Loni Anderson used to cry
herself to sleep as a child.....because she wasn't blonde. Imagine
it, the blonde bombshell from WKRP in Cincinnati, the only actress
who could do justice to the role of Jayne Mansfield (which she did)
in a made-for-TV movie, cried as a kid because she wasn't blonde.
Chemistry would lend her a hand in time, of course, but back then it
was a huge issue.
"My father used to read me
fairy tales at night, and it seemed that all the heroines had blonde
hair," Loni said from her home in Los Angeles. "It was really
upsetting to me. Then one night he read me Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs and I was so excited. Finally, a girl with black hair, just
like mine!" In Snow White, Loni had found a kindred spirit, and a
collection soon was born.
Today, Loni's massive
collection of Snow White miniatures and other Disney memorabilia,
animation art, dolls, music boxes, plates and dachshund figures
(which she inherited from her mother) occupy a sizeable room in her
house. She lives there with her boyfriend, Geoff, and son Quinton,
12, the child she adopted with then-husband Burt Reynolds before
their highly publicized split in 1993.
The Snow White items take
up a fair amount of space in that room. She's got Snow White dishes,
Snow White cookie jars and sun globes, "a petrified box of Snow
White chocolates," a discontinued porcelain scene depicting Snow
White at the table with the dwarfs, a Dopey scotch tape dispenser, a
Doc clock and a Grumpy card holder. And that's not counting an army
Some of the Snow White
items are from 1937, the year of the film's release. From that group
there's a coaster, a book, sheet music, figurines and a bag full of
Snow White flour. Such was her fascination with Snow White and
animation in general that her early ambition, which followed her to
college, was to be a Disney animator. She attended the University of
Minnesota and majored in art.
Loni dedicated what could be a game or family
room for most people into a place where she can view and
appreciate her collections.
Loni found a kindred spirit when her father first read
her Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. "Finally, a character
with black hair, just like
But she was interested in
acting, too, and minored in drama. The head of the theatre
department -- Frank "Doc" Whiting -- had a profound influence in her
decision to pursue acting as a profession. But it didn't come
easily. She was a single mother and, to support herself and her
daughter, she taught art at the high school level and at an all
girl's finishing school. Acting was done part-time.
For now, though, let's go
back to that big room. It also contains a huge collection of music
boxes, some of which date back to 1883. And dolls -- oh, does Loni
have dolls! There are lots of Madame Alexanders from the '60s and
'70s, as well as Barbies from the same era. She also has an original
cloth Cabbage Patch Kid, "signed by Xavier, before they were mass
produced," Loni said.
In light of her life-long
interest in art and animation, it isn't surprising that Loni also
collects animation art. One of her prized possessions is a signed
Charles Schultz drawing. It shows Snoopy, twirling with glee and
holding his chest. It's signed, "We love you, Loni. Charles
Schultz." Also in her collection are a Bart Simpson (Matt Groening)
and a cell from the film All Dogs Go to Heaven.
In addition (yes, there's
more), Loni has lots of Disney-related porcelain (much of it given
to her by Burt Reynolds, who she said encouraged and fed her
collections). Burt gave her Bambi and Sleeping Beauty porcelains,
among others. Loni said her collections have become known throughout
the industry, and she's received numerous gifts from former co-stars
and industry big-wigs.
"Howard Hessman, a WKRP
co-star, gave me a Jayne Mansfield bubble bath bottle, about 18"
tall, with Jayne in a bikini," Loni said, chuckling. The story she
loves to tell, though, goes right back to Snow White, and it
involves Marty Ingles, the former comedic actor ("I'm Dickens, He's
Fenster") and present-day talent agent who is married to
Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones.
"Marty had used my picture
without asking for permission, and it really made me angry," she
remembers. "We got the whole thing straightened out, and he felt
terribly. Well, to make up for it, he actually had a tape personally
made for me by the lady whose voice was used in the original Snow
White movie. She spoke to me in the same little girl voice she used
as Snow White."
Loni Anderson's acting
career took off when she moved from her hometown of St. Paul, Minn.
to Los Angeles in 1975. "As much as I loved being on stage, I
decided to move to L.A. to find work in television and film so I
could work days and be there for my daughter," Loni said (by this
time she was remarried). And find work she did -- within weeks. No
waitressing for this actress!
For several years she
guest-starred on many of the TV shows of the day. She did an episode
of The Love Boat and worked with the late comedian and musician
Steve Allen. He gave her a bit of advice she would never forget. "He
said I was playing the role of the dumb blonde too well, and if I
continued to do it I would never do anything else in show
She took that kernel of wisdom to the casting call for
WKRP in Cincinnati, where she told the executives at MTM Productions
she wouldn't be interested in playing a dumb blonde, even though the
role called for just that. To her shock, they asked her to read the
part the way she would play it. She did, but left the audition in
tears, thinking she had flubbed it. The next day, she got the
WKRP had a four-year run
(1978-82) and put Loni Anderson on the map as a TV star and a sex
symbol. Her poster (Loni in a bikini) was as hot as Farrah's or
Raquel's, and helped ensure her marketability for years to come. The
next chapter of her life would see her appearing in films (Stroker
Ace with Burt Reynolds, The Lonely Guy and a voice-over role in All
Dogs Go To Heaven).
She guest-starred in a
number of TV shows and, in 1994, wrote a best-selling autobiography
called My Life in High Heels. Of the experience, she said at the
time, "Everyone should write a book. It was wonderful therapy for
me. I can't think of a better gift to leave for my family forever
after. I feel that now I can move on. There isn't one word I regret,
nor one question I left unanswered."
Today, Loni is a full-time
mom to Quinton. And, she's a (gulp) grandmother. Her daughter,
Dierdre (a superintendent of schools in a Northern California town)
has two daughters, McKenzie, 8, and Megan, 5. Still, Loni finds time
to take occasional acting roles, including those offbeat ads for
Lipton Sizzle & Stir, where she and Mr. T play parents to George
Hamilton and Mary Lou Retton.
Loni is also active in the
fight against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. "Both of my
parents were heavy smokers, and they both died in their '50s," she
said. "My dad, who read me those bedtime stories and got me started
on Snow White, never got to see me on WKRP, never even saw me as a
blonde." Loni speaks at high school assemblies, to doctors and to
Fans of Loni Anderson may
write to the actress c/o Sandy Hook Productions, 20652 Lassen, # 98,
Chatsworth, CA 91311.
from Loni's Collection.
the way, Loni acquired this impressive set of dancing dolls from the
hit play and movie The King and I.
Anderson's split from ex-husband Burt Reynolds was highly
publicized, especially in the tabloids. But Burt encouranged her
collections, buying her many pieces of animation