Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'm Karen for you, Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone in SSTOL-land! May you live in romantic times.

All this hearts-and-flowers talk has me wondering, though...

Whatever happened to local girl Karen Valentine?

Born and raised just around the corner from here in Sebastopol — then nationally renowned for its apple orchards (now mostly gone, as progress would have it), and later as the one-time residence of cartoonist Charles Schulz — Karen Valentine leaped into TV prominence in 1969 on the seminal academic drama Room 222. As perky, neurotic student teacher (and eventually, full-fledged faculty member) Alice Johnson, Karen quickly became one of 222's focal points.

For those of you too callow to recall, Room 222 broke significant broadcast ground back in the day. The show, set in an inner-city Los Angeles high school, boasted one of network television's first thoroughly integrated casts, headlined by African American actors Lloyd Haynes and Denise Nicholas (who was briefly married to soul singer Bill Withers). The plotlines often dealt with topical issues, such as race relations and the Vietnam War.

But let's face it: It was Karen Valentine we tuned in to see.

After 222 ended in 1974, Karen headlined a short-lived sitcom entitled — not surprisingly — Karen. She also made frequent appearances throughout the '70s as a celebrity panelist on the popular game show Hollywood Squares, before launching a decade-long career as the heroine in a skein of maudlin made-for-TV movies.

Although her IMDB listing reflects sporadic acting credits in recent years, I don't believe I've actually seen Karen in anything in 15 years or more. Unlike the remarkably similar Sally Field, who pushed beyond her youthful roles in Gidget and The Flying Nun to become a respected, Oscar-winning film actress, Karen never quite made the on-camera jump from bubbly, fresh-faced girl to mature, sophisticated adult woman.

Too bad, really.

Wherever you are, Miss Johnson, I hope you're enjoying your Valentine's Day.

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4 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger analyhighgal offered these pearls of wisdom...

I'm also a Sebastopol girl and went to school with Karen and her sister, Valerie. The latest I could find on Karen is that she's working For Hillery Clinton's Delaware Steering Committee. She's listed as "AFSCME Council 81, National Committeewoman, State Party". That pretty much tells me that our favorite Home Gal is now living in Delaware.

12:29 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

AnalyHighGal: RanchoCotateGuy (Class of '79) here.

Thanks very much for the Karen update. Although she's chosen the wrong state (who lives in Delaware, for crying out loud?) and the wrong Democrat (ahem...), I'm glad to hear she's doing well.

Stop by again sometime!

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous offered these pearls of wisdom...

I inadvertently found your blog also wondering what ever happened to Karen Valentine...I live in Delaware, it takes all kinds I suppose, anyway I don't believe it's the same Karen Valentine. I have seen a picture and it's not even close...

7:15 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Anonymous: Thanks for checking in with the Karen-or-not-Karen update from the great, noble, and Constitutionally first state of Delaware. (We kid because we love, yes?)

Please visit again, and I'll find more nice things to say about your place of residence. :)

10:53 AM  

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