June 15, 1925 – December 9, 2003
“Remembering my first night on television, I tried very hard to becalm, cool, collected and to act poised and with dignity, but my pounding heartI felt could be heard all around the nation, especially in Kokomo, Indiana. WhyKokomo, I don’t know.”
She was a Detroit television icon.
She was singing with big bands when atelevision executive met her at a gig and offered her the job as the firstfemale weather caster.
She also appeared once in the western BigValley. Listen, in Detroit that was huge. (I remember we had atraffic helicopter reporter named Jo Jo Shutty McGregor who had A LINE in anepisode of Barnaby Jones. The channel did special commercials for that shit.)
LovelyRita was best known for her morning movie show, PrizeMovie. When television went from black and white to color, The hostess introducedover 6000 movies in the show’s 21-year-run, making her Detroit Royalty.
Ibecame a fan of Al Hirt because she used CottonCandy forher theme song.
Inone of the most beloved segments of her show, Rita would phone people and askthem to identify a song she which she played a snippet of. The prizes rangedfrom cash ($7 to the winner, if they flubbed it, it would go in the pot for thenext call) to electric can openers.
Backin 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 andphoned 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 andDryer. He was terrific and played along. I don’t remember if heguessed it right.
AfterRita’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 andmoved with her husband Jerome Hanson to San Diego. Jerome was a retiredreporter from the Detroit Free Press. According to some reports Ritabecame a media consultant, I’ve also heard she was selling real estate.
Eitherway, this is where she lived.
Thisis also where she died. The Bell tolled for Rita on Tuesday, December 9.Colon cancer.
Herhusband must have been ex-military. A memorial mass was held and Rita is inurnedin Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetary in San Diego.
Hershit got auctioned. I am so jealous.
Rita’sFavorite Movie: Gone with the Wind
LeastFavorite: House of Women
RIPRita. You made taking school sick days, (or fake sick days) a bit more fun.