From TV Land to The Promised Land

Former television stars like Efram Zimbalist, Jr. are preparing for eternal and unfading glory.

Donna Douglas of The Beverly Hillbillies

Donna Douglas

Donna Douglas, internationally known for her portrayal of "Elly May" in The Beverly Hillbillies, was born near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As a young girl she spent much of her time on her grandfather's farm developing into a real tomboy - climbing trees, swinging on vines and playing football and softball.

The turning point of her budding career came when she was chosen over 500 other aspirants to play the role of Elly May Clampitt on The Beverly Hillbillies, a show that became number one in the nation and remains one of the most popular shows on worldwide syndication today. From the mid-70's in to the '80s Donna sold real estate and has spent recent years performing, not in front of a camera, but in front of a microphone as a gospel singer. She's also listed on the current board of the Country Legends Association. Her albums are called Donna Douglas Sings Gospel, and Donna Douglas Sings Country and Gospel: Back on the Mountain. She's also written a children's book, Donna's Critters & Kids: Children's Stories with a Bible Touch.

Tom Lester of Green Acres

Tom Lester

Decades ago, Tom Lester set out on a journey that would take him from Mississippi to Hollywood and then back again. When Lester first came to Hollywood, he proved skeptics wrong by winning fame as "Eb Dawson," the handyman for couple "Oliver and Lisa Douglas" (Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor) on the popular show Green Acres, which aired from 1965 to 1971. After the show was cancelled, Lester found himself typecast in Hollywood. In the 1970's, Lester and Green Acres writers, Jay Sommers and Dick Chevillat developed a script about "Arnold," the show's famed pig. Although they could not initially get financial backing, they finally found success with their project nearly seventeen years later. Released in 1995, the film Gordy was a hit, though it was surpassed by another pig movie that came out that year, Babe. The 62-year-old bachelor has appeared on many of Billy Graham's televised crusades. He speaks to youth groups and at religious gatherings about his faith, and feels his notoriety from the show enables him to spread the word of God.

Tom Lester now owns and lives on a 250-acre timber farm in Vossburg, Mississippi. In 1997, he was the recipient of Mississippi's "Wildlife Farmer of the Year" award.

You can pay a visit Tom on the web at

Gary Burghoff of M*A*S*H

Gary Burghoff

Burghoff "was the best actor" on M*A*S*H, said his late costar McLean Stevenson. During his seven-year stint as the sensitive "Cpl. Walter 'Radar' O'Reilly" on the hit TV show M*A*S*H which aired from 1972 to 1983, Gary Burghoff played a character who was a model of military precision. "You had the feeling he made the camp run" says Larry Gelbart, executive producer. But in real life the Emmy-winning father of three chose a less regimented approach, turning down lucrative paydays to spend more time with his family. The result? By 1991, Burghoff was on the brink of bankruptcy. "I was down to my last $500," says Burghoff, now 56, explaining that his theater work dried up and he lost his gig as a pitchman for British Petroleum. "The money ran out." The actor, who had become a born-again Christian around the time he left M*A*S*H, prayed for help-and says he got an answer: "A little voice said, 'paint'." So he picked up a brush-something he had been doing casually for a few years-and began to make a name as an artist. And an income.

Thanks to some fast work with that paintbrush?and faith that God would provide?Burghoff's fiscal fears are now largely behind him. His canvases of North American wildlife sell for up to $25,000 each at 15 galleries across the U.S.

"I paint all the beauty that I love in nature," says Burghoff.

Efram Zimbalist, Jr. of The F.B.I.

Efram Zimbalist Jr.

An often mustachioed leading man of television, usually in stalwart, well-bred heroic roles, Efram Zimbalist Jr. Is remembered for playing the Ivy League private eye "Stuart Bailey" in 77 Sunset Strip (ABC, 1958-64), and methodical, emotionless "Inspector Erksine" of The F.B.I. (ABC, 1965-74). In recent years he has been active as a voice actor for animated series (i.e. the butler "Alfred" on The Adventures of Batman and Robin). The son of concert violinist Efram Zimbalist and famed opera singer Alma Gluck, Zimbalist turned to acting after military service during World War II. He made his screen debut as Edward G. Robinson's clothes-hoarding son in House of Strangers (1950). That same year, his first wife died and he left acting for two years to work as a music researcher for his father and raise his two children. When he resumed acting, it was in feature films like the war story Bombers B-52 and Band of Angels (both 1957).

Efram was one of many drawn by TBN's ministry "One night I was fiddling withthe dial, and on came TBN. I found the people funny, But I kept watching," he told viewers, adding that weeks later he dialed the prayer line. I called in and a precious lady, a prayer partner, led me to the Lord."

Today Zimbalist has a five-minute show on TBN in which he reads the Bible.

Willie Aames of Eight is Enough

Willie Aames

Willie Aames is best known for his acting roles in the television series Eight Is Enough as "Tommy Bradford" and Charles in Charge as "Buddy Lembeck."

After the cancellation of Eight is Enough in 1981, Willie turned to rock music and cocaine. It was only after he read Wired, John Belushi's biography, that he realized that if he didn't shape up he might end up dead. Willie committed his life to the Lord and is now happily married with one son and one daughter.

Willie also owns a production studio that produces videos, commercials and programs for television broadcast. He also produces and stars in Bibleman, a Christian video series for children and has made appearances at schools, churches and major venues throughout the United States.

Reprinted by permission, True Believer.

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