Happy Birthday Jan Smithers!
You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life. -Jiddu Krishnamurti
Venus Flytrap: [Bailey is worried because Johnny hasn't shown up] Easy!
Bailey Quarters: I am easy!
Venus Flytrap: [caught off guard] Really?
"WKRP in Cincinnati: For Love or Money: Part 2 (1979)
1. The lovely (and talented) Ms Jan Smithers
2. Early Photo from January 1974
3. Amy and Leela
4. Bailey and Jennifer
5. Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson)
6. Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers)
7. Jennifer and Bailey
8. The Picture That Started it All
9. Another Angle
10. 3 Dimensional Picture of 832 Karin
11. Ice Cream!
12. Taft High
13. California Institute of the Arts
17. Poster for “Where Lilies Bloom” 1974
18. Jan in “Where Lilies Bloom”
19. “WKRP in Cincinnati”
20. Jan with Gary and Howard
21. Gordon and Frank, after the holocaust
22. Dropping Turkeys
23. Coming out
25. Lovely Erin
26. Looking sultry on “Hotel”
27. James and Jan
Are you a Mary Ann or Ginger person (ladies, you can answer too, it’s okay)? Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren? Laverne or Shirley? Lucy or Ethel? Wilma Flintstone or Betty Rubble? Lois Griffin or Francine Smith? Charley’s Angels or the Bradley daughters from “Petticoat Junction”? Jeannie or Samantha? Agent 99 or The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.? Pink or Alanis Morissette? Hilary Clinton or Sarah Palin? Godzilla or Mothra? Meryl Streep or Anne Hathaway? Spaghetti or a bucket of nails? Monopoly or Twister? Hurricanes or Cyclones? Marshmallows or Jalapeno Poppers? Cat or Dog? Tree or Bush? Bush or Gore? Cheese or Yogurt? Duck Dynasty or Swamp People? Ketchup or Mustard (and don’t get me started on Mayonnaise)? Hamburger or Lemony Kale Salad with Avocado Coconut Dressing? Snakes or Caterpillars? Scorpions or Centipedes? Jack or Jill? The Supreme Court of the United States or Fair Elections? Haley Mills or Patty Duke? Batman or Robin? Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan? Christopher Walken or Bojangles? Kevin Spacey or Joe Biden? Ellen Degeneres or Wendy Williams? Judge Judy or Judge Marilyn Milian? Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert? Turanga Leela or Amy Wong? Katie Couric or John Oliver? Neil Degrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan? Mcdonalds or Taco Bell? Dracula or Frankenstein? Bread or Butter? Dakota or Elle?
I could literally go on for about 22 minutes more.
The first paragraph above begs the question, are you a Jennifer Marlowe or a Bailey Quarters type of person (this will be confirmed later)?
If you’re a fan of the 1978 sit-com “WKRP in Cincinnati,” you will know the characters I’m talking about, played expertly by the lovely and talented actresses, Loni Anderson and Jan Smithers.
Now I have absolutely nothing against Loni, as she is both lovely and talented, all at the same time.
However, I must admit that I’ve always had a secret crush on Bailey (please don’t tell anybody... it’s a secret), so I guess I’m a Bailey Quarters kind of guy (as well as a Mary Ann, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley, Lucy, Betty Rubble, Lois Griffin, Bradley daughters, Jeannie and Samantha, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (Stefanie Powers), Pink, Hilary Clinton, Godzilla, Anne Hathaway, spaghetti, Monopoly, cyclone, jalapeno popper, cat and dog, tree, Gore, cheese, neither, mayonnaise, hamburger, caterpillar, scorpion, Jill, fair elections, Haley Mills, Batman, Christopher Nolan (although I wish you’d tighten up those films a bit Chris), Christopher Walken, Kevin Spacey and Joe Biden, Ellen Degeneres, Marilyn Milian (she’s one hot judge, man), Stephen Colbert, Leela and Amy (at the same time), Katie Couric (who doesn’t love Katie, as a matter of fact she may have saved my life by telling me to get a colonoscopy back in 2000), Carl Sagan (sorry Neil), Taco Bell, Dracula, bread, and sisters person).
Be that as it may, I would like to take this opportunity to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my favorite actresses, and a lady I’ve had a secret crush on for about 36 years, Ms Jan Smithers.
Jan (I like to call her Jan) was born in nearby Woodland Hills (34° 10′ 5.99″ N, 118° 36′ 18″ W
34.16833, -118.605), where I used to go to college and castrate pigs. I say nearby because I could walk there from where I’m now living in downtown Los Angeles in about 3 days if I so desired.
But I could get there a lot faster if I took a bus.
Like many of us, Jan was born at a very early age as a small, blue eyed, female infant, and was given the name of Karin, being named after 832 Karin, a S-Type asteroid, approximately 11.8061 miles in diameter, the largest member of the Karin Cluster, which orbits the Sun every 4.845 years, and which itself is named after Queen Karin Månsdotter of Sweden (1568), before she was thrown in jail with her husband the king. Jan is actually Jan’s middle name, which she uses as her first. Isn’t that interesting.
Her last name really is Smithers though.
Way before Jan arrived, the Fernandeño-Tataviam and Chumash-Venturaño tribes inhabited the area of Woodland Hills, and had lived there for about 8,000 years. They moved out when the Spanish came in 1769, because they were allergic to refried beans and tortillas. The Spanish established that big mission, The Mission San Fernando Rey de España, in what is now known as San Fernando, and they controlled the whole valley, which is now called the San Fernando Valley, of which Woodland Hills is a small part in the southwest corner.
In the 1800‘s Americans came and chased the Spanish out, and developed the whole valley, getting it ready for the Smithers family.
The actor who played Lurch, Ted Cassidy, in the 1960‘s television version of “The Addams Family,” lived in Woodland Hills. Buster Keaton, the famous comedian, vaudevillian, and film star died there in 1966. So did the actors Jack Klugman, Donald O’Conner, John Larch, Dolores Moran, and Mary Carver. A lot of other people have lived in Woodland Hills over the years.
The Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, a fully licensed, acute-care hospital which provides services for members of the motion picture and television industry, is also located in Woodland Hills. It’s very nice there I’m told.
Jan’s mom was named Virginia and her father Brett. Mr. Smithers was an attorney, a rather enlightened attorney, and passed down to his family his love of art, music, and sports activities, like sailing, scuba diving, either gliding over water at high speeds utilizing special shoes, or sliding down the frictionless sides of mountains, flying, with or without mechanized vehicles, and back packing, which I do every time I go to the supermarket. Brett was concerned about the environment, and liked to take the family hiking in the Ojai Valley, which is the next valley over to the west.
He also enjoyed the teaching of the speaker and writer on philosophical subjects, Jiddu Krishnamurti (who claimed no nationality), and brought his children to hear him speak, in Ojai, where Krishnamurti lived until his death in 1986, and where Jan lives now.
Brett and Virginia had four daughters, which meant that Jan had three sisters, Kristen, Mary and Holly.
Jan began her adventure in show business when she was 16 and photographed (number 8 above) for the cover of the March 21st, 1966 edition of Newsweek magazine, by Julian Wasser. She was also interviewed in the magazine for a piece concerning teenagers. Jan, being an expert on the subject, was a natural choice. Jan, being very pretty (for a girl) was also a natural choice for the cover.
She was attending Taft High School at the time, studying art it is said. But I remember my own high school days, not so far apart from Jan’s, all kinds of subjects were taught, and the students really didn’t have majors. Perhaps Taft was different than Monroe High where I studied, or perhaps Jan was a rebel, and studied art to the exclusion of everything else, much to the dismay of her teachers. Perhaps Jan will read this and leave a comment, and straighten this important matter out.
Taft High is now a charter school.
Jan and I are kindred spirits, a nd have many things in common. Besides living and growing up so close together, we are both strikingly good looking, and both suffered accidents while we were teens. While in high school she was driving around and swerved to avoid a driver who ran a stop sign, and struck a telephone pole, banging her head on the steering wheel, creating permanent scar on her chin... which, quite frankly, I’ve never noticed.
I was a tad younger when my accident occured as my dad was still alive, but I swerved my ten speed bicycle into a chain link fence, trying to avoid a collision with another rider, and suffered a permanent scar on my forehead. It’s still there today! That’s what permanent means!
Fortunately for most of my life my hair covered said scare up, but as I get older I also get balder, and it’s getting harder and harder to do so.
Yet we both survived.
We’ve discussed the matter of feminine appearance in the recent post “Women and Men (Or, What the Hell’s the Matter with Men?) Part 2: The Difference,” and according to Jan, the scar made her feel insecure about her looks, and that she lost several roles in the future because of it.
I too, have never been on television, probably due to the scar on my forehead, and the fact that I never attempted to enter the acting profession.
However, the Newsweek coverage did get her some commercial and modeling work, so some people didn’t give a rat’s patucci about her scar, just like me!
After graduating from Taft, she continued her studies at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia (which was created by Walt Disney), taking acting classes, and studying singing and painting. She is an alumnus of the Institute’s School Of Theater. She worked for an architect to supplement her income.
I worked for a veterinarian.
I also sing, but never took lessons.
I also had dinner at the California Institute of the Arts once, with my first wife, Michelle. The dinner was actually a performance art project that went bad.
But I digress.
When Jan was 20 she got married, but it didn’t work out, just like with me and Michelle. About a year later she married the actor Kipp Whitman, who played Chip Beamer on the soap “The Edge of Night.” That marriage didn’t last too long either and they divorced about a year later.
“The Edge of Night,” was produced by the American multinational consumer goods company, Procter & Gamble, airing from December 1st, 1975, until December 28th, 1984. Kipp wasn’t on the show that long though.
Procter and Gamble is the company that our new nominee to become Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Robert McDonald, ran from 2009 to 2013.
But I digress.
You know what’s at the edge of night? Dawn or dusk. How did they make a show that aired 5 days a week, for 9 years when the premise was so easy to figure out?
I can’t stand soaps.
Anyway, Jan continued a career in the acting field, and in 1973 got her first gig outside of commercials on the anthology television show, “Love Story.” I’m not sure what the show was about, but that’s what it was called. The show aired from 1973 all the way to 1974, for 12 episodes. Jan’s show was called “Beginner's Luck,” and she worked with the veteran actress, and mother of Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, and speaking of Patty Duke, the guy who played her dad on “The Patty Duke Show,” William Schallert was in it, and a 22 year old Kurt Russell (who was also created by Walt Disney in his magic laboratory).
The next year she worked in two movies (please keep in mind these films were more than likely made the year before they were released), “When the North Wind Blows,” about the lack of tigers to hunt in Siberia due to global warming and accidentally shooting a child, two topics that are still relevant today, and “Where the Lilies Bloom,” which besides Jan, also starred Jack Nicholson’s old buddy, Harry Dean Stanton, and is sort of the prequel to “Winter’s Bone.” I think Harry and Jan get married, the lecherous old coot.
It is exceptionally rare to discover an actress who’s first two film title’s start with the letter “W.” As a matter of fact I don’t think it’s eve been done before.
In 1976 she appeared on the original “Starsky and Hutch,” T.V. program, in an episode entitled “Running,” which also featured Natalie’s lovely sister, Lana Wood.
In 1978 she appeared in another film, “Our Winning Season,” concerning three teenagers through their senior year of high school in the 1960s, that also starred Randy’s brother, Dennis Quaid.
And that year the director, writer, actor, and producer, Hugh Wilson, cast Jan in the role for which she is most likely best known, and from which I became aware of her, that of Bailey Quarters in “WKRP in Cincinnati,” which premiered Sept. 18th, 1978 on CBS, and ran for four seasons, until April 21st, 1982, for a total of 90 episodes.
The show was about a top 40 (songs) radio station that operated in one of our major American cities (and you’re going to have to figure out for yourselves which one), and was based on Wilson’s experiences working in the advertising department of a similar station in Atlanta, which is another major American city.
Jan says she was naturally shy (another trait we share), and Hugh says he was looking for an actress who possessed that quality. "All the other actresses played shy," he said. "Jan was shy."
Here’s what Wikipedia says about Bailey: “The young ingénue of the radio station, is originally in charge of billing and station traffic. However, having graduated from journalism school with some training in editing, and intent on becoming a broadcast executive, she is later given additional duties as an on-air news reporter, in which capacity she proves much more capable than Les Nessman [the station’s news reporter]. As the series progressed, she overcame her shyness by developing self-confidence [good strategy! Why didn’t I think of that]. Beginning with the second season, she occasionally becomes linked romantically with Johnny Fever [Hessman]. The dynamic between Jennifer and Bailey has been likened to that between Ginger and Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island [see]. Jan Smithers was one of the few WKRP cast members who was the first choice for the role she played (Gordon Jump being the other one). Creator Hugh Wilson said that despite Smithers' lack of experience (she had never done a situation comedy before), she was perfect for the character of Bailey as he had conceived her: "Other actresses read better for the part", Wilson recalled, "but...” see his comment above.
In a 1980 interview she remarked, "I took matters in my own hands and decided that Bailey, while very insecure [and] not together and not naturally outgoing, did have a lot of ambition and the capacity to grow. I think lots of people can relate to that and root for Bailey. That's the kind of mail I get -- people say, 'I'm trying to gain more freedom, too.'"
WKRP aired during the years I was involved with the navy, so I really got acquainted with the show when it entered syndication and through reruns, but that was okay, they weren’t reruns to me. I enjoyed it very much, the show was well produced, had a great cast including two beauties who happened to be very funny too... Howard Hesseman and Richard Sanders. Loni Anderson and Jan were very nice as well.
The show also starred Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Tim Reid, and Frank Bonner.
And here’s that rat bastard Dick Van Patten, from the whoosey show “Eight is Enough,” sexistly dunking Jan in a 1979 Battle of the Network Stars segment.
I never did like that guy.
And here’s one of the funniest clips you’ll find from television ever, one I send to my lovely ex-case manager, Erin, every Thanksgiving.
At the present time my computer is not allowing me to hear these youtube clips, but I sincerely hope they were appropriate and on topic... unlike me.
I’m getting a new computer next week. I hope that solves the problem.
After the shows run Jan continued in television, appearing on shows like “The Fall Guy,” “Legmen,” “The Love Boat,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Hotel,” where she hooked up with Marcus Welby’s sidekick, and father of Josh, James Brolin.
The couple held an unofficial marriage ceremony June 29, 1986 (a practice run I guess), in Nova Scotia, followed by an official wedding later in the year.
Their daughter, Molly Elizabeth, was born on November 28th, 1987, at 4:31 in the morning, which was rather inconsiderate of her, but she was a little baby, being born at a very early age, and didn’t know any better.
Jan retired from acting after the birth, which was unfortunate for the rest of us, but we must not be selfish.
In March of 1995 she filed for divorce from James, who went on to marry Barbara Streisand.
I would have stayed with Jan.
By the way, Streisand’s first husband, the actor Elliot Gould, starred with Brolin in 1977‘s conspiracy sci-fi thriller “Capricorn One,” after Gould had broken up with Barb, and before Brolin married her in 1998, which is just another example of... well I don’t know what it’s an example of.
Well, that’s about it... except for this.
Jan has been involved in political causes in the past, and a Democrat, just like me. she participated in public protests against nuclear arms, and in 1988 she campaigned for the Democratic congressional hopeful, Jerry Yudelson of California, who as far as I can ascertain is recognized as one of the leading green building experts in the United States.
Jan is also concerned with animal rights and sustainable clean energy, and since 1991 has reportedly been studying to become a homeopathic (an alternative medicine) practitioner.
Once residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia (famous for Ellen Page and Sarah McLachlan), she moved to Ojai, California in 2005, and where I could walk to in about a week or so if I so desired.
She was born in the Chinese year of the Ox, and her Chinese birth sign is Ox - Yin, which claims her personal characteristics include integrity, Strength of purpose, stability, innovation, diligence, and eloquence.
I won’t go into her vices because women don’t have them.
Here’s another similarity between myself and Jan. The love of my life was a girl named Jan... and Jan Smithers’ name is Jan... coincidence or not? I’ll leave that up to you, dear readers.
The name Jan Smithers in Elvish is Alatáriël Lossëhelin. The name Karin Jan Smithers is Inwë Lossëhelin. And mine is Daeron Tulcakelumë, which is kind of similar to Jan’s... if you close your eyes.
And one more thing.
All of us here at Joyce’s Take wish you, Jan Smithers, continued good health and fortune for you and your family, and whatever pets you may have, and a very... very happy birthday.
Happy Birthday Jan!