Kathy Levine is back! You're probably thinking hey, who is Kathy Levine? Ah, gentle readers, that is proof you have a life. Unlike me.
Kathy Levine was one of the first hosts of QVC. What is QVC, you might ask? It stands for Quality! Value! Convenience! A shopping network that would help you buy things you never knew you wanted. Diamonique! Big bold gold! Marcasite! It was all on QVC, all at your fingertips.
My mom started watching QVC my last year of high school. I was so busy I didn't take notice of her new hobby until that summer, when she wanted to watch it when there was nothing else on. I soon got to know the hosts: There was Mary Beth Roe, a mom who sold dolls with Marie Osmond; Steve Bryan who was a electronics geek and knew all about the new VCR's and CD players; Bob Bowersox, who loved being in the kitchen and had a Sunday show called "In The Kitchen With Bob"; Judy Crowell, who was just darn cute and sold jewelry with Loni Anderson. However, the most popular hosts around then were Kathy Levine and Jeffrey Hewson.
Kathy Levine was a Spanish teacher who also dabbled in retail. A friend told her about the auditions for QVC, and she thought why not? She did an audition where she sold the merits of a pencil, and the rest was history. She was the first star on QVC, getting the big celebrities that sold their wares like Joan Rivers or Regis Philbin. She was so popular that there were they created a special jewelry line for her. She was your best girlfriend telling you that hey, buy this ring, buy the bracelet, you only live once.
Jeffrey Hewson was another star. He always reminded me of the drama geeks at my high school-give them a chance and they will perform. On the screen, they called him "Jeff Hewson" however, he preferred to be called Jeffrey. When someone called in to give a testimonial and they called him Jeffrey, he would say, "Thanks for the Jeffrey." He had a CD called: Jeff Hewson: All the Best. When he sold karaoke machines, he was known to belt out a tune.
That was what it was like in 1991, when home shopping was new and the internet wasn't in every home. Then something unexpected happened. Jeff and Judy Crowell; they were engaged! Engaged! Oh, how romantic! QVC in love! Of course, everyone felt bad for Kathy because Kathy and Jeffrey always bantered around and joked, but she seemed to take it in stride.
The week Judy and Jeffrey got married, I had my wisdom teeth out. I had nothing else to do but watch QVC and hear them talk about the wedding. Her dad was going to give her away, and all the hosts were coming to the wedding. People were asking on-air if they could send Judy and Jeffrey wedding gifts, and finally they said no, they were okay. Finally, the big day happened. A sub host took over the rest of the afternoon during the wedding.
Kathy Levine showed pictures of the wedding on Monday. There's Jeff and Judy cutting the cake! There's Judy dancing with her dad! There's Jeff singing "Through the Years" to Judy! Oh, how romantic! How sweet!
The next couple of months went by. Judy went by Judy Hewson and her engagement ring shone on her hand. People always asked about those two wacky kids. They were QVC's Jack and Jackie, the golden couple.
Then one day my mother was drinking coffee and watching QVC when she noticed something different. Judy was going by Crowell again. She woke me up (it was Saturday) and said: "I think Judy and Jeff are getting divorced."
"And you're waking me up because..."
"Call QVC and ask."
"Why can't you do it?"
"Because I'm asking you to do it!"
So I called and asked, and the QVC operator told me: "Judy and Jeff have gone their separate ways."
What? Huh? What gives? I called again and got a different operator. They said it again, Jeff and Judy have gone their separate ways.
Well crud. What happened to romance? What happened to those wacky kids in love?
According to Kathy Levine's biography, It's Better to Laugh..., Jeffrey asked for a divorce right before Judy was about to go on the air. Stunned and scared, Judy called Kathy for advice. Angered tremendously that Jeffrey would do this to Judy Kathy told her this: Cry later. This bites but you are a professional. Go out there, smile, and sell whatever you have to sell. Do the best you can. It will all be okay.
Judy did. She smiled and listened to callers ask about Jeffrey and somehow managed to get through her shift.
The tension between the female hosts and Jeffrey by then was so thick, San Francisco fog thick. They were polite when he would come on with them to plug what he was going to sell, thanked him, and then moved on. No more joking around. No more asking him to sing. No more.
I was in a screenplay class when all of this was going on. I tried writing a screenplay about all of this and how crazy it was. It didn't fly. My teacher said, "Nobody is going to watch a movie about shopping networks." Thanks, Dude. One man who liked putting up nude pictures of John and Yoko around campus came up to me and said: "Have the girl host have a dark side." It was bizarre.
When I was in London, Jeffrey left. He sued QVC for breech of contract and the fact it seemed like Judy said to the bosses either he goes or I go. He went.
After that, QVC wasn't the same anymore. My mom still watched it and shopped with them, but there was no more drama. It wasn't fun anymore.
In 2000, Kathy Levine left to start a new talk show. For one hour, all the hosts paid homage to the funny girlfriend who was everyone's friend. Kathy read a statement, people called in to say how much they would miss her, and Joan Rivers cried.
The talk show didn't work out, so Kathy designed clothes for QVC's rival, HSN. By then Judy was there as a host, and they sold clothes, together again. Judy married a HSN host and is still there, happy.
Jeff Hewson disappeared. There's differing stories about what happened to him; he remarried a woman, he got married to a man, he adopted a Cambodian orphan. Wherever you are, I hope they call him Jeffrey.
In addition, Kathy is back on QVC with a jewelry line, and has her own company to help people improve their public speaking while selling products. Seeing her again made me smile, and made me remember old times. People called in so happy to see her. You know what? When I saw her, I thought oh good, she's back. Kathy Levine is back where she belongs.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries