Misty Rowe and Donny Most
Last year, “Hee Haw Honey” Misty Rowe showcased at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) annual conference, not at the New York Hilton Midtown headquarters, but at nearby watering hole Funky Joe’s, with fellow Hee Haw cast legends Lulu Roman, Jana Jae and Buck Trent--collectively billed as the Kornfield Friends, after the show’s much-loved Kornfield Kounty cornfield pop-out segments.
This year, however, Rowe shucked her ditzy Hee Haw persona for a glamorous duet singing role with Donny Most, reuniting the pair after starring together long ago in Happy Days. Most had played girl-chasing jokester Ralph Malph, while Rowe played carhop Wendy.
“I hadn’t seen Donny in 40 years!” says Rowe, on the phone form her home in South Carolina. “He’s been singing big band music for quite a while, now, and I’d been doing the Kornfield Friends thing for a year—and celebrated the 50th anniversary of Hee Haw with a PBS special show in Virginia, and now I’ve gone on to other things. But his agent saw me on Facebook and was interested and contacted me. I said, ‘Tell Donny I said hi.’”
Most then contacted Rowe himself.
“He was playing at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, North Carolina—about four-and-a-half hours away,” she recalls. “He invited us to the show—and wanted to do a duet with me! I said, ‘Oh, Donny! I’m a comedian and actress--and sing along with people and do funny things. I don’t want to disappoint you or your audience.’ And he said, ‘You won’t! Bring a nice dress because it’s big band, uptempo and sunny.’ So we did ‘Makin’ Whoopee’—which Doris Day sang.”
Rowe wore the pink dress that had been given to her when she became the first actress to play Marilyn Monroe in a film--Goodbye, Norma Jean (1976). While promoting it in London, incidentally, she was invited to an event also attended by Elton John, who wrote his hit “Candle in the Wind” about Monroe.
John invited her to see A Chorus Line the next night with his parents. That day, she modeled Monroe’s famous dress from The Seven Year Itch at Madame Tussauds, but she didn’t have time to change back to her own clothes in time to be picked up in John’s car--and wore a huge lobster bib during dinner to prevent staining the dress. When she returned to her hotel that night she was met by two security guards form Lloyds of London, who waited outside her room while she disrobed and handed it to them through the door.
As for her pink dress from Goodbye, Norma Jean, Rowe, who also played Monroe in the 1989 movie Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn, says it was a big hit when she wore it to sing with Most.
“Everybody just loved it!” she says. “Why would people want to see a woman in her sixties dress as Marilyn Monroe, I don’t know--but they were all happy seeing us being together and knowing we’re still alive!”
The next day Most called Rowe to brainstorm how to further incorporate her into his show.
“He’s so much fun to work with, and now he’s arranging some kind of tour with us, so we’ll see what happens. But he’ll have to bill me as a comedian!”
Meanwhile, Rowe is set to direct a production of Always...Patsy Cline—and star as Cline’s friend Louise Seger--at the American Music Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, next month. She’s been performing in productions of the show intermittently since 1996 and directing since 2000.
“I actually met Louise on opening night in Branson, with Patsy’s husband Charlie Dick,” recalls Rowe. “In the old days, you had to be approved by the estate, and Charlie came down to approve me! Now I’ve been doing it longer than Hee Haw!”
And while she’s forever remembered first as a Hee Haw Honey--in fact, she also starred in the short-lived but warmly received Hee Haw sitcom spin-off Hee Haw Honeys--Rowe has plenty other noteworthy showbiz credits. She even recalls writing a Christmas show, A Misty Christmas, Finally a Fruitcake You'll Like!, that ran at the Claridge Casino Palace Showroom for five weeks in 2000--and the last person to come in and audition: “He was a little young man with a beautiful face, who was afraid he was too late and said his name was Peter Dinklage! He got the part, and I taught him how to tap dance!”
Thanks to Goodbye, Norma Jean, a picture in People caught the eye of Mel Brooks,who was casting his Robin Hood TV sitcom When Things Were Rotten.
“Every actress auditioned for it, and I got called in because I’d studied with Stella Adler for 20 years,” says Rowe. “She considered me a dramatic actress, and said Hollywood would never give me a chance until I got older because I was too good-looking! But Mel walked over and started dancing with me, and I got called back nine times and got the part. They even flew in Marty Feldman just to direct me!”
Other Rowe credits include a children’s show, Misty’s Magical Mountaintop, and Forever Doo Wop, a doo-wop show she directed in Las Vegas. And since she’s just returned from the Pryor Creek Comic Convention near Tulsa, note must be made of her performance in Buck Henry’s late-`70s sci-fi sitcom Quark, which starred Richard Benjamin, and in which Rowe appeared as the four-armed alien interstellar telephone operator Interface.
“It was in the days of not-great special effects, so I had to have another person kneel on the floor with their head in my back to get the effect of four arms!” says Rowe, who notes that she’s also played Daisy Mae opposite Joe Namath in the title role in a national theater tour of Li’l Abner, Maid Marian opposite Dick Gautier’s Robin Hood in Mel Brooks’ 1975 sitcom When Things Were Rotten, and of course, Marilyn Monroe.
“I’m an actress, and Comic Con is about characters,” says Rowe. “I’ve just been blessed to work with great singers—and I like to dress up in Marilyn’s dress.”