Loni Anderson Played Jennifer on "WKRP in Cincinnati." See Her Now at 76.
Anderson's Hollywood career has been going strong for over 45 years.
In the '70s, blonde bombshell Loni Anderson shot to fame while playing the smart and sexy receptionist, Jennifer Marlowe, on the CBS sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. The actress earned three Golden Globe Awards and two Emmy Award nominations for her performance on the show, and became a household name in the process. Later in her action-packed career, she starred in five television series, seven films, 18 made for TV movies and two mini-series—not to mention she launched her own production company. Read on to see the multi-talented actress now at the age of 76, and to hear what she thinks of her status as a '70s sex symbol.
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Anderson is proud to have played "groundbreaking" Jennifer.
When Anderson was cast as Marlowe, she quickly realized that as one of few women on set, her role could be written as either one-dimensional or dynamic. After initially turning the show down, the actress spoke up about her concerns, and says the writers responded by equipping her character with razor sharp wit.
"I liked the show but I didn't like the role, and so, I refused," she said in a 2019 interview with Australia's Studio 10. "I was against being blonde window dressing, so I made my feelings known and as we know, Jennifer was the smartest person in the room," Anderson quipped in a 2017 interview with the same news outlet. "She just turned into a great, groundbreaking character for women… glamorous and smart."
Similarly, Anderson told Studio 10 that she was "very much on the fence" about deciding to go blonde. "Being a brunette my entire life and being taken seriously as an actress you think, what happened? Did my brain dissolve in the bleach, or why is this changing? So I had my little soapbox to stand on, and make my feelings known," she said. Several decades later, she still sports her signature blonde tresses and is taken seriously as an actress, as she'd hoped and fought for.
She's never accepted her reputation as a "sex symbol."
Anderson has shared that there are two versions of herself—the public and the private—and it's clear to her which one is real. In fact, in a 1983 interview the actress revealed that her public persona as a sex symbol felt downright foreign. "Sex symbol to me, well, I can't even fathom it. It's just larger than life. It's something I don't think of myself as," she mused at the time. "That's a big thing for somebody to put on you and to think that about yourself, well, you wouldn't be a real person anymore."
That said, Anderson has never shied away from the competitive edge her good looks gave her. In that same interview, she reminisced about the advice that encouraged her to finally make the monumental leap from theater to television. "In L.A., there are a lot of pretty ladies and there are a lot of funny ladies, but maybe not so many pretty funny ladies, so you ought to give it a chance," her co-star, Pat O'Brien told her at the time. After thinking about it for months on end, she made her move—and the rest is Hollywood history.
Anderson had a successful Hollywood career before and after the show.
With screen credits spanning from 1966 to 2020, Anderson has enjoyed a long and illustrious acting career that's lasted over four decades. She landed her first role as "brunette saloon girl" in the Steve McQueen western Nevada Smith, later transitioning to television roles in the mid-'70s. During that time, Anderson appeared on S.W.A.T., Barnaby Jones, The Bob Newhart Show, Three's Company, and more. She also played the titular role in The Jayne Mansfield Story, a TV movie co-starring a new-to-Hollywood Arnold Schwartzenegger. Beginning in 1978, she spent five years starring on WKRP in Cincinnati—the role that would catapult her to fame.
When the show wrapped in 1982, Anderson wasted no time in landing new roles. Her longest-running appearances were on the series Partners in Crime, Easy Street, Nurses, Melrose Place, The Mullets, and So Notorious. Most recently, she has worked on the comedy My Sister Is So Gay.
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She's had a busy family life, too.
Over the years, Anderson married four times, first to Bruce Hasselberg in 1964. Though the marriage was dissolved two years later, the couple welcomed daughter Deidra Hasselberg (57) during their time together.
In 1973, Anderson remarried, this time to actor Ross Bickell. Together they moved to Los Angeles to pursue the limelight, but they called it quits in 1981 while WKRP was on the air.
Next and most famously, Anderson wed superstar Burt Reynolds in 1988 after the pair met on set of Stroker Ace. The couple adopted a son, Quinton Anderson Reynolds (33), but 12 years into the relationship, their acrimonious divorce became tabloid fodder.
In her fourth marriage, the actress says she has finally found her bliss—and surprisingly it's with a former flame she dated in the '60s: folk musician Bob Flick. The pair wed in May of 2008, and haven't looked back since. "I married the man I should have married in 1963," she told Studio 10, calling their rekindled romance "destiny."