Baby boomers have great memories. Our recollection of making mud pies in the back yard, watching television together with the whole family in our living rooms, going to the movies to see our favorite movie stars or listening to our favorite Top 40 AM radio station in the car are just part of the fabric of our lives that we now refer to as the "good ol' days."
Curiosity is a brain teaser, so I researched to see who is still with us from our "happy days" when we were all growing up in the Tinker Toy generation. These stars -- who are all over 80 -- were a part of our past, and, as sappy as this sounds, they will always have a place in our memories because they touched our hearts and made us feel good when we were young and younger.
If you remember these celebrities when they were in their prime, no doubt you'll break out into a smile. And if they are reading this (and I think they will be) ... on behalf of your millions of boomer fans who will never forget you: Thanks for the memories!
Oh, and before we get bombarded with letters, Little Richard and Carol Burnett are only 79.
Jonathan Winters was a fan favorite on "The Tonight Show," "The Jack Paar Show" and "The Steve Allen Show." His quirky, off-the-wall sense of humor, his cast of characters (including Maudie Frickert) and his gift for sound effects gave television audiences many laugh-out-loud moments. He was the voice of Grandpa Smurf on the television series "The Smurfs" from 1986 to 1990. What he's doing now: His most recent work was the voice of Papa Smurf in the 2011 animated "The Smurfs" film. He's voicing the "The Smurfs 2" movie as we speak (release date is set for 2013) and he continues to add to his collection of original sketches. Check out his <a href="http://www.jonathanwinters.com/" target="_hplink">website</a> here.
"The Singin' Rage, Miss Patti Page," who was one of the best-selling female artists of the 1950s, sold over 100 million records. Her best known hits: "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window," "Tennessee Waltz," and "Allegheny Moon" are still as comfortable to listen to as they were 50 years ago. (If you've never slow-danced to "Allegheny Moon," you don't know what you're missing!) What she's doing now: She's currently enjoying life in San Diego, CA. Check out her <a href="http://www.misspattipage.com/" target="_hplink">website</a> for the latest information.
After guest starring in several television series, Betty Lynn joined "The Andy Griffith Show" in 1961 as Barney Fife's loyal girlfriend Thelma Lou which she played until 1965 when Don Knotts left the show. It was her favorite role. Betty tells me that Andy once signed a picture for her many years ago which read: "You were Barney's girlfriend but you should have been mine." So sweet! The cast was a tight-knit group. What she's doing now: She reprised her role in "Return to Mayberry" in 1986 where she and Barney were finally married. Betty retired from acting in 2006, relocating to Mt. Airy, North Carolina -- the hometown of Andy Griffith. She happily attends the annual "Mayberry Days" (this year Sept. 27-30, 2012) in Mt. Airy to mingle with fans, and she sign autographs in <a href="http://www.andygriffithmuseum.org/" target="_hplink">The Andy Griffith Museum</a> on the third Friday of the month from 12:30 to 3:30 PM.
The Alabama native is best known for his role as Gomer Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show." His character proved to be so popular, he became a regular on the show later starring in a spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (1964-1969) where his character joined the United States Marine Corp. An accomplished singer, he recorded several albums. What he's doing now: For 39 years, he sang 'Back Home Again in Indiana,' with the Purdue All-American Marching Band before each Indianapolis 500 but missed this year due to a transcatheter heart valve procedure. In an email he said: "During my spare time I enjoy doing the cross word puzzle in the daily newspaper and reading novels on my Kindle and spending time bonding with my dogs." He also said his energy level has gone up since the procedure. He currently lives in Hawaii where he owns a macadamia nut plantation. He still performs in occasional concerts. You can check out future performances, and see recent pictures of him on his wonderful <a href="http://jimnabors.com/" target="_hplink">website</a> and read his touching comments on the passing of his great friend, Andy Griffith.
Doris Day was the "girl next door" superstar who is best known for her films with Rock Hudson: "Pillow Talk," "Lover Come Back," "Send Me No Flowers" and "That Touch of Mink" with Cary Grant. Her best known hit "<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Que_Sera,_Sera_(Whatever_Will_Be,_Will_Be)" target="_hplink">Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)</a>" was No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1956 and received the 1956 Academy Award for Best Original Song. What she's doing now: According to her <a href=" http://www.dorisday.com/" target="_hplink">website</a>: "Doris enjoys a quiet life at her home in Carmel Valley, California. She prefers to stay out of the spotlight, but is in no way the recluse that the tabloids would make her out to be. There is a steady stream of friends who visit her at her home. She keeps busy caring for her animals and her beautiful home and grounds (in that order), reading and answering the hundreds of pieces of fan mail she receives each month. She tends to the affairs of the Doris Day Animal Foundation, and has projects ranging from the release of a new CD, this new website, a paper doll book ... and she promises more new ventures are in the works."
Andy Williams will forever be identified with the song (say it with me) "Moon River." Even though it is identified as his theme song, who knew he never released it as a single so it never actually made the charts? From 1962 to 1971, Williams hosted his own TV variety show, The Andy Williams Show, and he <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Williams" target="_hplink">discovered The Osmond Brothers</a> making them regulars on the show. What he's doing now: He enjoys performing at The Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, MO. He will be performing Sept. 10 through Oct. 24 with various guest stars including Debbie Reynolds, Frankie Avalon, Jack Jones, The Osmond Brothers, Pat & Debbie Boone, Ray Stevens and Clint Black. His Christmas show runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 12. Check out his <a href="http://andywilliams.com/" target="_hplink">website</a> for dates.
One of the great pioneers of Rock 'N Roll, Fats Domino had us all tapping our feet to his biggest hits which include "Ain't That A Shame," "Blueberry Hill," "Blue Monday," and "I'm Walkin." "In the 1980s, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fats_Domino" target="_hplink">Domino decided he would no longer leave New Orleans</a>, having a comfortable income from royalties and a dislike for touring, and claiming he could not get any food that he liked any place else. His induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an invitation to perform at the White House failed to persuade Domino to make an exception to this policy." What he's doing now: Happily retired and enjoying life in New Orleans.
This stand-up comedian and actor is best known for his hilarious "deadpan delivery" comedy monologues where he would often use his hand to simulate a telephone as he lampooned the invisible caller on the other end. He starred in two very popular television series: "The Bob Newhart Show" (with Suzanne Pleshette, 1972-1978) and "Newhart" (with Mary Frann, 1982-1990). What he's doing now: Performing. He tweeted on July 9, 2012: "Performing stand up is a narcotic that I need even if I do it a few times a year. Traveling is inconvenient but worth it to make people laugh." Check out his <a href="http://www.bobnewhart.com/" target="_hplink">website</a>.
Dick Van Dyke played comedy writer Rob Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" from 1961 to 1966 opposite Mary Tyler Moore as his wife Laura. His next big television conquest was playing Dr. Mark Sloan on the CBS drama "Diagnosis Murder" from 1993 to 2001. He had an impressive film career starring in such movies as "Bye Bye Birdie" and Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins." What he's doing now: Living a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/dick-van-dyke-marries-40-year-old-make-up-artist_n_1335010.html" target="_hplink">happy life with his new wife</a>, 40-year-old make-up artist Arlene Silver.
Veteran character actor Rance Howard (father of actors Ron and Clint and grandfather to actress Bryce Dallas Howard) is best known for his role as Henry Boomhauer in the television series "Gentle Ben" (also starring his son Clint) which ran from 1967 to 1969. He has acted in almost 200 films and countless television series including "The Andy Griffith Show," "Death Valley Days," "The Lone Ranger," and way too many others to name in this space. What he's doing now: He's still acting -- most recently finished a cameo role in the film "The Lone Ranger," starring Johnny Depp, which is due to be released in 2013. Read the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pat-gallagher/rance-howard-actor-ron-howard-dad_b_1688571.html?utm_hp_ref=fifty&ir=Fifty" target="_hplink">full interview</a> on Huff/Post50 with Rance Howard.
Major Anthony Nelson on the 1960s NBC TV sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie" and J. R. Ewing on the CBS primetime series "Dallas" (1978 - 1991) were polar opposite roles but Larry Hagman pulled them off with the greatest of ease. Why? Simple. Because he's an excellent actor. What he's doing now: Enjoying reprising the role of J.R. on the new TNT 2012 version of "Dallas" and recovering from "a treatable form of cancer." He is also spending lots of quality time with his wife of 58 years, Maj Hagman. Find out everything you always wanted to know about the son of the late actress Mary Martin and more on his very informative <a href="http://www.larryhagman.com/" target="_hplink">website</a>.
Although actor James Best has worked as an acting coach, college professor, voice actor, and the guitarist Jim Lindsey on two episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show," he is best known for his role of the bumbling Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on the CBS television series "Dukes of Hazzard." What he's doing now: He lives in Hickory, N.C. with his wife Dorothy, whom he's been married to for 26 years. He will be appearing at the Hazzard Homecoming in Sperryville, VA, August 11th & 12th and will be doing his one man show at Mayberry Days in Mt. Airy, N.C. on Sept. 28th. To check out his other appearances, go to his<a href="http://www.jamesbest.com/" target="_hplink"> website</a>.
Ed Ames is best known for singing with his brothers, The Ames Brothers, in the 1950s. He co-starred with Fes Parker in the action-adventure TV series "Daniel Boone" from 1964 to 1968. He will forever be remembered for the throwing a tomahawk into the groin of a cardboard cowboy on "The Tonight Show" on April 29, 1965. The skit became one of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Ames" target="_hplink">Johnny Carson's favorites</a> on his yearly highlight shows. What he's doing now: He retired the tomahawk and he " <a href="http://www.pattersonandassociates.com/bios/Ed_Ames/index.html" target="_hplink">remains active in many charitable causes</a>, particularly ecology and the environment, fairness in politics and the plight of the Native American. He recently fulfilled a life dream of acquiring a horse ranch in Utah, where he raises quarter horses."
Hugh Downs first came to our attention as the announcer/sidekick to "The Tonight Show" starring Jack Paar from 1957 to 1962. He was the host of the game show "Concentration" from 1958 to 1969, but is probably best known for co-hosting the "Today Show" from 1962 to 1971 and anchoring the ABC news show "20/20" from 1978 to 1999. What he's doing now: He reportedly <a href="http://www.pattersonandassociates.com/bios/Ed_Ames/index.html" target="_hplink">retired in 1999</a>. We're guessing he's retired and fishing ... sounds reasonable.
Comedienne Betty White was featured in our <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pat-gallagher/older-celebrity-breakthrough-moments_b_1541737.html?ref=fifty" target="_hplink">"Late Blooming Celebrities</a>" feature. The Emmy Award winning actress is best known for her roles as man-chaser Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the sweet, naïve Rose Nyland on "Golden Girls." And, of course, there was that <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSvVBZ9x7mE" target="_hplink">Snickers Super Bowl commercial</a> in 2011. What she's doing now: "Hot in Cleveland" for starters and she's the host of the television reality show "Betty White's Off Their Rockers." Her career is still as strong as ever. We predict she'll be performing for at least another 11 years ... beating the late, great George Burns' record.
Barbara Walters is the broadcast journalist who has done it all: hosted the "Today Show" and ABC's news magazine"20/20," co-anchored the "ABC World News," creator and host of "The View," not to mention all those Barbara Walters celebrity specials interviewing literally hundreds of Hollywood types and political leaders. What she's doing now: She continues to co-host "The View," and contributes to ABC's "Good Morning America." She's a human boomerang ... and we love it that she's still going strong at the tender age of 82.
This man is one famous octogenarian! He's mostly known for his day-time talk shows co-hosting "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" from 1985 to 2000, and "Live with Regis and Kelly" from 2001 till his departure in 2011 -- plus he hosted that that hip ABC game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." What's he doing now: Making guest appearances on daytime and nighttime talk shows plus various sitcom television appearances (most recently "Hot in Cleveland"). He seems to be searching for his next big gig so let's all keep our fingers crossed because <strong>we need a feisty 80-year-old talk show host to keep us on our toes! </strong>
Besides being married eight times (current marriage to Jan Chamberlin has lasted 34 years!), Mickey has been a superstar since he was a teenager. He played "Andy Hardy" in 14 films between 1937 and 1946 and according to his <a href="http://mickeyrooney.com/" target="_hplink">website</a>, he has 350 film credits to his name and four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. What he's doing now: In 2010 Mickey and his wife toured in the "One Man One Wife Show," and his website has an "Appearance Inquiries" page, so he's apparently not retiring until further notice. Go Mickey!
The "insult" comic made his rounds on television talk shows since the 60s including Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show," appearing more than 100 times which earned him the titles of "Mr. Warmth," and "The Merchant of Venom." He has been in dozens of films and television shows over the years. What he's doing now: "Rickles <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Rickles" target="_hplink">continues to be very active</a> on the stand-up comedy scene, and is still a popular performer in Las Vegas. He has no plans to retire as he recently said in an interview: 'I'm in good health. I'm working better than I ever have. The audiences are great. Why should I retire? I'm like a fighter. The bell rings and you come out and fight. My energy comes alive. And I still enjoy it.'"
One of the original pioneers of Rock 'N Roll, this guitarist, singer and songwriter is best known for his mega hits "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven," and "Johnny B. Goode." John Lennon once said: "If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry." Now that's one heck of a tribute! What he's doing now: We're happy to announce he's still performing! For a list of his upcoming shows, and current news, checkout his <a href="http://www.chuckberry.com/" target="_hplink">website</a>.
Carl Reiner has worn many hats: actor, producer, film director and comedian. He is best known for teaming with Mel Brooks playing the straight man to Brooks' <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Reiner" target="_hplink">"2000 Year Old Man</a>." This nine-time Emmy Award winner created and wrote many of the episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Steve Martin owes him a big debt of gratitude, and he knows why. What he's doing now: Probably making lots of his family (including son, Rob) and friends laugh out loud. The man is a true comedy legend. In early July, Reiner <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/story/2012-07-11/mad-mad-mad-world-reunion-mickey-rooney-carl-reiner/56136208/1" target="_hplink">reunited</a> with Jonathan Winters and Mickey Rooney for a "Mad, Mad World," reunion.
Who doesn't love Abe Vigoda and why isn't he dating Betty White? After all, they did that Super Bowl commercial together. Never mind. He came into our living rooms as Sgt. Phil Fish on the sitcom "Barney Miller," in 1975. He is also known for his portrayal of Sal Tessio in "The Godfather." What's he doing now: We've been over this. He's alive and well despite being referred to as <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2008-09-23/entertainment/abe.vigoda_1_phil-fish-abe-vigoda-police-car?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">"the late Abe Vigoda</a>," in People magazine in 1982 and other random false reports.
Best known as a "sex symbol," actress alongside the likes of Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe, Van Doren never achieved the superstar status as Monroe, nonetheless, she got her share of attention showcasing her "<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamie_Van_Doren" target="_hplink">ample curves</a>" (her wardrobe consisting of low-cut blouses and tight sweaters) in films like "Sex Kittens Go to College," and the 1958 film "Teacher's Pet." What she's doing now: She recorded a country album, "Still a Troublemaker," in 2011. For everything you ever wanted to know about the lovely Mamie Van Doren and more, go to her <a href="http://www.mamievandoren.com/" target="_hplink">website</a> now. (I had the pleasure of interviewing Mamie three years ago on the phone, and she doesn't sound a day over 25.)
The Tony Award winning actress is best known for her roles in Broadway musical comedies. She played Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and Dolly Gallagher Levi in "Hello Dolly." Her raspy voice has been imitated hundreds of times by professional impersonators. What she's doing now: Showtime recently aired a <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1737122/news" target="_hplink">documentary</a> about the Broadway legend: "Carol Channing Larger Than Life." Check your local listings for (hopefully) a repeat.
This Emmy Award winning comedian is best known for his 1950s television series "Your Show of Shows," and "Caesar's Hour," and for playing Coach Calhoun in the films "Grease," and "Grease 2." He was also in the cast of the 1963 movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" alongside other comedy legends including Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Carl Reiner, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett and Don Knotts. What's he doing now: He reportedly had to miss the "Mad, Mad World," reunion in early July due to <a href="http://redroom.com/member/manny-pacheco/blog/its-a-mad-mad-mad-mad-reunion" target="_hplink">health issues</a>. For more information go <a href="http://www.sidcaesar.com/index.html" target="_hplink">here</a>.
TV pioneer Norman Lear, who produced 1970s sitcoms "All in the Family," "Sanford and Son," "One Day at a Time," "The Jeffersons," "Good Times," and "Maude," just put 90 candles on his birthday cake on July 27, 2012 (but did he blow them all out?). His special talent for knowing how to entertain television audiences with some of the greatest sitcoms of all time will forever be his artistic legacy. What he's doing now: Lear just celebrated his 90th birthday at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Check out this "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/28/norman-lear-90-years-90-seconds_n_1713573.html?utm_hp_ref=tv" target="_hplink">90 Years in 90 Seconds</a>" tribute video along with a great slideshow brought to you by Huffpost TV.
Tony Bennett, who is an accomplished painter (he paints under his real name, Anthony Benedetto) is a music legend known for singing standards, show tunes, pop music and jazz. His signature song "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" became one of the "<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Bennett" target="_hplink">historically significant songs of the 20th Century.</a>" What he's doing now: He still tours and has enjoyed his most recent success with his Duets II album singing with accomplished artists including Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, and Mariah Carey. For more information about one of the greatest singers of all time and to get info on his latest tour dates, go to his <a href="https://tonybennett.com/" target="_hplink">website</a>.
Follow Pat Gallagher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@pat_gallagher