Chicago August 1993 article by
Brian McCormick

"Where Are They Now?
Hostess Cupcake..."

spacer gifBefore Oprah, before Phil, before Jenny, there was Ione, queen of Chicago daytime television. The Prize Movie With Ione, a morning hit on WLS-TV Channel 7 from 1967 to 1975, was a live, low-budget comedy/variety/game show and fitness program with a call-in talk feature. Oh, and viewers also got to see heavily edited versions of old movies.

spacer gif"We always ran over," says Ione Citrin, "so it wasn't unusual to lop off the last five or ten minutes of the movie." Still, Ione gave the movies their due: When the station ran a Tarzan film, she popped up in her Jane costume; for a beach party movie, the crew spliced her right into the action, surfing next to Frankie and Annette. She also played the song of the day while leading viewers in morning exercises; callers won $7 for identifying the song, and the winner got to try for a bigger prize with a harder song. When Lana Tuna, the movie fish, dropped from the ceiling during the game, the caller won an extra prize.

spacer gifA Garfield Park native, Ione got the show-business bug from her actress mother. After high school, she went to Hollywood, where she landed small parts in classics such as The Helen Morgan Story and in several Westerns. "I've always photographed dark, so I got a lot of Indian roles," she says. In fact, Ione was an Indian princess for two seasons on the television series Broken Arrow. Marriage to a Chicagoan bought her home, where she began a successful voice-over career. Then TV called. "They were looking for a zany, kooky girl for this format," she says. "I fit the bill."

spacer gifStardom came to an abrupt end, she says, when the network cancelled her show to make room for upstart Good Morning America. After her husband died in 1983, Ione moved back to Los Angeles. "I was very depressed, and I just couldn't stand another Chicago winter," she says. "So I decided to come out here and start over." In addition to her voice-over work, she's now writing. "I'm working on one of those big, trashy women's novels," she says. She's also happily remarried.

spacer gifWhile The Prize Movie With Ione was tame by today's tabloid daytime television standards, Ione bears her successors no ill will. "I think it's all great. I wouldn't want to see things stay the same," she says. "If television doesn't grow and change, it gets stagnant. And besides, all of these television fads are cyclical anyway." In other words, when the prize movie fad comes back, she'll be ready.

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