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Who Was The First Female Contestant To Win the Top Prize on The $64,000 Question?

Dr. Joyce Brothers is a world-renowned psychologist and television celebrity who started her career when she won in The $64,000 Question. But did you know that she almost lost the show?

Dr. Joyce Brothers was the first woman to win the $64,000 top prize. The show’s sponsor, Revlon, wanted her to wear makeup. When she refused, they asked her tough questions to get rid of her, but she was able to answer all of them correctly.

Who was Dr. Joyce Brothers?

Joyce Diane Bauer was born on October 20, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish attorneys Morris and Estelle Bauer. Bauer attended Cornell University in 1943, majoring in Home Economics and Psychology. She then took up her master’s degree at Columbia University on Behavior and Personality.

In 1953, Bauer earned her Ph.D., studying Anxiety Avoidance and Escape Behavior measured by the action potential in muscle. While earning her master’s degree, Bauer married Milton Brothers, a medical student. When their only child Lisa was born in 1953, Joyce Brothers decided to be a full-time mother. Still, this move reduced the family’s household income to a $50 allowance coming from her husband’s residency.

Brothers decided to try out for the popular TV show The $64,000 Question to alleviate the financial strain their family was experiencing. Brothers won the top prize. She then joined the successor program, The $64,000 Challenge, and won the maximum prize.

Brothers then started her career in television as a co-host on Sports Showcase and as a popular guest on many shows as she was an attractive psychologist who knew so much. NBC offered Brothers her talk show in 1958, The Dr. Joyce Brothers Show. The show was an instant success and it was syndicated nationally.

The show’s success brought about a late-night show where Brothers discussed many previously taboo topics like sexual satisfaction, frigidity, menopause, and impotence. She also had a live call-in program in the WMCA and appeared on many programs on different networks. Brothers also wrote columns in various newspapers and magazines.

In 1964, Brothers was named Woman of Great Achievement by the Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations. Brothers also authored many books like What Every Woman Should Know About Men. Dr. Brothers passed on May 13, 2013, due to respiratory failure, at 85 years old. (Source: Jewish Virtual Library)

Brothers on The $64,000 Question

In an interview with Dr. Joyce Brothers in 2007, she narrates how she prepared and how the show’s sponsors wanted her out of the show. Brothers entered the show as a female psychologist who was also an expert in boxing.

Brothers loved boxing, and this love was because her husband loved it. The show gave her six weeks to prepare for the show, so the couple went to the publisher of Ring magazine and acquired all of the issues printed. They also borrowed the reels of The Great Fights of the Century from its producer so Brothers could study for the contest.

In the contest, Brothers did well. She was able to answer all the questions asked. When she was at the $16,000 mark, the show decided to ask her more complex questions and questions about referees in the hopes of derailing her and preventing her from winning.

The show was sponsored by Revlon, with Charles Revson heading it. Revson asked Brothers to wear makeup during the contest, but Brothers declined since she never has worn any and will not wear makeup during the show. This upset Revson, and in some accounts, Revson asked that the questions become more complex to help in removing Brothers from the show.

Unfortunately, the plan backfired. Brothers was well prepared and answered all the questions correctly, helping her become the first woman to win the $64,000 prize. (Source: Columbia Magazine)

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