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What Happened to Joey Heatherton, Sex Symbol of the 60s and 70s

Joey Heatherton a sex symbol of the 1960s who often is compared to Ann-Margaret. She was all over the airwaves, magazine covers, and talk shows for a time. Joey quite the sought-after singer, dancer, actress. And personality and featured in such programs as The Dean Martin Show and The Mike Douglas Show. Despite her ubiquitous presence back then, entertaining the troops in Vietnam with Bob Hope and all that jazz, you don’t see her working at all anymore.

Anyone that was fortunate enough to see Joey Heatherton in her prime. Slinking her 5’5” frame around a stage while singing such tunes as ‘I’ve Got Your Number’ remembers how magnetic of an appeal she wielded. She was intriguing, vaguely exotic, and talented as can be.

She was born Davenie Johanna Heatherton in New York City and raised in Rockville Centre, New York to a pair of performers. Her father, Ray Heatherton was a Broadway star and television pioneer who achieved a measure of fame in the greater New York Area as the star of the long-running children’s show The Merry Mailman. Her mother, Davenie, whom she named after, was a dancer who met Ray when they were both performing in a production of Babes in Arms. She nicknamed Joey as a child, a combination of her first name Davenie and her middle name Johanna.

As a child, Heatherton attended Saint Agnes Academy, a Catholic grade and high school. At the age of six, she started studying ballet at the Dixon McAfee School of Dance. Before going on to study for another four years under the late-great George Balanchine. She then proceeded to study modern jazz, dance, voice, and dramatics.

Heatherton blessed with this almost preternatural glow that people in the industry like to call ‘star power’. Today, you would probably say that she had the ‘it factor’. Whatever you call it, she force to reckoned with.

She spent the majority of the 60s and 70s dancing on TV shows. Performing for the armed forces, and making appearances on red carpets looking glamorous, distinguished, and always put together. But as the decades went on she cursed with scandal after scandal and slowly started to drift out of the public eye. Join Facts Verse to learn more about What Happened to Joey Heatherton, Sex Symbol of the 60s and 70s.

She Drove Men Wild In The 1960s

Heatherton has a performer ever since she’s a little girl. But her first notable role on a 1960 episode of Route 66 when she guest-starred as a rich brat with what’s called a ‘sexy-kid-look’ – whatever that’s supposed to mean.

From there she started dancing on shows like Hullabaloo and The Tonight Show. Where she famously taught Johnny Carson how to do a dance called The Frug. Her critics deemed her sensual demeanor and look as ‘sleazy eroticism’. And she constantly haunted by the pervasive critique that she was just some kind of Ann-Margret knock-off. But that never once stopped her from earning fans who couldn’t seem to get enough of her.

You might want to keep in mind that Heatherton wasn’t just a saucy, sexy dancer on late-night television. She was also a fairly decent actress who guest-starred on shows like The Virginian and I Spy. But perhaps her biggest television break came in the summer of 1968 when she co-hosted Dean Martin Presents: The Golddiggers with Frank Sinatra Jr. For a bit there, it seemed like everywhere you looked. There was Joey Heatherton’s distinct ‘come-hither’ gaze and curvaceous figure.

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And don’t go scurrying off just yet. Stick around to see why the 80s were so damaging to Joey Heatherton’s once illustrious career.

She Put Her Life On The Line During Her USO Tours 

Even though she was regularly taking on guest roles and dancing on whatever show she desired to. Heatherton also enjoyed spending her time entertaining the troops during the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1977, she performed with Bob Hope’s renowned USO troupe where she showed off her many talents by singing dancing and hanging out with the brave boys overseas.

While in Vietnam, she would perform on a makeshift stage while simultaneously putting her life on the line just to give the troops a much-needed reprieve from the war. It was a difficult time for everyone and she could have very easily opted out of the honor but she did it anyway out of a sense of patriotism and empathy for her fellow man.

During one such trip to Danang, Heatherton barely managed to survive an enemy assault while on stage performing. She actually had to airlifted to safety via a helicopter. She then taken to a plane and before she knew it, she safely in the Philippines still covered in mud from her daring escape from the Vietcong’s unexpected attack.

That didn’t stop Heatherton from continuing to perform for the troops. Although she later admitted that the constant threat of danger definitely freaked her and her fellow performers out a bit. But as frightening as things were during Heatherton’s time overseas, she continued doing what she loved without hesitation.

She Continued To Branch Out In The 1970s

After spending nearly a decade performing on TV, Heatherton started taking on different kinds of projects in the 1970s. She appeared in numerous television ads for products like RC Cola and Serta mattresses while performing regularly in Las Vegas.

1972. in particular, was a pretty big year for her. That was the year that she dropped her debut LP The Joey Heatherton Album while appearing in the major motion picture Bluebeard alongside Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, and Sybil Danning.

She didn’t experience a lot of luck with the film. However, which is likely why she isn’t well-known today like many of her contemporaries. Despite appearing in various films since 1963’s Twilight of Honor. She never was quite able to secure a role in the kind of film that would stand the test of time. In fact, her most famous film credit might have been as Xaviera Hollander in The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington in 1977.

Two singles from her debut album ended up charting on the Billboard Hot 100. One was a cover of the Ferlin Husky track ‘Gone’ and the other original titled ‘I’m Sorry’. A few years later, Heatherton’s father hosted the mid-summer replacement TV series Joey & Dad. A variety show that featured the two performing together while her dad mused about his life. Even though she was only in the second decade of her career. Heatherton was already starting to look back on her life with nostalgia and a twinge of regret.

By The Late 70s, Joey’s Career Was Already Waning 

Following her nasty divorce from Lance Rentzel. The wide receiver of the Dallas Cowboys, in 1972, Heatherton began her slow departure from the public eye. She briefly hosted Joey & Dad for four weeks in 75, then Happy Hooker came out in 77 but after that. She pretty much stopped acting.

In the mid-80s, she briefly returned to the public eye but for all the wrong reasons. She arrested several times for a slew of minor offenses ranging from skipping out on her hotel bill to assaulting a clerk at a US Passport Agency office in Manhattan.

But the most outrageous – and not to mention out of character – moment of her life happened in 1986 while she was at the home of her drummer, Jerry Fisher.

The 80s We’re Nothing But Trouble For Heatherton 

Depending on who you ask, Jerry Fisher was either Joey’s boyfriend, manager. Or just a trusted confidant, but a shocking report from the Milwaukee Sentinel from September 1986 cast their relationship in a very different light. If he was her drummer before that ill-fated evening, he more than likely was her ex-drummer afterward. Heatherton arrested and charged with stabbing Fisher in the hand with a serrated steak knife while at his home in Suffern, New York. She also slapped with a possession charge for having cocaine on her person at the time of the arrest. Fisher decided to ultimately not pursue charges against Heatherton, so both charges inevitably dropped. 

John Waters Helped Heatherton Stage A Return To The Big Screen 

Water AKA the pope of sleaze, has always had a special place in his heart for stars from the 1960s and 70s. Even so, it’s pretty insane to think about Joey Heatherton finding her way onto a film set of the director of the infamous film Pink Flamingos. In 1990, Heatherton made a brief appearance in the film Cry Baby, Waters ode to rockabilly music, and those teen crimewave films of the 1950s. She played some kind of religious fanatic. And she was dressed so modestly that it’s easy to almost mistake her for someone else.

The 1990s proved that Heatherton was all but finished with the media. In 1997, at 53, she posed nude for the April issue of Playboy magazine. If you’re into that kind of thing then it’s quite possibly something that you should look up after finishing watching this video. Just like anyone else, Heatherton’s life and career had its ups and downs. And sure she had a couple of run-ins with the long arm of the law – but who hasn’t?

It’s just that her troubles have all been prominently displayed for all the world to see. But despite that fact, her work has always seemed to be motivated by her fervent desire to bring joy to the masses. So maybe – just maybe- we haven’t seen the last of this dancer from New York.

Well, that’s about all the time we’ve got left for this video. We wish we could share with you what Joey Heatherton Is up to these days. But it seems like all we’ve received from her in recent years is radio silence.

But really, at this point, she’s probably just content to still be alive and well. It sounds like she lived a fairly full life. So she’s probably just sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping a fancy drink with one of those little paper umbrellas and enjoying her retirement.

Anyway, now’s your turn to let your voice be heard. In the comments section below let us know what your favorite memory of Joey Heatherton was. Maybe you have a strong appreciation for her performances for the troops back in Vietnam or perhaps you’re quite partial of her role in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington. Either way, drop us a line with your thoughts.

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