Barbara only attended college for one year, dropping out because she knew she was ready to find her place in the performing world. She’d felt the rush singing for people with bands in nightclubs, and while she didn’t make it very far in the Miss America pageant, it was obvious that she was a looker. Just being entered into the Miss California stage gave her career a boost. A little while later, she got an even bigger boost when she became a semi-regular on “The Johnny Carson Show.”
By far, it is one of the most popular shows on television – and this was back when TVs had maybe three channels. Carson was seen by the majority of homes almost every night, and that means that Barbara was able to get some serious exposure, showing off her pipes and her winning smile.
Living Through the Depression
Eden was born smack in the middle of the Great Depression, which meant that there weren’t many luxuries that people could afford. History tells us that many people just had problems putting food on the table, so they weren’t taking a lot of trips. In order to keep her children entertained, Eden’s mother would regularly sing to them. This, in turn, got Eden interested in singing.
Her first public performance was singing in the church choir, and she quickly became the soloist. Her singing was good enough for her to sing with local bands while she was a teenager, earning ten dollars a night (something like a hundred and fifty dollars these days. Not bad) in nightclubs. By this point, it was at or past World War II.
Moving up in the World
When Eden was sixteen, with the world now fully post-war, she joined Actor’s Equity, an American labor union that represented performing artists, and started singing at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She was also acting in the Elizabeth Holloway School of Theatre. She graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco in the spring of 1949.
Even back then, she was a stunning woman – she attended City College of San Francisco, studying theater for one year, and she was elected Miss San Francisco in 1951, entering into the Miss California pageant (our research tells us she did not win that award). Yet it was clear that Eden, then still appearing as Barbara Huffman, had the performing chops and the looks to take her a long way into Hollywood – or whatever she chose to do.
A Few Small Roles
Thanks to her appearances on “The Johnny Carson Show,” which added up to fourteen in total, Barbara started using the name Eden in 1956, which was also when she started to get a lot more work. She got to be in the feature film “Back From Eternity” in 1956 in the all-important role “Blonde College Girl,” for which she was uncredited.
There was also the show “The West Point Story,” in which she played Toni DeWitt for a single episode. She had a role as Diana Jordan on “I Love Lucy” in 1957, and she also had appearances in “Highway Patrol,” “The Millionaire,” and “Crossroads.” She was still a ways away from her most famous role, but things were looking up for Eden. Next was the contract.
Everybody who worked with Eden could tell she was destined for big things. She might not have had a ton of training, but she had natural charisma, and, most importantly, she was beautiful. Never discount how important that is for the entertainment business. She showed up on a bunch of different sitcoms and lots of other shows such as “Gunsmoke,” “Perry Mason,” and plenty of others.
Her big break came from the same thing that every actor and actress was looking for at the time – a screen test with a major studio. It was 20th Century Fox that gave her a chance to show off, and while she didn’t make it into the movie she was testing for, “No Down Payment,” 20th Century Fox still liked her enough to offer her a contract.