photo by the great Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine

Dagmar was a huge star in the very earliest days of television. She was the original "airheaded blonde" on the original late night talk show, which was called "Broadway Open House" and ran on NBC. Her real name was Virginia Ruth Egnor and everyone agrees she was just as nice and down-home folksy as you could possibly want. They all also agree that she was a genuinely talented comedic actress, in addition to being tall and busty. Says Milton Berle: "She was extra-talented. She could sing, she could dance, she knew how to throw a line, and she was a good 'feed,' like a straight woman. She was a pro."

"Ruthie" (her childhood name -- "easier to spell than Virginia" she quipped) was born on November 29th, 1921, one of seven children of a West Virginia coal miner. She married at age 20 and moved to New York City during World War II to be with her Navy commander husband. She started out modeling sweaters, and was hired by the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson as a principal in their Broadway show "Laughing Room Only" under the stage name Jennie Lewis, but her career really took off big-time when she went on television with Jerry Lester on NBC's "Broadway Open House." She had her own TV show a little later in the fifties, called "Dagmar's Canteen." She died aged 79, on October 9th, 2001 in West Virginia, but lives on in the memories of Cadillac enthusiasts, who are known to call the bullet-like bumper protrusions "Dagmars."

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updated December 28th, 2001 by Jan Chciuk-Celt