When you find a Classic TV pop culture icon like Barbara Eden, there’s no question they’ll ever escape the thing that captured people’s imaginations — in her case I Dream of Jeannie. Some actors and actresses fight against it, but others embrace it fully, relishing in the memories and the fact that people still care so much. That’s certainly the attitude Barbara always took when it comes to her ‘60s series.
That fact was certainly in evidence when she recently participated in a “Lobby Series” event at the Hollywood Museum that served as a tribute to the show. For it, Barbara loaned her original costume and genie bottle, which had been used during the shooting of the series, and which represented just one part of the star-filled event. Also evident were the warm memories she still holds of late costar Larry Hagman — in his pre-Dallas days as astronaut Tony Nelson.
“I have millions of memories of Larry,” she exclusively revealed to Closer Weekly at the event on Wednesday, August 21. “The last time I saw him, I was in Australia and he was great. I’ll never forget that. That was [several] years ago, before he passed away. He didn’t look sick; it was a shock to me when he left us.”
As to what made Larry such a great acting partner, she responded without missing a beat: “His talent. I worked with him in a couple of movies and on Dallas too. He was just talented; I loved it. He made it easy to work with him.”
There are, says Barbara, so many memories that come to mind when she thinks of her days on I Dream of Jeannie — but one in particular has to do with when she was pregnant during production of season 1.
“My friend, Gene Nelson, was directing the shows at that time,” Barbara, who also tried her hand at singing in the ’60s, laughs. “I came to work and there was a red bathing suit on my couch in my dressing room. I told the wardrobe girl, ‘You know, I can’t wear that,’ and she said, ‘Okay, I’ll go out and tell him.’ So she went out and told Gene. Gene came back, looked at me and said, ‘Barbara, you’ve never been temperamental. You won’t wear the bathing suit?’ Gene happened to have been a very good friend of mine, and his wife is still a good friend of mine, and I said, ‘I’m pregnant.’ And he knew it. He said, ‘Well, you can just wear it.’ I said, ‘No, Gene, it doesn’t look too good.’ He said, ‘Just put it on and let me see it.’ So I put the bathing suit on, put a robe on and he came to the door of my dressing room and I said, ‘Ta-da!’ And he went, ‘Oh, oh yeah. OK.’ He walked away and that was it. I mean, come on.”
As for whether or not Barbara thinks I Dream of Jeannie could work today. “Yes I do,” she offers, going on to consider how her famous character would react to our world, “because it’s a classical theme and genies have been around a long time. What would she be doing? She’d be doing probably exactly what she was doing before; she would be very active in every way. [But] she’s apolitical, so don’t go there. She’d be making people happy.”
That, of course, is something Barbara has for the past 54 years since I Dream of Jeannie made its debut.
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