Yet the designer, who set fashion trends for more than 40 years, is rising again with her own reality show, "XOX Betsey Johnson," premiering May 12 on the Style Channel.
Known for her Pippi Longstocking hair, her over-the-top designs and kooky vivacity, Johnson, 70, shares the camera with her daughter, Lulu, in an intimate look at her work and their mother-daughter relationship.
Having overcome breast cancer, Johnson saw her empire -- including 63 retail stores -- slip into bankruptcy last year. But she remains unbowed as the creative director for her brand, specializing in accessories, swimwear, a dress collection and soon an aerobics line.
Her career began when she won a design contest fostered by Mademoiselle Magazine. The win swept her to London. "That was the summer of '64, mods, rockers, Beatles, Rolling Stones. Everyone was just on the verge.
"It was a whirlwind and we worked on the college issue," she said.
After that she designed a T-shirt made of crocheted material topped with a velvet ribbon. Everyone was surprised when mail orders began pouring in. "I had to go home every night and make four of them and on the weekend had to make 10 of them.
"After 300 yards of fabric, I was done. ... I liked doing that, then I realized maybe I'll do my four or five favorite T-shirts and T-shirt, flippy, mini things."
Bob Newhart will guest on "The Big Bang Theory" Thursday. Could it be May sweeps? That's when networks throw all their best stuff on the tube to boost the ratings on which their advertising prices are based.
He's hilarious now, but the noble Newhart said that when he started out he was terrible. "I could do monologues, but was not good in sketches, that was the problem with variety shows because I populated my monologues with people that I imagined. "They were not an actual person saying the lines. I wasn't good at stand-up."
No one was more surprised than he when his album "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart" hit it big in 1960.
"The trouble was I started at the top and had to learn my craft in reverse," he said. "It took a lot of bluff and bravado when you were actually terrified."
Are you game?
Whom would you trust most, a used-car salesman, an annuity broker, a real estate salesman with a track of desert land? Well, how about a game-show host?
D.L. Hughley and Michael Ian Black have signed on the make you do just that with the new game show, "Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host" for TBS.
The two hosts will do their best to fool the show's contestants with bizarre tales that may or may not be true. The contestant who figures out who's lying takes home the loot. The show is produced by that Midas of the reality world, Mark Burnett, and airs sometime later this year.
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