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What Happened To Loni Anderson?

Actor Loni Anderson was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in August 1946. She was crowned Valentine Queen at her high school's winter formal, but she was more than just a pretty face — Anderson had brains, and she enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1963. She paid her way through school by winning a string of beauty pageants, including Miss Roseville, which allowed her to compete for Miss Minnesota. She finished the competition as runner-up.

While in college, Anderson married her first husband, Bruce Hasselbeck, and the couple had a daughter named Deidra soon after. The marriage didn't work — they separated shortly after the baby was born and divorced after only two years of marriage. Anderson's divorce didn't stop her from finishing college as a single, working mom. It was during this time she began acting in local theater and commercials, contemplating a career as an actress.

Anderson is best known for playing Jennifer Marlowe on "WKRP in Cincinnati" between 1978 and 1982. If you aren't familiar with her career as a popular television actress, her fairy tale wedding to (and contentious divorce from) Burt Reynolds may have caught your attention. She was at the height of her powers in the late '70s, '80s, and '90s, but her career cooled off in the new millennium. Keep reading if you want to know what happened to Loni Anderson in the years since.

She initially rejected the role of Jennifer Marlowe

Loni Anderson and her second husband, aspiring actor Ross Bickell, moved to Los Angeles together in 1975 to pursue film and television careers. Anderson landed supporting parts on many shows, from "Barnaby Jones" and "The Bob Newhart Show" to "The Incredible Hulk." She also auditioned for the part of Chrissy on "Three's Company," but the role went to Suzanne Somers. "I don't know why she didn't get it," star John Ritter said (via Outsider). "She did a great audition."

Fate had other plans for Anderson. She got her big break in 1978, landing the role of receptionist Jennifer Marlowe on "WKRP in Cincinnati." She initially turned the role down because she was worried about being typecast as a dumb blonde. After discussing her concerns with the writers, she agreed to take on the part. Jennifer Marlowe was a sexy character, but she was also whip-smart and witty. "She just turned into a great, groundbreaking character for women," Anderson told Australia's Studio 10.

In 1980, while on summer hiatus and filming the TV movie "The Jayne Mansfield Story" (co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), Anderson negotiated a big pay rise. "I did it in a sneaky way," she told Page Six. "Howard Hesseman was also very popular on the show [as DJ Dr. Johnny Fever]. I went to him and said, 'Let's negotiate together, let's be a team,' and that's what we did." She got what she wanted, and Anderson stayed on "WKRP in Cincinnati" until it got canceled two years later.

She fell in love with Burt Reynolds while making a terrible movie

After Loni Anderson's hit television show ended, she made the movie "Stroker Ace," a comedy about a NASCAR driver starring Burt Reynolds. Stroker Ace (Reynolds) locks horns with his sponsor (a fried chicken franchise) because he finds the things they have him do to promote the restaurants — like dressing up in a chicken costume — demeaning. Pembrook Feeney (Anderson) conspires with Stroker to trick the owner of the franchise, Clyde Torkle (Ned Beatty), into firing Stroker. If Stroker quits, he won't be able to race until his contract expires, which is an unthinkable outcome for the racer.

"Stroker Ace" was an attempt to cash in on Reynolds' success with "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Cannonball Run," but it wasn't a good film and the romance between Anderson and Reynolds is "unpleasant, unfunny, and creepy," veteran critic Roger Ebert said at the time. The movie flopped and Anderson's fledgling big screen career went down with it, but it still changed her life — Reynolds and Anderson fell in love while making the movie. They married five years later at a private ceremony on Reynolds' ranch in Jupiter, Florida and adopted a son, Quinton, soon after.

Her other TV shows failed to take off

After "WKRP in Cincinnati" was canceled, Loni Anderson continued acting on television, landing a few leading roles. In 1984 she co-starred with Lynda Carter in "Partners in Crime," a show about two women who take over a private detective agency after their mutual ex-husband dies. The series was set in San Francisco and seemed like a guaranteed hit — it had two big stars leading the line and came out when detective shows were big. But "Partners in Crime" proved how fickle fans can be — and how rare television hits really are — ending after just 13 episodes.

In 1986 and '87, Anderson starred as L.K. McGuire in "Easy Street," a comedy about a former Las Vegas showgirl and blackjack dealer who inherits a fortune when her husband dies. McGuire helps out her salt-of-the-earth uncle (Jack Elam), moving him and his friend to Beverly Hills, where they share a mansion with her late husband's family. This living arrangement creates abundant opportunities for comedic situations and culture clashes, but the show never took off and was canceled after 22 episodes.

After "Easy Street" was canned, Anderson spent years doing TV movies and making guest appearances on numerous series before she joined the cast of "Empty Nest" spin-off "Nurses" as hospital administrator Casey MacAfee. The addition of Anderson was a big deal for the show, but it couldn't save the NBC series from the chop — the network pulled the plug at the end of Season 3.

Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson's divorce got very messy

After years as a Hollywood power couple, Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson split up in 1993, revealing their marriage wasn't as picture-perfect as it often appeared in the press. Reynolds announced the separation through a rep, who said that "he feels his priorities and hers have become different" (per People). Anderson was quiet on the subject to begin with, giving only a brief statement. "I do not intend to engage in a media war," she said (per People). "I have to consider the welfare and best interests of my little boy." Even after Reynolds began disparaging her in the press, alleging she was unfaithful, a terrible mother, and an "underemployed actress" (per Page Six), Anderson remained relatively restrained.

Of course, the divorce eventually turned into an all-out media war, like many involving lots of money, famous people, and a child custody dispute do. This war probably damaged both of their careers. It certainly damaged Reynolds' finances — he lost his endorsement deals with Quaker State and the Florida Citrus Commission. "I don't know why they think divorced people don't drink orange juice," he said (per Vanity Fair). It was to become the divorce that would never end. It would take Reynolds decades to pay Anderson her divorce settlement in full, which he finally did in 2015 after she took him to court. The judge ordered Reynolds to pay Anderson $154,520, according to TMZ.

Anderson accused Reynolds of domestic abuse

After two years of media silence about her split from Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson finally opened up about their marriage and what led to their divorce. In 1995, she published her memoir "My Life in High Heels," and it was full of what Entertainment Weekly called "tabloid-ready" tales. Some of them were saucy, while others were deeply disturbing. "[Reynolds] shoved me around, pushing me onto the floor," Anderson claimed in one chapter. "Then he pulled out a gun and said, 'Here, why don't you kill yourself and do us all a favor?'"

Shortly after the memoir hit shelves, Anderson sat down with Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle and elaborated on her accusations of domestic violence. She revealed that she had been employing a temporary nanny to accompany her son to Florida when he visited his father. "I'm concerned about Burt's erratic behavior," she said. "Quinton is small and I want him to be protected." According to Anderson, Quinton's normal nanny would not go near the place because "Burt threw a chair at her."

The former "WKRP in Cincinnati" star went on to say that she kept quiet at first because Reynolds convinced her that the public would side with him. "Burt always said no one would ever believe me because he was Mr. Wonderful and the world loved him." When asked for a response, Reynolds' publicist said that he had "no comment" and that "he wishes Loni nothing but the very best from this day on."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

She made numerous guest appearances on a variety of shows

Loni Anderson's acting career cooled off after her divorce, but she still landed numerous guest roles on television. After her run on "Nurses" ended in 1994, she spent the rest of the decade making many one-time appearances on a variety of shows, popping up in the likes of "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," "Clueless," "Fast Track," "Movie Stars," and "V.I.P.," on which she played Val's (Pamela Anderson) mom. Anderson also made TV movies during this period of her life and had a small part in "A Night at the Roxbury," the crime comedy that ruined Chris Kattan's career.

Anderson's most substantial work during this period was a recurring role on "Melrose Place" — she played Teri Carson, the conniving mother of Brandy Carson (Denise Richards), in a three-episode story arc. It's easy to blame the fall-out from her divorce for her fading career, but it's important to remember that she was a newly-single mother to a young child and probably needed to prioritize her son, as well as her mental and emotional health.

She became a spokesperson for COPD organizations

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) affects millions of Americans, and millions more have symptoms but have not been diagnosed (per CDC). Both of Anderson's parents suffered from COPD before dying of cancer in their 50s. Anderson's father was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis in his 30s, which is often the first diagnosis on the road to COPD. By his mid-40s, his doctor told him he would need an oxygen tank if he didn't quit smoking, which he temporarily did. "The last three months of his life [in the hospital], he asked the nurse, since he couldn't even lift his arms, for a cigarette," she told the NY Post.

After her father died, Anderson's mother was also diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, and her health deteriorated quickly. Anderson moved her mother to California so she could care for her during the last months of her life. Because of these experiences caring for her ill parents, Anderson became a spokesperson, working with the National Lung Health Education Program. Anderson told Future of Personal Health that she decided to become a spokesperson after her son began to imitate a smoking character he had seen on television. "He put on some glasses, put a little costume on, this hat and everything, and he came in and he had like a pencil in his mouth and I thought, 'Oh, my God.'" Anderson has since traveled the country visiting schools and care facilities, spreading information and giving support.

Loni Anderson's limited television roles post 2000

Loni Anderson's acting career slowed to a crawl after 2000, but she still landed the odd role. In 2003 and 2004, Anderson played Mandi Mullet-Heidecker, the mother of Dwayne (Michael Weaver) and Denny Mullet (David Hornsby) in 11 episodes of the comedy "The Mullets." Unfortunately for Anderson and everyone involved with the UPN show, it was a flop and didn't make it to a second season. "'The Mullets' is nothing short of a bad hair day for the sitcom genre," the Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus states. The show scored a poor 27% on the Tomatometer.

In 2006, Anderson played Tori Spelling's unhinged mom in VH1's hilarious parody "So Notorious," a scripted series in which Tori Spelling plays a fictionalized version of herself. The series pokes fun at Hollywood, spoiled socialites, and people who are tabloid fodder. Anderson's Kiki Spelling sells her daughter's childhood toys for extra bucks on eBay and lives in a mansion overrun by creepy antique dolls. The series may have only lasted 10 episodes, but it has a solid score on Rotten Tomatoes (81%) and is totally worth a watch.

Loni Anderson's fourth husband is a folk musician

As reported by People, Loni Anderson married her fourth husband, folk musician Bob Flick — a founding member of the music group The Brothers Four — in May 2008. The two actually met 45 years earlier at a film premiere, where they posed for a photo together. This photograph was featured prominently at their wedding reception in Bel Air, California. Although the road back to each other was a long one, the couple said it felt like destiny in an interview with Studio 10. "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."

Flick was by his wife's side during the Studio 10 interview, and the pair looked very much in love. "I go everywhere with her," he said. After multiple divorces and her tumultuous relationship with Burt Reynolds, it's nice to see Anderson married to someone she is at ease with and in a relationship that makes her happy. It's been well over a decade since the couple reconnected and married, and they are still going strong, enjoying life together and spending time with their children and grandchildren.

Anderson's daughter was diagnosed with MS

Loni Anderson's daughter Deidra has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As reported by Entertainment Tonight, Deidra had a mini-stroke and was diagnosed after getting an MRI. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord that is ongoing and degenerative, often affecting the mobility and motor skills of patients. While some experience mild symptoms, others' lives are permanently altered.

In 2014, Anderson and her daughter conducted an interview on "The Doctors," where they discussed Deidra's private battle with the disease. "I diagnosed myself years before with just stress and I had lots of symptoms that I ignored," Deidra said. "I was busy. I was a mom, I worked full-time. I didn't have time for everything that was happening to me and the diagnosis stopped me in my tracks."

After this diagnosis, Anderson's priorities changed, shifting her focus away from acting and toward her daughter and granddaughters. "I didn't want to fall apart in front of her because I knew she was struggling to just maintain herself, but it was very difficult to come to grips with," Anderson told Closer. "You have to go forward and make the best you can of it. This is a message of hope. Even though we don't have a cure yet, we're learning more all the time." Anderson told the magazine that she is always present for "every MRI, every test, just to let Deidra know that I love her."

Loni Anderson was still acting in 2020

In 2016, after a decade of barely acting, Loni Anderson took on a new role in the web series "My Sister Is So Gay," a show about a middle-aged gay man who suspects his right-wing, homophobic sister might actually be queer. Anderson plays Frances, a boozy but sexy mom who says inappropriate things and makes road cocktails in her car. She's ostentatious and outrageous, but she's also a loving mother who supports her queer children, and this is what drew Anderson to the role.

In 2017, Anderson spoke with HuffPost about her new role and her concerns for the queer community after Donald Trump became president. "Needless to say, I've had my hysterical moments over the election, and I have a granddaughter who's a junior at UCLA and we have had many spirited discussions about our feelings," she said. "I think after you get over being hysterical — but I don't know if you do — that you try and move forward the best you can and hope that we do not slip backwards."

Anderson understands that representation is important for the future of Hollywood. After over four decades in the entertainment industry, she is still looking toward her own future and choosing roles based on her ethical beliefs. She last appeared as Frances in the 2020 episode "Unsocial Distancing."