The nickname of Virginia Ruth Egnor, a statuesque blonde bombshell who was a regular on the talk variety show BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE/NBC/1950-51. Her acting name was Jennie Lewis. A nationwide poll of editors voted her “the most photogenic girl on TV.”
In 1950, Murray Schumach of The New York Times described the 5 feet 11 inches (in her heels) celebrity as a combination of “the voluptuous curves of a Venus, the provocative grace of a young Mae West and the virtue of a Girl Scout.”
BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE host Jerry Lester renamed Virginia “Dagmar” for her walk on parts which featured humorous poetry readings done in deadpan. Reportedly, just before the June 14, 1950 broadcast of the program, Jerry Lester told Jennie Lewis, “You just sit there next to the orchestra and look dumb. Your name is Dagmar.”
When Jerry Lester, asked Dagmar where she was from, she smiled and answered, “West Virginia.” When Lester asked, “Where’s that?” Dagmar brightly replied, “In West Virginia.” Lester and the audience broke into laughter as the dumb-as-a-fox blond delivered her response. Dagmar thought a “Mushroom” was “a place to make love.”
Once when she played the President of the USA in a comedy sketch, she said: “I’ve had a very busy day. I passed 19 vetoes and vetoed 19 passes.”
One evening in 1951 while performing, Dagmar’s strapless gown slipped off her bosomy body, exposing her private parts. When J. Edgar Hoover asked for her exact dimensions, she replied, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incinerate me.”
Dagmar’s appreciative fans began sending in thousands of letters a month and soon Dagmar went from making $75 a week to $3250 a week.
When Cary Grant first met Dagmar, or “Dag” as he called her, he told her, “I’m going to kiss you.” And he did. “Well, I’m going to kiss you right back.” And she did, too.
Later, Dagmar starred on DAGMAR’S CANTEEN/NBC/1952 where she repeated her hilarious tributes to literature by reading “original” silly plays to an audience of military servicemen. When she guest-starred on TV’s first telethon with Milton Berle, guest Walter Winchell christened her “Dagmarvelous.”
In 1951, Dagmar appeared on the front cover of Life magazine (July 16, 1951). She was photographed by renown shutter-bug Alfred Eisenstadt in her hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. Life magazine called Dagmar, a “national institution.”
“For all her triumphs in the TV limelight, Dagmar has her feet close to her native ground in Huntington, where she is still plain Ruth Egnor. Very much a family girl, she sends generous gifts to her parents, three brothers and two sisters at home. Her third sister, Jean, works as her secretary. When the newspapers announced she was buying a new house for her family, this one bigger and in the best section of town, hundreds of cars drove past it.” – Life Magazine
Prior to her stint on TV, Dagmar appeared a chorus girl named Bubbles with Bert Lahr in the Broadway comedy Burlesque, which ran for 439 performances from December 25, 1946 until January 10, 1948.
In the 1950s, when Cadillacs sported front bumpers with protruding conical shaped tips, they were named “Dagmar’s” in honor of the buxom TV celebrity.
Born on November 29, 1921, Huntington, West Virginia, Virginia Ruth Egnor (aka, “Dagmar”) died of natural causes on October 9, 2001 in Ceredo, West Virginia. She was 79.
Note: Dagmar recorded a novelty song written by Dick Manning called “Mama Will Bark” (1951) as a duet with Frank Sinatra.
Featuring off-key talking/singing by Dagmar and sounds effects of dogs barking, the song tells of a dream about two dogs on a date. The song begins:
“My feet were killing me, my dogs were barkin’,
I must have fallen asleep where I was parkin’,
And then I dreamed two dogs were talkin’, take my word,
It was the doggone-est thing you ever heard.
She said, (Mama will bark.) You look so lovely in the moonlight.
(Yes, but Papa will bark.) Your eyes are shining like the starlight.
(Yes but Mama will bark.) Your lips are so inviting, darling,
Give me one more kiss. Howl…”