(Neil Genzliner’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/22; via Pam Green.)
Kaye Ballard, whose long career as a comedian, actress and nightclub performer included well-regarded runs in “The Golden Apple” and “Carnival!” on Broadway and a classic turn as a television mother-in-law, died on Monday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 93.
Her death was announced by her lawyer, Mark Sendroff.
Ms. Ballard wasn’t a top-flight singer, an Oscar-caliber actress or a drop-dead beauty — she once played one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters — but she made up for any shortcomings with determination and a sheer love of performing.
Even after she became well known, Ms. Ballard was not above taking parts in touring shows and regional theaters, and she rode the nightclub circuit for years, though she found the pace exhausting. In 2000, in her mid-70s, she brought a cabaret show to Arci’s Place in Manhattan called “Another Final Farewell Appearance,” but there was nothing final about it: Later in the decade she was still hard at work, including in tours of “The Full Monty” and “Nunsense.”
For the last 40 years or so of her performing career, wherever she was appearing people would mention one particular item from her lengthy résumé: “The Mothers-in-Law,” an NBC sitcom in which she and Eve Arden played neighbors whose children married, turning the newly minted mothers-in-law into partners in meddling.
Ms. Arden’s character was a haughty upper-crust type; Ms. Ballard’s was brassy and very Italian. The show made its debut in 1967, and, as with many sitcoms in that era of only three networks, its characters seared their way into the public consciousness with a disproportionate vigor: The series lasted only two seasons, but the mother-in-law personas acquired a certain immortality.