Only weeks before her death on January 21, Kaye Ballard attended a sold-out screening of a documentary about her life, Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On, at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. She reveled in the adoration from her fans, who appreciated her myriad of talents as a singer, actress, comedian, impressionist and musician.
“The thing I’m proudest of was that I never made a penny in any other business for 80 years,” Kaye — who was 93 at the time of her death from kidney cancer — once said. It’s the business she was determined to excel in her entire life. “I’m lucky. I always knew what I wanted to do,” she gushed. However, she never quite achieved the success she deserved.
In 1969, her hit sitcom, The Mothers-in- Law, was canceled after only two seasons amid a salary dispute because Kaye earned only $2,000 per episode. “You’re gonna have plenty of disappointments,” she said. “But the highs outweigh them. Just stick with it.”
Kaye, despite some hardships, had triumphs onstage, landing on the cover of Life magazine while in Broadway’s Golden Apple in 1954. The blonde beauty also often guest-starred on Love, American Style and The Love Boat.
Yet love eluded her in real life. “I was engaged four times but couldn’t give my all to a marriage,” she once confessed. Still, Kaye had many famous friends and boosted the careers of Woody Allen, Joy Behar and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, among many others.
Her friends always appreciated the advice that Kaye was there to offer. “Kaye was my favorite leading lady and my favorite friend,” Gavin MacLeod, who costarred with her in a stage production of Gypsy, once gushed. “There’s a vacancy in our lives because of her leaving.”