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TeacherLore

Early Montana TV star presents her story at the Montana Historical Society

Montana legend Norma Ashby will be at the Montana Historical Society Friday (Dec. 17) at noon to talk about the fascinating people she met and the interesting things that happened to her during her 26-year career doing live television.

In her new book “Movie Stars & Rattlesnakes: The Heyday of Montana Live Television� published by Helena’s Farcountry Press, Ashby begins her wonderful story with advice she received in 1962 from her station owner at KRTV in Great Falls when she first faced the camera: “There are just two things to remember, and if you remember these two things, you will go far in broadcasting. The first one is don’t swear, and the second one is don’t pick your nose on air!�

During the course of her next 7,000 TV shows, Ashby talked to seven Montana governors and first ladies and a host of guest ranging from movie star Clint Eastwood to rattlesnake handler Cyril Colarchek. Many Montanans still remember her popular “Today in Montana� show that ran for 24 years.

The story takes Ashby from her Montana television studio to London’s Kensington Palace and includes interviews with former first lady Pat Nixon, movie star Olivia de Havilland, comedian Bob Hope and broadcaster and fellow Montanan Chet Huntley.

Ashby has the great knack of treating all people just as people, and brings out the most unusual facets of those with whom she talks. For example, newspaper columnist Abigail Van Buren was so at ease that she asked Ashby about her false eyelashes, and motion picture heart-throb Robert Goulet couldn’t resist giving her an on-air kiss.

Famed Montana author Ivan Doig said Ashby’s “sparkle lit up every interview she ever did.�

“Thanks to her skills in the tricky art of the on-air interview, Norma is a chronicle of modern Montana like no other,� Doig said.

Ashby is a fourth-generation Montanan who was born and raised in Helena, and graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism. She began as a reporter at the Independent Record and went on to work for LIFE Magazine in New York before returning home.

In addition to her media career, Ashby has worked hard over the years for projects important to Montana including service on the committee that spearheaded the recent celebration of the restoration of the State Capitol Building.

The new 160-page book that includes 90 photographs sells for $29.95 hardbound and $19.95 paperback. The book is available at the Society Museum Store, and Ashby will sign copies after her talk. There is no admission fee for the program.

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