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Maggi McNellis

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Maggi McNellis (June 1, 1917 - May 24, 1989) was an American radio and television personality and talk show hostess from the 1940s through the 1960s. In the latter part of her life, she became a New York City society hostess.

Maggi McNellis
Maggi McNellis interviewing Audrey Hepburn, 1953
Margaret Eleanor Roche

(1917-06-01)June 1, 1917
DiedMay 24, 1989(1989-05-24) (aged 71)
OccupationRadio & television personality
Years active1937(?)–1989
Spouse(s)Richard V. McNellis
(m. 1938?)
Clyde M. Newhouse
(m. 1946)

Early life

Maggi McNellis, the daughter of George J. and Maude Roche, was born Margaret Eleanor Roche in Chicago, Illinois, June 1, 1917. She attended Rosemont College, Pennsylvania, in the mid-1930s. In the late 1930s, she began her show business career as a supper club singer, appearing at the Pump Room in Chicago, and at the Rainbow Room in New York City. She also married Richard V. McNellis sometime in the late 1930s (1938?), and took her married name as her professional name. She married New York City art gallery owner Clyde Mortimer Newhouse in 1946.[1]

Radio career

In 1943, Maggi McNellis became the hostess of a radio talk show that focused on show business and celebrity gossip, The Maggi McNellis Show which ran for many years, and, soon after, another, Maggi's Private Wire, on the air 1944 through 1948.[2]

She often appeared as a panellist on the late 1940s national radio show Leave It to the Girls.

She hosted a half-hour celebrity gossip show in New York City, on WABC-Radio, called Maggi's Magazine, starting in late fall 1953 and continuing on locally for several years in the 1950s.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, she was the interviewer in many five-minute interview segments (with such titles as Celebrity Talks), for insertion in radio news and other radio shows nationwide.[3]

Television career

Maggi McNellis was a "ubiquitous personality in the early days of American television",[4] and was often described as "one of the ten best-dressed women in America".[5] Touted as a famous radio and television star (and often as "best-dressed"), she was seen in many print testimonial ads in the 1940s and 1950s, for such varied sponsors as Tintair Hair Coloring,[6] Blatz Beer,[7] and Cafe DeLaPaix.[8]

Crystal Room

She hosted a short-lived variety show, Crystal Room, broadcast weekly on the ABC network from August 15, 1948 through September 12, 1948. The television show was set in an imaginary nightclub, and was broadcast on Sunday nights, 8:30–9 PM (EST).[4]

Carl Reiner remembered the show:[9]

  • The room was set up like a nightclub. There were people sitting at a table, and she would come over and talk to you. It was half an interview show and then you would get up and do something. There was no nightclub like that in the world. They paid you $125, which seems like a lot for five minutes' work, but it really wasn't because a lot of people were seeing it, and you were ruining your act for club dates.

Maggi's Private Wire

In this television show named after her radio show, Maggi interviewed show business stars and other celebrities. It was broadcast weekly on NBC from April 12, 1949 until July 2, 1949. For the first month, it was on the air in the Tuesday night 7:30–7:45 PM (EST) timeslot; then, from May 1949 onward, it was broadcast Saturday nights in the same timeslot.[10]

Leave It to the Girls

When the Leave It to the Girls radio show (which, produced by Meet the Press creator Martha Rountree, had premiered in 1945) moved to television as a weekly primetime show on the NBC network on April 27, 1949, Maggi McNellis became the host and moderator, replacing radio show hostess Paula Stone. The show had begun as a serious-minded discussion of the problems of career women, but it soon became a comedic commentary on love, romance, and marriage from an almost-all female panel — one man was always on the panel to provide the male viewpoint.[11] The last NBC show was in 1951; ABC took control in 1953; 1954 was the last year for ABC's national nighttime version. Maggi also hosted a syndicated daytime version that came on the air for a short time in 1961-1962.[12]

Say It With Acting

A game of celebrity charades, originally broadcast locally on television in New York City, starting in January 1949 and called Look Ma, I'm Acting, became the weekly national NBC show Act It Out in 1951 — the show's name later changed to Say It With Acting. It featured Maggi McNellis as a permanent team captain (Bud Collyer was the other team captain), with actors and actresses from various Broadway productions as team members; Ben Grauer was the host. The first national show was broadcast on NBC January 6, 1951, and was broadcast Saturday nights 6:30–7 PM (EST) through May 1951. The show then moved to ABC, premiering there in August 1951, and continuing through February 1952, shown on Friday nights in the 7:30–8 PM (EST) timeslot.[13]

Other television appearances

Maggi McNellis appeared as herself in the not-well-received [14] Betty Hutton television special Satins and Spurs in 1954.

In the late 1950s, she also hosted The Maggi McNellis Show and Maggi's Magazine, local television shows patterned after her radio shows, and aired in New York City.

Writing career

Maggi McNellis co-wrote two books about party games, Party Games [15] (1949), and How to Run a Successful Party: the Complete Handbook of Party Games, Quizzes, and Stunts[16] (1950), the first with Hubi Boscowitz and, the second, with Hubi Boscowitz and Louise Price Bell.

Society life

Maggi McNellis, as Mrs. Clyde Newhouse, maintained an active high-society social life throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, as a hostess of charity fashion shows and as chairwoman of society balls. She was active in fundraising for the Southampton Hospital, the Parrish Art Museum, Guideposts for Children, the Police Athletic League, and United Cerebral Palsy of New York.

Personal life

Maggie McNellis died May 24, 1989 in New York City, at the age of 71 (her husband, Clyde Newhouse, had died in 1986 at the age of 66). Surviving her were her daughter, Meg Kirkpatrick, a brother, George Roche (both of Manhattan), and grandchildren Roger and Molly Kirkpatrick.


  1. ^ "Why Get Up Early?" (article about her radio show Private Wire that mentions her upcoming marriage) Billboard (April 13, 1946) page 8 (available online at Google Books online archive)
  2. ^ Swartz, Jon David & Reinehr, Robert C. (1993) "Handbook of Old-Time Radio: a Comprehensive Guide to Golden Age Radio Listening and Collecting" Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-2590-2, page 430
  3. ^ "Broadcasting, volume 57" (1959) Cahners Publishing Company
  4. ^ a b Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earl (2007) "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946–Present", Random House, ISBN 0-345-45542-8, page 226
  5. ^ "Television Magazine" (March 3, 1950) page 2 (available online at Google Books online archive
  6. ^ Print ad for Tintair Hair Coloring in eBay collectibles
  7. ^ Print ad for Blatz Beer in LIFE magazine in the online Google Book archive
  8. ^ Postcard of Maggi broadcasting from Cafe DeLaPaix
  9. ^ McMahon, Ed & Fisher, David (2007) "When Television Was Young: The Inside Story with Memories by Legends of the Small Screen" Thomas Nelson Inc., ISBN 1-4016-0327-0, page 140
  10. ^ Brooks & Marsh Op cit, page 626
  11. ^ Profile of Paula Roundtree Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine on the She Made It sub-website within the Paley Center for the Media website
  12. ^ Brooks & Marsh Op cit, page 587
  13. ^ Brooks & Marsh Op cit, page 906
  14. ^ Parish, James Robert (1972) "The Paramount Pretties", The Arlington House, ISBN 0-87000-180-9, page 483
  15. ^ "The Book Buyers Guide, volume 52" University of California (January 1949) page 118 (available online at the Google Books archive)
  16. ^ "How to Run a Successful Party: the Complete Handbook of Party Games, Quizzes, and Stunts" (overview available online at the Google Books archive)


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