Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bye, Dr. Brothers

Dr. Joyce Brothers died yesterday.

The 85-year-old cultural icon – which is what she was to me – succumbed to respiratory failure at her New Jersey home.

I thought of her more as a television personality than a psychologist – I remember watching her in “Ellery Queen,” “Match Game,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Hollywood Squares,” “The Love Boat,” “Frasier” and of course “The Tonight Show” when Johnny Carson was the host – although I remember reading her syndicated newspaper column on occasion too. I loved how she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously during these guest appearances; I sometimes got the sense that as she was saying her lines, she was suppressing a smile and thinking, “Yeah, I know this is kind of silly but it’s fun and they’re paying me.”

Her obituary in the New York Times refers to her as “the mother of mass-media psychology because of the firm, pragmatic and homiletic guidance she administered for decades via radio and television.”

When I “pass on” (is there a dumber euphemism for dying?), I want some clever writer to put together a sentence filled with four-dollar words like that to describe me.

She was also a women’s advocate – she proposed changing textbooks to remove sexist bias back in the 1970s – and wrote several books, although I never read one. Unlike many advice-givers who call themselves “doctors,” she was the real thing, earning her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia.

If you google “Dr. Joyce Brothers quotes,” you’ll discover these gems, among others:

Marriage is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three meals a day, sharing the workload and remembering to carry out the trash.

Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.

Being taken for granted can be a compliment. It means that you've become a comfortable, trusted element in another person's life.

The world at large does not judge us by who we are and what we know; it judges us by what we have.

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.

Dr. Brothers’ Wikipedia page credits her with inspiring Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura. I liked her anyway.

For some reason, I find myself impacted to a greater extent by the death of celebrities with whom I grew up than is logical or probably healthy. Every time someone like Soul Train’s Don Cornelius, Three’s Company’s John Ritter, Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo or Peanuts creator Charles Schulz leaves this mortal plane, I feel like I’ve lost someone I actually knew, someone who occupied space in my life. I guess I’m reminded of my own advancing age and mortality. At least that’s my diagnosis. Dr. Brothers would probably concur.

Check out this cheesy skit with Dr. Brothers and Sha Na Na:

Sources: BrainyQuote.com, New York Times.

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