Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sheila James Kuehl Turns 69 Today...

I will always remember who I thought to be one of only intelligent female characters on early TV viewing. She was a character from one my earliest favorite TV series from the late 1950s. This show was The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis, & what a cast: Dwayne Hickman, Tuesday Weld, Frank Faylen, Florida Friebus, Bob Denver (who I worked with in the early 1970s, in a little thing called The Star Spangled Girl), Warren Beatty & Shelia James Kuehl as Zelda Gilroy.


Kuehl was slated for her own spinoff, Zelda, & episodes were filmed, but the project was dropped when rumors began to circulate that she was a lesbian. When she was passed over for a promotion in favor of a man with less experience she began to see major obstacles for women in the job market. She went back to school, received a law degree from the Harvard Law School & became an advocate for equal rights as an attorney specializing in Feminist causes before being elected to the California State Assembly in 1994. Kuehl was the first woman in California history to be named Speaker pro Tempore of the Assembly. She is also the first openly gay person to be elected to the California Legislature.

Kuehl's story could only happen in Hollywood. She was from a working class family & was only a teenager when she broke TV with her big break with the role of Zelda Gilroy in that widely popular series about American teenagers.

Along with Miss Jane Hathaway from The Beverly Hillbillies, Zelda was a favorite of mine when I was an 8 year old viewer, because even then, I liked my girls to be more like boys. I am proud to know that Kuehl would become better known for her legislation that protects students from anti-gay harassment and discrimination in California's schools.

3 comments:

  1. No mention (bad sign?) of Steven Franken. I picked up on the show during its run after Warren Beatty's character had been replaced by the Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. character. I thought Franken's rich boy buffoon was kind of the model for that portrayal in its day. And you're right, what a cast.

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  2. let's not even pretend you never worked with bob denver again. Gilligan's Island bring back any memories? what you did as MaryAnn is etched in my mind. pure hollywood magic. you can be so humble at times.

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  3. I feel famous. My signed photos show up everywhere :)
    Paul

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