May 30, 1944 – July 14, 2000
“Why don’t we all go on up to the hotel?”
She was best known for her role as Billie Jo Bradley, on Petticoat Junction. I loved that show. You wanna know something funny? When Bobbie Gentry’s song Ode To Billie Joe came out – I thought it was about her. I know, it made absolutely no sense, but I still made the connection. Loved the song.
Meredith was in the show for 4 seasons. She was the third actress to play the character.
Meredith was the oldest of four. She had a sister Heather, brothers, Gar and Bruce, and a half sister, Amanda.
Apparently Meredith was getting a massage in January of 1999, and blacked out. She was taken to the hospital (Cedars of course) where they discovered a brain tumor the size of a grape (there’s that food reference again. Gross.).
She went into surgery the next day, and had it removed. Supposedly, according to her publicist, she was well on the road to recovery, and had it licked. Nope.
She lived near the ocean, a really lovely area of Southern California. A bit expensive and trendy, really lovely. Anyway, here’s her lovely home.
Here’s another lovely view of it.
She was pretty much reclusive after that. On Friday, July 14th 2000, 18 months later, she passed away in her home. Two nurses were with her when she died. Her daughter Allison arrived ten minutes later, followed by her mother, actress Sheila Mac Rae, her sister Heather, and Meredith’s husband. She was only 56 years old. Her mother said, “She went with no pain. No anguish. She was serene.” No doubt, Meredith’s body was carried out this door.
Meredith did not want a funeral. She wanted a party. After the family cremated her, she was scattered at sea while someone recited the 23rd Psalm, 91st Psalm and The Lords Prayer. Mom adds, “That’s what my daughter wanted. It was in her will. See, she and I always helped the dolphins in Baja. We’d go to the shore and rescue them and feed them. I was at her bedside talking about this with her, just minutes before she went. I’d said, “Now, remember when we greased them? That’s what the nurses are doing to you. We’d hold them and love them as the nurses now do you.”
So Meredith is now one with the dolphins. burp.
I’ve been exchanging very nice emails with Meredith’s daughter, Allison Mullavey, who was kind enough to correct some of the errors in this story. Allison also included more information as a tribute to her late mother, and also a letter from a fan, that she received. Thank you Allison, you are very kind.
Allison writes, “I don’t know if you know this but United Cerebral Palsy named an Adult center after my mom, because she hosted the telethons for them for over twenty years.Women In Film, which my mom was one of the founding members – named a scholarship after my mom, at the Chapman University for the School of Film and Television.”
I met the other two main Petticoat girls in LA a few years ago. They signed the picture above. Meredith wasn’t dead yet, so I couldn’t quiz them on the details. They were nice, but sorta aloof. I guess they didn’t appreciate me asking about Sharon Tate, who was originally cast in the show.
There was this other broad there named Gunilla – who was in the show at one point as well, but I couldn’t give a toss.
Findadeath.com friend Erin sends this in: I just read your story about Meredith Mac Rae from Petticoat Junction and you mentioned that some other broad named Gunilla was there. Gunilla Hutton is the woman that was having an affair with Nat King Cole shortly before he died. He was thinking about divorcing Maria to marry her, she actually called Maria and asked her why doesn’t she let Nat go so they can be together. Gunilla didn’t know that Nat was sick, he broke up with her (at the demands from Maria of course) and he sent her $5000 while he was dying in the hospital. I got this information from Nat King Cole’s biography, I forgot the author but it is a very good book.
Interesting! Thanks Erin.
Findadeath.com friend Ken Willet pronounces: “I’m very sure Gunilla Hutton was on Hee Haw for YEARS.”
I think you’re right Ken. Thanks!
Trivia: The dog on the show – they called it “Dog,” grew up to become Benji.
More: Her dad was actor Gordon Mac Rae, who was in the film Oklahoma.
Even More: Meredith was also in My Three Sons.
More May 2002 – Findadeath.com friend Mike Pare sends us this:
Meredith was married for many years to actor Greg Mullavey, best known as the husband of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”.
Allison adds, “There is something that one of my mother fan wrote me about my mom that I think you would enjoy and I think that it would show you what kind of person my mother was and how she helped people.”
22 Things to love about Billie Jo ( & Meredith MacRae )
1. Her “Hop of Happiness” – The way she would hop up and down when she was happy. Very lovable.
2. Her little chuckle – so warm, friendly and authentic.
3. Her laugh – totally sincere. She always seemed to really be enjoying herself.
4. Her eyes – she always knew exactly what to do with her eyes. She could practically embrace people with them.
5. Her hands – the way she clasped them in front of her when she stood. Very feminine and demure. Also the way she would sway slightly back and forth when she did this.
6. The way she ran like a muppet ( head bobbing up and down ) very cute.
7. Her helpfulness – the way she always offered to help someone with the little tasks of life. Getting coffee, making dinner, etc. She was one of the world’s quiet workers, one of the people who makes things easier for others.
8. Her tolerance of Selma Plout – She was never rude to a rude person. She always maintained her dignity in the face of adversity.
9. Her singing voice – like an angel’s. Especially when singing something light and upbeat.
10. Her speaking voice – especially her “soft” voice. Listening to her speak this way you felt that the world was a kind, gentle and caring place and that she could solve any problem.
11. Her hair – very thick and wonderful, no matter what the style.
12. Her Aura / Glow – she radiated warmth like a steel mill furnace. You could practically toast marshmallows in front of her. People who’ve had Near Death experiences talk about being greeted by a “Being of Light”. Would any of us really be surprised if it turned out to be Meredith MacRae?
13. Her sex appeal – this practically goes without saying.
14. Her “kindness” appeal – she may be one of the few sex symbols who’s also a “Kindness Symbol”
15. Her Class/ Grace / Poise – she could raise the tone of any room just by walking into it. You just know that she brought out the best in everyone she ever met.
16. Her skin – Did this woman ever have a pimple in her life? I doubt it.
17. Her Beauty – She had no flaw and no bad side.
18. Her Charity Work – nothing further needs to be said. This woman cared.
19. Her love of animals – I think she may have been the only one of the PJ girls to ever actually kiss Higgins the dog right on the nose.
20. Her love of children – her scenes with Kathy Jo ( especially the episode when she taught her how to swim) ring with genuine love.
21. Her Seemingly impossible Contrasts – She had Poise, but wasn’t a snob. She was down to earth, but also Angelic. Breathtakingly beautiful, but also one of the people.
22. Her Gentleness – I can’t really add anything to this or even describe it very well. She was simply “gentle”.
UPDATE January 2003, from Findadeath friend Mike Pare:
Re Meredith MacRae, she really was a nice lady, and a lady, sis Heather who was slim & in “Hair” on b’way is now old & fat, tho still can sing, was recently on soap One Life to Live…Meredith was very very well liked in Hollyweird, hosted a talk show for yrs with Regis(!).
Lori Saunders is a BEEE TTTCCCHHHH!, I have another word for her but wanting to protect your delicate ears….
Read about other Petticoat people here.