The Celebrity Collector

Actress Lynn Borden Collects Frog and Elephant Figures 

By Ken Hall

Lynn Borden's collections of frog and elephant figures pose an intriguing chicken-and-egg question: Which came first, the collection of frogs or the movie Frogs? The actress (who was Miss Arizona in 1957 and a finalist in the Miss America pageant the following year) had a lead role in the 1972 shocker Frogs and even had to tour the country on a publicity junket for the film, frog in tow. Anyway, the answer is the movie came first, and the elephant collection was started long before that.

Borden's father, the noted cartoonist Bill Freyse, was himself a lover of elephants and drew them for his (and Lynn's) amusement when she was a child. Freyse drew the daily and Sunday panels for "Our Boarding House with Major Hoople" from the 1930s through the '60s. The strips were syndicated to hundreds of newspapers nationwide. He also created the cartoon version of "The Lone Ranger" and co-created "The Green Hornet." Artistry was his life's work, but elephants intrigued him.

"My father instilled in me a great sense of wonder and respect for the elephant," Lynn said from her home in California, where she lives with her husband, Roger, an automotive designer, and their Doberman Pinscher, Dino. "Elephants are great, majestic creatures, very gentle by nature, and it's true they never do forget!" The first pieces in her collection were left to her by her father, including a bronze elephant, about 8 inches tall, and a pair of bronze elephants sitting back to back, their legs in the air.

The decision to add to the collection, or even call it a collection, wasn't Lynn's. One day, she had the actress Mala Powers over for a visit. (Mala played the next door neighbor on "Hazel," in which Borden had a lead role as the wife; the two remained friends until Ms. Powers' recent passing). "She was admiring the elephants my father had left me and said, 'You're collecting elephants!'" Lynn recalled. "I said, 'No I'm not.' And she said, 'Oh, yes you are!'" And that was that.

Mala ended up giving a few elephants to Lynn as gifts. One is a jade piece. Another, purchased on a trip to India, is studded with stones. And a large purse has a big elephant depicted on it. There's also a large original sculpture of an elephant's head on a wall by the renowned Mexican sculptor Bustamante. "It's very light, almost like papier-mâché," Lynn said. "It's just this big, gray head. Very pretty." She has about 35 elephants in all.

"I don't have curio cabinets," Borden said. "I find a spot for something, and that's where I'll put it. It might be on a table or a nightstand or a wall or window sill, but wherever it is, some thought went into it. I didn't just line things up on a shelf to organize my things. There's some purpose behind it." She picks up an elephant.

"This was given to me by a childhood friend who thought we'd never see each other again when I moved away. It has great sentimental value to me. I want to be able to hold it."

Borden's love of elephants was enhanced when she went to see a show by Gregory Colbert called "Ashes and Snow." In it, Mr. Colbert is seen on three large video screens swimming with the elephants in a spectacular underwater display. The show ­ a traveling museum using box cars, pillars, lights and aisles of light ­ opened in Venice, Italy, in 2002, went to New York in 2005 and returned to LA this year.

Now for the frogs. Lynn estimates she has about 25 of them. Her favorite, though, is the first one she ever received ­ a gift from a representative of the Rialto Theatre in Atlanta. The representative welcomed her to the movie premiere of Frogs (the film opened in Atlanta). "This very nice man gave me a wonderful, plaster of Paris gold frog on a pillow," she said. "He is just so cute. I've got him right by the fireplace. I'd have to say he's my favorite frog of all."

On the promotional tour for the movie, people began bestowing frogs on Lynn as gifts. "I didn't have to go out and buy any frogs, that's for sure," she laughed. "They were coming at me from all sides." She developed a fondness for the slippery amphibians and even made friends with the one the studio made her appear with for publicity shots. "His name was Thumper. I took him to frog-jumping championships," she said. "I saw so many different kinds of frogs. Some were really quite beautiful."

Today, Lynn will look for frogs for her collection when she's out and about. "I love frogs," she said. "They're cute, they won't harm you, and they're good luck. You know, kiss the frog and marry a prince, that kind of thing. If I see a frog ­ real or otherwise ­ I'll always stop to look at it. A friend of mine collects frogs, too. We like to look at each other's frogs and see if anything new has been added."

Some of the frogs in Lynn's collection include a crystal frog with gold legs that was a gift from her husband ("The legs keep falling off and we keep gluing them back on"); a clay frog on a lily pad; a jade frog given to her by a friend (to go with her jade elephant); a bean bag frog; and others, some of which have been demoted to drawer status until Lynn sees fit to bring them out again for show. "Sometimes I'll mix it up be putting some pieces away, then bring them out again later on," she said.

Lynn Borden was born Lynn Freyse in Detroit on March 24, 1939. The family moved to Cleveland and later Tucson, mainly because her mother had a health condition that required her to be in a warm, dry climate. Lynn was very shy as a child, and her mother enrolled her in acting classes as a way to overcome it. As a result, she tried out for and got parts in class plays all throughout grade school and high school. She also got small parts in some Western films, which were often shot in Arizona.

With scholarships from the Miss Arizona and Miss America pageants, Lynn enrolled at the University of Arizona, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater. She got married to Chris Borden, and although the union didn't last, she kept his last name and has been Lynn Borden her entire professional life. After college, she moved to San Francisco and won a contest for a small non-speaking movie role. That turned into a speaking, credited part on TV's hit series, "Hawaiian Eye."

After that, she got an agent and began landing parts in some of the most memorable series in 1960s television, including "General Hospital," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The F.B.I.," "Get Smart," "Ironside" and "The Mod Squad." Her biggest role was as Mrs. Baxter in the hit comedy series "Hazel," based on the Ted Key comic strip and starring Shirley Booth. The show ran for five seasons (1962-67), the first four of them on NBC. The final year it was on CBS, with a somewhat different cast.

But first, an interesting aside about Ted Key. He served in an advisory capacity on the TV show, and when he first met Lynn, she mentioned her father was a cartoonist, too. When he learned her dad was Bill Freyse, he was astounded. It turned out the two had worked together, on a proposed movie version of Freyse's "Major Hoople" strip. W.C. Fields was to play the lead role, but when he died, so did the project. Lynn's father was Ted Key's hero, and now she was playing a part in his comic strip.

For the first four years of "Hazel," the Baxters were played by "Ozzie and Harriet" veteran Don DeFore and Whitney Blake. But when the switch was made from NBC to CBS (1966-67), DeFore and Blake were dropped. It was written into the plot line that the couple was transferred to the Middle East for George Baxter's work. After that, Hazel went to work for George's younger brother, Steve (played by Ray Fulmer). Lynn was cast (by Booth, who owned the series) to play Ray's wife, Barbara.

Unfortunately, Ms. Booth had to stop the series in 1967 due to failing health, even though the show enjoyed high ratings. Borden didn't miss a beat and continued to land parts on TV shows and in movies. A bit earlier, in 1964, she was set to play a lead role in the Elvis Presley romp Roustabout, but lost out to the girlfriend of the producer. "That was a rude wake-up call to just how things can happen in Hollywood," Borden said. "But I did get a part in the film, so it worked out okay."

In 1969, she got a small part in the critically acclaimed movie, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, and went on to appear in other major motion pictures, such as The Wrecking Crew (1969); Walking Tall (1973), and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974). She also appeared in '70s TV shows like "Wonderful World of Disney," "McMillan and Wife," "The Fantastic Journey," "Starsky and Hutch" and "Fantasy Island." Since then, she has worked steadily, in plays, commercials, movies and on TV.

Just last year, Lynn was cast in an episode of "CSI: New York," and she said other projects are in the works that she can't discuss quite yet. In the meantime, she makes appearances for celebrity autograph signings at events like this year's Western Film Fair in Charlotte, N.C. She also made guest signing appearances last year in Palm Springs and Los Angeles. Fans may write to the star at 16161 Ventura Blvd. #675, Encino, CA 91436.

Posted 11/07



Lynn Borden, today.

Lynn at the "Frogs" premier.

 

 

 

 

 

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