Joy (Wurgaft) Lane – AUHS Class of 1945
Anaheim High’s performing arts program gained a talented performer when Joy (Wurgaft) Lane, moved to Anaheim from Fullerton in 1942 at age 15. Joy was already a recognized dancer and singer who had appeared at the Golden State Theater in San Francisco, the Orpheum Theater and the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Born in 1927 in Santa Monica, to Robert and Irene Wurgaft, Joy was brought up in a household full of music and singing. Her mother had been a stage performer in her younger years and her father played the ukulele. They recognized a talent in their daughter and in 1934 took Joy to Hal Roach Studios for an audition.
She was cast as one of the child characters in the “Our Gang” comedies and, during her early years continued to appear in a number of movies, including “Hollywood on Parade” and the notable Laurel and Hardy’s “Babes in Toyland.”
While at Anaheim High, Joy performed in plays and talent shows and was president of the Drama Club. Her family lived in a two-story Spanish Mediterranean home at 319 N. Harbor Blvd., across from what is now Pearson Park. She said there was a rumpus room in the basement of the home and she often invited school mates over for parties. The family owned the home until the mid-60s, when it was sold to the Catholic Byzantine Church.
Her father was in the citrus business and was the sales manager for a large juice company and used his daughter’s image for crate labels. Mr. Wurgraft was also a member of the City of Anaheim Planning Commission and was among local businessmen who petitioned Walt Disney to building his Magic Kingdom to Anaheim.
A few years after graduating from AUHS in 1945, she took the stage name of Joy Lane. She toured the country as a singer with band leader Ted Fio Rito and regularly appeared on television.
In the 1950’s, she had her own television show called “The Joy Lane Show.” Over the next twenty years she continued with a successful singing career, performing throughout the United States and doing radio commercials.
Joy, who was often mistaken for Angie Dickenson, socialized with Hollywood’s elite and was friends with Lucille Ball. She recalls a time when she and her manager visited Lucille’s home in Palm Springs when she and Desi Arnaz were in the midst of divorcing. They played cards for entertainment, then travelled the next day to Lucille’s home in Beverly Hills, first stopping in Anaheim to pick up her son from her parent’s home.
She was also in New York when Lucille Ball opened on Broadway and visited her dressing room after her performance. Joy said she was always giving Lucy encouragement and helping boost her confidence because the comedic actress was nervous about singing on stage. The next day, Joy accompanied Lucy to a famous New York department store that was closed to the public while the two women shopped.
Joy currently lives in Southern Orange County and will be 87 years old on Sept. 19. She’s in a wheelchair due to MS, but still uses the computer every day and lives a full life filled with many memories of growing up in Anaheim and living the life of a singer and performer.
One of her many memories is singing “LBJ will make everything rosy for you and for me” to the tune of “Everything Is Coming Up Roses” at a fund-raising party the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles for Lyndon Johnson who was running against Jack Kennedy for the Presidential nomination. The party was given by the incomparable Pearl Mesta, an American socialite, political hostess, and U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg (1949–1953). Joy remembered that her dress was made of 2,000 fresh rose petals and she couldn’t sit down all day or the roses would turn brown.
From the small agricultural community of Anaheim to the Silver Screen, Joy is another Anaheim High graduate who can be traced to the Golden Age of Hollywood.