Barbara Eden became an overnight sensation thanks to her starring turn in the hit 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. Sadly, the actress’s life has often been less of a dream and more of a nightmare thanks to numerous family tragedies. Despite this, Barbara has persevered thanks to her own healthy habits and positive attitude. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at Barbara Eden’s life of tragedy.
Barbara Eden was born in Tucson, Arizona, on August 23, 1931. Her mother and father divorced when she was young, and her mother subsequently moved Barbara out to San Francisco. There, Barbara’s mother married and had another child. Barbara grew up during the Great Depression, which meant her family couldn’t afford many luxuries. Barbara has recalled that her mother would sing for her and her half-sibling during the nights for entertainment.
Barbara enjoyed singing herself, and took up the habit at the local church choir. Barbara stood out amongst the other voices in the choir, and was always the one that was given the solos. Starting during her teenage years, Barbara would make $10 a night performing in local nightclubs, which was a pretty hefty sum of money back in the day.
When Barbara was 16 years old, she began studying acting and singing. In 1951, she was named Miss San Francisco. Barbara would go on to start appearing in television shows during the 1950s, and had become a notable film actress by the 1960s. However, her biggest break didn’t come until she got her titular iconic role on I Dream of Jeannie in 1965.
Barbara found out that she was pregnant with her first and only child soon after singing her contract to appear on I Dream of Jeannie. The actress had feared that she was going to be let go from the show, but the producers ended up making the decision to film the first several episodes around the actress’s pregnancy. While Barbara was glad at the time for the ability to work, she would go on to deeply regret the fact that her time on the show prevented her from being there as much as she would’ve liked for her newborn son.
I Dream of Jeannie came on the air in 1965. Barbara had been married to her first husband, Michael Ansara, since 1958. Their son was named Matthew. Although Barbara was grateful for the success of her hit program, she routinely expressed in interviews that it hurt her that she wasn’t able to spend as much time with Matthew as she wanted.
After I Dream of Jeannie came to an end in 1970, Barbara intended to make up for the time she had missed with Matthew. However, her husband didn’t have stable enough work for this to be a reality. Michael Ansara was a television actor that never had quite as much success as his wife.
In 1971, Barbara became pregnant with a second child. Sadly, her and Michael’s economic situation made it necessary for Barbara to continue working through her pregnancy. With few roles being offered to her on television, Barbara was forced to take up with touring productions of various plays, including The Sound of Music and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. These productions proved incredibly demanding on the pregnant actress, and her would-be second child was stillborn.
After already feeling so much guilt for having to work while Matthew was growing up, her second child being stillborn as a result of her rigorous stage performances pushed Barbara over the edge. Her and her first husband’s relationship never recovered, and Barbara would never have another child. Barbara and Michael divorced in 1974 after suffering through several years of a deteriorating marriage.
Young Matthew was devastated by the divorce of his parents. When Barbara married her second husband, Charles Fergert, in 1977, Matthew went to live with his father. When Barbara divorced from Charles in 1982, Matthew returned to live with her. At that point, Matthew was a young adult that was exhibiting troubling behaviors. He had a great desire to follow in his mother and father’s footsteps and become an actor, but they discouraged him.
Eventually, Barbara relented and gave her son her blessing to pursue acting as a career. However, there were larger issues on the horizon for the young man. In the early 1980s, Matthew had developed an addiction to heroin. Apparently, the young man had told his mother that he was attending college. One day, Barbara noticed that Matthew had left his books behind when supposedly heading off to class. She took the books to the school that Matthew had claimed he was attending, and found that he was not a registered student. Instead, Matthew had been wasting the days away doing heroin and living off his mother.
When Barbara confronted Matthew about his lie, Matthew ended up leaving the house and not coming back. Barbara was unsure where her son was for several months, but it turned out that he had been living on the street. After eventually finding their son, Barbara and Michael managed to convince Matthew to go to rehab. Michael became clean and resumed living with his mother, but would eventually fall back under the spell of the drug again and again.
In 1991, Barbara became married for a third time to an architect and real estate developer by the name of Jon Eicholtz. When Matthew was 27 years old, things seemed to have turned around for him. He had taken up healthy living, and had begun studying creative writing at UCLA. As well, Matthew became engaged to an accountant, and the two were making plans to have a fairly large wedding ceremony in the state of Oregon. Sadly, those plans never came to fruition. 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!
Matthew Ansara and his wife were making plans to be married, but Matthew was still secretly addicted to heroin. When Matthew’s heroin addiction became so rampant that his new fiancée couldn’t ignore it, she left him. Barbara Eden didn’t blame Matthew’s fiancée for leaving him, as Barbara had shut Matthew out of her life time and time again herself. Matthew had been in and out of rehab numerous times, and it was looking as if another stay wasn’t going to be enough.
After cycling through periods of addiction for over a decade, Matthew’s battle with heroin came to a tragic end when he died on June 27, 2001. At the time, Matthew was preparing for a bodybuilding competition. In addition to acting and creative writing, Matthew had become interested in bodybuilding as an adult. After Matthew was found dead, an autopsy revealed that there were steroids in his system, as well as heroin. When Barbara got the news that Matthew had been found dead from a heroin overdose, she was shocked. As far as she had known, her son had been clean and sober for two years. As well, Matthew had once again become engaged to a woman and had even planned a ceremony.
After Matthew’s passing, Barbara was left alone to reflect on the role she had played in how her son had turned out. The actress survived her son and is still alive today, and she still has plenty of regrets about how she raised him. Not only has Barbara never been able to forgive herself for the fact that she wasn’t there for Matthew as a newborn because of her work, but she also came to regret the fact that she hadn’t waited to divorce Michael until Matthew was older.
Although these regrets often plague Barbara, she has managed to overcome and let go of the past for the most part. Today, Barbara is 90 years old and is still married to her third husband. Barbara has expressed that it’s important for her to move forward and let go of the past, which is part of why she’s managed to make it this far in life. As well, the actress maintains healthy living habits in her old age, such as a nutritious diet and steady exercise. Still, she routinely thinks about her late son, and what she could’ve done better.
Although Barbara maintains a healthy diet in her old age and tries to get out of the house at least once a day, she isn’t above splurging every once in a while. Unlike many other actresses, Barbara is a proud meat eater that can’t get enough pork and steak. As well, she likes to indulge in circus peanuts because she feels that doing so brings her back to her childhood. Still, Barbara maintains a healthy lifestyle by limiting these indulgences, and exercising when she can.
Sadly, Barbara hasn’t been able to get out of the house as much as she would like to lately as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, she hasn’t been able to exercise nearly as much as she used to. Hopefully, the beloved television icon isn’t indulging in too many circus peanuts, or she might be liable to come out of the pandemic looking unrecognizable. The actress has largely been able to maintain her looks and figure up until today, which is incredibly admirable for an actress that just turned 90.
Besides appearing as Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie, Barbara Eden has also appeared in many other film and television roles during her career in entertainment. Comment down below to share what your favorite role from Barbara’s career is besides her iconic turn on I Dream of Jeannie, or if you were saddened to learn about the many tragedies that have plagued the actress over the course of her long life. 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!