Joey Heatherton is one of the well-rounded stars that Hollywood has ever produced. She was not just a prolific singer and dancer but was also an accomplished actress. In the 60s and 70s, she was the toast of the screens, appearing in several movies and TV shows.
Heatherton was also an excellent live performer and gave many unforgettable public performances. She is renowned for several works, live and filmed, including USO tours alongside Bob Hope. But like every great star, it eventually diminishes, and dies, but not without a legacy to be appreciated forever.
Joey Heatherton’s Early Life and Career as a Child Actress
Joey Heatherton was born and named Davenie Johanna Heatherton on September 14, 1944. The name Joey was a nickname she got as a child. She was born to Ray Heatherton, a Broadway star and one of the pioneers of television works. Her mother, Davenie Heatherton, was also an entertainer, and she gave birth to her and a brother, Dick, who spent his life as a DJ.
She grew up in Rockville Center, New York City, and attended Saint Agnes Academy. She took an interest in show business as a child, and at the age of six, began studying ballet at the Dixon McAfee School of Dance. Although her credited roles say Joey Heatherton began working professionally in 1959, her first onscreen appearance was earlier than that. She made her first recorded appearance in her father’s popular TV children’s show, The Merry Mailman.
In 1959, at 15, she worked on Broadway, as part of the ensemble in the production of The Sound of Music. While her Broadway career developed, she made a significant splash onscreen with a recurring appearance on The Perry Como Show. Her appearance on the show became Joey’s first calling card to fame.
While she was still a teenager, Joey Heatherton made her debut as a singer too. She released her first single, That’s How It Goes/I’ll Be Seeing You in 1959, but it failed to garner any public momentum. She continued with her teenage roles with appearances in an episode of Route 66 and The Doctors and the Nurses.
Joey Heatherton’s Eventual Rise to Fame
As an actress, Joey Heatherton several appearances on television in one-off episodes playing a troubled teenager. Those appearances included Mr. Novak, The Virginian, Arrest and Trial, Theatre of Stars and the film, The Charge Is Murder.
But while her reputation slowly grew as an actress, she also grew hastily as a live performer on variety TV shows. From the mid-60s, she began gaining national recognition for sensual dancing on television. She performed on shows like The Tonight Show, Hullabaloo, and The Dean Martin Show.
While some heartily welcomed her sensual performances, she also received criticism and backlash. The cycle of both contributed to her rise in fame, leading to prominent roles in film, TV, and variety shows. She co-hosted Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers along with Frank Sinatra, Jr., in 1968. She also appeared and performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, and The Andy Williams Show.
Producers and film studios equally took advantage of her rise in fame with roles in films like My Blood Runs Cold, Of Mice and Men. Others include TV shows like I Spy and It Takes a Thief. She also went on international tours with Bob Hope’s USO troupe, performing songs for GIs with provocative dancing and sexy outfits. NBC regularly televised parts of her performances in a series of monthly specials and multiple Christmas shows.
Her beginnings as an actress and eventual rise to fame in the 60s led to appearances in 16 films, TV movies and shows. She also appeared in more than 14 variety shows, including previously unnamed programs like The Jerry Lewis Show and The Gary Moore Show. She also received three award nominations, one from the Golden Globes for Twilight of Honor and two from Laurel Awards as Top New Female Face.
Joey’s Career Decline and Eventual Disappearance from the Spotlight
The height of Joey Heatherton’s fame lasted about six years before they took a downward turn in the 70s. However, before her complete disappearance from the spotlight, she recorded a few extra achievements, like the release of her debut album, The Joey Heatherton Album, in 1972.
Unlike her first single, the album’s singles, Gone and I’m Story, reached the Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at #24 and #87 respectively. The album itself, however, did not do particularly well. Despite her dwindling fame, she made a couple of ads for Serta mattresses and RC Cola. She also appeared in the 1972 thriller, Bluebeard, as Anne. It was one of the last two significant roles of her acting career.
In the middle of the 70s, a headline role in the show, Joey & Dad, where she starred alongside her father, Ray, was a brief return to the national spotlight. Unfortunately, the show did not last on-air, and neither did her return to fame.
Her last major film role came in 1977 when she starred as Xaviera Hollander in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, a film about the infamous Watergate scandal. The film, however, was poorly received and failed to put Joey Heatherton back in the national conversation. She made two minor movie appearances in 1986 and 1990 before her last film role in 2002, as Serta Spokeswoman in Reflections of Evil.
Joey’s career on live television was a lot busier in the 70s but also suffered from her disappearing fame. Despite repeated appearances in shows like The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Mike Douglas Show, Joey was unable to recapture the magic that characterized her fame in the 60s. Her last significant appearance was in 1979, in Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.
The Growth and Decline of Joey Heatherton’s Wealth
At the height of her fame, Joey Heatherton had an estimated net worth of $5 million. The money came from repeated appearances on TV, film, and as a live musician. Her lone album was also a significant contributor to her wealth.
Unfortunately, as her fame declined, so did her wealth. In 1985, she got arrested and charged with theft of services for refusal to pay a $4,906 bill from a hotel in Long Island. The arrest was part of a series of legal troubles faced by the actress/singer in the early and mid-80s.
While several online outlets continue to report her estimated wealth at $5 million, the actress has been out of the spotlight for more than three decades. Thus, the reports are largely considered inaccurate and currently undetermined.
Joey’s Marriage and Lifetime of Personal Troubles
Joey Heatherton has been married just once. She tied the knot with National Football League (NFL) player, Lance Rentzel in April 1969. Rentzel was a wide receiver and played for teams such as the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Rams during his ten-year stint in the NFL.
A couple of months after one year of being married, her husband got arrested for exposing himself to a 10-year-old girl. The arrest caused a huge scandal, and it emerged that Rentzel had committed a similar offense in 1966. The publicity was harsh and unforgiving and contributed to the decline of Joey Heatherton’s career.
Heatherton filed for divorce in September 1971, and by 1972, the divorce got finalized. She has remained unmarried ever since, and the personal troubles never left her.
Multiple Arrests and Drug Possession
The first legal scandal of Joey Heatherton’s post-fame life was her arrest for theft in 1985 we mentioned earlier. But it was not the only one. In the same year, she got arrested and charged for assaulting a government agent after she slapped and pulled the hair of a clerk at the Manhattan U.S Passport Agency Office.
She did, however, beat the case, and got acquitted of disturbing the peace and interfering with a government agent’s duties in September 1986. Shortly before she got acquitted, she was arrested again for assault, after she stabbed her former boyfriend and manager, Jerry Fisher, with a steak knife.
After her arrest, the police went through her purse and found a packet of cocaine. In turn, they added misdemeanor drug possession to her charge. However, in October 1987, a court ruled the police had no right to search her purse, and the drug charges got dropped. Jerry Fisher equally dropped the assault charge and Joey Heatherton walked free.
Fast forward to August 2014, after more than three decades from the spotlight, Joey was back in the news for another incident of assault. She attacked her neighbor, a Chandra Arend, with a shoe, over her supposed refusal to quiet down.
The planned attack saw Joey wait for the neighbor inside their apartment building’s lobby and attacked her with a high heeled shoe. Chandra filed a restraining order against the actress as well as a lawsuit. The result of the lawsuit, however, remains unclear and her whereabouts remain unknown.