Barbara Eden, the enchanting muse behind the genie dream, celebrates her 92nd birthday on August 23rd. The vibrant nonagenarian continues to exude a wonderful aura.
Emerging almost six decades ago as the iconic figure on I Dream of Jeannie, Eden ignited a wave of unapologetic bottle-rubbers, all in pursuit of their own golden-haired wish-fulfillment.
Yet, away from the camera’s gaze, real life presented its harsh realities. In 2001, she faced an agonizing inability to rescue her son from a tragic drug overdose, despite her on-screen ability to strike a pose and conjure miracles.
While her infamous harem costume has been absent from television screens for some time, she remains resilient and engaged in various pursuits.
Yet, Barbara’s life journey has been far from uncomplicated.
Born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1931, Barbara Eden’s early years were marked by change. Following her parents’ divorce, she made her way to San Francisco, where she embarked on her singing studies at the Conservatory of Music.
At the age of nine, Matthew’s parents concluded their 15-year marriage. This event, which marked a significant change, had a profound impact. Eden, who herself entered matrimony twice more, believes that this rupture set her son on a detrimental trajectory towards drug use.
The famed star of Harper Valley PTA recounted her observations, revealing that her concern for Matthew arose in 1984. At that point, he was 19 and chose to live with his father following Eden’s second marriage. Upon his return after her subsequent divorce, Eden noticed alarming signs: he was oversleeping and dishonest about his enrollment in college.
“Matthew never openly admitted his heroin use to Mike and me. He wanted to shield us from the pain. However, the signs were clear—his lethargy, weight loss, and nights spent outside. Taking a stand, I insisted he seek help from a rehab facility. Upon completing the month-long program, he returned home,” shared the luminary of The Stepford Children.
“Unfortunately, the old patterns resurfaced. Professionals advised us that when a child succumbs to drugs, the child ceases to be themselves, becoming the addiction. They’re no longer your child, and the concept of home changes. Hence, at the challenging juncture of his 20th year, I made the heart-wrenching decision to lock him out.”
Matthew’s encounter with drugs commenced at a tender age of 10, and for the next dozen years, he embarked on a tumultuous journey in and out of rehabilitation. Throughout, his parents remained steadfast in their efforts to support him.
“At times during his visits, he’d humorously quip, ‘Better lock up everything now that I’m here.’ But during sober moments, he’d express profound remorse, saying, ‘I’m profoundly sorry. My love for you exceeds all else,'” Eden reminisced about her son, who often resorted to stealing from them during his visits.
At the age of 31, Matthew achieved a period of sobriety. Following in his parents’ footsteps, he secured a leading role in the 2001 film To Protect and Serve, along with a supporting role in Con Games, which was released posthumously that same year.
By September of that year, he was on the brink of marrying a “wonderful girl.”
Eden fondly recalled a conversation they had, where Matthew expressed, “Life is wonderful, Mom. It’s astonishing how many years I spent unaware of the vividness of the trees.”
However, tragedy lurked in the shadows. On June 26 at 3 a.m., Eden was abruptly awakened by a phone call bearing devastating news about her son.
Merely six hours prior to the call, law enforcement had discovered 35-year-old Matthew, an aspiring bodybuilder, in a slumped position over the steering wheel of his truck. Alongside him, vials of anabolic steroids, which he had used to enhance his physique for competitions, were also uncovered by the authorities.
Subsequent to the autopsy, it was determined that Matthew’s untimely passing resulted from an accidental drug overdose.
“Then, in an instant, he was gone. He had injected an unusually potent dose of heroin, overwhelming his heart,” Eden lamented. “Even in endeavors like getting in shape, he pursued it with the fervor of an addict—consumed by obsession. The concept of moderation eluded him.”
Grieving the loss of her sole child, the accomplished author and singer, wedded to Jon Eicholtz since 1991, grapples with unanswered questions.
“Matthew internalized it deeply. He yearned for his parents to remain together. In retrospect, I often wonder if waiting until he was older might have been wiser. However, I remind myself that countless children from divorced households do not fall into the grasp of addiction,” she reflected. “He achieved triumphs along the way, but his personal battle ended in defeat.”
The elder Ansara, who passed away at 91 in 2013 due to complications from Alzheimer’s, rests beside his son at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
Regarding Eden, who bid adieu to Jeannie’s iconic pink harem attire, her presence remains vibrant on television through shows such as Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition, and in the 2019 film My Adventures with Santa, where she portrays Mrs. Claus. Her most recent stage endeavor was the 2019 production of Love Letters.
Firstly, we extend warm birthday wishes to the enchanting Barbara Eden!