Loni Anderson will be forever known for playing Jennifer Marlowe on the hit CBS show WKRP in Cincinnati. (In one episode, she talked Les Nessman from jumping out of a window after he's accused of being gay.)
This friend of the community embraces those memories by traveling to Naperville this weekend for a WKRP screening and hitting up the Hollywood show in Rosemont to mingle with the fans.
We chatted about her past and how a brunette became a blonde bombshell television star.
Windy City Times: Hi, Loni. I have been watching that show since I was kid.
Loni Anderson: It just keeps going with the reruns. Life is so different as far as television is concerned these days. Everything we have ever been on keeps going. You can find it everywhere.
WCT: How do you feel about doing events like this one about WKRP?
Loni Anderson: I am everybody's biggest fan in the show because I think, "What a group and how did this ever happen, how were we all so lucky?" We keep in contact with one another. Only Gordon is gone.
WCT: So it is a high school reunion when you get together?
Loni Anderson: It is, and just fantastic.
WCT: You are going to be in Naperville and they are going to show some of the episodes.
Loni Anderson: Yes; it is a great chance to get to talk about them. I am looking forward to the Q&A and sharing those old episodes with people. I screened the episodes first and they hold up because Hugh Wilson who was our mad genius creator always said, "The humor should come out of the story and not out of the jokes." I makes a show last and makes it funny forever.
WCT: It was a good concept for a show.
Loni Anderson: Of course, there is not a radio station in existence where everything isn't already programmed electronically these days.
WCT: You are originally from Minnesota.
Loni Anderson: I am. I spent a lot of time in Chicago. I worked for Shirley Hamilton, who was my first commercial agent. I did my first national commercial in Chicago for Secret deodorant way back in 1974. I had black hair and it was a different life.
WCT: What made you decide to go blonde?
Loni Anderson: WKRP. When I first moved out to L.A. in 1975, people told me that my hair was so dark that it absorbed the lightthat is looked like an ink blob. Someone suggested that I put lighter streaks in it to break it up. The lighter I went the more work I got. I had never thought of myself as a blonde except for a few Broadway roles. I was a serious brunette actress. When I did the pilot, I wasn't quite blonde. I was a strawberry color. Hugh Wilson said, "Let's have her be Lana Turner and the smartest person in the room." That was the creation of this slave to blonde hair.
WCT: You are stuck with it!
Loni Anderson: [Laughs] It has been all of these years. My roots insist on growing out black. I don't know what the deal is!
WCT: Did you exercise to have that pinup body?
Loni Anderson: I didn't work out for a second. I didn't work out until after WKRP. It wasn't a trend. I had taken dancing lessons and was active with swimming, but I had two glazed doughnuts every day for breakfast! I even had malted milk balls on my desk for the show the whole week. Now when I think back about it, I shiver with horror. I was the luckiest girl on the planet.
WCT: You wrote a book about your life called My Life in High Heels.
Loni Anderson: That was back in 1995. I have had so much more happening since then. That was two years after Burt Reynolds and I split up. I thought I needed to get it out of my system.
WCT: So you would like to do some updates?
Loni Anderson: Well, you know Oprah Winfrey said I should do My Life in Sneakers.
WCT: She is a brilliant woman!
Loni Anderson: Isn't she?
WCT: I read you have a big miniature collection. Do you still have this?
Loni Anderson: I do. I have an extensive Snow White collection. Because I have that black hair when I was a little girl, my dad would read stories to me where all the princesses were fair and had blue eyes. I was very sad at 3 years old to not look like a princess, so he found Snow White for me. She had hair as black as night. I always considered her who I was. She was my alter ego. All my life I have been collecting it.
WCT: You are doing a signing at the Hollywood Show. What is the craziest thing a fan has ever asked you at a convention?
Loni Anderson: Embarrassingly enough, a woman asked me what Burt Reynolds was like in bed. My jaw did drop and it was shocking.
WCT: What did you tell her?
Loni Anderson: I said, "Whatever your fantasies are, just keep thinking them!"
WCT: That's a good answer.
Loni Anderson: But otherwise, I just get asked out on dates. Either they are not paying attention to the fact that I am married or they don't care. They always ask about the rest of the cast. I did six series, so there are fans of other series or TV movies. Henry Winkler and I talked about that one time: You are forever The Fonz or that thing that catapulted you into everybody's face. That is why it is always the biggest thing and my favorite thing that I ever did, too. In the '70s there weren't glamorous smart people. Now we don't think anything of that. In 1978 that wasn't happening; it was innovative, and I am so glad to have been a part of that.
WCT: I am a big Lynda Carter fan and you did that series with her.
Loni Anderson: I always keep a picture of her with me because a lot of people are big Partners in Crime fans. Lynda and I are such good friends. I just saw her perform and she is so terrific.
Anderson brings Hollywood to Illinois this weekend at the Hollywood Palms Cinema, 352 S. Route 59, Naperville, on Saturday, Sept., 8, at 7 and 9 p.m.
She will be at the Hollywood Show, 5500 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Sept. 7-9. For details, visit www.hollywoodshow.com .