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Happy Birthday, Mrs. Garrett

Charlotte Rae at the 1988 Emmy Awards

On April 22, 1926, Charlotte Rae Lubotsky was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, her father was Meyer Lubotsky, who owned a tire retail business, and her mother, Esther (nee Ottenstein), who was a childhood friend of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

Charlotte attended Shorewood High School, graduating in 1944. She went on to attend Northwestern University, where she met Cloris Leachman, who she became best friends with for life.

Rae never finished college, instead opting to head to New York City in 1948 to pursue a career in stage acting. She performed in nightclubs until she made her Broadway debut in “Three Wishes for Jamie” in 1952. She starred in a revival of the “Threepenny Opera,” two years later, appearing alongside Bea Arthur and John Astin (of Gomez Addams fame). She created the role of Mammy Yokum in the Broadway Musical adaptation of the comic strip“Lil Abner.”

She made her television debut in 1954 on an episode of “Look Up and Live.” Soon she became well-known character actor, appearing on dozens of shows including “Armstrong Circle Theater,” “NBC Television Opera House,” “The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse,” “The Phil Silvers Show,” “New York Television Theater,” “Love American Style,” among others. She made semi-regular appearances on the popular sitcom, “Car 54, Where are You?”

After appearances on Norman Lear's “All in the Family,” and “Good Times,” Rae was brought on to play the housekeeper, Edna Garrett, on the 1978 sitcom, “Diff'rent Strokes.” The character became so popular, Rae proposed the idea for a spinoff, and the after only one season on “Diff'rent Strokes,” Rae was starring on “The Facts of Life.”

Rae left the show after eight seasons and created the character Beverly Ann Stickle, as Mrs. Garrett's sister, for her friend Cloris Leachman.

Rae has continued to act appearing on shows such as “ER,” “Diagnosis Murder,” and has even voiced video games, such as “Red Dead Redemption.”

About her fame from “The Facts of Life,” Rae has said, “I can't even go to Barbados without people wanting to hug me and 'Oh, Mrs. Garrett!' You know, it really had an impact on their lives.”


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