The iconic psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers has died at the age of 85.
According to Brothers’ publicist, Sanford Brokaw, she died Monday in New York City of an unspecified cause.
Brothers originally made a name for herself when she appeared on a television game show in order to earn money for her family. Her controversial role and subsequent winnings on The $64,000 Question in 1955 was the beginning of a public career that would span 7 decades. From the 50s until 2013, Dr. Joyce Brothers was in the public eye.
After completing her initial undergraduate work at Cornell University, a private Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York, the doctor earned a PhD in psychology from Columbia University, another private Ivy League school in New York City. In 1949, she married Milton Brothers, an internist; together they had one child, a daughter named Lisa.
Demonstrating her knowledge of boxing during her win on The $64,000 Question led to a role as the first woman commentator during the boxing match between Carmen Basilio and Sugar Ray Robinson.
She had her first relationship television show in 1958; as a psychologist, she gave advice to people in the audience. Brothers believed herself to be the original television psychologist and was known to have said that she “invented media psychology”. Her television and radio shows eventually became syndicated despite initial reluctance from advertisers about whether psychology would work as a format for television or radio entertainment. Her shows went through a variety of name changes over the years, Consult Dr. Brohters, Tell Me, Dr. Brothers, Ask Dr. Brothers, and Living Easy with Dr. Joyce Brothers.
Dr. Brothers was not only a television icon, she became a staple of Good Housekeeping magazine for almost forty years, writing a monthly column. Additionally, she wrote a syndicated newspaper column that, at its height of success was printed in more than 300 newspapers.
Her personal loss served as the inspiration for the successful book Widowed, about her husband who died in 1989 from cancer. Other best-selling books offered women advice to live by, like What Every Woman Should Know About Men (1987), and What Every Woman Ought to Know About Love and Marriage (1985).
While she clearly had a passion for psychology and a knack for dishing out advice to the lovelorn, Brothers was no wallflower. She was not one to stay hidden in the shadows and let others forget her name. She appeared as herself in many television sitcoms throughout her career (Happy Days, Tax, Family Ties, The Nanny, Moonlighting, Suddenly Susan, just to name a few) and was one of the most recurring guests on The Johnny Carson Show. By the time Johnny retired, she was the ninth most frequent guest.
Brothers had no problem poking fun at the world of psychology; during her appearance on Frasier (the sitcom about a radio talk show psychologist, much like Dr. Brothers herself), when the star of the show struggles with playing a “nut” in an advertisement, he is replaced by the famed doctor. She is seen “coming out of her shell”, a giant legume, and when she hears the two other nuts fighting and denying they are each nuts, she proclaims they are both nuts, delivering her lines like the consummate professional psychiatrist.
Besides the original game show that started her career, Brothers was a regular on game shows like What’s My Line, The Gong Show, Hollywood Squares, and Match Game. She was also featured as a comic strip character in the Blondie Sunday strip once, to help Dagwood.
Most recently, Dr. Brothers had been seen on television advertising home alert monitoring devices.
She is survived by her daughter, Lisa, four grandchildren as well as eight great grandchildren, and her sister Elaine Goldsmith.
By Dawn Cranfield
Senior Correspondent/Product Specialist