Ms. Gordon agreed. She became one of the first women to wear glasses while appearing as herself on TV, upending prevailing notions of feminine beauty and, to judge from her voluminous fan mail, giving other American women the confidence to wear their glasses as they would earrings or any other bauble — in style.
“I know I’m not a glamour girl — most women aren’t,” she told an interviewer in 1961. “But I’m not underrating myself. I’m an attractive, up-to-date young woman — glasses and all.”
Glasses and all, Ms. Gordon, who died Feb. 28 in New York City at 90, enjoyed a successful career as a pitchwoman. She appeared on television programs including “The Jack Paar Show” and “The Price Is Right,” becoming known by the early 1960s as “the girl with the glasses” — a moniker that became obsolete as women as well as men increasingly accepted that bespectacled could be beautiful.
Her claims to fame did not end there, however. Ms. Gordon, who also did extensive voice-over work, may well have had one of the most familiar voices in the United States: For years, anyone who mis-dialed a telephone was greeted by a recording made by Ms. Gordon, informing them that they had called the wrong number.
Joyce Gordon was born in Des Moines on March 25, 1929. Her father founded the National Barber and Beauty Manufacturers Association.
She grew up in Chicago and moved to New York at 18 or 19 with the hope of becoming an actress, appearing on radio and television shows including “Studio One,” “Robert Montgomery Presents” and “Search for Tomorrow,” according to SAG-AFTRA, the screen actors’ union.
By her mid-20s, Ms. Gordon was working full-time in commercials for brands such as Crisco and Duncan Hines. The career move did not displease her. Unlike acting, commercials allowed her to “be myself and talk to people as I really am,” she wrote in an essay published in TV Week in 1960.
After her ophthalmological coming out, commercial sponsors realized that Ms. Gordon’s glasses made her a believable, memorable representative for their products. As she put it, glasses gave her “identity and authority.”
Once, Hugh Downs invited Ms. Gordon to appear alongside Hungarian-born actress Eva Gabor in a panel discussion on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” where Downs was Paar’s sidekick.
“To my knowledge this was the first time a commercial spokeswoman had ever been invited to participate as a guest on the show,” Ms. Gordon wrote in TV Week. “Eva told me how nice my glasses looked, and Hugh echoed the fact that I was the only commercial spokeswoman on network television to wear them.”
According to SAG-AFTRA, Ms. Gordon was the first woman to do network promos and to serve as an announcer for a political convention on national TV. She was active in the union and, in 1966, became the first woman to lead one of its chapters when she was elected president of the New York branch.
“Her stature as a pitchwoman and voiceover talent was indispensable in convincing the advertising industry to take seriously the concerns of commercial performers in the early days of that contract,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement.
Ms. Gordon’s husband of more than 50 years, Bernard Grant, a star of soap operas including “Guiding Light,” died in 2004. Survivors include two children, Melissa Grant of Los Angeles and Mark Grant of New York; a sister; and a grandson. Melissa Grant confirmed her mother’s death but did not cite a specific cause.
Ms. Gordon also had a successful run as a dubbing artist, serving as the English-language voice of actresses including Jeanne Moreau and Annie Girardot.
If her work as a bespectacled pitchwoman allowed Ms. Gordon to be herself, dubbing was in many ways the opposite. “You have to try to crawl into the other actor’s body, to understand how a shrug, a raised eyebrow, a way of breathing can affect the performance,” she told the New York Times in 1982.
Such was her skill that when she dubbed the Tunisian-born Italian actress Claudia Cardinale in director Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968), a reviewer praised Cardinale’s stellar English.
Later in her career, Ms. Gordon appeared in the NBC procedural “Law and Order” as a trial judge. But she remained best known as a pitchwoman.
In her heyday, she had as many as eight pairs of glasses and selected each day the set that best matched her attire.
“Day by day, she is erasing, in at least a small segment of the American mind, the image of the spinsterish, unattractive female usually associated with glasses,” a reporter wrote in 1961. “At least half of her fan mail mentions her glasses, and many women make it clear that she gave them the necessary shot-in-the-arm in the struggle between vanity and the desire to see clearly.”
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