character. In the early 1970s Ms. Ballard also had a recurring role on “The Doris Day Show,” and her résumé came to include guest appearances on shows like “The Love Boat” and “Trapper John, M.D.”
While working regularly in television and making the occasional film, Ms. Ballard toured nightclubs (Arthur Siegel was her longtime pianist) and made the rounds with “Hey, Ma … Kaye Ballard,” a one-woman show recounting her career and her clashes with her mother. Breast cancer, diagnosed in 1994, slowed her down only briefly. Her successes after that included an appearance in a widely acclaimed revival of “Follies” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 1998.
Ms. Ballard, who never married but said she had been engaged four times, leaves no immediate survivors.
Last week, a new documentary about her career by Dan Wingate, “Kaye Ballard — The Show Goes On!,” was screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Despite her name recognition, Ms. Ballard knew that she was never an A-list star. Instead, she viewed herself as being in the honorable second tier of performers who work hard but might not achieve lasting fame.

Kaye Ballard Biography

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Kaye Ballard
Most commonly known name
First name
Middle name
Maiden name
Last name(s)
Catherine Gloria Balotta
Nickname(s) or aliases
Unknown. Did Kaye move a lot? Where was her last known location?
Last known residence
Kaye Ballard was born on in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio United States
Kaye Ballard died on in Rancho Mirage, Riverside County, California United States 92270
Kaye Ballard was born on in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio United States
Kaye Ballard died on in Rancho Mirage, Riverside County, California United States 92270
There is no cause of death listed for Kaye.
Cause of death
Do you know the final resting place - gravesite in a cemetery or location of cremation - of Kaye Ballard?
Burial / Funeral

Ethnicity & Lineage

Italian (Balotta)

Nationality & Locations Lived



Unknown. Was Kaye a religious woman?


Catherine Gloria Balotta in Cleveland on Nov. 20, 1925,


Famous actress.

Personal Life & Organizations

Kaye Ballard, a musical comedy performer par excellence, died in January of 2019 at the age of ninety-three. This after a lifetime spent in show business (she was out on her own and working professionally at sixteen). Her seventy-seven-year career (!) displayed a host of versatile talents from actress to singer to monologist (she even played the flute). Beloved by all who knew her (she counted everyone from Carol Channing to Marlon Brando as friends), The Show Goes On! is a wonderful new documentary, though burdened by a generic sort of title, since what is on display cuts deeper—as it should. Its main focus addresses head-on the rich subject of why Kaye Ballard never had that one true hit that would have made her a superstar (like her friend Carol Channing).

Yes, she got to star in a two-season sitcom The Mothers-in-Law (1967-69) and dazzled audiences in the mid-1950s starring in The Golden Apple, one of Broadway’s great forgotten gems, but there’s that word: forgotten. She did manage to be in one Broadway hit, the musical Carnival in 1961, but she wasn’t the star and didn’t manage to earn a Tony nomination for it, which might have helped move her higher up the ladder. Dan Wingate admirably directs, focusing on Ballard telling her story in her own words. Filmed while in her nineties, she effortlessly recalls the highs and lows of how the vagaries of show business can often be as debilitating as it is celebratory. Its eighty-nine minutes fly by and you can’t ask for a better tour guide on her life’s journey than Kaye Ballard herself.

As she describes, Ballard grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and while a teenager worked as an usher at the RKO Palace. She would imitate all the actors for the audiences and adored hanging around with an array of vaudeville actors on the bill whenever they would glide into town.

She got a job as a singer at Chin’s Chinese restaurant in Cleveland (“on the other side of town”) along with Jack Soo, who was the star the show, and who later went on to fame in the Broadway production of Flower Drum Song—as well as the film—and is best remembered today as Nick Yamana on Barney Miller). Ballard claims her first really good job was in Detroit where she sang among another eighteen acts on the bill. But it wasn’t before long that she hit the road (at sixteen, mind you) with Spike Jones and his Orchestra, playing six shows a day at such prestigious spots as the Strand Theatre in NYC. “And we sold out every show.”

She lived on W. 4th Street near 7th Avenue, hanging into the wee small hours of the morning with her best friends Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson… and the aforementioned Marlon Brando. I have to add here that the dear, late Rick McKay (who had friends everywhere and counted Kaye and Marlon among them) told me a story that late in his life Brando asked him, “You know Kaye Ballard… tell me, is she gay?” When Rick replied yes, Brando said, “No wonder I could never get anywhere with her.”

That story is NOT in the film, because as informative as this documentary is about her professional life, there seems to have been a decision to purposely stay away from her personal one. Ballard’s private life isn’t discussed at all, save for her relationships with her mother and grandmother. It’s not so much a flaw as a glaring omission. You just take it for what it is: nobody’s business but hers.

Military Service

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Kaye Ballard Obituary

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Kaye Ballard died on January 21, 2019 in Rancho Mirage, California at 93 years of age. She was born on November 20, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. We are unaware of information about Kaye's immediate family.
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1925 - 2019 World Events

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In 1925, in the year that Kaye Ballard was born, in July, the Scopes Trial - often called the Scopes Monkey Trial - took place, prosecuting a substitute teacher for teaching evolution in school. Tennessee had enacted a law that said it was "unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school". William Jennings Bryan headed the prosecution and Clarence Darrow headed the defense. The teacher was found guilty and fined $100. An appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee upheld the law but overturned the guilty verdict.

In 1937, at the age of merely 12 years old, Kaye was alive when on May 28th, the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge opened to cars. Taking 5 years to build, the 4,200-foot-long suspension bridge was an engineering marvel of its time - 11 men died during construction. The "international orange" color was chosen because it resisted rust and fading. To the present, it is the symbol of the City that is known throughout the world.

In 1947, by the time she was 22 years old, on April 15th, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing first base. He was the first black man to play in the Major Leagues. Since the 1880's, professional baseball had been segregated and blacks played in the "Negro leagues". He went on to play for 10 years.

In 1952, by the time she was 27 years old, on July 2, Dr. Jonas E. Salk tested the first dead-virus polio vaccine on 43 children. The worst epidemic of polio had broken out that year - in the U.S. there were 58,000 cases reported. Of these, 3,145 people had died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.

In 1991, when she was 66 years old, on November 7th, legendary basketball player Magic Johnson announced that he had HIV. In 1991, the public was confused about the difference between HIV and AIDS (HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS) and there was little treatment for either. Most thought that Johnson would die within a year or so. Also, the transmission of AIDS wasn't understood so he had to retire from basketball. Magic Johnson is still alive and well.

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Success Stories from Biographies like Kaye Ballard
Created on Jun 04, 2020 by Daniel Pinna
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