Jean Bartel (1923 – 2011) An HRTS icon
If you’ve attended any HRTS event since the 60s you would have been given a dazzling smile at the door by the impeccably dressed and coiffed Jean Bartel, Miss America 1943. America’s pop culture history books will remember Jean Bartel for her beauty, grace, talent, service, and especially for that bright gleaming Colgate toothpaste smile that she introduced to the world.
The qualities that earned Jean the title of Miss America 1943, and her work on behalf of scholarships for women made her an international luminary, but it was her work with the advertising industry that reunited her with her Miss America publicist Ollie Crawford who was, 20 years later, executive director of the brand-new Hollywood Radio and Television Society (HRTS).
Madison Avenue was looking for a beauty with a great smile and found it with Jean. They didn’t need “subliminal” advertising. Mad Men were renowned for molding a product’s appeal into basic emotional and sexual needs. Her commercials generated a huge boost in sales for Colgate and a lot of notice from the advertising community. Jean was well-spoken on the subject of advertising and for a laugh would sometimes quote British philosopher and social critic Bertrand Russell’s ‘Toothpaste used to be a cleansing antiseptic for my teeth. Now it is a devise to keep me from being sexually repulsive.’ She maintained that, for better or worse, advertising is the energy that gives us free television and radio. “And maybe it will improve your love life,” she added with wholesome Miss America blush.
Jean marketed her celebrity very well. Her years of singing and acting gifted her with a unique knowledge of international marketing, the travel industry and as a by-product, public relations. She was briefly the West Coast and International Representative of the publications TV Digest and TV Factbook before newspaperman Walter Annenberg and his Triangle Publications purchased them both and dissolved them into his new magazine the TV Guide.
In 1957 Ollie Crawford arrived in Hollywood to help set up the West Coast headquarters of Walter Annenberg’s TV Guide. Ollie joined the Hollywood Advertising Club (HAC) and invited Miss America Jean Bartel to speak to the group. Ollie soon became an officer of the fledgling organization. When the HAC morphed into the HRTS, Ollie quit the TV Guide to become the Society’s full time executive director. His job included oversight of the International Broadcasting Awards (IBA) a competition for the “World’s Best Radio and Television Commercials,” a black tie affair with TV star presenters. When Ollie quit the magazine to take the job with the HRTS and its IBA, Jean recognized an opportunity for collaboration. She knew something about competitions, commercials - and advertising men.
Jean delivered the first commercial entries into the IBA from Brazil. Her personal and voluntary promotion of the IBA boosted international commercial entries from ad agencies in England, France, Hungary, Scandinavia, and Greece. Her early efforts helped the HRTS continue to thrive with the IBA. On the IBA’s 22nd anniversary in 1987, it counted more than 3000 entries from 72 countries. Despite the ensuing decline of the IBA, Jean remained a stalwart supporter of the Society and a perpetual hostess at HRTS events.
Jean never stopped working. A fellow actor, Bill Jackson, saw her on a set earlier this year auditioning for a role in “Jon Benjamin Has a Van,” a pilot for a new series. She operated her own international travel company “Jean Bartel and Associates,” and was married to William (Bill) Hogue for 31 years until his passing in 2001. Jean ordered vegetarian or fruit plates at the HRTS luncheons, but the waiters were always happy to bring a few pieces of meat for her to take home to her beloved golden retriever Teddy. (Fellow dog lovers will be happy to know that Teddy has now been adopted by the same loving family that always watched him when Jean was on the road.) Jean achieved international stardom and lived for more than eight decades with the same grace, humility and poise that won her the Miss America title.
The HRTS will always be indebted to the charming Jean Bartel.
(Editors Note: The LA Times also featured a story on Jean Bartel)