Popular psychologist Joyce Brothers dead at 85

LOS ANGELES — Joyce Brothers, the pop psychologist who pioneered the television advice show in the 1950s and enjoyed a long and prolific career as a syndicated columnist, author, and television and film personality, has died. She was 85.

Brothers died Monday in New York City, according to her longtime publicist, Sanford Brokaw. The cause of death was not immediately made public.

Brothers first gained fame on a game show and went on to publish 15 books and make cameo appearances on popular shows including “Happy Days” and “The Simpsons.” She visited Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” nearly 100 times.

The way Brothers liked to tell it, her multimedia career came about “because we were hungry.”

It was 1955. Her husband, Milton Brothers, was still in medical school and Brothers had just given up her teaching positions at Hunter College and Columbia University to be home with her newborn, firmly believing a child’s development depended on it.

But the young family found itself struggling on her husband’s residency income. So Brothers came up with the idea of entering a television quiz show as a contestant.

“The $64,000 Question” quizzed contestants in their chosen area of expertise. She memorized 20 volumes of a boxing encyclopedia — and, with that as her subject, became the only woman and the second person to ever win the show’s top prize.

Brothers tried her luck again on the superseding “$64,000 Challenge,” answering each question correctly and earning the dubious distinction as one of the biggest winners in the history of television quiz shows. She later denied any knowledge of cheating, and during a 1959 hearing in the quiz show scandal, a producer exonerated her of involvement.

Her celebrity opened up doors. In 1956, she became co-host of “Sports Showcast” and frequently appeared on talk shows.

Two years later, NBC offered her a trial on an afternoon television program in which she advised on love, marriage, sex and child-rearing. Its success led to a nationally telecast program, and subsequent late-night shows that addressed such taboo subjects as menopause, frigidity, impotence and sexual enjoyment.

She also dispensed advice on several phone-in radio programs, sometimes going live. She was criticized by some for giving out advice without knowing her callers’ histories. But Brothers responded that she was not practicing therapy on the air and that she advised callers to seek professional help when needed.

Despite criticism of the format, the call-in show took off, and by 1985, the Association of Media Psychologists was created to monitor for abuses.

For almost four decades, Brothers was a columnist for Good Housekeeping. She also wrote a daily syndicated advice column that appeared in more than 350 newspapers. Briefly, in 1961, she was host of her own television program.

Later, Brothers branched out into film, playing herself in more than a dozen movies, including “Analyze That” (2002), “Beethoven’s 4th” (2001), “Lover’s Knot” (1996) and “Dear God” (1996).

She was also an advocate for women. In the 1970s, Brothers called for changing textbooks to remove sexist bias, noting that nonsexist cultures tend to be less warlike.

Born Joyce Diane Bauer in New York, Brothers earned her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia.

She wrote numerous advice books, including “Ten Days To A Successful Memory” (1964), “Positive Plus: The Practical Plan for Liking Yourself Better” (1995) and “Widowed” (1992), a guide to dealing with grief written after the death of her husband in 1990.

Brothers is survived by sister Elaine Goldsmith, daughter Lisa Brothers Arbisser, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

More in Local News

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Woman confronts man leaving house with stolen item

“He swung at her with a crowbar, missing her.”

Police seek suspect in Wells Fargo bank robbery

He was described as white, in his 30s, heavyset, with blonde hair and a maroon sweatshirt.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Most Read