Posted: 06.02.2013 Remembering the Dodge Fever & Material Girls By: Robert Tate
During the 1960-70s, Dodge introduced its new marketing advertising campaign that included the Dodge “Rebellion Girl”, the Dodge “Fever Girl”, and the Dodge “Material Girl”. The promotional campaign became an instant success for the Chrysler Corporation.
The promotional spokesperson for the new 1968 Dodge models was Ms. Joan Parker. Throughout the 1968-69 automotive shows, Ms. Parker became the Dodge “Fever Girl” for television, radio, and public appearances. On a California radio station, a brief Christmas interview was held with Ms. Parker and broadcasted in Vietnam. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Parker received over 500 letters for American soldiers during the first season of her early campaign advertising for Dodge. The buying public fell in love with the campaign and almost everyone was having “Fever” syndrome thanks to Ms. Parker.
Ms. Parker’s journey began in 1963 when she graduated from Warwick Valley High School. By 1966, Ms. Parker majored in dramatics and soon received her associate’s degree of arts from Los Angeles City College. Later on, Ms. Parker returned to Manhattan, New York to start a coaching career from Michael Thoma who was formerly with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts of New York. Before Ms. Parker became the Dodge “Fever Girl”, she previously acted in a number of stage productions and had supporting roles in the movie Batman and hit television show, The Long Hot Summer.
During this era, one of the best things that could happen to an aspiring young actress was to get a leading role in a television commercial. The representatives of the Dodge advertising campaign where seeking a young woman who was personal, talented, intelligent, and attractive. The candidate had to quickly grasp what was expected of her and could be someone that worked well with other people while carrying out her part for introducing the new Dodge line of vehicles. When the casting call opened, over 400 candidates were present for audition. Among the candidates, one specifically stood out and that was 23 year old Joan Parker who was a farmer’s daughter from New York.
The filming of the Dodge commercials would take approximately three months. Ms. Parker once said, “The Dart Swinger commercial was a funny one. The car had a stick shift and I didn’t know how to drive anything but an automatic! So the director laid on the floor, shifting gears and working the clutch while I drove down the road”.
By the end of the model year 1969, Ms. Parker decided to move onto other aspiring challenges and by 1970, Ms. Cheryl Miller became the new Dodge girl.Cheryl was born and raised in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley area of Southern California. In 1966, she graduated from UCLA with a master's degree in music. She also studied voice, classical guitar, and composition at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. She was also the actress in a television series called Daktari. In this television series she played the part of Paula which became an instant success for many fans. During 1970, Dodge changed its advertising campaign to, “You Could Be Dodge Material”. During the casting call of 360 prospects, Ms. Cheryl Miller was chosen for the Dodge “Material Girl” and represented Dodge for two successful years.
During the 1960-70s, the most interesting development in the Dodge advertising was the young ladies who participated in the marketing advertising campaigns. Today, Dodge advertising from the 1960-70s is remembered as a great historical automotive advertising moment of its time.
A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of Robert Tate’s Personal Collection. (Bibliography: Dodge News Magazine- published by Dodge Division of Chrysler Corporation. Vol. 34 No 10-October, 1969.)
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