TV pioneer, famed psychologist Joyce Brothers dies

Story highlights

  • Joyce Brothers once told a reporter that she didn't give advice, just facts
  • The funeral for Brothers, 85, will be Tuesday; her husband died in 1989
  • Brothers first became a national celebrity when she won a game show
  • A licensed psychologist, she appeared many times on TV talk shows

Joyce Brothers, who pioneered the television advice show and was called the mother of media psychology, has died, her daughter said Monday. She was 85.

"She passed away peacefully and in her home ... with her family all around her," Lisa Brothers Arbisser said.

Brothers, whose charming, reassuring demeanor appealed to television audiences, became a television star as a game show contestant, a sports interviewer, then as a psychologist answering audience questions about relationships and other emotional subjects.

She grew her fame as a frequent guest on television talk shows and as an advice columnist for Good Housekeeping magazine for four decades and for newspapers throughout the United States.

She also made many cameo appearances parodying herself on television sitcoms and in movies.

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She once told a reporter, "I don't give advice. I just tell people, 'This is what we know.' "

But give advice was what she did, and America listened:

"Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success."

"The best proof of love is trust."

"Marriage is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three meals a day, sharing the workload and remembering to carry out the trash."

Dispensing advice on public airwaves didn't please all of her colleagues. Some members of the American Psychological Association asked early in her media career that her membership be revoked because they didn't think dispensing advice outside a one-on-one setting was appropriate.

Media psychology became part of the organization's structure in 1986, according to the APA website.

Born Joyce Diane Bauer, she married Milton Brothers in 1949, according to a biography provided by her family. He died in 1989.

Brothers became a practicing psychologist in 1958, five years after she got her master's degree at Columbia University.

By then, she had already caused a stir on television, winning the top prize on "The $64,000 Question" in 1955. The topic: boxing.

The family biography said she appeared on the show when her husband was in medical school and they were living with her parents. Her husband suggested she try out as a boxing expert, seeing that would make her an unusual contestant -- a woman versed in pugilism. When the show asked her to be on, she memorized the Encyclopedia of Boxing in a few weeks.

She repeated her success two years later on "The $64,000 Challenge," leading to a job on "Sports Showcase."

In 1958, she was the host of a self-titled show on local television that became so popular, NBC syndicated the program nationally.

Amid the quiz show scandal of the late 1950s, she demonstrated her well-versed knowledge of boxing to a congressional panel, her family biography said.

Years later, she wrote books and had radio shows. And America saw her often on television, not only giving advice but making fun of herself. On one episode of the ABC smash hit "Happy Days," she counseled Fonzie's dog, Spunky. She made a vocal appearance on the animated series "The Simpsons" in the memorable "Last Exit to Springfield" episode.

On an episode of "Frasier," a show about one of TV's famous fictional psychologists, she took Frasier Crane's place in a commercial about nuts.

Brothers also appeared on shows like "The Love Boat" playing a character, often a doctor.

She is survived by her sister, Elaine Goldsmith; her daughter; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

The family didn't disclose the cause of her death, which happened in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Her funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York.

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