Fifty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie‘s debut, Barbara Eden can’t escape the classic sitcom — and that’s fine with her! “I was changing planes in Rome, and I looked up and there we were on the screen,” she marvels. “I thought, Good grief! But it’s nice, it’s great.”

Although the show’s leading man, the late Larry Hagman, was battling substance abuse issues at the time, Barbara has fond memories of their days together. “He was a very loving man,” she says. “Crazy, but a good man.”

Long after Jeannie left the air, Larry and Barbara remained friends, touring in the play Love Letters. At 88, Barbara is still going strong, recently doing the same show with Barry Bostwick in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Barry is absolutely wonderful,” she says. “It’s a joy to walk onstage with him.”

Retirement isn’t in Barbara’s vocabulary. “I think I’m so lucky,” she says. “There are so many people that are employed who hate their jobs, and I like mine.” What’s the only way she would call it quits? If they make her.

William Kidston, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Still, she always makes time for her loved ones, including Jon Eicholtz, her husband since 1991. What’s the secret to their lasting happiness? “You should walk in the other person’s shoes if you’re having a little problem,” she says. “Try to see their side of it. It’s not easy! But try.”

That’s not the only bit of wisdom she’s attained over the years. “You’ve got to be true to yourself — don’t try to be anyone else,” Barbara says. “The wonderful thing is we’re all different. In the beginning of my career I said, ‘Oh gosh, I’m supposed to be taller or prettier than I am.’ That’s silly! You’re treading water — you’re not making headway with what you are.”

As for what we can find Barbara doing these days, that would be spending time with those who make her the “happiest,” including her husband and her sister. Oh, and she is also looking for the next “good part” to show itself.

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Reporting by Diana Cooper

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