1970s Popular Female Teen Idols
Lovely Ladies, Talented Actresses and Female Teen Idols!
We watched their shows faithfully, read all about them in the gossip and teen magazines, plastered their pin-up photos all over our bedroom walls and school lockers! Who am I talking about? Well, teen idols, if you haven't figured it out by now. This is a small listing of 70s television actresses who became some of the 70s most popular female teen idols!
Please note, that a page this size can not list all of the actresses who fall into this category and not listing your favorite is not meant as a slight in any way.
Loni Anderson as Jennifer Marlowe on WKRP in Cincinnati
Born August 5, 1946 in St. Paul Minnesota. As a child she enjoyed playing dress up and soon developed an interest in acting. She would often appear in school plays. At age 14 she began entering and winning beauty contests. Her last pageant in 1964, at age 18, was in the Miss Minnesota contest where she was first runner up. Even though she didn't win the title, she did win the title, she did end up marrying the brother of the winner. They married a short time later, but sadly, after three months of marriage the couple parted leaving Loni pregnant with her first and only child, whom she would name Deidra.
She married again, in 1973, to another actor, Ross Bickell and the couple decided to leave Minnesota for California in 1975. Once getting settled in, they began to actively pursue acting roles in television and films. Loni began getting small roles in popular shows of the day, S.W.A.T, Police Woman, Barnaby Jones and Three's Company.
She would pose for a poster wearing a red bikini and when producer Hugh Wilson, saw it, he knew he had found the perfect actress to play Jennifer Marlowe on his new sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati which began airing on CBS in 1978. Wilson said he hired Loni because she had a playful innocence like that of Marilyn Monroe and the body of Jayne Mansfield. The series ran for four years, with Loni being the breakout star of the series. She began to get write-ups in teen and gossip magazines.
When the series ended in 1982, she went on to star in a variety of television movies as well as several more series, Partners in Crime (1984) with Lynda Carter and Easy Street (1986-87). She would marry Burt Reynolds in 1988 and the couple would divorce in 1993 with their divorce often making tabloid headlines.
Loni is still active in television with one of her most recent roles as Nana Lyle in the series Baby Daddy.
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls on Little House in the Prairie
Melissa began her career on television by doing commercials. Soon, she was making appearances on television shows with her first being on an episode of the series Bewitched. Her next role was in The Brady Bunch episode You're Never Too Young as Millicent, a young girl who gave Bobby Brady his first kiss.
In 1974, when she was 11 years old she was cast a Mary Ingalls (after trying out for the role of Laura Ingalls which went to Melissa Gilbert). She left the series just two episodes into the eighth season in 1981.
After leaving the series, she continued to work in episodic television and even starred as Virginia "Ginny" Wainwright in the 1981 cult classic Canadian slasher flick Happy Birthday to Me.
In 2010 she released her autobiography The Way I See It - A Look Back at My Life on Little House. She and her husband and their two children live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Catherine Bach Stole Hearts as Daisy Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard
I best remember Catherine as Daisy Duke on the CBS series The Dukes of Hazzard. But, her career began in 1973 when she starred as murder victim Natalie Claiburn in the Burt Lancaster feature film The Midnight Man. In 1974, she was Melody in the Clint Eastwood film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
When she heard that producers were looking to cast the role of Daisy Duke for a new television series, she decided to go in for an audition, even though she in no way resembled their ideal for the character. They wanted a Dolly Parton type actress. Catherine was able to get them to agree to allow her to bring in her own costume, which consisted of a T-shirt, pair of high heel shoes and a pair of cut off denim shorts which would eventually become known as "Daisy Dukes". She was cast on the spot when the producers saw her in costume. She would portray Daisy from 1979-85.
Catherine also became a poster queen, releasing a pose of her as her character. The poster sold several million copies and is highly sought after collector's item.
Valerie Bertinelli From One Day at a Time
Television viewers today may have discovered Valerie Bertinelli because of her work in the series Hot in Cleveland which began airing in 2010. But, she is a television veteran who gained her female teen idol status from her work in the 70s sitcom One Day at a Time as Barbara Cooper, the fifteen year old tom boy daughter of Anne Romano (Bonnie Franklin).
The show also starred MacKenzie Phillips as her older sister, Julie Cooper who also had some fame as a 70s teen idol. Sadly, problems with drugs caused havoc on the set and she was eventually fired from the series.
The series ran on CBS from December 16, 1975, until May 28, 1984 with a total of 209 episodes. Valerie would star in 207 of them. There was talk of a spin off from the series to stare just Bonnie Franklin and Valerie, but nothing ever came of it.
Lynda Carter Singer, Actress and Wonder Woman!
Lynda gained her female teen idol status as Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman on the classic 70s television series that ran on ABC for one season before moving to CBS to finish out it's run.
Her career in television began when she made guest appearances on various popular 70s series like Starsky and Hutch, Matt Helm and the short-lived Nakia. Her career took off, though, when cast as Wonder Woman in the 1975 series that ran until 1979.
Lynda Records an Album
During her reign as Wonder Woman, she released an album titled Portrait, a collection of nice soft pop songs, several of which she co wrote. The album didn't produce any chart singles, but it does sport a very nice front and back covers. It was re-released in 2014 by Wounded Bird Records, which included two additional songs. Thirty years would pass and she would release another CD, the 2009 At Last which features blues and jazz standards. In 2011, she would release Crazy Little Things that is a mixture of upbeat pop, country, jazz and blues.
Pam Dawber Was Mindy on Mork and Mindy
Pam began her career as a model in New York City and eventually moved into acting and while waiting for her big break, she did television commercials.
Without having much acting experience, she was cast, by Gary Marshall, in the sitcom Mork and Mindy as Mindy McConnell, a young woman who discovers that she has befriended a space alien named Mork (Robin Williams in his breakout role) from the planet Ork. The show ran from 1978 to 82.
In 1986 she was back in My Sister Sam, a series that star Pam as Samantha "Sam" Russell and Rebecca Schaeffer as Patricia "Patti" Russell, her younger sister who comes to live with her out of the blue. The series was cancelled after two seasons and sadly, a little over a year after it's cancellation, on July 19, 1989, Rebecca was fatally shot by an obsessive fan who had been stalking her for 3 years.
On March 21, 1987, Pam married actor Mark Harmon and the couple have two children, Sean and Ty.
Susan Dey Was Lovely Laurie Partridge on The Partridge Family
Susan worked as a model before giving acting a try. When she was just 17 years old, she won the role of Laurie Partridge on the family sitcom The Partridge Family, starring Shirley Jones and David Cassidy. The show would last from 1970 to 1974 and made a singing sensation out of David.
In 1972, she starred in her first feature film, the Charlton Heston disaster film Skyjacked as Elly Brewster, a passenger on Global Airways Flight 502 who discovers a bomb threat written on a mirror in the first class ladies room of the plane.
When The Partridge Family ended, she went on to film a few television movies as well as made appearances on episodic television.
In 1986 and lasting until 1992, she did fine work in the series L.A. Law as attorney Grace Van Owen. The role would earn her a Golden Globe in 1987 as Best Actress in a Leading Role – Drama Series. She would be nominated four more times for a Golden Globe. She also was nominated for an Emmy for role, too in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
Farrah Fawcett Was a Lovely Angel
Farrah career started in 1968 doing commercials and in 1969, she began making appearances in episodic television in such series as I Dream of Jeannie, Mayberry R.F.D., and The Flying Nun.
When the 70s rolled around, she was still making commercials and more appearances on popular TV shows of that period. She made numerous appearances on The Six Million Dollar Man with her husband Lee Majors. She had a semi occurring role on the David Janssen series Harry O.
In 1976, she posed for what would become one of the most popular personality posters of the 70s, her red bikini pose sold a record number of units. With the success of her poster, she gained a small role in the science fiction feature film Logan's Run starring Michael York.
Lee and Farrah were friends with producer Aaron Spelling who cast Farrah in the role of Jill Munroe, in the popular series Charlie's Angels. The show was a hit and made stars out of Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith and made Farrah into an "overnight" phenomenon. She left the show after one season in hopes of moving onto greener pastures in the world of feature films, but her success in that venue was fleeting.
She went back to working in television and made successful movies and in 1984, the world was shocked to discover that the woman thought of mainly as eye candy had talent and could act. Her role as abused wife and mother, Francine Hughes in The Burning Bed earned her an Golden Globe and Emmy nomination for best actress.
She would go on to work in television movies and a few feature films, too and make guest appearances on other episodic television. Sadly, in 2006, she was diagnosed with cancer and fought a brave battle with the disease that she lost on June 25, 2009. She was just 62 years old.
Cheryl Ladd Singer, Actress and One of Charlie's Lovely Angels
Cheryl, using the name Cherie Moor came to Hollywood with the desire to become a singer. She was the singing voice of Melody in the cartoon series Josie and the Pussycats. She worked in commercials as well and began to get small parts in episodic television as well as a small role in a much forgotten feature film Chrome and Hot Leather.
Her small screen debut was in an episode of The Rookies (which starred one of her future co stars, Kate Jackson) in the first season episode The Good Die Young. She would make another appearance in the series as a different character in episode 20 of season one titled The Wheel of Death.
More television work came along and she made appearances episodes of The Partridge Family, Happy Days, Switch, Police Woman and more.
In 1977, when Farrah Fawcett decided to leave her role as Jill Munroe in Charlie's Angels Cheryl was cast as Chris Munro, the little sister of Farrah's character, Jill. Cheryl would stay with the series until its cancellation in 1981.
She remained a familiar face on television doing over thirty television movies as well as trying out her hand as an author. In 1996, she wrote a children's book The Adventures of Little Nettie Windship.
She continues to work in television with one of her most recent roles in the 2014 series Anger Management as Joanne in the episode Charlie Gets Tied Up with a Catholic Girl.
Peggy Lipton Was Julie Barnes on The Mod Squad
Peggy began her career as a teen model having some modest success in New York. Her family eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1964 and Peggy signed a contract with Universal and at age 19, in 1965, she made her television debut on The John Forsythe Show. For the next several years she would make appearances on a variety of shows like Bewitched, The F.B.I., The Virginian and more.
In 1968 she was cast as waif like flower child and undercover cop, Julie Barnes, in the show The Mod Squad. The show ran until 1973, and earned Peggy four Golden Globe nominations and in 1971 she would win a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Drama Series.
She married music producer Quincy Jones in 1974 and took time off from her career to raise their two daughters, Kidada and Rashida. She and Jones would divorce n 1990 after 16 years of marriage. She would return to acting shortly after the divorce and continues to make occasional television appearances.
Peggy Makes Music
- Peggy recorded an album in 1968 and released two singles, "Stoney End" and "Wear Your Love Like Heaven,", but neither of them was able to make it into the Top 100.
- In 2014 Real Gone Records re-released her album that includes additional bonus songs.
Pamela Sue Martin was Nancy Drew
When Pamela was still in high school, a friend told her of the high earning potential to be had modeling. Being up for an adventure, she signed with a New York modeling agency and soon was doing print ads and commercials.
Acting seemed to be the next logical step and although she had no formal acting training, it didn't stop her from getting the lead role in the 1972 feature film To Find a Man.
Producer Irwin Allen saw her work in the film and liked it enough to cast her in his classic movie The Poseidon Adventure, where she was able to hold her own against experienced actors like Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman and Shelley Winters.
Work in the television films The Girls of Huntington House in 1973 and The Gun and the Pulpit in 1974 lead to two more feature film appearances co starring with Jan-Michael Vincent in Buster and Billie and Parker Stevenson Our Time both from 1974.
In 1977, she was cast as Nancy Drew in The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries. The show alternated episodes, with one week being a Hardy Boys episode and the next being a Nancy Drew episode. During the second season, it was decided that Nancy and the Hardy Boys would join forces, much to Pamela's disapproval and only three episodes of the second season gave Nancy a solo adventure. Pamela would leave the series and Nancy Drew was recast with Janet Louise Johnson taking over the role for the remainder of the season. Nancy Drew was phased out of the series altogether in the third and final season of the show.
Pamela would gain more fame for playing spoiled daughter, Fallon Carrington on the nighttime soap Dynasty from 1981 to 84.
Kristy McNichol One of the 70s Most Popular Female Teen Idols!
Kristy began her career working in commercials with her brother Jimmy. She began to get acting roles in popular 70s TV series such as The Bionic Woman, Love American Style and Starsky and Hutch. Her first TV series was the short-lived CBS series Apple's Way in 1974.
Her popularity soared when she was cast on the ABC drama, Family as Letitia "Buddy" Lawrence that ran from 1976 to 80. It was considered a break through in drama series because it dealt with many "real life" issues. Kristy won two Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series (1977 and 1979) for her work on the series.
In 1977, after she appeared on the The Carpenters at Christmas, special, where she performed several songs with Karen, she caught the singing bug and soon was in the recording studio putting together an album with her brother, Jimmy, eventually released as Kristy & Jimmy McNichol. It included the song He's So Fine which was released as a single but peaked at Number 70 on the Billboard chart.
Her feature film career began in 1978 when she starred in the Burt Reynolds comedy The End.
She finished out the 70s one of the most popular teen idols ever, making appearances on talk shows as well as acting in TV movies.
She retired from acting in 2001.
Marie Osmond was a Little Bit Country
In 1973, Marie came to the public's attention when her debut single, Paper Roses, hit the top of the country charts. The song earned a Gold record as did the album of the same name.
In 1974, she recorded another album In My Little Corner of the World and the title track from it was released as a single. Her next single Who's Sorry Now, off of an album of the same name, was released in 1975 and it didn't have quite the success of her other efforts.
In 1977, Marie with her brother Donny, a 70s male teen idol in his own right, signed on to do a variety show for ABC which proved to be successful enough to run until 1979.
In 1978, Marie got her first job as an actress in a television movie on ABC titled The Gift of Love, based loosely on the O'Henry story The Gift of the Magi. Also, in 1978, Donny and Marie released the feature film Goin' Coconuts which proved to be a box office failure.
Jaclyn Smith Was Charlie's Most Beautiful Angel?
Like many actresses before her, Jaclyn began her career in television doing commercials advertising Breck shampoo and Listerine mouthwash. She eventually began making appearances in popular 70s shows like The Partridge Family, Switch, Get Christie Love and more.
In 1976 she starred in a television movie that ranked high enough in the ratings to become a weekly series, that's right, Charlie's Angels began it's life as an ABC Movie of the Week. The series propelled, Jaclyn, Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett into stardom and teen idol status as well. She stayed with the series for it's entire run from 1976 to 81, portraying smart and beautiful angel Kelly Garrett.
She continues to act on a sporadic basis but spends much of her time focusing her attention on her own clothing line which she designs for and sells through K Mart.
Suzanne Somers Was Chrissy Snow on Three's Company
Suzanne began her career in the late 60s with a regular stint on a syndicated game show, The Anniversary Game hosted by Alan Hamel whom Suzanne would eventually marry in 1977. It ran for one season and has been classified as a show that has been lost or destroyed as it has never ran anywhere in repeats since its initial airing in 1969-70.
In the early 70s she got small parts in film (you may remember her as the beautiful blonde in the T-Bird in the film American Graffiti). She would also make appearances on The Rockford Files, Lotsa Luck and more before being cast in 1977 the role that would make her famous and a 70s female teen idol, Chrissy Snow on Three's Company. Things were going well for Suzanne until a contract dispute over a huge increase in her salary prompted the producers to limit her airtime, during the fifth season, to just one minute per episode and she was promptly let go at the end of that season.
She moved on to other projects, being a spokeswoman for Thighmaster, working in the series She's the Sheriff and Step by Step, hosting the revised Candid Camera and adding author to her list of accomplishments, too writing about health and beauty topics.
Suzanne still makes an occasional appearance in front of the camera.
Lindsay Wagner Was Jamie Somers The Bionic Woman
In 1971, Lindsay signed a contract with Universal Studios as a contract player and her prime time network debut would be in Adam 12 as Jenny Carson in the episode Million Dollar Bluff. From there, she would do guest appearances on a variety of Universal television series such as The Night Gallery, Sarge, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, Marcus Welby, M.D. and more.
In 1973, she did two feature films one for Universal, Two People, her first lead role as well as her first feature film and The Paper Chase for 20th Century Fox.
Universal gave her the role of Jaime Sommers, tennis pro turned teacher and childhood sweetheart of Steve Austin (Lee Majors) on The Six Million Dollar Man. After a parachuting accident, she is given bionic limb replacements which she rejects and dies. Viewer disapproval of her death was so loud that producers brought her back to life (having never really died at all) and given her own series which debuted on ABC in 1976 and finished it's run on NBC in 1978.
Lindsay would go on to have a very busy and successful career in television and she would add being an author to her resume, too.
Thanks for sharing some of your time with me, today. As you can see, the decade of the 70s had many lovely ladies who made it to teen idol status. Are there more who could find their place on this listing, well, yes I am sure, but I only have space for so many. Your favorite not being listed is not meant as a slight, please don't take it as such.
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© 2014 Glory Miller