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Loni Anderson
Photo: Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images

Loni Anderson

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Loni Anderson is a TV actress notable for her sexy role as Jennifer Marlowe on the series WKRP in Cincinnati.

Who Is Loni Anderson?

Loni Anderson is an American actress who's big break came in 1978, when she landed a role on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati and became a sex symbol almost overnight. Her role in the 1983 stock-car racing comedy Stroker Ace changed her life again. While on set, she met and fell in love with co-star Burt Reynolds, who was a star at the time, and her marriage to Reynolds put the duo in the spotlight as a Hollywood power couple.

Early Life

Loni Kaye Anderson was born on August 5, 1946, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Carl Anderson and Maxine Kallin. From a young age, Anderson stood out as a brunette beauty. As a senior in high school, Anderson was named Valentine Queen of her school's winter formal.

Anderson entered the University of Minnesota in 1963 to study art. She worked her way through school by winning beauty pageants—namely the Miss Roseville beauty pageant contest, which allowed her to represent her hometown at the Miss Minnesota competition. She was a runner-up for the crown, but she added several wins to her name during this time, including the Miss Thermo-Jac Clothing, Miss County Style Ford and Queen of the Hole-In-One titles.

In 1964, at the age of 18, Anderson married fellow Minnesotan Bruce Hasselbeck. Shortly after their nuptials, Anderson and Hasselbeck welcomed daughter Deidra. However, the romance was short-lived, and Anderson and Hasselbeck divorced in 1966. It was a difficult time for Anderson, who had to take a teaching job to support herself and her new baby while completing her college education.

Transition to Acting

Anderson also developed an interest in acting and started making appearances in local commercials and theater shows. Still dark-haired, she played in several early 1970s productions such as Born Yesterday, Send Me No Flowers, Can-Can, The Star-Spangled Girl and Fiddler on the Roof.

In 1973, Anderson remarried to another aspiring actor, Ross Bickell. The ambitious couple decided to move away from Minnesota to Los Angeles in 1975 to pursue more film and TV work. Anderson dyed her locks their trademark blonde during this period, and landed minor roles on shows such as Barnaby Jones (1973), The Bob Newhart Show (1972) and Three's Company (1977).

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Hollywood Starlet

Anderson's big break in showbiz came in 1978, when the actress landed a role on the popular sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. Actor Howard Hesseman, who played the character of Dr. Johnny Fever, and Anderson, who played sultry radio station receptionist Jennifer Marlowe, became the breakaway stars of the show. Anderson became a sex symbol almost overnight, and a pinup photo of the actress in a bikini was one of the best-selling posters of the 1970s. Yet, far from a dumb blonde, Anderson insisted that she be able to play her character as a bright, sensitive woman before signing for the part. Her vision paid off, and the star earned two Emmy nominations and three Golden Globe nominations for her performance.

While her professional life thrived, Anderson's personal life was on the rocks. Her instant fame led to the dissolution of her second marriage and, by 1981, Bickell and Anderson had divorced.

The series was canceled in 1982, but Anderson used the momentum of her career to continue appearing in films and television. After starring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Jayne Mansfield biopic The Jayne Mansfield Story in 1980, Anderson created her own production company and starred in a number of made-for-TV movies. But it was her role in the 1983 stock-car racing comedy Stroker Ace that changed the course of her life. While on set, she met and fell in love with co-star Burt Reynolds, who was a blockbuster star at the time. Anderson's performance in the film was largely panned, but her eventual marriage to Reynolds in 1988 put the duo in the spotlight as a Hollywood power couple.

Personal Life and Son

Anderson's high-profile marriage to Reynolds began blissfully enough. The couple adopted son Quinton together, but then the relationship dissolved quickly into a nasty divorce. Anderson and Reynolds' well-publicized custody battle over their son and accusations of a painful and substance-abusive marriage made headlines until the couple's official divorce in 1994. Shortly after their split, Anderson began making television appearances again, such as the final season of the NBC sitcom Nurses (1993-1994).

In recent years, Anderson has made guest appearances on television sitcoms such as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and V.I.P. In 1997, she published her autobiography My Life in High Heels. She also made waves in her role as Tori Spelling's materialistic mom in So noTORIous (2006), which was met with disapproval from Spelling's real-life mother.

On May 17, 2008, Anderson remarried for a fourth time, this time to longtime friend Bob Flick. Flick was one of the founding members of the folk band The Brothers Four. The couple lives together in Hollywood, California.

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