Where, oh where, is Debbie Haggard today, I wonder?
Years ago, when I was weary of wandering the lonely halls of the Lauderdale Mansion, I cheered myself up by fiddling with the broken aerial on our only working television, and tuning in to the coolest show in town, namely Talent Party, hosted by longtime disk jockey and tv/radio personality George Klein. But I didn’t stare at the TV to watch George, or even to see (and hear) some of the newest bands in town.
Nope, it was to gape at the gorgeous go-go dancers they called the WHBQties. They were called that since the show was aired on WHBQ Channel 13, you see.
The half-hour program premiered in 1964, and many years ago, Klein told me that he got the idea for the dancers from the old Shindig television series. It was a simple enough concept: Pretty go-go dancers in miniskirts and boots — recruited from local high schools — would dance with the local bands showcased on each program.
The original six dancers were: Beverly Hill (yes, that was her real name), Sheila Hern, Linda Rose Berretta, Ann Dickey, and two others whose names that I can’t recall. “We gave some of them nicknames,” Klein remembered, “and they developed into real personalities on the show.” Berretta was called “Bow and Arrow,” for some reason, and Hill was called “Jimmy Jet” because that was an expression she used to say: “I’ve got to get on the Jimmy Jet.” I guess it made sense at the time.
But my favorite was a cute blonde who attended Overton High School named Debbie Haggard, and that’s her in the photo above, standing just to the right of George Klein, with her hand on his shoulder. If I’m not mistaken, the photo includes (left to right): Nina Diana, Debbie Johnson, Sherry Carroll, George Klein, Debbie Haggard, a woman who is not identified on the back of the photograph (sorry!), and Beth Buchwald on the far right.
The lucky fellow surrounded by the girls is David Fleischman, better known as Flash, the lead singer of Flash and the Board of Directors, one of the top bands in Memphis in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The Qties’ “sexy” outfits (they were pretty daring at the time) came straight off the rack from Sears, one of the sponsors of the show. Talent Party went off the air in 1976. “It had run its course,” Klein told me, “but to this day, one of the first things people ask me is, whatever happened to the WHBQties?”
Here’s another photo (below) of the group, for your enjoyment. That’s Debbie Haggard at the left:
PHOTOS COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES