1944 - 2000
She was best known for her role as Billie Jo Bradley, on Petticoat Junction. I loved that show. You wanna know something funny? When Bobbie Gentry’s song Ode To Billie Joe came out – I thought it was about her. I know, it made absolutely no sense, but I still made the connection. Loved the song.
Meredith was in the show for 4 seasons. She was the third actress to play the character.
Meredith was the oldest of four. She had a sister Heather, brothers, Gar and Bruce, and a half sister, Amanda.
Apparently Meredith was getting a massage in January of 1999, and blacked out. She was taken to the hospital (Cedars of course) where they discovered a brain tumor the size of a grape (there’s that food reference again. Gross.). She went into surgery the next day, and had it removed. Supposedly, according to her publicist, she was well on the road to recovery, and had it licked. Nope.
She was pretty much reclusive after that. On Friday July 14th 2000, 18 months later, she passed away in her home. Two nurses were with her when she died. Her daughter Allison arrived ten minutes later, followed by her mother, actress Sheila Mac Rae, her sister Heather, and Meredith's husband.. She was only 56 years old. Her mother said, "She went with no pain. No anguish. She was serene." No doubt, Meredith's body was carried out this door.
Meredith did not want a funeral. She wanted a party. After the family cremated her, she was scattered at sea while someone recited the 23rd Psalm, 91st Psalm and The Lords Prayer. Mom adds, "That’s what my daughter wanted. It was in her will. See, she and I always helped the dolphins in Baja. We’d go to the shore and rescue them and feed them. I was at her bedside talking about this with her, just minutes before she went. I’d said, ‘Now, remember when we greased them? That’s what the nurses are doing to you. We’d hold them and love them as the nurses now do you.’
So Meredith is now one with the dolphins. burp.
I've been exchanging very nice emails with Meredith's daughter, Allison Mullavey, who was kind enough to correct some of the errors in this story. Allison also included more information as a tribute to her late mother, and also a letter from a fan, that she received. Thank you Allison, you are very kind.
Allison writes, "I don't know if you know this but United Cerebral Palsy named an Adult center after my mom, because she hosted the telethons for them for over twenty years. Women In Film, which my mom was one of the founding members - named a scholarship after my mom, at the Chapman University for the School of Film and Television."
Allison has set up a website to honor her mother, and you can find it here.
I met the other two main Petticoat girls in LA a few years ago. They signed the picture above. Meredith wasn't dead yet, so I couldn't quiz them on the details. They were nice, but sorta aloof. I guess they didn't appreciate me asking about Sharon Tate, who was originally cast in the show. There was this other broad there named Gunilla - who was in the show at one point as well, but I couldn't give a toss.
Findadeath.com friend Erin sends this in: just read your story about Meredith Mac Rae from Petticoat Junction and you mentioned that some other broad named Gunilla was there. Gunilla Hutton is the woman that was having an affair with Nat King Cole shortly before he died. He was thinking about divorcing Maria to marry her, she actually called Maria and asked her why doesn't she let Nat go so they can be together. Gunilla didn't know that Nat was sick, he broke up with her (at the demands from Maria of course) and he sent her $5000 while he was dying in the hospital. I got this information from Nat King Cole's biography, I forgot the author but it is a very good book.
Interesting! Thanks Erin.
Findadeath.com friend Ken Willet pronounces, "I'm very sure Gunilla Hutton was on Hee Haw for YEARS." I think you're right Ken. Thanks!
Trivia: The dog on the show – they called it "Dog," grew up to become Benji.
More: Her dad was actor Gordon Mac Rae, who was in the film Oklahoma.
Even More: Meredith was also in My Three Sons.
More May 2002: Findadeath.com friend Mike Pare sends us this:
Meredith was married for many years to actor Greg Mullavey, best known as the husband of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".
22 Things to love about Billie Jo ( & Meredith MacRae )
UPDATE January 2003, from Findadeath friend Mike Pare:
Re Meredith MacRae, she really was a nice lady, and a lady, sis Heather who was slim & in "Hair" on b'way is now old & fat, tho still can sing, was recently on soap One Life to Live...Meredith was very very well liked in Hollyweird, hosted a talk show for yrs with Regis(!).
Lori Saunders is a BEEE TTTCCCHHHH!, I have another word for her but wanting to protect your delicate ears....