Ohioans of the Day: Tim Conway and Doris Day

Posted on: May 15, 2019
Tags: Biography, Ohioan, Ohioans of the Day, Doris Day, Tim Conway

From the desk of John Zimkus:

For 35 years as a teacher, twenty of them teaching Ohio history, I began each day with my 7th graders with an “Ohioan of the Day”. It started before the internet so I couldn’t “Google” the “Ohioans.” All of my research was done with almanacs and encyclopedias. That first year was a bear!

We lost two of my favorite “Ohioans” in the last couple of days - Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on May 13, and Thomas Daniel Conway on May 14.

Doris was born in Cincinnati on April 3, 1922. She was a German through and through. In fact, some sources say her full name was Doris VON Kappelhoff.

Her earliest dream was to become a dancer. That hope was crushed in 1937, along with her right leg, when a car in which she was riding was hit by a train when she was 15. While recuperating she started to take singing lessons. Her first professional job as a vocalist was on the WLW Radio in Cincinnati.

Doris then caught the attention of Barney Rapp, who was looking for a female vocalist for his band. (Rapp was married in 1936 to singer Ruby Wright. Ohioans out there might remember that Ruby sang for years on the Ruth Lyons 50-50 Club in TV and radio in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton.)

It was Barney Rapp, in 1939, who had Doris change her last name. He thought "Kappelhoff" was too long for marquees, so he suggested she become - Doris DAY.

* * * *

Thomas Daniel Conway was on December 15, 1933, in Willoughby, Ohio to an Irish father and a Rumanian mother. Tom grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1956. Tom Conway always wanted to be a disc jockey and actually was one in college at WWBG on a show called “Sunny Side Up.”

While working in advertising at Cleveland TV station WKYW, Tom often would help fill in time on the station’s afternoon movie show by playing goofy characters and doing hilarious skits with the host. One day, Rose Marie, who would in a few years be a regular on the classic “Dick Van Dyke Show,” saw him and helped him get a Hollywood audition. Steve Allen was the one who first gave him national attention. There was one problem, however, his name.

The Screen Actors Guild makes every effort to avoid enrolling members with the same name or with very similar names. (Thats why Michael J. Fox all of a sudden got a middle initial that he never had before.) In the early 1960s there already was a Tom Conway in SAG. He was actor George Sanders’ younger brother who made dozens of “B” movie in the 1940s, several as the detective known as “The Falcon.” So when Ohio’s Tom Conway got his SAG card he became TIM Conway.

* * * *

I saw Tim Conway in person twice. Once in a “new comedy” play in the early 1980s called “Wally’s Cafe” in Dayton, Ohio as part of the summer-stock Kenley Payers. (“Wally’s Cafe” would go to Broadway in 1981 starring James Coco and last for only 12 performances) This photo of Tim Conway is from the “Wally’s Cafe” program.

The second time was in Cincinnati at the Taft Theater about 15 years ago. Tim Conway was performing with his old pal from “The Carol Burnett Show,” Harvey Korman. The two were touring in the stage show, “Together Again with Tim and Harvey,” and doing many classic bits from the old Burnett Show. They toured for over 10 years to sold out markets until Korman’s death in 2008.