In the early days of television – the 1950’s, to be precise – there was a television show based on the comic strip, “Blondie”. The entire Bumstead family was there: Dagwood, Blondie, son Alexander, daughter Cookie, and the pet dog Daisy with all her pups.
One of the stars of that show was born in Lansing on June 17, 1945; her name was Dixie Ann Cheney, but for her acting career, used the stage name of ‘Ann Barnes’.
Ann was 12 years old in 1957 when she played Cookie Bumstead, the daughter, in all 26 episodes of the one and only season.
After “Blondie” was cancelled, Ann landed some guest roles in other TV shows, the most notable being Wally Cleaver’s love interest, Frances Hobbs, for two episodes on “Leave It To Beaver”.
When the acting dried up, Ann tried her hand at singing and, in 1962, released a single on Protone Records, “Whispering Wind” backed with “Teen Years”. By now, she was combining her real name with her stage name, and “Dixie Anne Barnes” was her name on the record. You can find her songs on the CDs “Soda Pop Babies” (on which she was pictured) and “Restless Doll”.
That same year, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce elected & crowned her as the “Princess of Hollywood” for the month of April.
One summer when she was a teenager, she came back to Lansing to visit family. People from surrounding neighborhoods heard of her arrival and descended upon the household to gawk, talk, and get a picture or autograph. Her birthday happened to land during her Lansing visit, and Kwast Bakery delivered a special birthday cake!
Paul Petersen, an advocate for child actors, played son Jeff Stone on “The Donna Reed Show” and was a friend of Ann’s. According to Paul, Ann’s childhood was marred by her abusive parents. When she became an adult and moved back to Lansing, she didn’t like to talk about her acting years. It could be that her folks were “stage parents”, exploiting and pushing Ann into a showbiz career she didn’t particularly want.
Once back in Lansing, she went back to her birth name, Dixie Ann Cheney, and lived her life in near obscurity. She passed away on September 13, 2005 at the young age of 60. Her body wasn’t discovered until a week later.
John Robinson, “Did You Know This TV Star Was from Lansing?“, 99.1 WFMK Blog, February 15, 2019.