Charlotte Peters really knew how to shake it like a Polaroid picture . . . Well, okay, maybe not really, but she didn’t become known as the “Queen of Television” for nothing!
So, who in the heck in Charlotte Peters, anyway? Well, picture this: housewife meets T.V. host meets comedian meets singer. That was Charlotte Peters. Oh, and did I mention its 1953? *mind blown*
Check out this newspaper article about Peters:
Did you just read what I just read? In case you weren’t paying attention:
The reporter wrote, “Charlotte, strangely, got into TV by impulse. She was ‘just a housewife,’ when KSD-TV ran an amateur talent contest. She entered just for laughs—and won. Her appearance caused such a commotion, she was given her own 15 minute show. Eventually it led to the big sensation she’s become.”
CHARLOTTE PETERS: ENTERS CONTEST AS A JOKE. WINS. (Enjoy this meme of Oprah circa 2004)
The show began in 1953 as To The Ladies, but the studio quickly ditched that name for Charlotte Peters Show and gave it an hour time slot. Charlotte Peters sang, danced, and interviewed various local and national celebrities. She was a riot! And basically all of St. Louis was watching. I mean, by 1955 over half of American homes contained at least one television, so why wouldn’t they have been watching?
Here is a copy of the entire scrip from one of her shows:
Memory check: the show was an hour long. Confused as to why the script is basically a page long? Peters and her team only wrote 10% (!!!) of the show before they went on air—the remaining 90% Peters MADE UP AS SHE WENT ALONG. SORRY FOR YELLING BUT SERIOUSLY. Let’s talk about improvisation.
Peters not only won the talent contest that landed her the show, but she also won like all the popularity contests of the 1950s. There was a two-year waitlist for tickets to the show. TWO YEARS. *faints*
And this isn’t even the best part. (MORE?!?)
National networks offered Peters contracts, and even film producers approached her. Peters is quoted confessing that she “ . . .turn[ed] everything down because it mean[t] she’d have to leave St. Louis.”
Charlotte Peters Show aired until 1970, making it one of the last surviving, locally produced variety shows of its time.
Wanna know more?
Check out Louise Munsch—one of Charlotte Peter’s entertainment predecessors. Munsch hosted the first ever “women’s show” radio program in the St. Louis region. Just for Women covered a wide variety of social, political, and popular topics and came to serve as a model for future radio programs.
In Her Place: A Guide to St. Louis Women’s History by Katharine Corbett (2000)
Charlotte Peter’s family donated her papers to The State Historical Society of St. Louis, which are available for viewing by the public at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.