During World War II, Teresa Beauchamp and Margaret Russell were the masterminds behind the Frankie and Johnny Show, a sophisticated revue that mixed jazz, musical numbers, and jokes. As girls in 1939, the two women unknowingly influenced the pop culture for a generation of young women when they offered table numbers called “Let’s Do Lunch,” “Let’s Go Over Here and Do Dinner,” and “Let’s Be Talkin’ Only About Sex.”
“Frankie and Johnny” captivated young women who were fascinated by the women’s style and elaborate production. Years later, Connie Britton’s character would find solace and comfort in Frankie and Johnny’s time and place of leisure, when the box office hit “American Idol” had rendered musical performances and talent shows obsolete.
In 1982, Frankie and Johnny was revived by the producers of MAMMA MIA! as part of a new show to teach members of the military something positive about life in their small, rural community. Frankie and Johnny became a warm, physical reminder of the legacy they had left behind.
Less than three decades later, just as television was full of “American Idol” judges criticizing young talent and encouraging them to choose between a romance and a career, Frankie and Johnny reinvented themselves as a brand name for those struggling with eating disorders. The dynamic duo found a new global audience by offering real-life research and testimonials to people struggling with eating disorders as well as those grappling with the emotional scars of anorexia and bulimia.
Today, there is a new generation of young women who follow the “Frankie and Johnny” brand, which is advertised on television, produced and distributed online, but marketed with the message that everyone can make a difference in the fight against eating disorders. The Frankie and Johnny brand offers a familiar and compelling narrative that is easy to comprehend and re-engage with through simple yet powerful tools. It is a globally accessible, entertaining, and effective tool.
For the millions of young people who turn to Frankie and Johnny’s brand, the brand has become a reliable professional that they look to to address the difficult discussions surrounding the implications of eating disorders. It is an option that is both medically proven and culturally appropriate, and that presents a powerful message that can be delivered with words and actions that are as simple as “Stop!” and “Say You’re Sorry!” As experienced by hundreds of young women with eating disorders, Frankie and Johnny’s brand is an effective connection point for people with eating disorders to learn coping skills, open dialogue, and support.
For others, Frankie and Johnny has become an available and feasible alternative to patients who struggle with more mainstream routes that do not offer a more healthful approach to recovery.
Roy Bertolini is author of, “You’ll Never Look Stupid Under Our Clothes” and the father of Rosie, a teen who struggled with anorexia.