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Wednesday, September 1, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bea Donovan, `King's Queen,' Pioneered Live TV Cooking

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

There was the time during a live commercial when the brandy on the holiday pudding failed to ignite.

Or the time a viewer called to say the cookies in the on-camera oven were smoking.

Life for Beatrice Germaine "Bea" Donovan, known to viewers as "KING's Queen" during her 27 years as a KING-TV cooking-show guru, was never dull.

"She had one of the longest-running cooking shows in the country," said her son, Brian Donovan of Duvall. "When everything was live, if you made a mistake, it stood. Luckily, she was good at ad-libbing. If something didn't come out looking quite the way she expected, she'd say, `It's not perfect, but you get the idea.' "

Mrs. Donovan died Monday (Aug. 30) of complications following hip surgery. She was 91.

She started her KING-TV career in 1950. She talked in a friendly, matter-of-fact way as she whipped up souffles, appetizers and Thanksgiving turkeys. She projected the air of a friendly and knowledgable neighbor.

She also let her children on the set to do some of the cooking.

"She would cook for homemakers," said her son. "She was not a Martha Stewart-type of person."

In the early days, Mrs. Donovan did her own planning, shopping and food preparation, then brought the finished food to the studio, which had a fake sink. She washed dishes in a pan in the restroom.

After KING Broadcasting expanded at Aurora Avenue North, she had a real kitchen and an assistant. But she still did many things herself.

"It seems like she was always hauling food in and out of a car," said her sister, Arnell Engquist of Seattle. "She only bought the best - eggs at Pike Place Market, cherries on Queen Anne Hill. But believe me, she could stretch a dollar."

Mrs. Donovan won many awards and published a cookbook, "Bea Donovan's Favorites."

In 1976, she co-hosted a weekly talk show dealing with senior issues.

Born in Palouse, Whitman County, she moved with her family to Seattle. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1928. Planning to work as a dietitian, she earned a degree in home economics at the University of Washington in 1932.

Instead, she married and focused on family. She also worked as a home-economist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's "Prudence Penny" section.

During the mid-1940s, she demonstrated home appliances at the Bon Marche. She also had a daily afternoon cooking show there.

In the late 1940s, she returned to the P-I and also did food commercials. She was "discovered" by a KING-TV producer while doing an ice-cream commercial during a break in a televised UW basketball game.

"The ice cream melted under the lights, so it was like milk," said her sister. "But she was unfazed and said, `They make great milk products, too.' "

Mrs. Donovan did not miss a KING-TV broadcast in 27 years, and never refused a request for a recipe.

"She didn't believe in secret recipes," said her sister. "Recipes were for sharing. She was just devoted to her religion, family and work."

Also surviving are a daughter, Barbara Leamy, St. Charles, Mo.; siblings Helen Clayburn, Maltby; Norma Prien, Snoqualmie; and Lee Briggs, Snoqualmie; six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Mass is at 1 p.m Friday at Church of Assumption, 3214 N.E. 62nd St., Seattle.

Donations may go to Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center Foundation, P.O. Box C-5371, Seattle, WA 98105.

Carole Beers' e-mail address is: cbeers@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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