June 15, 1945 - December 9, 2003
"Remembering my first night on television, I tried very hard to be
calm, cool, collected and to act poised and with dignity, but my pounding heart
I felt could be heard all around the nation, especially in Kokomo, Indiana. Why
Kokomo, I don't know."
She was a Detroit television icon.
She was singing with big bands when a
television executive met her at a gig and offered her the job as the first
female weather caster.
She also appeared once in the western Big
Valley. Listen, in Detroit that was huge. (I remember we had a
traffic helicopter reporter named Jo Jo Shutty McGregor who had A LINE in an
episode of Barnaby Jones. The channel did special commercials for that shit.)
Rita was best known for her morning movie show, Prize
When television went from black and white to color, The hostess introduced
over 6000 movies in the show's 21-year-run, making her Detroit Royalty.
became a fan of Al Hirt because she used Cotton
her theme song.
one of the most beloved segments of her show, Rita would phone people and ask
them to identify a song she which she played a snippet of. The prizes ranged
from cash ($7 to the winner, if they flubbed it, it would go in the pot for the
next call) to electric can openers.
in the early 70's, a pal of mine and I had a thing for making prank phone calls.
Once, before my voice changed, I got my portable record player out and
phoned some random man from the phone book. I pretended to be Rita. Honest.
I played a song and told the guy he would win a Speed Queen Washer and
Dryer. He was terrific and played along. I don't remember if he
guessed it right.
Rita's show was cancelled to make way for the new wave of morning programming
(think AM Detroit, AM Chicago, AM etc, or Phil Donahue...) Rita retired and
moved with her husband Jerome Hanson to San Diego. Jerome was a retired
reporter from the Detroit Free Press. According to some reports Rita
became a media consultant, I've also heard she was selling real estate.
way, this is where she lived.
is also where she died. The Bell tolled for Rita on Tuesday, December 9.
husband must have been ex-military. A memorial mass was held and Rita is inurned
in Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetary in San Diego.
shit got auctioned. I am so jealous.
Favorite Movie: Gone with the Wind
Favorite: House of Women
Rita. You made taking school sick days, (or fake sick days) a bit more fun.