Jan Smithers

Jan Smithers
Jan Smithers played the shy, earnest and quietly sexy radio-station assistant (and on-air news reporter) [http://en. wikipedia.


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Jan Smithers played the shy, earnest and quietly sexy radio-station assistant (and on-air news reporter) Bailey Quarters on the popular TV series WKRP in Cincinnati, which premiered Sept. 18, 1978 on CBS, and ran for four seasons. The show's creator/producer, Hugh Wilson, has said that when he was casting the pilot for WKRP, his casting of Jan was a no-brainer. "All the other actresses played shy," he said. "Jan was shy."

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.'"

Much of that shyness that won her the role may have been due to insecurities. It's hard to believe, but according to Jan, she was insecure about her looks, due to a permanent scar on her chin that was the result of a car accident when she was a teen. While studying art at Taft High School, she was driving when, to avoid another car that had run a stop sign, she'd swerved, and hit a telephone pole. The impact forced her face into the steering wheel. Ironically, the scar cost her some roles later in life, she's said.


Smithers was raised with her sisters Kristen, Mary and Holly in the comfortable San Fernando Valley suburb of Woodland Hills, just north of Los Angeles, by her mother Virginia and father Brett Smithers, who was an attorney. Mr. Smithers shared with his family his love for art, music, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, flying, and backpacking deep into the California mountains. An environmentalist and activist, he loved the Ojai Valley, and brought Jan and the rest of the family up for Thanksgivings, and to listen to Krishnamurti speak.

She first reached the public eye at 16, when she was interviewed for a March 21, 1966 Newsweek article on teens, and was also featured on the cover. She's shown riding on the back of a friend's motorcycle, wearing a pair of white tight-fitting Wrangler jeans and coyly looking back over her shoulder, in a shot taken by Julian Wasser (another shot from that photo session can be seen here, on Wasser's website). The Newsweek exposure led to work in TV commercials. Meanwhile, after graduation from Taft, she continued to pursue her studies at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, taking acting classes as well as studying painting and singing. To keep money coming in, she worked for an architect. She is an alumnus of the institute's School Of Theater.

Early Career

Jan was married briefly at the age of 20, but it didn't work out, she mentioned in an interview in 1985, without naming the husband. Not long after, in 1971, she married Kipp Whitman, divorcing just a year later. In 1973 she appeared opposite Kurt Russell in her first TV role outside of commercials, an episode of the series Love Story. After several years as a working TV and film actress, including 1974's Where The Lilies Bloom with Harry Dean Stanton, she landed the Bailey Quarters role on WKRP, at age 28. She appeared in 86 of the show's 90 episodes, until the final show aired September 20, 1982.

Marriage and Motherhood

She met actor James Brolin on the set of the TV show Hotel, when they worked opposite one another in the episode "Encores" which aired in March, 1984. He had invited his future wife to guest-star on the show, as the writers suggested that they develop a storyline for them, since Brolin was going through a difficult divorce at the time. They held an unofficial marriage ceremony June 29, 1986, in Nova Scotia, followed by an official wedding later in the year. On November 28, 1987, at 4:31 AM, Smithers gave birth to a daughter, Molly Elizabeth. After her daughter was born, she retired from acting. In March, 1995, she filed for divorce from Brolin, a few weeks after the death of his first wife, Jane, in a car accident. In 2001 she appeared on Entertainment Tonight, specifically to quash the rumor that Barbra Streisand, whom Brolin had met in 1996 and later married in 1998, had stolen Brolin away from her. She explained that she and Brolin had parted amicably (sharing custody of their daughter), long before Brolin met Streisand.

Personal Life

Smithers has in the past been active in political causes. A Democrat, she participated in public protests against nuclear arms, and in 1988 she campaigned for Democratic congressional hopeful Jerry Yudelson of California. Animal rights and clean energy are also causes that are important to her. In 1991, she was reportedly studying to become a homeopathic doctor.

Although she had moved from Los Angeles to Halifax, Nova Scotia, she returned in 2005 to Ojai, California, and was reported to be considering a return to acting. In May, 2006, she participated in a fundraiser in Ojai for the rural poor of southern India.

Jan's daughter Molly graduated from high school in Ojai in 2006. Since then she's been attending college in Boston, where she's majoring in Piano with a minor in Music Business, while working booking student musicians at her school's cafe as well as part-time as a salesperson at an alternative/vintage department store. She's a self-described passionate vegetarian and advocate of organic foods. She's just as cute as her mom, and, beyond the occasional cigarette and pink hair, there's a strong resemblance.

In September, 2007, she was involved in another traffic accident, this one under unfortunate and bizarre circumstances, at least if the reports by WENN and the National Enquirer are to be believed [I haven't found confirmation from any other source, so take the following with a large grain of salt]. According to the story, she was driving, nude, on a remote California highway in the middle of the night when she thought her car had broken down. She left her vehicle and was trying to wave down a passing truck, but the driver didn't see her until it was too late -- she was struck and injured, reportedly suffering broken bones. Police arriving on the scene found nothing wrong with her car and were puzzled as to why she stopped for help. At the time, she couldn't remember anything about the accident or why she was driving naked. An empathetic family friend reportedly told the National Enquirer that she feared Jan had suffered a breakdown following the death of her father, who had passed away the prior September, at age 85. On October 11, 2008, someone posting under her name in the 'Talkback' section of one of the online news items about the accident wrote:

"To bloggers, writers and friends...

I recently became aware of misleading articles written about me, and I wanted to correct false statements and address the details about a car accident that occurred in September 2007. The articles and blogs report that I was “driving naked” and that the police drove my car to my house, entered my house, and found that I owned no clothing.

Here are the facts: I was neither driving nor was I naked when the accident occurred. I was fully clothed and was walking away from my car when I was accidentally hit by a small pickup truck. My car was then taken to a police destination, and I paid to have it released. You may be relieved to learn that I have plenty of clothes in my closet.

Miraculously – by the grace of God, wonderful surgeons and nurses, my friends and family, and all your prayers – I have recovered. I want to thank you for your concern. I am well, and my family is well.

Kindest regards, Jan Smithers"

It's impossible to know for sure if that was really her, but I'd like to think so. If not, I hope she's made a full recovery, and look forward to seeing her on a screen, big or small, somewhere soon.

Jan Smithers on the Web

1966 My Favorite Year: Jan Smithers on Newsweek This special March of '66 issue of NEWSWEEK highlighted a major study of teenagers, that strange race then poised to take over the world. The cover of the issue featured 17 year old Jan Smithers, a typical high school ...

Reaganite Republican: TV Girls I Had a Crush On When I Was 15 ... Jan Smithers. Jan grew up out in Woodland Hills, California, and interestingly her showbiz break came when she herself was just 16, modelling for a 1966 Newsweek cover/feature story... A brief video tribute to Her ...

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