This famous heartbreaker is now 76 – try not to smile when you see her today…
Back in the day, The Dating Game was the first ever dating reality show which opened the path for a number of similar shows that followed. This one, however, served another purpose, too, that of a launchpad for new actors, among which Suzanne Somers, Tom Selleck, Leif Garret, and Karen Valentine.
Before agreeing to be part of the show, Valentine was a former beauty queen who was then given the chance to interview three eligible bachelors hidden behind a dividing wall.
However, as she believed the experience would be a fun one, her ‘pick’ made it terrible.
Recalling her appearance on The Dating Game, the now 76-year-old actress shared with Closer Weekly, “That was awful, because the guy thought that this was really going to be a date, right? The Dating Game got more serious later where people would be sent on trips.” She then added: “I only got to go to the Ambassador Hotel to see a show, but the guy thought we were going to make out in the limo and it, was, like, ‘You know this is a first date, right?’ It was so sleazy. You’d go to dinner and then to a show, which is the prize I won, but the guy thought this was serious. I wanted to get out of the date. You know, ‘Save the money, who needs to go on a date? Let me do another show. Give me a shot at acting or something.’”
Although the experience wasn’t a pleasant one, the show did help her land roles, including the one in Room 222, which catapulted her into stardom.
In 1970, Room 222 cleaned up at the Primetime Emmy Awards, earning titles for Outstanding New Series, while Valentine and Michael Constantine both won supporting roles.
This was everything a young actress like Valentine dreamed of. It seemed surreal that she earned such a prestigious award at the start of her career.
“It was kind of mind-blowing to have that happen so soon, so quickly,” said Valentine of her first nomination and win. “And to meet Carol Burnett and her saying, ‘Well, congratulations for this.’ It was like, ‘Thank you.’ But that Carol Burnett would know me? Just incredible.
“I remember I was taking singing lessons at the time, and I went to my singing class,” Valentine started. “Also taking lessons was Gregory Peck… When he walked by, I was at the teacher’s piano and he saw me through the window and kind of mimed, ‘You did it!’ I was like, ‘Oh my God. It’s Gregory Peck!’ How was it that I had the fortune to meet these stars and talented people from the get-go?”
The series was a huge hit, with incredible rankings and positive critics, but then, during season four, people’s interest in it declined and it was canceled in the middle of season four.
“Why things changed, I have no idea,” Valentine recalled when the network told the cast the show was cut. “But they did have the wherewithal to give us the word that it was happening, and it was sad … well, it’s always sad, but especially when you feel you have a good product and a good show, for it to be taken away. But in the end, the network made the decision to go in a different direction. That’s what they always say, ‘We’ve decided to go in a different direction.’”
Valentine appeared in a number of series and films, with her latest one, Wedding Daze, released in 2004.
Speaking of the role in Room 222, the actress has only fond memories of it.
“Working with all of those people, and to have that kind of experience first time out–the show just brings back the fondest and best memories in the world to me.
“…It also kind of spoiled me, because it set the bar really high. So when other things come to you, you think, ‘What is this?’ It was different, you know. But I was fortunate that I did get material that was pretty fun and well done.”
Valentine has been married two times. She and her second and current husband, Gary Lewis Verna, tied the knot in 1977.
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