Alaska's 'first lady of television' to receive posthumous honor

Sean DooganAlaska Dispatch News

Norma Goodman, often referred to as Alaska's "first lady of television," will be honored at the annual gathering of the Pacific Northwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Friday in Seattle.

Goodman died in 2007 after being diagnosed with cancer. But her legacy has far outlived the woman who spent almost a half-century as an Anchorage television host. Goodman's daughter, Kelly, will accept the Golden Circle Award -- the academy's highest honor -- on her late mother's behalf.

Goodman began anchoring "Hostess House" on March 1, 1954, less than a year after Alaska's first television station, KTVA, hit the airwaves. The show featured household tips and recipes for women. It blossomed into "The Norma Goodman Show" as its host began to shift her focus toward social issues. When it ended in 2001, "The Norma Goodman Show" was one of the longest-running single-host news shows in U.S. television history.

Almost anyone who grew up in Anchorage during the last half of the 20th century will remember Goodman. Her trademark beehive hairdo and easy yet insightful interview style were hallmarks of the half-hour morning show. Goodman's son, Stuart Nobel-Goodman, said he remembers his mother being intensely curious, easygoing and almost always in reporter mode. He remembers one morning when his father, an engineer, was trying to help him calculate the optimal orbit for a satellite when his mother -- who, he said, was not mathematically inclined -- began asking questions.

"My mom didn't have the faintest idea of what my dad was talking about, but she was still asking good questions," Nobel-Goodman said.

Cathy Hiebert, daughter of Alaska television pioneer Augie Hiebert -- the founder of KTVA -- said Goodman was a trailblazer in what was then a new medium for Alaska. Hiebert said she remembered a time in the 1970s when Goodman, who worked for CBS, brought Theda Comstock, who worked for NBC, on her show to talk about the fact that both women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"This was a huge deal -- getting crosstown rivals together -- and you are talking about something that didn't have the news punch that it does today," Hiebert said.

Despite their on-air rivalry, Goodman and Comstock were the closest of friends, Hiebert said.

Goodman worked in an era when the big networks still sent their stars across the country to promote their shows. As a result, the Goodman house hosted some legendary people over the years. Mary Tyler Moore stopped by with Ed Asner. Graham Kerr, "The Galloping Gourmet," made the family dinner. Walter Cronkite borrowed Goodman's sleeping bag for a camping trip. She and "M.A.S.H." star Jamie Farr became friends.

But through the years, Goodman never put much stock in her own fame or power, her family said.

"('The Norma Goodman Show') really did a lot of social good, and she really lived out the idea of caring about her community and did everything she could to make it a better community," Nobel-Goodman said.

Reach Sean Doogan at sean@alaskadispatch.com.

 


By SEAN DOOGAN
sean@alaskadispatch.com