The Crowd: Joyce Bulifant to have one-woman show at Balboa Bay Club

The year was 1975.

Mary Tyler Moore was starring in one of America's most watched situation comedies.

After a year of knocking on doors in Hollywood and trying to land any kind of job, I was hired at CBS-Television City and sent into a windowless basement office. It had concrete walls and metal shelves overflowing with letters from fans requesting tickets to be in the studio audience to attend a filming of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

It was my first job in television, and it paid the princely after-tax sum of $80 per week. I thought I had landed on the moon.

That job led to a friendship that has lasted for some 35-plus years with a co-star of that iconic sitcom, Joyce Bulifant. She played Murray's wife, Marie, the sweet and ditsy blonde with the high-pitched voice and the devilish personality — kind of a young, cute complement to Betty White's character.

TV fans will also remember Joyce from her years on the small screen's "Match Game," as well as countless guest roles on shows like "Perry Mason."

In the early 1960s, a fellow named Walt Disney took a liking to Joyce. She was, after all, about as American as any slice of apple pie. Disney starred her in movies like "The Happiest Millionaire." He had big plans for the petite actress.

Now Joyce is visiting the Balboa Bay Club and Resort on Sept. 30 in a one-woman show, "Remembering Helen Hayes — With Love," about her former mother-in-law.

For Bulifant, the Hollywood journey began as a young girl sent away to boarding school, where she would meet and fail in love with James MacArthur, a boy who would eventually become her first husband. His mother was the legendary Broadway actress Helen Hayes.

MacArthur would become an actor of note in his own right, also a Disney star in movies like "Swiss Family Robinson" and on TV in the original "Hawaii Five-0" acting in the role of Danno. As teenagers, Joyce and James (Jimmy) would travel from New York to Hollywood with Hayes in her chauffeur-driven Lincoln Continental. It was the beginning of their respective careers and their romance.

Bulifant, now married to talented actor, musician and composer Roger Perry, performs a sentimental memoir using letters, rare photos and video interspersed with songs accompanied by Perry.

In recent years, in addition to guest-starring roles and live theatrical performances around the nation, Joyce has dedicated herself to humanitarian pursuits, supporting the Dyslexia Foundation and various autism research endeavors, and serving as a national board member for Childhelp to assist in caring for abused and neglected children.

This very special, one-night-only performance is open to the public. Reserved seating is $25, with VIP tickets priced at $75, which includes a private champagne reception with Joyce following the show.

Call the Balboa Bay Club at (949) 630-4120 to reserve your spot.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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