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September 24, 2007

Alice Ghostley, R.I.P.

From the Associated Press: "Alice Ghostley, the Tony Award-winning actress best known on television for playing Esmeralda on 'Bewitched' and Bernice on 'Designing Women,' has died. She was 81."

One of her little noticed gems was a role in one of my all-time favorite Get Smart episodes. She plays Naomi Farkas, a Kaos agent planted next door to the newly married Max and 99. Mrs. Farkas and her husband, played by Tom Bosley, bug the Smarts' apartment, which gives her an opportunity to show up at the door at the right moment. She's the quintessentially nosey but excessively friendly neighbor who, whenever 99 calls her "Mrs. Farkas," protests, "Naomi!"

By bugging the apartment, Mrs. Farkas discovers that Max has invited the Chief over for dinner. 99 has an elaborate meal planned but tells Max she knows the Chief loves dessert and she has none for him. Right on cue, Mrs. Farkas appears at the door to offer 99 some chocolate mousse, which she's poisoned -- not enough to kill them but enough to make them sick so she and Tom Bosley can get into the apartment to photograph the secret documents the Chief has brought with him.

The Chief and Max finish dinner while 99 goes back to the kitchen. The Chief tells Max that 99 is a terrific cook. I'm quoting from memory here -- "terrific Beef Wellington, artichokes vinagrette beyond compare" -- here, he takes a bite of the poisoned dessert -- "and terrible chocolate mousse!" Max and the Chief start groaning. 99 returns to the dining room, and Max tries to disguise the groans -- "ohhhhh!!" -- by singing "Oh, Susannah!" with the Chief groaning loudly behind him.

But back to Alice Ghostley/Naomi Farkas. She and her husband get into the apartment while Max and the Chief go off to check the medicine cabinet. 99 walks into the living room and sees Mrs. Farkas pointing a gun at her. 99 exclaims in surprise: "Mrs. Farkas!" Mrs. Farkas protests: "Naomi!"

This line is a continuing joke with my mother and siblings (see paragraph 2). Alice Ghostley was a stitch.