Cincinnati native Dotty Mack, an early 1950s TV star who hosted an ABC TV network show, died in Miami, Fla., early on Monday, Nov. 11, says her nephew, Steve Beckman. She was 90.
Born and raised Dorothy Macaluso in Price Hill, the 1947 Mother of Mercy High School graduate pantomimed to records with Paul Dixon, Bob Braun and Wanda Lewis shortly after WCPO-TV started broadcasting in 1949. She would emote on live TV to popular songs by Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Dinah Shore and others.
She was such a hit that WCPO-TV gave Mack her own shows - Your Pantomime Hit Parade, Girl Alone and the Dotty Mack Show, which was picked up nationwide by ABC (1953-56) and the old DuMont networks.
"The camera would start on the record spinning, and then fade to my lip-syncing,” Mack told me in 2012 while in town visiting family. "They said, 'Bring it to life.' So that's what I did. I was called the Queen of Pantomime."
Mack was so convincing that Bob Hope's manager called and asked her to be the featured singer on Hope's TV show – not knowing she didn't sing.
"Dotty Mack had one of the simpler acts on early television: she pantomimed to other performers' hit records," says The Complete Directory To Prime-Time Network And Cable TV Shows.
"She began her miming on The Paul Dixon Show out of Cincinnati, then landed a 15-minute spot by herself on DuMont called, appropriately, Girl Alone. Four months later, in July 1953, the program was expanded to 30 minutes, two assistants (Bob Braun and Colin Male) were added, and the title was changed to The Dotty Mack Show. Shortly thereafter ABC picked it up. At times the program was a full hour in length, although 30 minutes was normal," wrote Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh in their Complete Directory.
After graduating from high school, Mack worked as a "live mannequin" and sales person for a downtown store. She was offered a librarian job at old WCPO-AM in March 1949, and soon began appearing on Paul Dixon's radio show. She made the transition to television in July 1949 when WCPO-TV started broadcasting from a studio under the Symmes Street tower in Walnut Hills.
Mary Wood, the Cincinnati Post's TV columnist called her a"Cinderella story" in 1951.
"It hasn't been such a long time since Dotty Mack put her foot inside of a radio station. It hasn't been too long since she was a wide-eyed high school girl being impressed just by the sight of announcers whose voices she recognized. Even now Dotty sometimes has to pinch herself to be sure everything that's happened to her in the last couple of years isn't just a dream," Wood wrote in a story published Nov. 17, 1951.
"She used to be nervous taking telephone calls on Paul's local TV show. Now she whips through network production numbers without batting an eye. With Dotty, the whole thing is a sort of 'Cinderella Story'…. And the nice part about it is that Dotty still manages to remain that same pretty girl from Price Hill who can whip up a mighty fine spaghetti dinner for her friends," Wood wrote.
In the early days of WCPO-TV, Dixon and Mack were joined by Wanda Lewis (later "Capt. Windy" on the Uncle Al Show), Bob Braun and Colin Male. Wanda's husband, WCPO-TV art director Al ("Uncle Al") Lewis, drew the backgrounds on huge sheets of paper. Mack changed dresses between songs and during commercials behind the backdrop.
"I was known for my beautiful gowns," she told me. She also said that she never received a clothing allowance for her dresses or shoes.
The Complete Directory book noted that "most of the songs pantomimed were currently popular favorites or novelty songs by such stars as Eddie Fisher, Perry Como or Patti Page; sometimes puppets or other visual aids accompanied the pantomimes. Things began to get complicated when rock 'n' roll started taking over the hit parade in 1955 … and the show quietly passed from the scene in 1956."
Mack told me that she turned down an offer from Chicago’s WGN-TV and moved to New York in late 1958 to be the "Girl Friday" host for Dick Van Dyke's Mothers Day daytime game show.
In the 1951 Cincinnati Post story, Wood noted that Mack "has dates with the glamorous stars she used to read about – like Vic Damone – and it's a slow week if she's not elected somebody's dream girl."
Mack told me she also dated Van Dyke, Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio before marrying popular New York DJ William B. Williams in 1960. She quit show business when their son, Jeffery, was born in 1961. However, she remained friends with singers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme; Joanna Carson, third wife of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson; and two singers with Cincinnati ties, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney.
Mack had lived in Miami since her husband died in 1986.