Davenie Johanna “Joey” Heatherton (born September 14, 1944) is an American actress, dancer, and singer. A sex symbol of the 1960s and 1970s, she is best known for her many television appearances during that time, particularly as a frequent variety show performer, although she also appeared in acting roles. She performed for over a decade on USO tours presented by Bob Hope, and starred in several feature films including My Blood Runs Cold (1965) and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977).
Heatherton began her career as a child actress. She first appeared on television on her father’s show, The Merry Mailman, a popular children’s show in New York. In 1959, when she was 15, she became a member of the ensemble and an understudy in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music, and received her first sustained national exposure that same year as a semi-regular on The Perry Como Show (later called Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall), playing an exuberant teenager with a perpetual crush on Perry Como. She also released her first single that year, entitled “That’s How It Goes”/ “I’ll Be Seeing You”, but failed to have a hit with it, or with the three additional singles she released over the next few years.
Heatherton’s first television role as a dramatic actress came in 1960 when she guest starred as a wealthy, spoiled teen on an early episode of Route 66. During the early 1960s, Heatherton was frequently cast as a troubled teenager due to her “sexy-kid look”.
Beginning in the mid-1960s, Heatherton began to gain attention for her sensual dancing on television, which some viewers considered shocking and some critics derided as “sleazy eroticism”. In 1964 she appeared on The Tonight Show, where she coached Johnny Carson on the finer points of dancing “The Frug.” She received major publicity following her guest appearances on the January 1965 premiere episode of the teen dance show Hullabaloo. She was featured on several more episodes of the show, and released “Hullabaloo”, a song that she had performed on the show, on Coral Records. At the invitation of Dean Martin, Heatherton also appeared extensively on The Dean Martin Show, starting with the premiere episode of September 16, 1965. She was a mystery guest on the game show What’s My Line? on November 7, 1965, the last show on which Dorothy Kilgallen appeared.
From June to September 1968, along with Frank Sinatra, Jr., Heatherton co-hosted Martin’s summer-substitute musical comedy hour, Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers. She also made multiple appearances on other 1960s television variety shows, such as The Andy Williams Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Ed Sullivan Show, and This Is Tom Jones.
Heatherton dancing on the USS Ticonderoga, December 27, 1965
Between 1965 and 1977, Heatherton performed live in Bob Hope’s touring USO troupe, entertaining the GIs with her singing, dancing and provocative outfits. Excerpts from the USO tours were televised as part of Hope’s long-running series of NBC monthly specials, culminating in the top-rated Christmas shows, where Heatherton’s segments were regularly featured.
Throughout the 1960s, Heatherton interspersed her variety show appearances with dramatic turns on episodes of numerous television series, including Mr. Novak, The Virginian, The Nurses, I Spy, and It Takes a Thief.
Heatherton also appeared in the movies Twilight of Honor (1963), Where Love Has Gone (1964), and My Blood Runs Cold (1964). In her film debut, Twilight of Honor, she played the young wife of an accused murderer (Oscar-nominee Nick Adams). The only one of the three films to be made in color, 1964’s Where Love Has Gone, was a big-budget melodrama based on Harold Robbins’ roman à clef about the scandalous Lana Turner–Cheryl Crane–Johnny Stompanato manslaughter case, with Heatherton playing the daughter of the Turner character (Susan Hayward). The William Conrad thriller My Blood Runs Cold marked Heatherton’s first leading role in a film, opposite Troy Donahue.