Ann-Margret's TV debut came on The Flintstones
She came a long way to become a superstar: from living in a funeral home to singing "Bye, Bye Birdie" to babysitting Pebbles.
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After The Flintstones became the first animated show to be nominated for an Emmy for Best Comedy Series, it really didn't matter that Fred didn't take home the prize. The impact was made just by the nomination, and Hollywood understood that The Flintstones wasn't just a cartoon, but a prestige vehicle for stars at the height of their careers.
So when The Flintstones was looking for a wow moment to kick off its fourth season in 1963, the show likely had its choice of guest stars. But there was only one rising superstar The Flintstones wanted to sign: Ann-Margret.
In 1963, Ann-Margret went from winning the Emmy for Best Newcomer to stealing the show from Dick Van Dyke in Bye, Bye Birdie. Her performance pushed her to become an A-list star, and her managers, scheming to make the most of the moment, knew The Flintstones would be a perfect complement to the array of roles and singing gigs she'd taken on next.
For "Ann-Margrock Presents," Ann-Margret sang two songs, one a lullaby and the other a bouncy pop number, and the song she sings for Pebbles likely moved the hearts of parents watching, who were probably about to sing their own kids to sleep.
Next time you watch, you should know that Ann-Margret had just as tender feelings of care about her own family. She said they were willing to do anything to help her achieve fame, and she told The Progress-Bulletin in Pomona, California, in 1963 that the only reason she was driven to become a star was to provide a better life for them.
"I want to make up to my parents for all the sacrifices they made for me,” Ann-Margret said.
On The Flintstones, the Gruesomes would be introduced the next year after Ann Margrock appeared. They're a cartoon family that lives in a Munsters-like house called "Tombstone Manor."
Well, if you thought Tombstone Manor sounded like a creepy place to dwell, wait until you find out where Ann-Margret spent a chunk of her youth.
She told The Progress-Bulletin that at one point things got dire when her dad became injured and then couldn't find work. To support the whole family, her mother took work as a funeral home receptionist, in part because her entire family could move into the funeral home as part of her pay.
Ann-Margret said she didn't mind living in the funeral home, except for the teasing kids doled out at school. "It really didn't bother me until the kids at school began to heckle me about sleeping next to a dead body!" she said.
The kids weren't exaggerating either. Ann-Margret confirmed her living room was indeed part of the funeral parlor.
"Some nights they would use the front room for wakes until one o'clock in the morning," she said. "After everybody left, Mother would tidy things up, then close the sliding door that led from our side of the living room to the part of the funeral parlor where they kept the casket."
Shortly after leaving behind the funeral home, Ann-Margret started doing shows in Vegas, which led to her first movie role and her first Emmy. After that, Bye, Bye Birdie came along and the world said hello to Ann-Margret. Her family believed in her the whole way.
Most times, history remembers Ann-Margret as the female version of Elvis Presley. (Or perhaps, the woman who dumped Elvis Presley.) But in 1963, cradling Pebbles as a cartoon version of the mega-star she'd just become, Ann-Margret was just a girl who was grateful she could afford to give back to her family.
"I want everything that I can possibly get for them — their own house, their own gardener, their own car," Ann-Margret said. "My mother has to go to the laundromat twice a week!"