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Loni Anderson – Knockout Blonde!

Icons | October 13, 2017

Loni Kaye Anderson was born on August 5, 1946 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Given her poise and beauty, it is no surprise that her mother, Maxine (Kallin) Anderson, was a model. She followed in her mother’s footsteps doing some modeling as well as entering and winning beauty pageants. Neither is it a surprise that Loni was named “Valentine Queen” at the high school Valentine’s Day formal dance her senior year. After high school graduation, she went on to attend the University of Minnesota where she studied art. In her autobiography, My Life in High Heels, she recounts how she was almost named “Leiloni” but her parents changed their minds when they realized that it may be a nightmare to be known as, “Lay Loni.” Yikes!

Anderson was a divorced, single mother by the age of 21. Needing a way to support herself and her daughter, she took a teaching position. She was young and determined to take care of herself as she worked and finished college. Somewhere along the line she found an interest in acting. It wasn’t long before she was performing in local theatre and commercials.

Anderson debuted as an actual actress, in 1966, when she was given a small part in the Steve McQueen film, Nevada Smith. After appearing in that film, she went years before landing any other acting jobs. About 10 years after that first appearance, Anderson found work appearing in some pretty well know television sitcoms including, S.W.A.T., Phyllis, Police Woman, Harry O and Three’s Company; after which, ABC began to take a serious interest in her.

Although you may remember her from the sitcom guest appearances, Loni Anderson is probably best known for her role as Jennifer Marlowe on the hit series, WKRP in Cincinnati. The series that made her famous aired from 1978 – 1982. Although Anderson’s acting ability was probably a factor in her being offered the role, the poster pin-up of her in a sexy red swimsuit really sealed the deal. She was absolutely beautiful and she was able to portray sexuality in a classy way.

WKRP in Cincinnati was a sitcom about a fictitious radio station being run by a somewhat inept office staff. The station manager, who was fondly referred to as, “Big Guy,” had his hands full trying to keep his radio station running while attempting to keep them in line. Somehow or another, there was always a crisis afoot. Along with Loni Anderson as Jennifer Marlowe, station secretary, the cast consisted of Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), station manager, Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), program director, Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hessman), D.J., Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid) D.J., Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner), advertising account executive, Les Nessman (Richard Sanders), news reporter, Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers), billing agent and somewhat of a girl-Friday. 

While the entire cast was entertaining, many viewers tuned in to see that beautiful, blond bombshell portrayed by Anderson. She was the station secretary and despite the fact that she should have been busier than a one-armed paper-hanger, she rarely seemed busy or ever break a sweat. The entire office could be in an uproar over the latest catastrophe and Jennifer Marlowe sat at her desk calmly, not involving herself. She did her best to keep her boss, Mr. Carlson, happy but everyone else was on their own. Jennifer Marlowe was known for her (tasteful) tight, form-fitting outfits complete with the proper amount of cleavage.

The sitcom, during its 4-year run, did not make the best ratings. Despite that fact, there seemed to be a loyal viewership compiled mostly of teenagers (go figure), young adults and real-life radio station employees. Anderson was most definitely the main attraction and probably accounted for the show lasting as long as it did.  

When the show ended in 1982, Anderson’s career cooled off. She dabbled in some other notable roles but never gained the success she had with WKRP in Cincinnati. One of the later roles she played was, Pembrook Feeny, in Stroker Ace, opposite her one-time husband, Burt Reynolds. This movie all but bombed. Anderson also briefly appeared on the sitcom, Evening Shade, again, opposite Burt Reynolds but was soon replaced.

Loni Anderson was one of those actresses that men loved and women envied. She was a buxom platinum-blond with the magnetism of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Being beautiful was most definitely a double-edged sword because she was not regarded for her talent as much as her looks. Moreover, like many celebrities, she was often fodder for tabloid trash magazines. Given her talent and looks, Anderson’s career was modest; but she is certainly one of those actresses we will never forget! 

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.