Loni Anderson became an instant star and sex symbol with the premier of “WKRP in Cincinnati” in 1978. She was a beautiful blonde bombshell with the healthy curves and platinum blonde hair that evoked Hollywood starlets like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.
She started her acting career with guest appearances on television shows like “Police Woman,” “Barnaby Jones” and “Three’s Company.” She got her big break when she was cast and the smart and sexy Jennifer Marlow on “WKRP.” The show ran from 1978 to 1982 and made Loni one of the most well-known actresses on television. She was also one of the more popular pin-up models of her time.
In 1980 Loni starred in “The Jayne Mansfield Story” which was a natural fit for her. She loved playing that role. In 1983 she starred opposite Burt Reynolds in “Stroker Ace,” which wasn’t one of his better films. The two of them were already an item then and they got married in 1988, with a messy divorce starting five years later.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Loni Anderson was a brunette before she became a huge star as a blonde? Check her out here.
Iconic Character – Jennifer Marlowe on “WKRP in Cincinnati”
Loni’s role as Jennifer on “WKRP in Cincinnati” will always be a favorite. We highlighted this character in our “TV Girlfriends” feature in the “Hot & Smart” category. Here’s what we said about the Jennifer character:
She’s fallen head over heels once or twice, and her doorbell plays “Fly Me to the Moon,” but the world’s most respected receptionist is no romantic. Curvaceous and wasp-wasted enough to compare to a Barbie doll and smart enough to be offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury (literally), Jennifer Marlowe’s dating preferences lean toward well-to-do older men with names like “The Admiral”; she enjoys their generosity as well as their tendency to “tire easily.” Indeed, Ms. Marlowe seems to get most of her emotional satisfaction from her job, where her beauty, intelligence, and self-possession have rendered her a benign despot – dictating her salary, her (limited) duties, and whatever else she wants to dictate. As the utterly platonic office wife to her ineffectual mama’s boy boss, Arthur Carlson, and a very sexy big sister to everyone else, she resolves disputes while having zero problem keeping would-be wolves like salesman Herb Tarlek at howling distance. Sure, she occasionally provides romantic inspiration, though not much more, to potentially more suitable boyfriends like station manager Andy Travis and star DJ Dr. Johnny Fever, but that’s as far as it goes. Yes, she’d be an amazing girlfriend or wife to any man – but is any man good enough?
Check out our review the the DVD for the Complete Series of “WKRP in Cincinnati.” As our critic Ross Ruediger goes through the characters, he notes that “Jennifer Marlowe, Carlson’s bombshell-with-brains secretary, shouldn’t technically fit under management, and yet as the series progresses, it becomes all too clear that without the glue that is Jennifer, the entire enterprise would fall to pieces.” This was one of the classic television shows of it’s time, and it’s remained a cult classic after all these years.
Jennifer was joined by a crazy cast of characters including station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), program director Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), disc jockeys Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), sales manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) and news director Les Nessman (Richard Sanders). All were hilarious. Loni had a relationship off the set with Gary Sandy during these years. The cast also featured Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers), the girl next door type who worked in promotions. Ross described her as “the Mary Anne to Jennifer’s Ginger, . . . the brainy, practical wallflower that starts out in promotions, eventually working her way up to news.” Bailey vs. Jennifer was a fun debate, and having two beautiful actresses in the cast certainly didn’t hurt the show’s prospects.
Loni Anderson on “The Tonight Show” in 1980
Loni was very charming with Johnny Carson and of course she looked amazing.
Loni Anderson – Behind the Scenes
Bio video of Loni’s career.