Lynn Borden’s collections of frog and elephant figures poses an intriguing chicken-and-egg question: Which came first, the collection of frogs or the movie Frogs?
The actress (who was Miss Arizona in 1957 and a finalist in the Miss America pageant the following year) had a lead role in the 1972 shocker Frogs and even had to tour the country on a publicity junket for the film, frog in tow. Anyway, the answer is the movie came first, but the elephant collection was started long before that.
Borden’s father, the noted cartoonist Bill Freyse, was himself a lover of elephants and drew them for his (and Lynn’s) amusement when she was a child. Freyse drew the daily and Sunday panels for “Our Boarding House with Major Hoople” from the 1930s through the 1960s. The strips were syndicated to hundreds of newspapers nationwide. He also created the cartoon version of “The Lone Ranger” and co-created “The Green Hornet.” Artistry was his life’s work, but elephants intrigued him.
“My father instilled in me a great sense of wonder and respect for the elephant,” Lynn said from her home in California, where she lives with her husband, Roger, an automotive designer, and their Doberman Pinscher, Dino. “Elephants are great, majestic creatures, very gentle by nature, and it’s true they never do forget!”
Shirley Booth (center) played “Hazel,” the irrepressible housekeeper, in the hit ’60s TV series, with Lynn (left) and Ray Fulmer as the Baxters.
The first pieces in her collection were left to her by her father, including a bronze elephant, about 8” tall, and a pair of bronze elephants sitting back to back, their legs in the air.
The decision to add to the collection, or even call it a collection, wasn’t Lynn’s. One day, she had the actress Mala Powers over for a visit (Mala played the next door neighbor on the hit TV show “Hazel,” in which Borden had a lead role as the wife; the two remained friends until Powers’ recent passing). “She was admiring the elephants my father had left me and said, ‘You’re collecting elephants!’” Lynn recalled. “I said, ‘No I’m not,’ and she said, ‘Oh, yes you are!’ That was that.”
Mala ended up giving a few elephants to Lynn as gifts. One is a jade piece. Another, purchased on a trip to India, is studded with stones. A large purse has a big elephant depicted on it. There’s also a large original sculpture of an elephant’s head on a wall, by the renowned Mexican sculptor Bustamante.
“It’s very light, almost like papier-mache,” Lynn said. “It’s just this big, gray head. Very pretty.”
Lots of little elephants are also displayed throughout the house. She’s got about 35 in all.
“I don’t have curio cabinets,” Borden said. “I find a spot for something and that’s where I’ll put it. It might be on a table or a nightstand or a wall or windowsill, but wherever it is, some thought went into it. I didn’t just line things up on a shelf to organize my things. There’s some purpose behind it.”
She picks up an elephant.
“This was given to me by a childhood friend who thought we’d never see each other again when I moved away,” she said. “It has great sentimental value to me. I want to be able to hold it.”
Lynn relaxes outside with one of the frogs in her collection and her Doberman Pinscher, Dino. She’s owned several Dobies over the years.
Now for the frogs. Lynn estimates she’s got about 25 of those, also strategically scattered throughout the house. Her favorite, though, is the first one she ever got – a gift from a representative of the Rialto Theatre in Atlanta. He welcomed her to the movie premiere of “Frogs” (the film opened in Atlanta).
“This very nice man gave me a wonderful, Plaster of Paris gold frog on a pillow,” she said. “He is just so cute. I’ve got him right by the fireplace. I’d have to say he’s my favorite frog of all.”
On the promotional tour for the movie, people began bestowing frogs onto Lynn as gifts.
“I didn’t have to go out and buy any frogs, that’s for sure,” she laughed. “They were coming at me from all sides.”
Some of the frogs in Lynn’s collection include a crystal frog with gold legs that was a gift from her husband (“the legs keep falling off and we keep gluing them back on”); a clay frog on a lily pad; a jade frog given to her by a friend (to go with her jade elephant!); a bean bag frog; and others, some of which have been demoted to drawer status until Lynn sees fit to bring them out again for show.
Lynn relaxing at home, holding one of the many frog figures in her collection. Some others are on the coffee table.
Lynn Borden was born Lynn Freyse in Detroit on March 24, 1939. The family moved to Cleveland and later Tucson, mainly because her mother had a health condition that required her to be in a warm, dry climate. Lynn was very shy as a child and her mother enrolled her in acting classes as a way to overcome it. As a result, she tried out for and got parts in class plays all throughout grade school and high school. She also got small parts in some Western films, which were often shot in Arizona.
With scholarships from the Miss Arizona and Miss America pageants, Lynn enrolled at the University of Arizona, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater. She got married, to Chris Borden, and although the union didn’t last, she kept his last name and has been Lynn Borden her entire professional life.
She got an agent and began landing parts in some of the most memorable series in 1960s television, including General Hospital, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The F.B.I., Get Smart, Ironside and The Mod Squad. Her biggest role was as Mrs. Baxter in the hit comedy series Hazel, based on the Ted Key comic strip and starring Shirley Booth.
In 1969, she got a small part in the critically acclaimed movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and went on to appear in other major motion pictures, such as The Wrecking Crew (1969); Walking Tall (1973), and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974). She also appeared in ’70s TV shows like Wonderful World of Disney, McMillan and Wife, The Fantastic Journey, Starsky and Hutch and Fantasy Island. Since then, she has worked steadily, in plays, commercials, movies and on TV.
Just last year, Lynn was cast in an episode of CSI: New York (as a wealthy socialite with a dog), and she said other projects are in the works that she can’t discuss quite yet. In the meantime, she makes appearances for celebrity autograph signings at events like this year’s Western Film Fair in Charlotte, N.C. She also made guest signing appearances last year in Palm Springs and Los Angeles. Lynn Borden has no children, but loves Doberman Pinschers and has rescued several over the years.
Fans of Lynn Borden may write to the star at 16161 Ventura Blvd. #675, Encino, CA 91436.