Loni Anderson is an American actress best known for her role as receptionist Jennifer Marlowe on the CBS sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran from 1978–1982. She won three Grammy awards for the role, and streaming services had reignited the show’s notoriety. “I think women loved the fact I was sexy and smart,” Anderson said in a 2011 interview. “I know it sounds crazy to people today but in 1978, when we came on, not many women were doing both in comedy.”
Today, she is 78 years old and lives a quiet life, being particular about what roles she accepts. Her personal life used to be splashed over tabloids on the regular, particularly about her marriage and divorce to the late actor Burt Reynolds. But now she’s as radiant as ever, living a healthy and active lifestyle alongside Bob Flick, her fourth husband and the love of her life.
“This glamorous person who could also be the smartest person”
Loni Anderson was born in Minnesota in an upper-middle-class family. She became interested in acting from a young age. Although her bombshell figure became part of her brand, she resented it during puberty. ”I was the first girl in school to wear a bra. And it was a pain. At first it was very exciting, everything was wonderful. And then I realized I was the only one having to go through all that. Then I was embarrassed,” Loni said in 1980. “A lot was made of my figure. I put up with a lot of stuff.”
Anderson made her debut as a brunette alongside Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith in 1966. She also made appearances in shows like S.W.A.T., Phyllis, Police Woman, and Harry O. Although being a sex symbol became part of her success, she also realized how that made people treat her. At one point, she was wondering if she should go blond and wear a wig to a theater bar as a test.
“Nobody treated me the same. I had lots of drinks lined up in front of me from people who were sending me drinks, but nobody paid any attention to what I had to say. I just wasn’t in the conversation; I was treated more like an object. So at the time, I decided maybe I shouldn’t go blonde because blondes weren’t respected.”
With this experience fresh in her mind, she went to read for WKRP. At first, she wasn’t interested in the role because it sounded like “window dressing” and she told the show creator Hugh Wilson just that. And he liked her idea for the character and hired her. “I felt so instrumental that they listened to the concept of this glamorous person who could also be the smartest person,” Anderson said. “And you know what? It was wonderful. I had a huge female following because of that. And that has always been one of my most treasured memories, knowing that it did have an effect on women.”
Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds
Anderson has been married four times but her most famous husband was Burt Reynolds. They were married for 6 years, from 1988 to 1994. They adopted a boy named Quinton, and they were Hollywood’s ‘it’ couple for a while. However, their relationship ended in a messy, highly publicized divorce. While Reynolds spoke to the press about their private life, Anderson refused to “engage in a media war” for the sake of her son. But she ended her silence in 1995 when she accused Reynolds of physically abusing her and failing to pay his $15,000 child support on time.
At the time, she had blamed the physical abuse on the drugs he was taking. But the worst incident happened one month before they broke up. “Burt showed me all around the room, then threw me to the floor and opened the drawer and got out a loaded gun,” she said in a 1995 interview. “He handed me the gun and told me to shoot myself and do us all a favor. I was terrified. Burt always said no one would ever believe me because he was Mr. Wonderful and the world loved him.”
Despite their bad blood, Anderson paid her respects when Reynolds passed away in 2018. “Quinton and I are extremely touched by the tremendous outpouring of love and support from friends and family throughout the world,” she said. “Burt was a wonderful director and actor. He was a big part of my life for twelve years and Quinton’s father for thirty years. We will miss him and his great laugh.”
Loni Anderson Today
Loni Anderson became a spokesperson for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) organizations. Both of her parents died due to complications from smoking, and when Anderson saw her son imitate a TV character smoking, she started to work with the National Lung Health Education Program. She has visited care facilities and schools to spread information and show support. Her most recent role was in the sitcom My Sister is So Gay, which ran from 2016 to 2020.
She married her fourth husband Bob Flick in May 2008. “I married the man I should have married in 1963,” Anderson said. “But then I wouldn’t have had all the wonderful people in my life that I have.”