There are a number of iconic TV characters from my childhood. Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe on Bonanza.  The Clampett clan on The Beverly Hillbillies.  Captain Kangaroo.  Captain 11.

And of course the folks in Dodge. Gunsmoke ran forever, from just about the time I was born until the time I thought I was too old to like it anymore (but I still did).

Matt Dillon, of course, along with Chester, Festus, Doc, and of course Kitty, the owner of the Longbranch (where Sam bartended), where the boys would gather for a cold one after a long day of keeping the town safe and patching up a few gunshot wounds here and there. There were other regulars off and on through the 20 years of the show. Quint, Thad and a few more. But the mainstays were Matt, Doc and Kitty.

Amanda Blake played Kitty and was an integral part of the show. Several episodes centered around her character, highlighting a tough western woman who, ultimately, had a big warm heart.

Born in Buffalo, New York Blake had numerous roles before Gunsmoke. But it will be as Miss Kitty for 19 years that she will live on in our hearts (and re-runs). She played the iconic saloon keeper on the show from 1955-1974.

She had a few other roles through those Gunsmoke years, and appeared occasionally on game shows of the day like Hollywood Squares and Match Game, but the role of Kitty kept her plenty busy.  You'll remember in the 'old days', they didn't just run 10 or 12 shows a season. They would do 24 to 30 or more episodes a season.

So whatever happened to Amanda Blake?

She was a heavy smoker for many years and had oral cancer surgery in 1977.

It was in 1989 that she passed away and there's some confusion about the cause of death. Some reports say she died of cancer while other reports say it was AIDS-related. Her death certificate stated cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and CMV hepatitis, which is AIDS-related.

Oh, by the way, if you're a real Gunsmoke fan: Do you remember Kitty's last name? Of course you do.

It was Russell. Kitty Russell.


Wikipedia Contributed To This Article

Road Trip-Worthy Restaurants Within 90 Minutes of Sioux Falls

Veer off the beaten path. Take a road trip and try some favorite small-town eateries. Just by driving a few miles, you could find some delicious hidden gems.

From steaks to seafood, chislic to chicken, these are out-of-the-way unexpected finds that will make your taste buds tingle.

Here's a list of 14 Road Trip-Worthy Restaurants within 90 minutes of Sioux Falls.

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