Your Favorite Actors From WKRP In Cincinnati: Then & Now


Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, everyone was tuning into WKRP in Cincinnati. The show was a force that called upon lovers of music, comedy and good acting. It also introduced us to the iconic Loni Anderson. This show would take the budding actress and turn her into one of the biggest symbols of the 1970’s and 1980’s. That said, many of these actors vanished into a world of obscurity once the show went off the air. Today we’re going to bring to light the current state of some of your favorite WKRP In Cincinnati characters.

Gary Sandy (Andy Travis) Then

Gary Sandy will forever be the remembered for portraying Andy Travis, the radio show director and the voice of reason amidst an eccentric staff on WKRP in Cincinnati. Before portraying Andy, he had a few stage productions to his name, as well as appearances on shows like Starsky and Hutch. His career took an upturn when he scored his role on WKRP In Cincinnati. He acted on the show for all four seasons and eventually went onto have a quick relationship with Loni Anderson, his co-star.

Gary Sandy Now

WKRP In Cincinnati would turn out to be the height of Gary’s career. He would act on one episode of Murder, She Wrote in the late 1980’s and then make a small handful of TV appearances throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s. He has kept largely out of the lights of Hollywood and sticks mostly to play productions these days. It should be noted that most of his success has come from off-Broadway plays.

Jan Smithers (Bailey Quarters) Then

Jan Smithers had many guests and minor roles throughout the 1970’s. She was on Starsky and Hutch, Love Story, Trick or Treat and Our Winning Season. That said, Jan Smithers will always be remembered by the masses for portraying the shy Bailey Quarters on WKRP in Cincinnati. one of the most memorable parts of the show is the friction between Baily and Jennifer


Jan Smither Now

Jan Smithers continued acting in the 1980’s after WKRP in Cincinnati. For the most part, she reverted back to acting in guests roles. She was in an episode of Murder, She Wrote and Hotel. Her last acting role came with 1987’s Mr. Nice Guy. After that, she married James Brolin and became a stepmother to his two children. She then put her career on the side and dedicated herself to her family.


Edie McClurg (Lucille Tarlek) Then

Edie McClurg played Lucille Tarlek, the nasal-voiced wife of Herb. She is perhaps the only character on the show that saw his charms. She made her acting debut in Carrie a couple years before landing her role in WKRP In Cincinnati. She wasn’t part of the main cast on the show but was during a lot while it was airing. In 1980 she’d appear on The David Letterman Show regularly.


Edi McClurg Now

In the 1980’s she had appearances in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. After this, she took a turn on her career path towards voice acting. She still does appear on screen but her most famous roles are definitely in animated series. She was featured on films like Cars, Cars 2, The Little Mermaid and A Bug’s Life.


Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap) Then

While Tim Reid did have multiple guest appearances in shows like What’s Happening!!, It wasn’t until he garnered the role of the smooth-talking, soulful DJ Venus Flytrap. Throughout the show’s runtime, Venus Flytrap managed to create an aura of mystery, although it is eventually revealed that his real name is Gordon Simms and he is a Vietnam vet who is wanted to deserting the army.

Tim Reid Now

Tim Reid would go on to have a hugely successful television career. He’d have long-standing roles in shows like Simon & Simon and Frank’s Place. Any Tim Reid fan can’t deny that his most famous role was that of Ray Parker in the 1990’s hit sitcom Sister, Sister. He held the role from 1994 until 1999. Most recently he portrayed Bishop Lionel Jeffries in Greenleaf.

Howard Hesseman (Dr. Johnny Fever) Then

Howard Hesseman was already an established actor when he scored the role of Dr. Johnny Fever. His career started in the late 1960’s on The Andy Griffith Show. What helped him garner the role of Dr. Johnny Fever was his real-life experience as a DJ in San Francisco. Thanks to that we got the coffee drinking, cynical DJ that we loved. He’d reprise his famous role on a few episodes of The New WKRP In Cincinnati. 

Howard Hesseman Now

After WKRP In Cincinnati, Hesseman garnered the role of Charlie Moore on ABC’s Head of the Class. In the years that have gone by, Hesseman has managed to have a thriving career filled with guest roles and minor appearances. He most recently appeared in the movie Wild Oats. He also promotes WKRP In Cincinnati on retro television networks across the nation.

Allyn Ann McLerie (Carmen Carlson) Then

Before ever appearing WKRP in Cincinnati as Carmen Carlson, Allyn McLerie had an extensive career in films. Her first film appearance was in 1948’s Words and Music. Her most famous roles came in Westerns and amongst them, the most notable was in The Magnificent Seven Ride. The role of Carmen Carlson was only recurring and Allyn was already a senior actress when she took it up.


Allyn Ann McLerie

She is largely retired today. After WKRP In Cincinnati went off the air, Allyn scored the role of Florence Bickford in The Day and Nights of Molly Dodd. Her last appearances were on Punky Brewster and Brooklyn Bridge. She hasn’t acted in anything since 1993 and over twenty years had stayed out of any spotlights.

Gordon Jump (Arthur Carlson) Then

Before hitting it big with WKRP In Cincinnati, Gordon Jump was working on the radio. He hosted Gordon Jump’s Fun Time on WLWD. After hosting a radio show, Gordon decided to move to Los Angeles and take up acting. After a decade of guest starring on shows like The Incredible Hulk, Starsky And Hutch and The Bionic Woman, Gordon garnered the role of Arthur Carlson of WKRP In Cincinnati. He portrayed the station’s general manager, although he’d manage nothing and would often depend on Travis to see things through.

Gordon Jump Now

Gordon Jump’s career slowed down massively after his four seasons on WKRP In Cincinnati. That said, in the 1990’s his career seemed to get a second win. Ten years after it ended CBS released The New WKRP In Cincinnati. He reprised his role for an entire two seasons before the show was canceled. In the late 1990’s he guest starred on two episodes of Seinfeld as George’s boss. In 2003 he passed away right before the released of his final movie, Changing of the Guard.

Carol Bruce (Lillian Carlson) Then

When Carol Bruce got the role of Lillian Carlson, it instantly became the role she was most remembered for. Even though she had a lengthy Broadway career, sang in many big band orchestras and acted in a few huge movies. How could the world not see her as the ruthless owner of WKRP and as Arthur Carlson’s demand and smothering mother? She regrets her parenting method because she believes they have made her son weak.


Carol Bruce Now

Her last appearance on television came at the beginning of the 21 century. She appeared on That’s Life in 2000. Shortly after that appearance, she announced that she would be comfortably retiring. It was only seven years later that she’d die at the ripe old age of 87.


Richard Sanders (Les Nessman) Then

The show would have been far less successful had it not been for the character of Les Nessman, the totally incompetent, yet super serious news reporter. Richard Sanders, the man who portrayed Nessman wasn’t only responsible for bringing this character to life, but he also wrote many episodes of the show. He won the role of Nessman after years of performing in stage productions and studying as a screenwriter.

Richard Sanders Now

His acting career has been pretty lackluster since WKRP In Cincinnati ended. While he did win some minor roles in movies like Valley Girl and Men of Honor, his career has been mostly focused on writing screenplays. Given that he is currently 77-years-old, we aren’t expecting to see him in anything anytime soon.

Frank Bonner (Herb Tarlek) Then

Frank Bonner Portrayed Herb Tarlek, the radio stations sales manager and the producers did not hesitate to play up the sleazy salesmen stereotype. He is tasteless, vain and despite having a wife, he is constantly hounding over Jennifer.  This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have a soul. Once in awhile the show will give him a moment of dignity. Before winning the role of Herb, Bonner guest starred in a number of famous 1970’s sitcoms. It was his role as Herb that shines amongst them all.

Frank Bonner Now

Once the WKRP in Cincinnati ended Frank continued where he left off before. He hopped from show to show throughout the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s. That said he wasn’t a single income type of guy. Bonner also has quite the career in directing as well as acting, although these days he isn’t doing much of any.

Ian Wolfe (Hirsch) Then

Played by Ian Wolfe, Hirsch was Mrs. Carltons’s houseboy and the only man who could successfully get to her. He would never dare hesitate to let anyone know how much he disliked her. Before he got cast in WKRP in Cincinnati, Ian Wolfe was well-known character actor who had a career spanning back to the 1930’s. He was in big hit films like Mutiny on the Bounty, Rebel Without A Cause, A Place In The Sun and Saboteur.

Ian Wolfe Now

At the age of 95, Ian Wolfe passed away of natural causes in 1992. After the cancellation of WKRP in Cincinnati, Ian continued acting and would go onto a appear in shows like Cheers. He would also continue acting in films. His last role was in 1990’s Dick Tracy. 

Bill Woodson (Announcer) Then

Bill Woodson was perhaps one of the best voice actors of his era. Anyone who watched television in the 1980’s is sure to remember his voice. Although he wasn’t credited on the show, Woodson could be heard throughout the runtime of WKRP in Cincinnati. He would be the voice that would welcome the audience to stay tuned for the conclusion of the show. He was also a pre-recorded announcer on some episodes.

Bill Woodson Now

Sadly, Bill Woodson passed away last year at the age of 99. He worked all the way up until to the end. In the 1980’s he worked on a slew of cartoons including Garfield and Friends, Tiny Toon Adventures and Duckman. His last project was in 2010 when he used his deep voice to promote the Minnesota Twins. He had a long career that spanned decades and he even made some film appearances throughout the years.

Sylvia Sidney (Lillian Carlson) Then

Sylvia very briefly portrayed Lillian Carlson in WKRP in Cincinnati and when I say briefly, I mean she was on the pilot. It won’t be easy to find, but see such an iconic actress play a bit part might make it worth it. In 1978, Sidney was already a senior actress who had appeared in dozen of classic titles. Amongst the many were films like Sabotage and Fury.

Sylvia Sidney Now

She didn’t let her failed run of WKRP in Cincinnati get her down. She continued acting in films up until 1999 when her health gave out and she passed away. Her last appearance was in 1996’s star-studded film Mars Attacks. Another one of her big later roles was in 1988’s Beetejuice.

Sam Anderson (Rex Erhardt) Then

Getting his acting career started in 1978, Sam Anderson felt pretty accomplished when he was able to score more than a few appearances on WKRP in Cincinnati. He played different characters each time he’d make an appearance, but it didn’t stop him from making an impact on the audience. We remember him best as playing Rex Erhardt, a DJ who hosts a show after Dr.’s morning Johnny Fever’s morning show.


Sam Anderson Now

Sam Anderson went on to be quite the accomplished television actor. He is perhaps best known for his role in the 1980’s/1990’s sitcom Perfect Strangers. He had roles on dozens of TV shows. He had a long-standing role in the show Angel, ER and Lost. Anderson has also shown up in a number of classic films like Forrest Gump and La Bamba.


Mykelti Williamson (Donovan Aderhold) Then

As the series opened up again in the 1990’s, Mykelti Williamson replaced the character of Travis and introduced the world to Donovan Aderhold, the new station director. He is friends with Johnny Fever and scores the job quite easily. Toward the end of the series he leaves the show to pursue a new love.

Mykelti Williamson Now

Mykelti Williamson had massive success in the 1990’s. Today most people remember him as Bubba in the classic film Forrest Gump. He also acted in movies like the Fifth Element, Free Willy and Final Destination. He still acts today but has resorted to mostly guest roles.

Wendy Davis (Ronnie Lee) Then

The incredible Wendy Davis portrayed Ronnie Lee in the 1990’s rehash of WKRP in Cincinnati. Ronnie Lee was far from being part of the main cast and they would push her in front of the cameras whenever they needed a cute moment. She plays the quiet receptionist. Sadly, she leaves half way through the first season to go to school.

Wendy Davis Now

After her stint on the show was up, David went on to be on shows like Coach, Martin, and The Sinbad Show. She still shows up on television from time to time, but never really broke into her own starring role. She currently has two children and is residing in Los Angeles, California.

Michael Des Barres (Jack Allen) Then

Before ever getting cast on The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Michael Des Barres was making it big on the music scene. He was writing music for some of the biggest bands of the 1970’s and 1980’s and even released his own album. He is best remembered for replacing Robert Palmer during Power Stations Live Aid performance in 1985. WKRP fans will remember him as Jack Allen, the morning host that would frequently bicker with his wife.

Michael Des Barres (Jennifer Marlowe) Then

Life in the 1990’s was quite good for Michael. He appeared in dozens of television shows like Seinfeld, Lois and Clark, ALF and Nip/Tuck. Furthermore, he also acted in some films. One of his most notable appearances was in Steven Seagal’s Under Siege and Mulholland Drive.

Loni Anderson (Jennifer Marlowe) Then

Loni Anderson was relatively new to Hollywood when she scored the role of Jennifer Marlowe. Upon the show’s release, she instantly became one of the most popular characters. Many believe it was her charms that kept the show’s ratings so high for four seasons. The show took the small-time actress and turned her into a bombshell. Throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s, she was the symbol of allure. Loni went on to marry Burt Reynolds and the two of them adopted a son.

Loni Anderson Now

In the early 1990’s Loni and Reynolds went through a messy divorce that spanned on for almost twenty years. Sadly, her divorce from Reynolds would end up defining a large part of her career. She has had a few roles since the 1990’s but spends most of her time these days caring for her daughter who has severe scoliosis. Most recently she has begun acting again in a show called My Sister Is So Gay.