Barrett in 1975
October 8, 1936
New York City, New York, U.S.
Rona Barrett (born Rona Burstein; October 8, 1936 in New York City) is an American gossip columnist and businesswoman. She runs the Rona Barrett Foundation, a non-profit organization in Santa Ynez, California, dedicated to the aid and support of senior citizens in need.
Barrett was born on October 8, 1936, in New York City. As a teenager, she overcame a degenerative hip condition that made walking extremely difficult, and organized fan clubs for popular singers she admired, such as Eddie Fisher and Steve Lawrence. She became a gossip columnist for the Bell-McClure newspaper syndicate in 1957, and soon went to work for the management handling teen idols Frankie Avalon and Fabian.
In 1966, she began broadcasting Hollywood gossip on the Los Angeles television station KABC-TV. She appeared on TV regularly, going on to appear on ABC's five owned and operated stations around the country. WABC-TV in New York put her pre-recorded gossip segment into its nightly local news, but anchor Roger Grimsby would generally introduce it by making disparaging comments about her. Barrett made Frank Sinatra's enemies list by criticizing his personal life, particularly his relationships with his children. Barrett also angered actor Ryan O'Neal after she wrote some unflattering things about him. To retaliate, he supposedly sent her a box containing a live tarantula. She developed the first in-depth personal TV specials about film, television, music, sports and political celebrities, and she had a series of magazines on the entertainment industry that were top-rated at newsstands, including Rona Barrett's Hollywood: Nothing But the Truth, published by Laufer Media. She also appeared on Jack Paar Tonite with Sir Clement Freud.
Barrett began appearing on Good Morning America in 1975. She was signed in 1980 to co-host NBC's Tomorrow with Tom Snyder, but a very public feud with Snyder resulted in her leaving the show the following year.
Barrett also made occasional film appearances, playing cameo roles in The Phynx (1970) and the Mae West film Sextette (1978). In 1990, she made a guest appearance as an interviewer at WWF's WrestleMania VI at Skydome (now Rogers Centre) in Toronto. In 1991, she retired full-time to her ranch.
In 1972, her novel titled The Lovo-maniacs was published. Her autobiography, Miss Rona, was published in 1974. It began: "Just an inch, Miss Rona, just let me put it in an inch!", as an unnamed famous actor pleaded to be allowed to experience a modicum of sexual intercourse with her. In the book she also acknowledged having a nose job and discussed details of her teenage fan club involvements and her work with Frankie Avalon's management. She wrote another book, How You Can Look Rich and Achieve Sexual Ecstasy (1978).
Barrett founded the Rona Barrett Lavender Company, in Santa Ynez, near Santa Barbara, in the Central Coast region of California, as a small producer of lavender bath, beauty, food and aromatherapy products. The company follows a model of using celebrity-branded consumer goods to generate funds and raise awareness of a non-profit cause. A portion of all company proceeds were donated to the Rona Barrett Foundation. According to the foundation's website, they have ceased selling lavender products and the company has been sold.
Barrett started The Rona Barrett Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the aid and support of senior citizens in need, that was supported by a 2% portion of the profits from her lavender business until it ceased production. The foundation now only takes direct donations and is working on building a village called "the Golden Inn and Cottages" for seniors in need of proper housing and care facilities. As of May 2012 it was a pilot program that was still under development.
|1970||The Phynx||Gossip Columnist||Comedy film directed by Lee H. Katzin|
|Do Not Throw Cushions into the Ring||Starring role||drama film written and directed by Steve Ihnat|
|1978||Sextette||Herself||Comedy/musical film directed by Ken Hughes|
|1968||Mannix||Herself||Episode: "The Falling Star" (S 1:Ep 15)|
|1974||Episode: "A Choice of Victims" (S 8:Ep 12)|
|1981||Television: Inside and Out||Herself/Host||Short-lived TV show about television personalities|
|1985||America||Correspondent||Short-lived TV show|