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Susan Anton Then And Now: From Goldengirl To Cannonball Run II To Baywatch

Icons | March 18, 2020

Left: Actress and singer Susan Anton poses for a portrait circa 1984 in Los Angeles, California. Right: Anton in a publicity still for the 1979 film 'Goldengirl.' Sources: Harry Langdon/Getty Images; IMDB

Actress Susan Anton was a poster girl in the poster-happy 1970s, and was as famous for being Susan Anton as she was for any role in her hit-and-miss film and TV work. Anton was a spokesmodel; she appeared on talk shows; she hosted specials; she recorded a hit country single -- it turns out the fame machine will find things for you to do if you are, as Derek Zoolander says, really, really, really ridiculously good-looking. 

Her blonde hair and curvaceous figure made her one of the most recognizable models of her generation. She got her start as the spokeswoman for a cigar brand and turned that into a multi-decade career where she did everything from present with Merv Griffin to do one of those classic slow motion runs across the beach on Baywatch. Anton is still as beautiful as she was in the 1970s, and while she’s been offscreen for a while she’s still out and about in Las Vegas where she performs on stage. 

A trip to Las Vegas changed this young pageant queen’s life

source: pinterest

Growing up in Yucaipa, California, Anton always had her sights set on performing but things really came into focus when she visited Las Vegas in high school. In 2016 she explained:

My very first visit to Vegas, I was 15 years old and I was on a Greyhound bus with a bunch of other teenagers, and we were on a big summer discovery thing that my godmother sent me on. It was called Touring Teens, and it was just kind of like summer camp on a bus where you traveled around the United States, and saw all these great landmarks. I’ll never forget driving through Las Vegas. This goes way back, but going down the Strip and seeing all those lights for the first time was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. I’m from this little town in Southern California, raised on an apple ranch, you know? I never saw anything neon in my life.

After graduating high school in 1968 she one the Miss Redlands and Miss California beauty contests in 1969, in the same year she was the runner up in the 1969 Miss America Scholarship Pageant.  

The Muriel Cigar commercials made her a star

source: muriel cigars

Anton didn’t just want to be a pageant queen. Her real desire was to sing, so when the Muriel Cigar ads came up with an offer for her to serenade the audience she jumped at the chance. In 1976 this leggy blonde became a star wen she sang "Let Muriel turn you on / That is my desire / Muriel lights a flame in me / Where there's Muriel smoke, there's fire.”

When the ads aired in 1976 some executive thought the commercials were far too sultry for their taste and CBS refused to air the ads on their channel. At the time, People magazine deduced that she made $1.7 million for the ads, that’s not a bad chunk of change for hanging out in a locker room.

Susan Anton becomes the ‘Goldengirl’

source: pinterest

Two years after her groundbreaking ads with Muriel, Anton began appearing on the Merv Griffin Show as well as on her own show with country singer Mel Tillis called, what else, Mel & Susan Together. The show didn’t blow the doors off the entertainment industry but she stuck around to star in Goldengirl in 1979, a movie where she plays a physically superior woman who wins big at the 1980 Olympics. If you haven’t seen it and need a very sincere and very weird movie to watch, put this camp classic in your Laserdisc player. Goldengirl wasn’t a huge hit, and the United States boycotting the 1980 Olympics didn’t help the film’s box office performance, but it's still a fun and weird little movie -- co-starring James Coburn, no less.

The ‘80s belonged to Anton

source: Warner Bros.

So what if Goldengirl didn’t do gangbusters at the box office or win the Goldengirl her own golden man (you may know him as Oscar)? Throughout the 1980s, she continued to appear in movies that went on to become cult classics. Most notably she starred in Cannonball Run II after scoring a top 10 country hit with her song “Killin’ Time.” In the era of grand decadence she made the rounds on network TV where she made appearances on The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and even Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Throughout this era this 5’11 actress was also in an intense romance with Dudley Moore, who at 5’ 2” must have been the envy of a lot of guys who stand in front of people at concerts. She told Closer of the romance

It caught us both by surprise. I’m 5-foot-11 and Dudley was 5-foot-2… We caught a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror and it was hysterical.

Susan Anton went to the beach and started singing in the '90s

sourcE: Turk PR

Okay, so everyone knows Susan Anton was on Baywatch for two seasons but she wasn’t just running down the beach in slow-mo, she was also appearing in some legitimately groundbreaking shows. In the ‘90s she popped up on The Larry Sanders Show and The Ben Stiller Show, but that was all in service of working her way towards her singing career. After moving to Las Vegas she began hosting the Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular at the Flamingo Hotel and she starred in Hairspray on Broadway - all while continuing to appear in guest roles on television. However, her greatest role came in 2016 when she appeared in Sharknado: The 4th Awakens in 2016, the same year that she started singing in her own jazz cabaret show. In an interview with KNPR from 2019 she thoughtfully answered a question about how she still looks so good, saying:

I think we all want to look our best, but if we don’t feel our best. If we don’t have a rich spiritual life, personal life, friends, family, then it’s not going to matter. I really believe when you have a rich inner life it does show on your face.

Tags: Ladies | Susan Anton | Then And Now

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.