Barbara Eden is an iconic television actress best known for portraying the character of Jeannie on the classic 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. Barbara learned that she was pregnant with a son when the series first began, and wasn’t sure if she should commit to the role. Decades later, Barbara lost her son to a drug overdose. Join Facts Verse as we explore why Barbara Eden is still mourning the tragic loss of her son.
While most in the television audience while likely know television actress Barbara Eden thanks to her iconic turn as the titular character on the classic 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, fewer will know that the actress had to suffer the loss of her son many years after filming that series. Barbara’s son was Matthew Ansara, and she lost him 20 years ago as a result of a heroin overdose.
Matthew was 35 years old at the time that he suffered his fatal heroin overdose, though he had been dealing with an addiction to the substance for many years. Barbara had tried to help her son on numerous occasions, and believed him to be clean at the time of his passing. Barbara was devastated, believing that she could’ve done more to save her son’s life. Since then, Barbara has worked as an advocate to try and encourage parents seeking to intervene into the substance abuse habits of their children.
The heroin overdose that killed Matthew occurred in June of 2001, though he had been dealing with substance abuse issues for over a decade beforehand. Matthew’s issues with heroin started soon after he was 18, at which point Barbara felt it wasn’t within her rights to force rehab onto her adult son. Though Barbara still encouraged her son to kick the habit, she felt forced to leave the choice in his hands.
Eventually, Matthew decided himself that it was time to kick heroin, and went to rehab on his own volition. There had been numerous periods where it seemed like Matthew had gotten his life back together, though he eventually always relapsed without anyone close to him finding out until it was too late, whether that be his mother or his various fiancés.
Matthew was 31 years old when he first went to rehab, and was in and out several times before apparently kicking the habit for good. He had been engaged once previously, though had fallen back into his heroin habit and destroyed the relationship. After his stays in rehab, Matthew became engaged once more. His wedding was scheduled for just a month past the date of his accidental heroin overdose.
Matthew’s body was founded lifeless in his pickup truck. When an autopsy was performed, it was found that lethal levels of heroin had been present in his system. In addition to the heroin, it was also found that there was a notable amount of anabolic steroids in the man’s body. Matthew had been practicing bodybuilding for several years up until that point, and he was apparently abusing steroids in addition to his abuse of heroin. Some speculated that Matthew had turned back to heroin as a result of the pain inflicted on his body from the intense working out, though there were likely many reasons that the man could never shake his demons.
In addition to being an aspiring bodybuilder, Matthew was also an aspiring actor that was always looking to follow in the footsteps of his mother. Sadly, Matthew could never find quite as much success in the world of entertainment as his mother did during the height of her career. Perhaps this lack of recognition was another reason that Matthew could never quite give up the habit of heroin.
Many of the acting gigs that Matthew did receive during his life came at the behest of his mother. Barbara managed to finagle a notable role for her son in the made-for-television comedy feature Your Mother Wears Combat Boots, which she also starred in. Because of this, Matthew likely began to feel like he wasn’t only living in his mother’s shadow metaphorically, but also literally. Matthew also appeared alongside his mother on the television series Harper Valley PTA. The series premiered in 1980, and was based upon the film of the same name, which had been released in 1978. Barbara Eden had also starred in the film.
Despite her son’s tragic death, Barbara chooses to remember Matthew for the good times the two shared on set together. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Barbara Eden is currently 91 years old, and has been married three times over the course of her life. Matthew Ansara was the result of Barbara’s first marriage, a union that she shared with fellow actor Michael Ansara. Barbara and Michael became married in 1958, and I Dream of Jeannie came on the air in 1966. Matthew was born in 1965, before I Dream of Jeannie debuted on television.
Since divorcing from Michael Ansara in 1974, Barbara Eden has remarried twice. She first remarried to a man by the name of Charles Donald Fegert, with the two tying the knot in 1977 and then getting divorced only several years later, in 1982. After this, Barbara waited a few years before marrying her third and current husband, in the year 1991. Barbara’s third husband is a man by the name of Jon Eicholtz, and he is a real estate developer and an architect.
Barbara Eden had filmed the pilot for I Dream of Jeannie before learning that she was pregnant with her first and only child, and she received the news of her pregnancy and the news of I Dream of Jeannie’s series order simultaneously. Barbara was elated at both pieces of information, but wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed. While she was incredibly glad that the pilot she had filmed was going to get picked up for a series, she wasn’t sure if she was going to be up for filming the rest of the episodes. As well, she wasn’t sure how the executives were going to take the news that she was pregnant due to the fact that it was going to effect the filming schedule. Thankfully, things turned out okay.
Barbara Eden and Michael Ansara had been actively trying to have a baby since their marriage in 1958, which meant that they had been trying for seven years before their first and only son was finally born. This made the news that Barbara was pregnant even that much more of a pleasant surprise for the couple, and also made it that much harder for Barbara to commit to her role on I Dream of Jeannie.
Barbara would’ve likely been grateful if the executives had fired her on the spot once she had revealed that she was pregnant. The actress believed that there was little chance the executives would want to keep her on the show given that she was going to be pregnant for most of the next year, which was all well and good with her because it meant that she was going to be able to be there for her son. However, the executives took the news that Barbara was pregnant much more positively than the actress had expected, and assured her that they could film most of I Dream of Jeannie’s first season around her pregnancy by using carefully-placed props to obscure the star’s pregnant form.
Matthew was born on August 29, 1965, after Barbara had already filmed several episodes of I Dream of Jeannie. Despite the fact that Barbara continued to film the show throughout much of Matthew’s infancy, she made a concerted effort to be there as much as she possibly could for her newborn baby without eschewing her responsibility toward the show. Barbara would continue to juggle her duties as a mother and an actress after her time on I Dream of Jeannie came to an end. After divorcing from Michael, Barbara would bring Matthew along to her various sets and get roles for him on some of the series and films that she worked on. This is how Matthew came to start acting.
Barbara and Michael had referred to Matthew as their “lucky-charm baby” due to the fact that he had come after so many years of the two trying to procreate. The two considered their first and only child a veritable miracle, which only made it that much harder for the two to deal with when Matthew’s life was taken from him at such a young age. The guilt that Barbara feels as a result of Matthew’s early death continues to weigh on her well into her old age. She likely wishes she could’ve been there more for her son, starting all the way back during the days of filming I Dream of Jeannie. When all is said and done, Barbara probably would’ve turned down the role if given the chance again.
I Dream of Jeannie came to an end in 1970, and Barbara has still continued acting up until recently, with her most recent acting roles having been in 2019. With the 20th anniversary of her son’s death having just recently passed, Barbara has been having a fairly tough time. At 91 years old, Barbara is still plagued by memories of her son, and still routinely wonders if there was something more that she could have done for him while he was still alive. In the time since Matthew’s heroin overdose, Michael Ansara has also passed away. He passed away in 2013, at the age of 91.
Despite the fact that Barbara Eden has remarried twice since divorcing from Michael Ansara, she has never had any other children besides Matthew. Comment down below to share if you have any memories of Matthew’s early acting roles alongside his mom, or if you were saddened to learn about the man’s early death as a result of a heroin overdose. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!