Glad You Asked Dept. 2/24/14
Today’s question is about two of network television’s hottest, um, babes. If I can say “babes.” (Oh well, my wife Gwen the Beautiful undoubtedly will set me straight after she reads this.)
Where were we? Oh, right. Today’s question is about two of the most popular female stars in TV – in the ’70s, that is. Lynda Carter, AKA Wonder Woman, and Loni Anderson, AKA Jennifer Marlowe.
What’s that? Who was Jennifer Marlowe? Why just the hot secretary in the classic sitcom WKRP IN CINCINATTI, that’s who. And of course you know who Wonder Woman was because Wonder Woman, right?
Now that that’s settled, here’s the question, from Lew R:
How were Lynda Carter and Lonnie Anderson to work with when you did “Partners in Crime?.” These two very beautiful women, were they divas or professionals? Personally, I thought Carter was sexier.
Thanks in advance.
Hey, dood’s got self-editing down, that’s for sure. Gotta admire a man who gets right to the sexy point. So here’s my answer, which is just a bit more meandering:
Dear Lew R,
PARTNERS IN CRIME was a short-lived show that lasted half a season back in 1984. I was brought in as part of a whole new staff that replaced the legendary creator of that show, Leonard Stern, and the writers he had amassed. It wasn’t an easy gig for many reasons, not least of which was that Stern, who also produced GET SMART and McMILLAN & WIFE, was one of my writing and producing idols.
For reasons of the kind known only to network execs, the NBC brass hated the light-hearted tone of the show they had ordered based on the excellent pilot I’d seen. All I did know was that the new staff that I was part of was charged with making the show “more realistic and believable.”
Believable, really? How the hell do you make a show about the adventures of the two ex-wives of a dead private detective – one a concert cello player (Loni) and the other a “starving ex-socialite” (Lynda) – realistic and believable.
As writers and producers we did our best to slip as much of Stern’s visiion past the execs as we could. But getting the network’s ideas past Lynda and Loni proved just as difficult. They were big, highly paid stars who’d signed onto the show because they loved the laughs. That didn’t want it to be more serious, they wanted it to be funnier.
All things considered, the ladies were relatively easy to work with. Lynda had an air of graciousness about her and treated people with respect, even those of us caged up in the L.A. office. (The show was shot entirely on location in San Francisco.) Loni was more of a complainer. She was married to the biggest star in Hollywood at the time, Burt Reynolds, and was happy to let us know Burt’s opinion of each script – which was always that it wasn’t very good.
The relationship between the two stars was more complex. Loni was always trying to prove that she was the bigger star and kept demanding more perks, but anything she got Lynda’s agent made sure she got too. So the stakes kept rising.
I spent most of my short time on the show sitting at my keyboard and groaning about how impossible it was to please any of our masters, and was a very happy camper when my agent called and said he was ready to get me out of this gig because he’d gotten me another one.
The new job was running CBS’s new MIKE HAMMER series starring Stacy Keach, who has been a friend ever since. No complaining with Stacy. No rivalries either. He was calm and secure – because he had his very own personal writer-producer ensconced in his trailer, revising anything in the day’s pages that didn’t pass muster. (That writer-producer, the great Ed Scharlach, is still my buddy…and still working his butt off in TV.)
Yep, boys and girls, all was well on the set of MIKE HAMMER – but one little off-set situation did kinda derail things. During a hiatus, Stacy was arrested coming into England from France and ended up serving six months in Reading Gaol for supposed drug trafficking. Which ended up making the hiatus about a year and a half longer.
And you thought being a showrunner was a honeymoon, right?
More, much more, from the deep, dark recesses of my memory about Lynda, Loni, and a few other ladies more discerning (ulp, in this context that means “older”) will appear in Herbie J Pilato’s upcoming book, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR: TELEVISION’S ICONIC WOMEN FROM THE 50s, 60s and 70s, coming out soon.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions, remember: I love addressing these issues, but I can’t answer if you don’t ask. So send your questions and make everyone’s day!