Character Actors: William Sanderson

John Sanderson as Larry in The Bob Newhart Show

By SCOTT VOISIN

Featured in Autograph January 2010

“Hi, I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.”

 

With that line on the classic ’80s sitcom Newhart, actor William Sanderson officially became a pop culture icon. Although he would become forever identified as one of the dim-witted, backwoods siblings, the character of Larry is the polar opposite of the actor who portrayed him. “After high school, I went into the army for a couple of years and then came four years of college and three years of law school,” Sanderson says. “During my last year in law school, I had begun to get my nerve up to do some plays. Without taking the bar exam, I moved to New York for an apprenticeship in acting.”

After brief appearances in such critically-acclaimed movies as The Onion Field and Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sanderson landed a memorable supporting role in the 1982 sci-fi film, Blade Runner. “Up until then, I was playing a lot of renegades and derelicts,” he explains. “I like to think J.F. Sebastian was a sympathetic character and it was fun to play. I was just so thrilled to be there shooting a major film on the Warner Brothers lot and anytime you can be in a film with that cast you should feel grateful.” Although the film is regarded as a classic today, it failed to make much of an impact during its initial release. “Since Harrison Ford was in it, everyone expected it to do as well as Star Wars. I read some nice reviews, but the one that always stuck in my mind—I think it might have been Pauline Kael—said it was a fascinating failure. It’s quite ironic that it’s become a cult classic. I’m not wise enough to know why it’s stuck around, but director Ridley Scott is somewhat of a visionary, and I think some of his vision came true. He’s a genius.”

Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis, signed and inscribed by John Sanderson

That same year, Sanderson made his first appearance on Newhart. Although the role was originally intended to be a one-time guest shot, the show’s creators quickly changed their plans. “The audience applauded the first time we appeared, so that encouraged them to bring us back again,” Sanderson says. “In the second season, I think they doubled the number of episodes we were in. The third year, the show went down in the ratings, and I don’t want to sound self-righteous or anything but they decided to make us regulars, and lo and behold, the show went back up in the ratings. Bob Newhart has said that we gave it a shot in the arm, but it was the two brothers—John Voldstad and Tony Papenfuss—that made the group work. I learned years later they originally wrote the character for a friend of mine, Tracey Walter, who’s a great actor. He had to go in and audition for it even though the writer wrote it for him. I mean, can you imagine: they write my friend a role, he goes in and auditions, and they give it to me? I think if success comes to you, you should consider yourself lucky, and I definitely got lucky with Newhart.”

Sanderson as E.B. Farnum in Deadwood

Since then, Sanderson has parlayed that success into roles on such high-profile projects as Lonesome Dove, Deadwood and the current HBO hit, True Blood. Looking back, he has no regrets about choosing to work on a soundstage instead of in a law office. “Personally, I think it’s very difficult to make a living as an actor,” he says. “There are over 100,000 actors in the union and only 2,000 or 3,000 work regularly. We chose it, so we can’t really complain, but the rejection is hard, at least for me…. I don’t want this to sound like self-pity because when it’s fun, it’s fun. The adrenalin is akin to playing in the Super Bowl, and I’m addicted to it. I’m just a journeyman actor with an obsession to keep working and keep learning.”

Sanderson plays Sheriff Dearborn on True Blood

Autograph photos are available from Sanderson’s Web site, www.williamsanderson.com. Signed photos start at $20 and signed Newhart scripts will cost you $35. Prices on eBay for signed photos range from $15-21.

Carla Laemmle Turns 100

Circa 2006, Laemmle signed a Dracula postcard

By MICHAEL IWINSKI

Featured in Autograph January 2010

Carla Laemmle publicity photo from the 1920s

Carla Laemmle, the last living link to The Phantom of the Opera and Dracula, celebrated her 100th birthday last October 26. A celebration was held on Soundstage 28 at Universal Studios, and Ms. Laemmle returned to the set where she played the prima ballerina in Phantom of the Opera in 1925.

I interviewed her on the eve of her centennial celebration, and Carla Laemmle’s voice was clear and her mind sharp. Earlier this year she even penned a book with Daniel Kinske, Growing Up With Monsters. Her roots in Hollywood date back to 1921, when she arrived from Chicago at the age of 11. Her uncle, Carl Laemmle, founded Universal Studios, and she describes growing up on the studio lot as a magical time, a kind of perpetual fantasy world. It was while working for the studio that Laemmle played roles in two of the greatest horror films ever produced.

Laemmle became a cult figure in horror fandom. “I’ve been getting mail nearly every day from all over the world,” she says. Always an accommodating signer, Laemmle is flattered by the attention she still receives, but keeps it in perspective: “They praise me and flatter me so much that you can’t take it too seriously.” After all, she was only 16 years old when she performed in Phantom. Fans continue to request autographs and sometimes send gifts in the mail. “I just received a wonderful letter from an artist in Canada. The portrait he did of Lon Chaney is really excellent!”

Unsigned window card for the 1925 Phantom of the Opera sold in 2009 for $7,768, courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Of Chaney’s role as the phantom, Laemmle says, “It was a closed set. I was only in the ballet sequence at the beginning, and they didn’t allow anyone in the room when the unmasking scene was being made.”

The scene Laemmle is referring to is one of the most iconic in movie history. The phantom’s mask is removed, revealing his hideously deformed face. “Only the people who were involved with the scenes were able to be on the set. It added shock value by keeping it a secret.”

In 1931 Laemmle delivered the first lines in another Universal classic, Dracula. “I was in the carriage and just read the lines that were right in front of me.” Seventy-eight years later, she recites them from memory: “Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass, are found crumbling castles of a bygone age.”

Even while it was being filmed, Laemmle felt Dracula was unique. “It was the first talking picture—the first sound horror movie being made. We knew there would be quite a bit of special interest in it. It was no longer just silent movies. That’s what set it apart at the time and made it special.”

Laemmle, who was trained in ballet, would go on to use her dance skills in musicals throughout Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s. “I worked at every studio—MGM, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO.” Thinking back to what the town was like during the early days, Laemmle feels the actors were much more approachable and visibly appreciative: “They were very gracious in those days. They knew how valuable being accessible was and were very nice.”

Carla Laemmle exudes these qualities today, something autograph collectors and horror film aficionados appreciate. Surprisingly, she is not a huge horror fan. She never even auditioned for the part in Dracula but was called in by Universal at the last minute. No director was present when the scene was filmed on a back lot, with men rocking the carriage to and fro to create the illusion of motion. “I’m not interested in horror movies at all!” Laemmle says. “But I like to watch Dracula and Phantom of the Opera when they are on.”

In the Trenches: James Cameron

By JOSH BOARD
Featured in Autograph April 2009

Counterclockwise from top: James Cameron (left) with my stepdad, who played Captain Smith in Ghosts of the Abyss.

I’m usually out there getting autographs the hard way; outside concert venues, sneaking backstage, or waiting in a long line at a bookstore. Last spring I finally I got a few the easy way. Thanks to my stepdad, John Donovan, who played Captain Smith in James Cameron’s 3D Titanic movie Ghosts of the Abyss, I got to go to a party at the Malibu mansion of director James Cameron, the Academy Award-winning author and director of several Terminator films, True Lies, Rambo II and The Abyss. His biggest hit was Titanic.

I immediately called my friend Ken Calloway. At one of his parties, he had bottles of wine with really cool labels. “Buy a bunch of bottles of ‘Two-Buck Chuck,’” he said. “Peel the labels off, and design your own on the computer. Make up vintages that fit the theme of your party.”
“And save a fortune on expensive wine,” I said.

Titanic, Special Collectors Edition, signed by Cameron at the party.

I asked him to make me a Titanic label, so I could hand a bottle of wine to Cameron when I got to the party.

Ken called it “Iron Jim’s Titanic Cabernet” and had a picture of the Titanic on it. On the sides, he described the wine, using various film titles in the description. I had him make sure it said 1912, the year the Titanic sank.

Besides the wine, I brought a leather-bound version of Titanic and a DVD of Strange Days, a weird sci-fi film he wrote and produced. I also brought a DVD of Usual Suspects for Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis, to sign. (They met while filming Titanic.)

I had to turn my name in at the main gate  to this community and at Cameron’s residence. My girlfriend, Kristina, and I met up with my parents outside Cameron’s house, where I was eyeing his cherried-out Shelby Cobra.

When I was introduced to Cameron, I handed over the bottle and he said, “Cool. Oh, it’s a 1912. I better not open this.” I saw him reading the sides of the label. He smiled and said, “Thanks. I’m going to save this. If we drink it, it will just end up an empty bottle.” I admitted it was just an $18 bottle of wine anyway. He laughed. I think he was surprised I paid that much.

The Usual Suspects signed by Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis, and Streange Days signed by Cameron.

I waited to ask Cameron for autographs. This was a swanky affair, and I didn’t want to seem unprofessional.

I told another guest that I wanted to get something signed by Cameron and his wife. He said “Cameron is really good about signing. One time I brought a Titanic poster, and he was late for a meeting. He asked, ‘Do I have to sign it now? Can I sign it later?’ Then he just signed it. I guess as long as you don’t say ‘Thanks, I can put this on eBay now.”

I spotted Suzy Amis. Kristina advised it would be cheesy to ask Suzy to autograph my DVD, so I tucked it into my back pocket as I walked over to chat with her.

I asked her how she got the part in Usual Suspects. “Kevin Bacon called me,” she said, “and said his friend was directing this little film.”

Titanic VHS signed by Cameron during the filming of Ghosts of the Abyss.

“My girlfriend is going to kill me,” I said, “but would you mind signing the DVD for me?” I handed her the DVD and she wrote “For Josh, Live Your Passions! Suzy Amis Cameron.”

After dinner, guests gathered in the screening room and Cameron showed scenes from his television documentary Expedition: Bismarck that had never been shown.

Finally, I approached Cameron for his autograph. I gave him an extra label for the “Iron Jim” wine, in case he had another bottle he wanted to slap it on. He thanked me, and I said, “Well, it’s sort of a bribe. I want to see if you’ll sign these.” I handed him the DVDs of Titanic and Strange Days.

With the collector’s edition of Titanic in his hands, he noticed the silver embossed “James Cameron” signature. Signing above it in bold black Sharpie, he said, “Now you’ll have a real one.”

Forrest J Ackerman Estate Auction

By KIMBERLY COLE
Featured in Autograph April 2009

Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman

“If I can’t take it with me, I’m not going to go,” Forrest J Ackerman would tell guests touring his collection. But when the man known as Uncle Forry to legions of horror and science fiction fans died in December at 92, he left an amazing collection behind. Thousands of sci-fi and horror related items will be auctioned from April 30 to May 1 by Profiles in History. “This will be the most important sale of horror-related items ever assembled for auction,” said Joe Maddalena, the firm’s CEO.

Jerry Weist, an author, collector and science fiction consultant for Sotheby’s described Ackerman’s collection in 2003: “There was nothing like it anywhere in the world, and there never will be again. The heritage of modern collectors is based in the Ackerman collection. It’s as if one guy in Europe had most of Braque, Picasso, Matisse and Chagalle, as if one person had an overwhelming collection.”

No. 1 Fan

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Ackerman won a special Hugo Award in 1953 for No. 1 Fan Personality. He published 50-plus stories, was literary agent to the likes of Ray Bradbury, L. Ron Hubbard and Marion Zimmer Bradley, appeared in more than 200 films, and served as editor and writer of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland for 25 years. But the word most often used to describe him? Fan.

The key to Ackerman’s tremendous influence on the genres of horror and science fiction films and literature was his life-long enthusiasm for the art form and its artists. As a fan, he amassed a collection that, at its peak in the mid-’60s would have been worth about $10 million in today’s market, Weist once speculated.

Unlike many collectors, Ackerman always shared his collection with the public, offering free tours of it at his home every Saturday. The “Ackermansion,” as his 18-room Los Feliz estate was called, became a mecca for science fiction fans and visitors from around the world. Even after the cost of legal troubles and illness forced him to downsize his collection and home, Ackerman continued to greet visitors and give personal tours of the house he dubbed the “Mini-Ackermansion.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1916, Ackerman often recounted the birth of his fascination with science fiction when, in 1926, he bought a copy of Amazing Stories. “Among all the magazines, that one said, ‘Take me home, little boy. You will love me.’”

Three years later, he published his first story in Science Wonder Quarterly and founded The Boys Scientification Club. His dream of bringing together a community of science fiction writers and readers began. In 1938 he published a young Ray Bradbury’s first story and introduced him to science fiction greats Robert Heinlein, Leigh Brackett and others. They were members of his chapter of the Science Fiction Society, which met in L.A.’s Clifton Cafeteria. Years later he bankrolled Bradbury’s fanzine Future Fantasia with $90.

In 1939, Ackerman attended the first World Science Fiction Convention in Manhattan with his friend Myrtle R. Douglas. Both of them dressed in space costumes, setting the stage for the thousands of Trekkies who would follow suit.

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

Ackerman is credited with coining the term “sci-fi.” In a story told to the Los Angeles Times, he explained that he was driving with his wife in 1954, when the radio mentioned the term “hi-fi.” “I looked in the rear-view mirror, stuck out my tongue and there, tattooed on the end was ‘sci-fi.’ To her immortal embarrassment, my dear wife said, ‘Forget it, Forry—it’ll never catch on.’”

His connection to the film world grew naturally out of his career as a literary agent, and Ackerman became friends with horror stars such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. But Ackerman also promoted the works of the behind-the-scenes artists who created the magic of the movies, inspiring film director Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Penn & Teller, and many others.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

A life-long fan of science fiction B-movies, Ackerman had cameos in more than 200 films, including The Howling, Return of the Living Dead Part II and the campy Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold. More important than his work onscreen was his role in shaping the industry’s understanding of the genre. It was Ackerman who brought attention in the United States to the 1927 German film Metropolis. He called himself Ed Wood’s ‘ill-literary’ agent, and provided feedback to Wood as he wrote and directed Plan 9 from Outer Space.

In 1958, Ackerman launched his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, each issue full of interviews with film monsters Lugosi and Karloff, articles on past and current genre films, comic strip adaptations of classic movies and a letter to the editor’s page called “Fang Mail.” In the Mimosa fanzine, Ackerman explained the Famous Monsters tone: “The publisher sent a sign saying ‘I am 11-and-a-half years old and I am your reader, Forrest Ackerman. Make me laugh.” Ackerman obliged until 1983 when the magazine stopped publication after a run of 191 issues.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

Horror and science fiction may have lost their No. 1 fan, but Ackerman’s legend lives on. In the words of Stephen King, “Forry was the first; he was best and he is the best. He stood up for a generation of kids who realized that if it was junk, it was magic junk.”

Inside the Ackerman Estate Auction

After the Ackerman estate trustees decided to use Profiles in History to handle the auction, we spoke to Joe Maddalena, who was in the thick of preparing for the sale. In explaining the trustees’ decision, Maddalena said that his company had sold items from Ackerman’s collection over the years to help sustain him financially. “We specialize in the higher end of this field of collecting—science fiction and horror memorabilia. And we have the right market—not only have we got the memorabilia clients, but we have the autograph clients.”

When asked to give a peek into what’s involved in auctioning Ackerman’s collection, Maddalena described the effort of inventorying the contents of the house and storage. “Forry’s house is just full—I mean, thousands and thousands of items. There’s autographs, magazines, newspapers, costumes, toys, art work. We’re inventorying, and then we box it up and bring it to our offices.”

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

Maddalena will go through the entire collection, looking for the items that will stand alone in the auction. The rest will be sorted by genre, personality, or film and sold in lots. “We turn the collection into thematic lots that can be sold in a sensible way. There are a couple of people who were alive at the time Forry was building his collection and they’ve been helping us identify the history and who he got each item from.”

In addition to local resources, Maddalena said that he’s been receiving countless emails from fans who toured the Ackerman estate—more than 50,000 people visited during the many years that Forry opened his house to the public and people are eager to share stories about items in the collection. “It’s a tremendous help in assembling the catalog,” Maddalena said.

The catalog, available for download from the Profiles in History website in early April, should be a major resource for fans of horror and sci-fi who want one last chance to ogle Ackerman’s collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Maddalena provided interesting insights into the challenge of pricing the items. “I like to set starting bids based on what’s reasonable. I believe that these collectibles will find their value at market. For example, we have the Dracula ring listed at $20,000-$30,000. But it’s a unique item. It came from Lugosi to Forry. It’s uninterrupted provenance. Who knows what that’s worth? It could go as high as $100,000, but it’s hard to guess because there’s never been another. Or the costumes—there has never been any Lugosi wardrobe for sale before.”

While popular culturally, horror films were not considered historically significant years ago. “Horror material from the 1930s and ’40s just doesn’t exist,” Maddalena said. “People thought there was no reason to save a Dracula poster. No one thought about saving a costume from Dracula, so this type of material just doesn’t exist. No one has unearthed any Universal horror costumes or costume pieces of significance ever.”

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

No one except Forry Ackerman. Through his friendships with actors, directors, writers, costume and set designers, Ackerman saved what might have been lost.

“Also impacting value is that the items were given to Forry, and his association has an added value,” Maddalena explained. “You not only have an 11×14 beautiful photograph of Marlene Dietrich, but it’s inscribed to Forry Ackerman. Is there a premium associated with that? Is that premium 10 percent? 20 percent? Is someone willing to pay a premium of 100 percent because it’s associated with Forry’s life?”

Here are a few of the items that Maddalena has identified for single sale.

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

Dracula ring worn by Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in the 1948 film Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula. In the original 1931 Dracula, Lugosi’s Count is wearing a ring with what appears to be a simple black onyx stone. Because there are no references to the ring, it is assumed to have been a personal possession of Lugosi’s, as was the medallion he wore in that film. Lugosi gave the Abbott and Costello ring with the crest on a carnelian stone to Forry Ackerman. Ackerman later loaned it to Christopher Lee for use in his portrayals of Count Dracula. It’s the single most important Lugosi / Dracula screen-worn piece to ever come to auction.

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935) is reportedly the most important 1930s horror costume to ever come to auction. There’s a classic photo of Lugosi, as the Poe-obsessed Dr. Vollin, wearing the velvet collared robe as he strokes the head of a stuffed raven.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Also available in the auction is the cape made for Bela Lugosi in 1932 and used by him in stage adaptations of Dracula. Lugosi also wore the costume in Plan 9 from Outer Space. Lugosi was buried in one of his three Dracula capes, and his son owns the second. This is the third and final cape worn by Lugosi.

The 1899 first American edition of Dracula signed by Bram Stoker and inscribed by Bela Lugosi to Ackerman (also signed by Christopher Lee, John Carradine and a host of other Dracula-related personalities). The book was originally published in the U.K. in 1897. When Douglas & McClure published the American edition in 1899, they used the original copyright year of 1897. There have been numerous publications of Dracula, but this is the first U.S. edition and should not be confused with the 1927 Grosset & Dunlap edition which was published to coincide with the theatrical opening of Dracula on Broadway.

Autograph asked Maddalena whether the book was of greater interest to autograph or book collectors. “Any real book collector is going to think the Dracula book has been defaced. First American edition signed by Bram Stoker, that in itself is worth $10,000. A book collector is going to get sick when he sees all those other signatures. But an autograph collector is going to be euphoric.”

Fritz Lang’s monocle, which he wore when he directed Metropolis. Ackerman was an ardent fan of the 1927 silent film, and Lang gave his monocle to Forry. Along with Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, Metropolis is considered one of the most important science fiction films ever made.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

A copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author.

Also available are hundreds of signed 11×14 photographs of stars like Marlene Deitrich, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Fritz Lang and John Carradine. “These are the most personal autographs,” Maddalena said. “The ones he didn’t want to sell.”

Over the years, a number of individuals suggested that Ackerman’s collection belonged in a museum—that it should become a museum. The failure to do so has enraged some fans. In a 2003 Los Angeles Times article, Ray Bradbury was quoted, “We live in a stupid world.” He had over the years begged executives at a number of companies to help preserve the collection. “I said, ‘A special room with all of that [Ackerman’s collection] will be more fascinating than all that junk you have.’ They didn’t believe in the future. I believe in the future. Forrest Ackerman believed in the future. No one else cared.”

But within hours after news of the auction hit the Internet, horror and sci-fi sites began buzzing with the idea that from the sale of Forry Ackerman’s collection, thousands of fans will find the core of their own collection; a basis from which to build their own celebration of horror and sci-fi films and writing.

And, as Maddalena explained: “Forry’s will divides the proceeds from the sale among his beneficiaries. It’s a chance to help Forry give something to the people who meant the most to him.

“This is a great time to celebrate this man’s career. If collectors have ever wanted something from this genre, Ackerman is probably the single most important person who influenced collecting.”

Autograph asked Maddalena for tips for auction novices. “Decide how much you want to spend,” he said. “And try to understand what you’ll be getting for that money. For example, Forry had the last Vincent Price index card—Price signed the date on it. That card will be in a lot with other Vincent Price-related things. But it’s not just Price, it’s the connection to Forry Ackerman that you’ll be buying, so you’re really getting a lot for your money.”

The auction is a treasure trove for Vincent Price fans. In addition to the last Vincent Price autograph, there’s a handwritten tribute Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

To download the Ackerman Estate auction catalog, go to www.ProfilesInHistory.com. The auction will be held April 30-May 1 at Profiles in History’s offices in Calabasas Hills, Calif.

Sirens: Loni Anderson

By JEFF BENZIGER

Featured in Autograph March 2009

Anderson in one of her famous bikini pin-ups

The 1970s were not only smoking hot from the disco dance floors, but because blonde bombshell Loni Anderson graced American TV sets and theaters, leading up to her role in the 1980s TV sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. She is Sirens’ first-ever look at a ’70s-’80s babe.

Now 62 and without Burt Reynolds (her third husband from 1988 to 1993), Anderson is a grandmother and a stunning one at that. She claims three failed marriages could have been avoided had she married folk singer Bob Flick earlier in life. Anderson and the founder of the band The Brothers Four dated for seven months when she was a 17-year-old model in Minnesota, but didn’t marry until May 17, 2008. She says she’s never been happier.

While Anderson was largely a TV product, she starred in a number of movies, including Vigilante Force (1976), Stroker Ace (1983), The Lonely Guy (1984), Coins in the Fountain (1990), 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998) and A Night at the Roxbury (1998). She provided a voice in the 1989 animated feature, All Dogs Go to Heaven. Anderson also played blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield in a 1980 made-for-TV movie.

She detailed in her 1994 autobiography, My Life in High Heels, that leading up to her August 5, 1946 birth, Loni’s father wanted to name her Leiloni. He began thinking of how teens might pervert the name as “Lay Loni” and decided to go with a much safer Loni Kaye. It was probably a wise move on the part of Carl K. Anderson, given how gorgeous his daughter was to become.

Born a brunette, as a young girl Anderson cried over the fact that she wasn’t a blonde because it seemed that all the heroines in storybooks were blonde. But when her father read Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to her, it dawned on her that not all heroines had light-colored hair. No wonder Anderson became a huge collector of Snow White and animation art. Today a prized possession in Anderson’s collection is an original Charles Schulz drawing of Snoopy, twirling with glee and holding his chest, signed, “We love you, Loni. Charles Schulz.”

Loni originally wanted to become an animator and studied art at the University of Minnesota but dabbled in stage acting, modeling and winning beauty contests; in 1964 she was runner-up in the Miss Minnesota pageant. Loni left St. Paul, Minn., in 1975 to pursue TV acting as a career. She found that most of her roles were more serious as a brunette but fell into the comedic roles as a blonde.

Signed photograph of Anderson

For years, Anderson was tabloid magazine fodder, especially during her stormy marriage to Reynolds. She once complained that photographers “almost ran me off the road several times. There were so many chances that they took to get the right photo.”

Since WKRP, Anderson loaned her talents to sitcoms Nurses, The Mullets and as Tori Spelling’s materialistic mom in So noTORIous.

Although decades have passed, collectors and Anderson still have a mutual love affair. Loni is warm to collectors and still answers autograph requests by mail. Many autograph collectors have reported success in getting personal autographs signed by Anderson by writing her in care of Sandy Hook Productions, 20652 Lassen #98, Chatsworth, CA 91311.

Before writing, however, you may want to get your hands on one of Anderson’s famous bikini pin-up photos for her to sign. Loni not only starred as receptionist Jennifer Marlowe at the fictitious Cincinnati radio station from 1978 to 1982, but her bikini pin-ups were responsible for thousands of pinholes in the walls of boys’ bedrooms. Her pin-ups rivaled those of Farrah Fawcett.