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Actor turned broadcaster had tough life

The actor once considered a likely successor to the late James Dean became a television news anchor in Fargo during the early 1970s. 

During the first three years Robert Ivers (real name Robert Prestlien) was in Hollywood, he co-starred in movies with Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley and starred in the only movie directed by James Cagney.

Ivers loved the accolades and soon got caught up in the frequent parties young actors were expected to attend.

In the late 1950s, Ivers realized that his drinking was taking away some of the edge he had attained as a skilled actor and tried to curtail his dependence on alcohol. However, something always seemed to happen to pull him back.

 Just as his career was beginning to blossom, he was called into the military in 1957. In 1958, Ivers fell “head-over-heels” in love for actress Kipp Hamilton, however, that romance crumbled.

Early in 1961, he married starlet Lenore Roberts, but that union was quickly dissolved.  Later in the year, Ivers married Marcia Henderson, an actress who had starred on Broadway, in television, and the movies.  The problem was that Henderson also was going through a tough time of her own. She was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, which severely limited and shortly ended her promising acting career.

After his success in the Elvis Presley movie “G.I. Blues” in 1960, Ivers found that the movie offers were not as frequent and his roles were less important.  His faithful friend,  Lewis, offered him a role in The “Errand Boy” in 1961, and he appeared in “The Young and the Brave” and “Cattle King” in 1963.  Lewis again gave him a small role in “The Patsy” in 1964, and his last movie was “Town Tamer” in 1965.

Ivers was now not only the sole breadwinner in the family, but he also had two young daughters, — Mallory and Alenda. To make matters worse, Henderson was diagnosed as suffering from lupus, an autoimmune disorder that affected her joints, skin, and internal organs.  In a desperate attempt to jump-start his acting career, Ivers joined his good friends Ben Cooper and John Agar and crisscrossed the country appearing at golf tournaments, fairs, carnivals and other events in the hope of promoting their skills and fan appeal as actors.  For Ivers, it was too little, too late.

To try and reinvent himself, Ivers returned to Arizona early in 1966 and obtained a job as the television weatherman on station KPHO in Phoenix.

On television he shortened his name to Bob Ivers, and soon he also was doing the news.

After a short stint as a news reporter on station WJIM in Lansing, Mich., Ivers accepted an offer to become news director and main anchor of KTHI (now KVLY) in Fargo.

Ivers must have found this offer both appealing and challenging. The station’s tower, located three miles west of Blanchard at 2,063 feet, was the tallest man-made structure in the world.  Ivers also had relatives living in the area.  His paternal grandfather, Iver Prestlien, grew up in Otter Tail County, Minn., and his paternal grandmother, Margarethe (Denker) Wurtmann Prestlien was from rural Sargent County in North Dakota. 

The challenge was that KTHI was third in the ratings of television anchors.  WDAY had Marv Bossert, Dewey Bergquist, and Boyd Christianson, and KXJB had Jim Rohn and Jim Adelson. 

Ivers relocated his family to West Fargo, first to an apartment and then to a house.  Mallory and Alenda attended elementary school, but their childhood was not routine.  On several occasions they were called out of school because they were told that their mother was in the hospital and might not make it.

The lupus was causing Henderson's organs to fail.  When she was at home, she was frequently depressed.

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At the television station, Ivers was a “one-man newsroom.” “He was asked to do the impossible — no staff and obsolete equipment.”

Largely because of his heavy work load, immense responsibility, and the feeling of helplessness because of his ailing wife, Ivers once again looked for solace in alcohol.  Once again, it proved to be more of an enemy than a friend.

Late in 1972, Ivers returned to his home state of Washington, accepting the position of news director and anchor at station KAPP in Yakima. He also hosted “Mr. Bob’s Cartoon Classics” and the “Morning Moneyman Movie.” In addition, he worked at station KNDO, ran the advertising and public relations agency — Bob Ivers and Associates, and reviewed new DVD releases on Bob’s Reviews. On Nov. 23, 1987, Henderson died.

-For a time, both daughters, Mallory and Alenda followed in their parents footsteps.  After graduating from college, Mallory went to work for Norman Lear at Act One Productions. The character Mallory Keaton on “Family Ties” derived her name from Ivers' oldest daughter.  Mallory (Prestlien) Cangialosi later became a managing producer on both A&E and the History Channel.  She died in 2005.

Alenda (Prestlien) Michael appeared as an extra in the Shirley MacLaine movie “Waiting for the Light” and the River Phoenix movie “I Love You to Death.”  Like her father, she also struggled with alcoholism. 

After becoming clean, she confronted her father in 1996 about his addiction and how it affected her and the rest of the family.  Shortly after that talk, he quit drinking and remained sober the remaining seven years of his life.

He turned his life over to Jesus Christ and, whenever he felt the temptation to drink, he would turn to prayer and reading of the Bible.  Even though Ivers and Alenda were never close while she was growing up, she now regards him as “her hero.’

Ivers died on Feb. 13, 2003, the same year Presley fans selected him for the “Best Side Kick Award.”     

(Written by Curt Eriksmoen. Reach Eriksmoen at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.)

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