Barbara Eden is now 85 years old, but she must have a magic potion that keeps her looking young. The I Dream of Jeannie star turned 85 on August 23, and fans and friends took to social media to wish her birthday greetings.
Barbara Eden was only 34 years old when she starred as a 2,000-year-old genie on the NBC fantasy comedy I Dream of Jeannie from 1965 to 1970. In an interview last year with Closer Weekly, Eden said her time on the Jeannie set was “heaven.” Eden revealed that the first time she rehearsed with her co-star Larry Hagman, she got right into character.
“I threw my arms around his neck and said, ‘Oh, Master!’ And he was like, ‘What is this woman doing?'” Barbara recalled.
Eden also revealed that she and her late co-star were “always on the same wavelength as far as truth and honesty and acting were concerned.”
Years before I Dream of Jeannie made her a household name, Barbara Eden made movie and TV magic with Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, and even Groucho Marx. Barbara guest starred on a variety of TV shows, appearing on everything from Gunsmoke to the classic I Love Lucy episode “Country Club Dance.”
In her 2011 memoir, Jeannie Out of the Bottle, Barbara revealed that Sen. John F. Kennedy once slipped her his phone number and Desi Arnaz flirted with her on the set of I Love Lucy. Still, a savvy Lucille Ball didn’t see Barbara as a threat and expressed interest in repping her just before she signed with 20th Century Fox.
“She said that it was rare to find a pretty girl who could be funny,” Eden revealed.
Eden also starred in the 1978 movie Harper Valley PTA alongside Ronny Cox and Nanette Fabray.
Still, just ahead of the 50th anniversary of I Dream Of Jeannie, Eden told HNGN that the biggest fan question she still gets is about her bellybutton, which was always carefully covered due to NBC’s censors. Producers of the ’60s sitcom made Barbara cover her navel with the waistband of her harem pants, but at one point there was talk of Eden doing a “navel reveal” on the sketch comedy show Laugh In.
“It caused a big stir at NBC,” Eden told HNGN. “Apparently, there were never so many suits around a table talking about someone’s bellybutton, all because of a proposed appearance on Laugh In? They didn’t let me do it.”
Still, with all of the happy times in her career came heartbreak. In 2001, Barbara Eden’s only child, Matthew Ansara, died of a heroin overdose. Eden’s spokesman, Gene Schwam, told ABC News that Barbara’s 35-year-old son was found dead in his car. Ansara was a fitness trainer and actor who was about to get married, and Eden, who had been involved in planning her son’s wedding, was devastated.
“They’re just in shock right now. This is her only child. She gets a call at 3:30 a.m.,” Schwam said at the time.
In an interview with ABC News‘ Charlie Gibson the following year, Barbara Eden broke down when talking about her late son.
In more recent years, Barbara Eden dished on how she can still fit into her Jeannie costume, telling People that she still worked out with a trainer and attended spinning classes. While she admitted her pace wasn’t what it used to be, Barbara said she was just happy to be around.
“There are times when I am really upset with the time passing,” Eden said in 2013. “But I have a loving husband [Jon Eicholtz] and really good friends. You can’t possibly be what you were when you were younger. I am so lucky to be here. Really lucky.”
Take a look at the video below for more on Barbara Eden’s life.
[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Go Red]