Jan Smithers Played Bailey on "WKRP in Cincinnati." See Her Today at 72.
Jan Smithers walked away from her acting career not long after the show ended.
It was more than 40 years ago that WKRP in Cincinnati, the classic sitcom about an unpopular Ohio radio station, was first scene by audiences. The ensemble cast of the show included Gary Sandy, Loni Anderson, and Howard Hesseman, along with Jan Smithers, who played Bailey Quarters, a news reporter at the station who had to fight to be taken seriously as a woman in radio. The actor was 28 years old and only had a handful of credits to her name when she stepped into the part. Today, she's 72 and has been retired from acting for 35 years. Read on to find out what Smithers has been up to in the time since she walked away from show business.
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Smithers was "discovered" as a young woman.
At the time that Smithers joined the cast of WKRP in Cincinnati, she'd already played roles in movies including Where the Lilies Bloom and Our Winning Season. She told Newsweek in 2016 that she became involved in show business when she was in high school and two men who "looked like little pencils" discovered her on the beach.
"One had long hair and cameras around his neck. They walked right up to me and said, 'We're doing an article on teens across the country, and we're looking for a girl from California. We're wondering if you'd be interested in doing the article,'" she said.
This led to Smithers and her mother going to Hollywood to meet agents, and though she did start college at the California Institute of the Arts, she ultimately ended up quitting before graduation to become a full-time actor.
She's been retired from acting since the '80s.
After WKRP came to an end in 1982, Smithers continued acting for the next five years. She appeared on The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote, but playing Lise in Mr. Nice Guy would be her last acting gig before she retired to focus on being a parent. She and then-husband James Brolin welcomed their daughter Molly in 1987.
"I loved having a career, but when I met Molly, I just looked at her and told her, 'You need me.' And she looked at me so innocently," she told Newsweek. "I thought, I have to stay! She changed my life. I really longed to be her mom."
And Smithers' daughter grew up to follow in her parents' footsteps, also getting involved in the entertainment industry. She's opted to work behind the camera though; Molly has worked as a producer and a production assistant on movies including Men in Black 3.
She's been married twice.
Smithers was first married to fellow actor Kipp Whitman in 1971, though that union only lasted a year. Then, in 1986, she married Brolin, and the couple were together for nearly a decade.
"It was good—really good—but somehow, somewhere, we started to wander. He traveled a lot for work. We grew apart. He was gone months at a time." Smithers told Newsweek, adding, "I had Molly and wanted to be in the country and get away from that world. I just wanted a different life, and we ended up getting divorced."
After his marriage to Smithers, Brolin married Barbra Streisand in 1998. In addition to Molly, he has two other kids, from his first marriage, to Jane Cameron Agee: Jess and Josh Brolin. Molly is Smithers' only child.
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Today, she's focused on her spiritual side.
Smithers keeps her life private now that she's living out of the spotlight. While she has taken part in some WKRP reunion events, she doesn't do many solo interviews, nor does she have any public social media accounts.
However, in her discussion with Newsweek, she did share that a trip to India inspired her to focus on meditation and her spiritual life. Now, she believes that "the answer to peace in the universe is love."
"In my life, I found these things because I looked for them. I'm always in a place to receive the next thing. This is the real march, the quiet people's change," she said.
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