Jan Smithers is an American actor who is best known for her portrayal of ‘Bailey Quarters’ in the series 'WKRP in Cincinnati.' She began her career as a model and later made a career in the field of acting. However, Jan got her first modeling project just by chance. Two men at a beach scouted her, and the next moment, she was on the cover of a leading magazine. A photo of hers on a motorcycle paved her way toward modeling and eventually to acting. Her acting career mostly consists of TV shows, but she has done a few films, too. She had made brief appearances in a few TV series until 'WKRP in Cincinnati' happened to her. However, this is the only long-running role she has done to date. Jan quit acting in the late 1980s. She now lives a life away from the glitz and glamor of the entertainment industry. Jan has been married twice: first, to actor Kipp Whitman, and then, to James Brolin, with whom she had a daughter.
Childhood & Early Life
Jan was born Karin Jan Smithers, on July 3, 1949. She grew up in Woodland Hills, California. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother was a homemaker. Jan had three sisters. Unfortunately, at the age of 21, she lost her eldest sister in a car accident.
Jan attended the 'William Howard Taft Charter High School' in California. She later attended the 'Chouinard Art Institute' (now 'California Institute of the Arts') in Los Angeles. However, she dropped out soon to make a career in the field of acting.
While still in high school, Jan had a terrible car accident and injured her chin severely. The accident left a permanent scar near her chin area.
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Jan had never thought of becoming an actor. Acting happened to her just by chance. Jan was in high school when one of her friends asked her to go for surfing. At the beach, while she was watching her friend surf, she was approached by two lean men who carried cameras. They told Jan about their search for a Californian girl for one of their articles and asked her if she was interested. She agreed, and that changed her life forever.
Jan was featured on the cover of the March 21, 1966 edition 'Newsweek,' an American weekly magazine. An article in the magazine, titled 'The Teen-Agers: A Newsweek Survey of What They’re Really Like,' profiled Jan and six more teenagers. However, she was the only one of all the teenagers featured in the article who became a famous personality later. The article pushed her modeling career, and her mother helped her establish contacts with Hollywood agents.
During the final 2 years of high school, Jan did a few commercials. Her film debut happened in 1974, when she was cast as ‘Devola’ in the film 'Where the Lilies Bloom.' The same year, she was seen in the movie 'When the North Wind Blows.' Jan was also invited on the talk show 'The Bob Braun Show.' The previous year, Jan had a brief appearance as ‘Barbara’ in an episode of the 'NBC' anthology series 'Love Story.'
Jan was cast in the British film 'Trick or Treat,' but the filming of the movie remained incomplete. After a brief appearance in a 1976 episode of the 'ABC' action series 'Starsky and Hutch,' Jan got her breakthrough role of ‘Bailey Quarters’ in the 'CBS' sitcom 'WKRP in Cincinnati.' She continued her role for 86 episodes, from 1978 to1982. Continuing her film career simultaneously, Jan played ‘Cathy Wakefield’ in the 1978 drama film 'Our Winning Season.'
Jan was seen as ‘Carol Clark’ in the TV movie 'The Love Tapes' 2 years later. In 1979, Jan appeared on the talk show 'The Mike Douglas Show' and the TV special 'Battle of the Network Stars VII.' After her stint in 'WKRP in Cincinnati' ended in 1982, Jan played ‘Sabrina Drake,’ ‘Carol Cooperman,’ and ‘Aurora Adams’ in different episodes of the 'ABC' comedy series 'The Love Boat.'
Following this, Jan was mostly seen in guest appearances in various series, such as 'The Fall Guy' (1983), 'Legmen' (1984), 'Finder of Lost Loves' (1984), 'Mike Hammer' (1985), 'Cover Up' (1985), 'Murder, She Wrote' (1985), and 'Comedy Factory' ( 1985). Jan’s last TV appearance was as ‘Janice Copeland’ in two episodes (1984–1986) of the 'ABC' primetime drama series 'Hotel.' Her final film appearance was as ‘Lise’ in the 1987 mafia-themed comedy movie 'Mr. Nice Guy.' In June 2014, Jan was one of the 'WKRP in Cincinnati' cast members to attend its reunion organized by ‘The Paley Center for Media.'
Family & Personal Life
Jan married actor Kipp Whitman in 1971 and divorced after a year. Following this, she began a relationship with actor James Brolin, whom she had met while filming an episode of 'Hotel.' In 1986, they got married at the 'Greenwood United Church' in Nova Scotia. Jan and James had a daughter, Molly Elizabeth Brolin. They divorced in 1995.
Jan cited lack of time for each other as the reason for her divorce from James. She said that James would travel extensively for work and that had eventually caused them to drift apart. In an episode of 'Entertainment Tonight' in 2001, Jan quelled the rumors that James had left her for Barbara Streisand. Jane Cameron, James’s first wife, had once stated that Jan had never wished to have a relationship with James when he was still married to Jane.
When Molly was in high school, Jan, along with a charitable group, had traveled to India and was touched to see the poor and needy people there. She had then decided to bring positivity to their lives and has been involved in philanthropic work since then. Jan’s life now primarily consists of meditation, healing, spirituality, and the environment. She follows and advocates the teachings of yoga guru Swami Muktananda, Indian spiritual guru Mata Amritanandamayi (known as "Amma the Hugging Saint"), and Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva.
Jan earlier lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She now lives in Ojai, California.