Rene Car­pen­ter was part of “The As­tro­naut Wives Club,” but that doesn’t de­fine her life.

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The pre­miere of the ABC TV show “The As­tro­naut Wives Club” made me think of a most won­der­ful wom and epicted on the pro­gram: Rene Car­pen­ter. Re­cently di­vorced from Mer­cury 7 as­tro­naut Scott Car­pen­ter, Rene (rhymes with “teen”) hosted an in­ter­view/public af­fairs pro­gram on Chan­nel 9 called “Every­woman.” She was so smart and warm and vi­brant. Crafted with a bit of a fem­i­nist bent, the show was fresh and a lit­tle ahead of the curve. The show went off the air in the 1970s. Last I heard of Ms. Car­pen­ter, she had mar­ried some­one named Lester Shor and was re­mod­el­ing an old Georgetown store­front into a unique home. That was at least 30 years ago. I would love to know what be­came of this re­mark­able woman. Can you help?

— Alisha Martin

An­swer Man thinks hemay have a crush on Rene Car­pen­ter, a “strik­ing plat­inum blonde,” as The Washington Post once de­scribed her.

That was in 1961, but af­ter a re­cent phone con­ver­sa­tion with the now 87-year-old, An­swer Man is pretty sure Rene is as vi­va­cious as ever.

Not that she would want to be re­mem­bered solely as a bomb­shell. She was a syn­di­cated

news­pa­per colum­nist, a TV pre­sen­ter and a mem­ber of a so­cial cir­cle that in­cluded Ben­jamin C. Bradlee, Art

Buch­wald and Katharine Graham.

The Amer­i­can public fol­lowed her fam­ily’s ex­ploits in Life mag­a­zine when her Navy pi­lot hus­band went into space in 1962. Rene’s col­umn, “A Woman, Still,” ran in pa­pers across the coun­try — although not in The Post.

“Ben wouldn’t buy it,” Rene said. “He said, ‘It’s not good enough.’ ”

The Car­pen­ters were among the four of seven Mer­cury cou­ples that later di­vorced. When it came time to pick a place to live post­breakup, Rene chose Bethesda. She wanted her kids at Whit­man High.

Though The Post had passed on her col­umn, she forged a con­nec­tion with the com­pany in a dif­fer­ent way. At the time, The Post owned Chan­nel 9, known then as WTOP. Be­tween 7 and 8 p.m., all man­ner of dreck was broad­cast— game shows, mainly. Kay Graham wanted to change that.

“At one of her par­ties, she said to me, ‘I want a woman’s show. I want a point of view.’ ”

And Graham wanted Rene to host it.

Rene had en­dured the media at­ten­tion of the Mer­cury pro­gram but had never hosted a TV show. “My back­ground was re­ally noth­ing ex­cept en­thu­si­asm and the abil­ity to in­ter­view peo­ple and be cu­ri­ous,” she said.

The show de­buted Aug. 10, 1972. The first episode fea­tured a seg­ment on birth con­trol. (“The di­rec­tor said, ‘Go tight on the di­aphragm!’ ” Rene laughed.) Another seg­ment in­cluded a nat­u­ral birth filmed at Georgetown Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

On the sec­ond show, a cam­era crew went to a park and sur­rep­ti­tiously filmed guys ogling busty women. Then Rene went to a bar and asked men, “Would you date a flat-chested woman?”

The show at­tempted to con­front sex­ism straight-on, with seg­ments on Ti­tle IX, abor­tion and the dis­gruntle­ment Con­ti­nen­tal flight at­ten­dants felt with the air­line’s slo­gan “We re­ally move our tail for you.”

“Every­woman” was not uni­ver­sally beloved ( Ju­dith

Martin wrote that it “jumps so over anx­iously into so many top­ics — nat­u­ral child­birth, how to change a tire, sex­ist credit prac­tices— that it doesn’t say any­thing about any of them”), but it had many fans.

Rene was on the D.C. air­waves from 1972 to 1976, on “Every­woman” and on a show called “Nine in the Morn­ing.” She worked with such lo­cal fix­tures as J.C. Hayward, Carol Ran­dolph and Doug Llewe­lyn.

TV is a rough busi­ness, and Rene was among those fired in a purge in 1976.

Other broad­cast op­por­tu­ni­ties were dan­gled, but Rene de­cided to in­stead sign on with the Com­mit­tee for Na­tional Health In­sur­ance. Uni­ver­sal health care was an is­sue she felt strongly about, hav­ing grown up dur­ing the De­pres­sion.

“There was no money for medicine” then, she said. “I can re­mem­ber in the fifth grade, we had our eyes tested. Some­one came to each class. And then in the sixth grade we were given vouch­ers to take to our doc­tor and get a tu­ber­cu­lo­sis shot.” (Rene said she’s still hop­ing for a sin­gle-payer sys­tem.) She met real es­tate devel­oper Lester Shor when he was ren­o­vat­ing a Georgetown house she was in­ter­ested in. They mar­ried and in the early 1990s the cou­ple moved to Colorado, where one of her daugh­ters lives.

At 87, Rene doesn’t get around as much as she once did. She has seen a few episodes of the ABC se­ries, which is based on the book by Lily Kop­pel. She’s not a fan, even if the ac­tress por­tray­ing her, Yvonne Stra­hovski, is a knock­out.

“Ev­ery seg­ment of the show is fic­tion!” she said. “Ev­ery seg­ment!”

It seemed to es­pe­cially grate that when the Rene Car­pen­ter char­ac­ter in­tro­duces her­self to the other as­tro-wives, she says, “Rene— as in ‘peachy keen.’ ”

Keen she may be. But peachy keen is just a lit­tle too cloy­ing a de­scrip­tion for this fas­ci­nat­ing Amer­i­can orig­i­nal.


Rene Car­pen­ter ap­pears at a news con­fer­enceMay 24, 1962, in Florida af­ter her as­tro­naut hus­band, Scott, re­turned from or­bit.

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