Better Hearing Institute

 


Celebrities Who Have Supported BHI

Presented chronologically in the order of their service to the Better Hearing Institute

These famous celebrities are no longer with us. But we will forever be grateful and proud that they volunteered their services to BHI to encourage Americans to overcome their hearing loss.

Eddie Albert - Actor
Eddie Albert is best known as the constantly flabbergasted Oliver Douglas in the TV sitcom "Green Acres" (1965-71) with Eva Gabor. The seemingly ageless, all American Albert flew on the circus trapeze and gave song recitals, before settling on acting as a career. Debuting in the military-academy comedy Brother Rat (1938), he immediately won attention with his pleasant manner and effortless comic touch. He has appeared in more than 100 movies and TV appearances in addition to Green Acres. His most memorable performances were for his acting roles in Roman Holiday, Attack!, Carrie, Oklahoma!, The Teahouse of the August Moon , The Sun Also Rises , and The Heartbreak Kid (1972, picking up his second Oscar nomination as Cybill Shepherd's father) and finally The Longest Yard (1974, as a ruthless prison warden). Mr. Albert has served as BHI spokesperson in numerous public service announcements, himself triumphing over hearing loss with hearing aids.

Ann Miller - Actress & Dancer
At a young age, Ms. Miller had to support her mother, who was hearing-impaired and unable to hold a job. At the age of 14 with a fake birth certificate, RKO first signed her on as a contract player. In the 1940's and 1950's she displayed her considerable dance talent not to mention her spectacular legs in many flashy, brilliantly choreographed dance routines with a number of leading men including Fred Astaire under Hollywood's best choreographers (e.g. Busby Berkeley). Among her most memorable movies were Easter Parade, On the Town, Kiss Me Kate and Hit the Deck. She was a great success on Broadway in the 1969 production of Mame. In 1979 she starred along Mickey Rooney in Sugar Babies for nine years. Ms. Miller committed herself to the cause of better hearing for BHI in the mid-1980's after her mother's hearing problem was corrected by Howard House, M.D. Dr. House was President Reagan's ear specialist and also a BHI advisory Board chairman.

Shari Lewis - Puppeteer

Her Lamb Chop’s Play Along, of all children’s shows on PBS, was out-rated only by Sesame Street one month after its 1992 debut. Her half-hour program series targeted children from 4-8 with music, games, stories, and the escapades of Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse, and Hush Puppy. TV Guide selected it as one of the three best learning series available on television. Ms. Lewis has entertained millions of children (and we might add adults) for close to 40 years. She was an accomplished actress, producer, orchestra conductor, recording artist, ventriloquist, puppeteer and author of 60 books for children. Ms. Lewis hosted a BHI telethon, and using Lamb Chop, took on the issue of hearing loss stigma in nationally televised public service announcements.


Dr. Norman Vincent Peale – Inspirational Writer

Dr. Peale, the noted author and speaker, who motivated countless millions with “The Power of Positive Thinking”, appeared in BHI public service announcements in the early 1990’s. Dr. Peale has written 42 books. The Power of Positive Thinking is one of the most successful books ever published having been translated into dozens of languages and with sales in excess of fifteen million copies worldwide. Dr. Peale has received many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He and his wife were also co-founders and publishers of Guideposts an inspiration magazine with 15 million subscribers. Dr. Peale also a man of positive action overcame his hearing loss with hearing aids.


Donald O’Connor – Actor and Dancer

A remarkable talent who seldom got movie vehicles worthy of his abilities, Donald O'Connor is best remembered for his exuberant performance as Gene Kelly's pal Cosmo Brown in the 1952 MGM musical Singin' in the Rain and secondarily for his six on-screen adventures with Francis the talking mule. His long career dates back to the days of vaudeville in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when he was part of a family act. At age 12 O'Connor made his film debut with his siblings in Melody for Two (1937). The following year he was signed by Paramount to costar with Bing Crosby and Fred Mac Murray in a featured role in Sing followed by You Sinners, Tom Sawyer, Beau Geste (1939, playing Gary Cooper as a boy) and he appeared in a number of youthful low-budget musicals during WW II with equally exuberant Peggy Ryan.  Francis (1949), a potboiler about an Army private who finds he is the only person who can carry on a conversation with an otherwise taciturn mule, proved to be a big hit with kids and led to five sequels. After his show-stopping "Make 'Em Laugh" number in Singin’ in the Rain, he starred in such enjoyable and entertaining movies as I Love Melvin, Call Me Madam , There's No Business Like Show Business  and Anything Goes. On TV O'Connor was one of the rotating hosts of The Colgate Comedy Hour, starred in The Donald O'Connor Show for NBC and hosted a short-lived talk show. O’Connor stated in one of his public service announcements for BHI, “Sixty-five years in show business and my feet haven’t failed me yet. My ears however, aren’t what they used to be. But that’s not so unusual. The good news is that most people with hearing loss can be helped like me with hearing aids”.


James Stewart – Actor

One of America's most beloved actors, Jimmy Stewart is a cultural icon often embodying values and traditions America holds dear to its heart. Thankfully we are annually reminded of these values in such memorable Frank Capra classics as It's a Wonderful Life where he played George Bailey, the small-town dreamer who reaches rock-bottom despair, before learning how many lives he's touched and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, in which Stewart plays an idealistic Senator. The tall, gangly, soft-spoken, shy youth endeared himself to moviegoers by virtue of his appealing diffidence (“awe shucks”), boyish earnestness, and innate kindness.  Mr. Stewart, a veteran of hundreds of movies, starred in such other movie classics as: The Philadelphia Story, Destry Rides Again, Anatomy of a Murder; 3 Hitchcock thrillers:  Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much , Vertigo; and  two John Ford Westerns, Two Rode Together  and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. He is perhaps Hollywood’s most honored figure having been awarded virtually every honor including: Kennedy Center Honors and the Medal of Freedom, two Academy Awards, two NY film critic awards and the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1992 BHI, as well as 28 other hearing and speech organizations, were thrilled to have Mr. Stewart as the national chairman of the Council for Better Hearing and Speech month under the general theme “It’s a Wonderful Life when you take advantage of what life offers”. Mr. Stewart overcame his hearing loss with hearing aids and wanted to kindly share the gift of hearing with millions of other Americans.


Gene Autry – Singing Cowboy

Originally under contract with Republic studios, he practically invented the B western of the '30s and '40s. These films often grossed ten times their initial investments. From 1942-46 he was a flight officer with the Air Transport command, returning to film with Columbia and finally with his own Flying A company which, during the 1950s, produced his TV series The Gene Autry Show, as well as, The Adventures of Champion, and Annie Oakley. Mr. Autry wrote over 200 songs. His most famous creations include: "Back in the Saddle Again", "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine",  "Here Comes Santa Claus"; "Be Honest With Me"; "Tears on My Pillow"; "Dixie Cannonball"; "Good Old-Fashioned Hoedown"; "You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven"; and "I Wish I Had Never Met Sunshine".  By the early 1960s he had established himself as a successful business executive with significant interests in hotels, real estate, radio stations and the California Angels professional baseball team. A successful hearing aid user, we were thrilled when Mr. Autry agreed to perform on the BHI telethon for hearing loss awareness titled “Sentimental Sounds” in 1984.


Clara Peller – Commercial Actress

She was a 4-10” spunky octogenarian thrown into the national limelight with her famous “Where’s the Beef” commercials for Wendy’s hamburger chain in 1984. Clara, a hearing instrument user appeared on TV and in the print media on behalf of BHI during the height of her “15 minutes of fame”.


Bob Hope - Comedian

Certainly everyone would agree that Bob Hope is one of the most popular entertainers in the history of Western civilization. He began his show-business life as a vaudeville comedian, and his machine-gun delivery of jokes quickly earned him the nickname "Rapid Robert." Hope worked his way to Broadway by the early 1930s, and made numerous comedy shorts before becoming a radio regular on The Pepsodent Show. But perhaps he is best known for his “Road to…” series of movies with crooner Bing Crosby and sarong-clad siren Dorothy Lamour. Hope made his first TV special for NBC in 1950, beginning an uninterrupted, 40+ year run on that network.  He spent many years as the host of the annual Academy Awards ceremonies and most of his life in humanitarian efforts especially entertaining troops overseas with his legendary USO shows. He indicated that he “lost his hearing in nine trips to Vietnam during the 60’s and 70’s. I can’t pinpoint the year, but around that time I decided to practice shooting on the police range in Palm Springs. I forgot to use ear plugs and after an hour of firing my ears were humming. When I went to my ear doctor for medical help, he told me I had lost some hearing in my left ear. I used the following lines at a recent dinner on behalf of other Americans with hearing problems: “Doc, There’s something wrong with my hearing. I can’t hear ‘em laugh.” The doctor replied: “Your ears are okay, Bob. Work on your act”.


Lorne Greene - Actor

Canadian-born Lorne Greene began acting while attending Canada's Queen's University, and after graduation got a job in radio broadcasting. His rich, deep, commanding voice propelled him to prominence as Canada's top newscaster. In the early '50s he pursued a film career in Hollywood. His greatest successes came in two television series, the long-running Western Bonanza in which he played the patriarch (Ben Cartwright) of a wealthy frontier family, and the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. Mr. Greene has appeared in a number of BHI public service announcements designed to demonstrate that better hearing is associated with “manliness” and effective relationships with one’s spouse (his wife Nancy appeared in a spousal public service announcement).

 


Henry Fonda - Actor

Consummate actor of stage, screen and TV for over fifty years, perhaps Mr. Fonda is most remembered for his roles as Abe Lincoln in Young Mr. Lincoln, as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, for which he received an Academy Award Nomination, as Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond, for which he received an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1982 and for his numerous roles in John Ford western classics. Henry Fonda is considered one of Hollywood's all-time legends and was a friend and contemporary of Jimmy Stewart (also a BHI spokesperson). The words one associates most often with Henry Fonda are "honesty" and "integrity." He projected those qualities in the characters he played, and audiences came to associate them with Fonda himself.  That is why we were particularly pleased when Mr. Fonda agreed to do public service work for BHI to talk about his sensorineural hearing loss (also known as nerve deafness) and how hearing aids alleviated his hearing problem. Mr. Fonda explained “I got help because I got bored asking people to repeat everything and always being left out of social events”.


Tony Zale – World champion boxer

Former 2-time middleweight boxing champion served on BHI’s first advisory board. He was world middleweight boxing champion, 1941-47, 1948. Mr. Zale was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.He triumphed over hearing loss with hearing instruments.


Art Carney – Comedian and Actor

Perhaps the world's most famous sewer worker, Mr. Carney played Ed Norton in the highly successful TV series The Honeymooners opposite Jackie Gleason. He also created the role of Felix Unger in the original production of The Odd Couple.  Winner of an Oscar and 7 Emmy awards, Mr. Carney had been a long time promoter of better hearing for BHI, being himself a successful user of hearing aids.


Johnnie Ray – Vocalist entertainer
He was one of the greatest of the transition singers between the crooners and the rockers. After partially losing his hearing in a youthful accident, he began singing locally in a wild, flamboyant style that soon made him an international sensation. His early songs, such as "Cry" and "The Little White Cloud That Cried", were major hits. He received surgery for Osteosclerosis and became a successful user of hearing aids. In 1973 Johnnie was BHI's first celebrity spokesperson.