An NBC stagehand remembered her as "a real partner in life" for Bill, and for all Bill's accomplishments and contributions to radio and television covered elsewhere on this site, we would be remiss in not paying a special tribute to the true center of his universe: his wife, Ann.
Heinz Roemheld was a talented composer and pianist who served as the orchestra conductor for a theater in Milwaukee during the 1920s. One evening, the theater held a beauty pageant. Emeline Defnet had entered the pageant on a dare from a friend, and not only did she win the pageant, she ended up winning the adoration of the conductor.
Heinz & Emeline were married soon after and welcomed two daughters. Their first was Mary Lou. The second, born only 11 months later, was Ann, born June 6, 1928 in Washington, DC.
In a matter of years, Heinz became an established composer for film scores, and he relocated the entire family to Hollywood to be closer to work. Emeline, meanwhile, started a successful career of her own as a real estate broker.
When Ann was 11, her parents divorced; she remembered it as a fairly amicable split and aftermath, saying, "Neither one of them ever talked about why the divorce happened, and I never asked."
Heinz moved into a studio with a pool; Ann and Mary Lou would spend their days swimming while Heinz toiled at composing. In 1943, he took home an Oscar for scoring Yankee Doodle Dandy; no small feat, his competition that year included Holiday Inn.
In junior high, Ann entered a contest and won free art lessons. They lit a spark in her that she would maintain for the rest of her life. She earned an art degree from USC and kept creating works through her entire life, including watercolors and oils, landscapes, florals, still lifes, and photorealistic pencil sketches.
Ann dreamed of traveling the world and initially wanted to become a stewardess. She was rejected for that line of work because she was unusually tall. Being unusually tall made her an ideal model, though, and a friend of Heinz got her a job modeling fashions at the J.W. Robinson department store chain for $5 a day. More work came, and Ann would have a busy few years ahead of her as a working model.
Ann was briefly married for a fellow USC grad, John Burns Macomber, but the union ended in divorce after only four years, and she moved into an apartment with her mother. Mary Lou, meanwhile, had married Jack Narz, a charming radio and TV announcer from Kentucky.
Jack landed a job introducing Bill Cullen and narrating the commercials for Prom Home Permanents on the CBS game Place the Face. Bill and Jack hit it off extremely well, and Jack would occasionally mention him in conversations with his sister-in-law, but that was about as much as Ann ever heard about Bill Cullen. She worked during the day, so she never heard Bill's radio shows, and she didn't own a TV, so she had never seen any of his work in that medium.
Bill usually only stayed in Los Angeles for one day a week and then headed right back to New York after Place the Face was over. But when he had time off from all of his other New York commitments, he opted to stay in Los Angeles for a few extra days and Jack invited him to a party at his house.
During the afternoon, Bill caught a glimpse of an attractive brunette sitting on the couch talking to an older man. Jack Narz cackled years later remembering Bill's visible elation when he learned that the older man was her father, and that Ann was quite single at the moment, as was Bill.
Ann struck up a conversation with Bill, who was smitten with her immediately. Ann didn't have a ride home that night, so Bill gave her a ride himself, and she invited him inside for coffee--which, to Bill's shock, turned out to actually be coffee. They kept talking until the wee hours of the morning, and by the time Bill finally left, both of them knew that they were starting something very special.
Bill and Ann went on a date once a week every time Bill returned to Los Angeles for Place the Face. But when the show began to wind down in the summer of 1955, Bill realized that there was only going to be one way for he and Ann to keep seeing each other. They were married on Christmas Eve, in a ceremony so quiet that nobody knew about it until two months later, when Bill casually mentioned it on his morning radio show and gossip columnists scrambled to figure out who the bride was.
Ann moved into Bill's apartment overlooking the East River, but before long they moved into a ten-room apartment overlooking Central Park. They were unable to have children, and although Bill loved dogs, they never owned one together because of a strange premonition he had that he would one day injure himself by tripping over one. Without anyone to tend to, Bill and Ann instead spent their lives indulging in hobbies. They collected artwork. Ann continued drawing and painting her own pieces. Bill amassed thousands of record albums and reference books, and took thousands and thousands of photos, including countless shots of Ann.
Shortly after they were wed, Ann obtained a Screen Actors Guild card and had, by her own admission, a fairly limited acting career--including a scene in Around the World in 80 Days that didn't make it past the cutting room floor. She remained in demand as a model for some time, though, but considered her true job to be Bill's wife, a role that she was happy to play.
Ann occasionally joined her husband on television. Edward R. Murrow brought his cameras into their home for an episode of Person to Person. They played the celebrity couples games He Said She Said and Tattletales often. She would occasionally pop up on The Price is Right to surprise her husband, disguising herself as a horse and as Santa Claus on various appearances. She also appeared for some of the games on I've Got a Secret. One night, Bill was asked to give truthful answers to personal questions, unaware that Ann was standing right behind him and holding up "YES" and "NO" placards to let the audience know if he was telling the truth. On another evening, the panel was sent on a scavenger hunt and Bill had to look for a piece of fruit. It was still in the days of live TV, so Bill simply went backstage during the show and called Ann. Before the end of the episode, viewers saw Ann walk onstage to hand Bill an orange.
Despite these appearances, Ann could never bring herself to attempt a career in show business the way her husband had. She would have been the first one to say that she was shy, and she felt unnerved when she saw the bright red light illuminate on top of the camera. On her sole appearance as a panelist on I've Got a Secret, Bill fed her questions through the entire night because she couldn't think of her own. Years later, when Ann was booked for a segment of To Tell the Truth, she arrived in the theater perfectly healthy, but felt overheated before she walked onstage; her temperature had reached 103 degrees. Once the segment was over, she dipped right back down to 98.6. Television wasn't for her.
They'd entertain at home and on their 40-foot cabin cruiser, with Ann serving as hostess, head chef, and bartender. Together, Bill and Ann traveled the world, seeing London, Paris, Jamaica, Mexico, and every other exotic site on the map during Bill's time off. They also spent extended vacations, usually a month or so, in Los Angeles every year, and when so much of TV had drifted in that direction by the late 1970s, Bill and Ann followed it. In 1978 they moved into a house in Casiano Estates in Los Angeles. There were two cars in the garage, with vanity licenses plates BC XX AC and AC XX BC.
In 1990, Bill died, and a short time later, Ann moved to Orange County to be closer to the Narz family. She moved into a beautiful home on the Pacific Ocean, with a stereo system that piped the music into every room simultaneously. Conspicuously absent from the house were mementos of Bill. There were no photos of him on the mantle, and she had given her drawings of him to friends. Everything else was kept in boxes and trunks, tucked away for her to glimpse inside occasionally. The one remnant on display was an Emmy Award. Bill never won one, which Bob Stewart had personally taken offense to. Stewart gave Ann one of his own Emmy Awards, for The $25,000 Pyramid, as an acknowledgment of Bill's years in television.
Ann shared her Orange County home with a dog, Pucci. On Pucci's first day at home, Ann tripped over him, injuring her leg. Ann recalled not even screaming in pain as she realized what had just happened to her, simply saying to herself, "Wow, Bill was right."
She maintained an active life. She appeared in promos for Game Show Network in the early years of that channel, and met with Bill's fans at game show conventions in the 2000s. Two of those fans now maintain this website; she left an indelible mark on both of them.
The high point of her social life during these years was a monthly poker game including friends like Bob Stewart and Betty White. Betty, aware that Ann didn't feed Pucci table scraps (Ann worried about his heart), would occasionally rip off pieces of her sandwich and, when she thought Ann wasn't looking, her hand would disappear under the table for just a second. In her alone time, Ann continued making art, painting florals, and drawing sketches that she added to what she cheerfully referred to as "my drawer full of naked people."
Ann died on July 21, 2018. She was cremated, as was Bill 28 years earlier. Their ashes were mixed, and together, the Cullens went on two final voyages. Some of their ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean, and some were scattered in Central Park. In accordance with her final wishes, Bill and Ann's art collection was donated to Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, for public display.