Honey West

Created by G.G. Fickling (pseud. of Gloria and Forest Fickling)

Move over, Kinsey.

Step aside, Sharon.

Someone get the smelling salts for V.I.

Here comes the shocking truth. The first really successful female private eye in a series was a bimbo! Or at least frequently clothing-challenged and none-too-swift.

Evidence? Typical exclamation from her occasional rescuer and boyfriend, Johnny Doom: "Honey! Where are your clothes?"

Still, considering the decidedly pre-feminist times, HONEY WEST was, according to her co-creator Gloria Fickling, a "beautiful, brainy and very much determined, sensual female."

Actually, Honey was the creation of fashion writer Gloria and her husband, sportswriter Forest Fickling, who were friends of Shell Scott's creator, Richard Prather.

She first appeared in the 1957 novel, This Girl for Hire, as a very Shell-like P.I., with the same often zany blend of humour and sex, although her creators did darken things up a bit by giving her a very personal reason for pursuing the P.I. profession -- apparently Honey was searching for the murderer of her beloved father Hank West, also a private eye, who was killed in an alley behind the old Paramount Theatre in Hollywood.

But of course, Honey was a "girl," so even if she did think of herself as something of a tough cookie, she was often in need of rescue (of either her life or her "honour") by her ever-virtuous partner, Johnny. She went on to appear in ten more frothy, light-hearted, innuendo-laden books from 1958 to 1971, and even popped up in a short-lived but memorable television series produced by Aaron Spelling in the mid-sixties, certainly one of the first TV dramas (if you can call then dramas) to feature a female lead.

Television's Honey kept her clothes on, and pretty much everything else was changed or tweaked when her character, after a successful appearance on an episode of Burke's Law, was spun off into her own show. It was 1965, and the world was going spy crazy. There was James Bond, The Avengers and The Man (and soon, The Girl) From U.N.C.L.E. So now she and Sam Bolt (who was Johnny in the books but could still be called upon, it seemed, to rescue Honey at least once in every show) were high-tech private eyes, but the distinction between private investigators and intelligence agents got more than a little blurred at times. They tooled around in a specially-equipped mobile crime lab/spy van with "H.W. Bolt & Co., TV Service" on the side. She now carried a .38 in her purse, a derringer somewhere else (wink, wink) and all sorts of gimmicks: an exploding compact, a garter belt gas mask, teargas earrings and a lipstick microphone. She was also pretty handy with the martial arts, delivering a karate chop here or a judo throw there (Francis took instructions in Okinawa Te under Sensei Gordon Doversola for a few months before shooting began).

Although Sam constantly pressured Honey to marry him, the love of Honey's life seemed to be Bruce, her pet ocelot -- another contribution from the TV writers. Gimmicks? What gimmicks?

All in all, though, it was a fun show. Honey was played by Anne Francis, drop dead gorgeous, and a dead ringer for Honor Blackman, the woman who played Pussy Galore in the James Bond flick Goldfinger, and provided the much-needed smarts, class and ooomph to the role that the books too often lacked. Francis won a Golden Globe and was also nominated for an Emmy for her efforts, but the show only lasted a year. (See Spelling's later Charlie's Angels to see how dreadful it could have been had it lasted a little longer).

But even after the buzz created by the show, Honey's co-creators seemed to have missed the point. The last two novels (published several years after the show had ended) upped the sex and smirkiness, and tried to recast Honey as a spy. Here's the blurb from Stiff as a Broad (1971), which had her teaming up with another smirky quasi-eye, high-priced P.I. Erik March, who was actually introduced in a bit part in Honey's first adventure, This Girl For Hire.

"Honey's hard on her feet, soft on her back, a karate-chopping spy-queen who always gets her man -- one way or another. This time Honey's after a woman. Madame Fong, dragon-lady of the Chinese Commies, has plans to send all of Frisco on a no-return Trip via an annihilating dose of lethal nerve gas.

So Honey has to get Madame Fong. But first she has to sidetrack three watchdog studs, challenging their talents in bed and out. That's how the Commies found out that when Honey West does a job, she gives it all she's got...."

What the hell's a spy-queen?

TRIVIA

  • Following the original commercial success of the 2001 big screen remake of Charlie's Angels, there were rumours that actress Reese Witherspoon was all set to star in a film as Honey West, with the team behind her then-current smash Legally Blonde slotted to write and produce. It didn't happen.

UNDER OATH

  • "I really appreciate your write up on the Honey West TV series. No one I know seems to remember the show. I was 7 or 8 when it first aired in prime time. I was a big fan of that show and it must of left quite an impression and here's the reason why: I grew up in NYC, East Harlem where even there, most little girls owned Barbie Dolls--except me. A lot of times family funds were so low that my parents could only afford to buy me the cheaper Barbie Wanna-Be dolls.

    Well, I don't know if I put emotional pressure on my Mom or what because I actually ended up becoming the proud owner of an original Honey West doll! She came with a leopard coat and black leopard trim high heel boots, if I remember right."

-- Connie

GET MORE HONEY IN YOUR LIFE

NOVELS

  • This Girl For Hire (1957) ., Buy this book
  • A Gun For Honey (1958)
  • Girl On The loose (1958)
  • Honey in the Flesh (1959) ., Buy this book...Kindle it!
  • Girl on the Prowl (1959)
  • Kiss for a Killer (1960) ., Buy this book
  • Dig a Dead Doll (1960)
  • Blood and Honey (1961)
  • Bombshell (1964)
  • Stiff As a Broad (1971; co-starring Erik March)
  • Honey on Her Tail (1971)

  • BY OTHER AUTHORS
  • A Girl and Her Cat (2014; Win Scott Eckert & Matthew Baugh)., Buy this book

A pastiche from Moonstone Comics that teamed up Honey with TV's Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat (aka T.H.E. Cat)

  • Honey West: Honey for Hire (2014; edited by Nancy Holder & Joe Gentile)., Buy this book

Moonstone continues to milk the Honey cult with this collection of brand-new short stories by the likes of Ed Gorman, Will Murray, Mel Odom, Trina Robbins, C.J. Henderson, Mike Black, and others.

SHORT STORIES

  • "The Red Haiting" (June 1965, MSMM)

COLLECTIONS

Collects the first three novels: This Girl for Hire, A Gun for Honey and Girl on the Loose.

TELEVISION

  • BURKE'S LAW
    (1965-66, ABC)

Honey first appeared in an episode of Burke's Law, where she even managed to outwit the wily millionaire Chief of Police. She tested well, and was soon starring in her own show.

  • HONEY WEST....Buy the complete series on DVD
    (1965-1966, ABC)
    Black and White
    30 30-minute episodes
    Created by G.G. Fickling
    Writers: Gwen Bagni, Paul Dubov
    Developed for television by Gwen Bagni
    Story editor: Bud Kay
    Directed by Thomas Carr, Bill Colleran, John Florea, Murray Golden, James Goldstone, Walter Grauman, Jerry Hopper, Ida Lupino, Sidney Miller, John Peyser, Seymour Robbie, Virgil W. Vogel, Paul Wendkos
    Original music by Josep Mullendore
    Theme: "Wild Honey" by Alfred Perry
    Produced by Don Ingalls (associate), Richard Newton  
    Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling
    A Four Star Production
    Starring Anne Francis as HONEY WEST
    With John Ericson as Sam Bolt
    and Irene Hervey as Aunt Meg
    Guest stars: Louise Arthur, Marvin Brody, Ray Danton, Herschel Bernardi, Lloyd Bochner, William Bramley, Richard Loo, Henry Jones, James Best, Herb Edelman, Bobby Sherman, Maureen McCormick, Harry Basch, J. Pat O'Malley, Kevin McCarthy, Bert Parks, Wayne Rogers, Ellen Corby, Ralph Manza, Larry D. Mann, Frank Wilcox, Adam Williams, James Griffith
  • "The Swingin Mrs. Jones" (September 17, 1965)
  • "The Owl and the Eye" (September 24, 1965)
  • "The Abominable Snowman" (October 1, 1965)
  • "A Matter of Wife and Death" (October 8, 1965)
  • "Live a Little... Kill a Little" (October 15, 1965)
  • "Whatever Lola Wants..." (October 22, 1965)
  • "The Princess and the Paupers" (October 29, 1965)
  • "In the Bag" (November 5, 1965)
  • "The Flame and the Pussycat" (November 12, 1965)
  • "A Neat Little Package" (November 19, 1965)
  • "A Stitch in Crime" (November 26, 1965)
  • "A Million Bucks in Anybody's Language" (December 3, 1965)
  • "The Gray Lady" (December 10, 1965)
  • "Invitation to Limbo" (December 17, 1965)
  • "Rockabye the Hard Way" (December 24, 1965)
  • "A Nice Little Till to Tap" (December 31, 1965)
  • "How Brillig, O, Beamish Boy?" (January 7, 1966)
  • "King of the Mountain" (January 14, 1966)
  • "The Perfect Un-crime" (January 28, 1966)
  • "Like Visions and Omens... and All That Jazz" (February 4, 1966)
  • "Don't Look Now, But Isn't That Me?" (February 11, 1966)
  • "Come to Me, My Litigation Baby" (February 18, 1966)
  • "Slay, Gypsy, Slay" (February 25, 1966)
  • "The Fun-Fun Killer" (March 4, 1966)
  • "Pop Goes the Easel" (March 11, 1966)
  • "Little Green Robin Hood" (March 18, 1966)
  • "Just the Bear Facts Ma'am" (March 25, 1966)
  • "There's a Long, Long Fuse A' Burning" (April 1, 1966)
  • "An Eerie, Airy, Thing" (April 8, 1966)

COMICS

  • HONEY WEST
    (1966, Gold Key)
    1 issue, TV tie-in, with photo cover
    Written by Paul S. Newman
    Art by Jack Sparling
  • "The Underwater Raiders" (#1)
  • "The Fall Guy" (#1)

  • HONEY WEST
    (2010-12, Moonstone Comics)
    7 issues

Moonstone, who've reincarnated many a formerly licenced property, aren't afraid of reinventing a character to appeal to their fan base, in sometimes rather schlocky ways. And Honey West is no exception. Once they nailed the rights, they seem to have had no idea what to do with her, sending her off to Mars or, in later mini-series, teaming her up with other once beloved characters they also happen to own the rights to, such as Kolchak the Nightstalker and T.H.E. Cat.

  • "Killer on the Keys, Part 1: Bikini Death" (August 2010; #1)
  • "Killer on the Keys, Part 2: Requiem for a Dressmaker" (November 2010; #2)
  • "Murder on Mars, Part 1" (February 2011, #3)
  • "Murder on Mars, Part 2) (June 2011, #4)
  • "Murder on Mars, Part 3" (April 2012, #5)
  • "Murder, Forsooth, Part 1" (June 2012, #6)
  • "Murder, Forsooth, Part 2" (October 2012, #7)

  • HONEY WEST: PHASES OF THE MOON
    (2011, Moonstone Comics)

  • HONEY WEST & T.H.E. CAT
    (2013, Moonstone Comics)

  • HONEY WEST & KOLCHAK
    (2013, Moonstone Comics)

SOUNDTRACKS

No, really. This is a 2005 CD reissue of the original 60s soundtrack, featuring the "brash and brassy score" by Joseph Mullendore.

ALSO OF INTEREST

A heart-felt tribute to the ground-breaking TV cult favourite that at its best  – surprise, surprise -- actually improved upon the original character, as created by G.G. Fickling, transforming the affable bimbo sleuth into something far more subversive: a lady dick with looks AND brains.

Respectfully filed by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Peter for the scoop on the Honey West flick.


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