Susan Anton is singing a new tune these days.
The singer and actress is the host of “Idol Chat TV,” which reunites the cast of classic TV shows, films, and musical performances. The first episode will feature former child stars Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow of “Leave It to Beaver” fame. The family sitcom produced 235 episodes and ran from 1957 until 1963.
But Anton is no stranger to kicking off a knockout performance. The former Miss California was one of several blonde bombshells of the ‘70s and ‘80s to light up the screen. She has gone on to appear in hundreds of film and television projects.
Q: What was it about “Idol Chat TV” that made you want to host?
Susan Anton: When I first learned about the premise, I was all over it. These were either people I’ve worked with or people I’ve certainly admired over the years. Like the “Leave It to Beaver” guys – that was a regular show in my household. So it was a thrill to help the cast reconnect after all this time, as well as meet people who have played a big role in my life.
Q: Which episode was the most emotional to film and why?
Anton: It would have to be the Pointer Sisters. Two of the sisters have passed away and the remaining two haven’t seen each other in so long. So we got them together and revisited their careers at The Hollywood Museum. There were tears for sure.
And then “The Love Boat” was special because Gavin MacLeod was still with us. We interviewed him and then two weeks later he passed away. So it was very meaningful that we helped the cast get together one last time. They were a real family and when you see the episode, you’ll experience the love they had.
Q: If the series were to be picked up for Season 2, who would you want to see featured and why?
Anton: I would love to get the “Waltons” kids together and see how everyone is doing today. I loved watching that show so it would be really fun for me. I also adore Donny and Marie, so it would be great to catch up with them as well. And the biggest ones for me would be Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta for “Grease.” And then, of course, it would be a treat to get the “Baywatch” crew together.
Q: Speaking of “Baywatch,” what was it like filming that series?
Anton: I thought it was fun. Who wouldn’t want to go to the beach every morning in Southern California, work for a few hours and make your paycheck? I said, “Sign me up.” And the cast was just so much fun. Pam [Anderson] – that was her first year so she wasn’t even famous yet. She was so funny and warm. David Hasselhoff is so fun to work with and he kept the cast in a good mood at all times. It was a really fun job.
Q: Did you ever face any kind of pressure in terms of looking a certain way?
Anton: You know, I was lucky. I don’t know how it was for the younger cast members, but I was cast as a mom for one of the lifeguards. So I didn’t have to run in slow motion wearing a little red bathing suit. *Laughs*. But I remember everyone just having a great time on set.
Fox News: You were a popular poster in the ‘70s and ’80s. How did you make sense of the attention you received?
Anton: It was strange. I came from a little town in Southern California called Yucaipa. I even went to a one-room schoolhouse when I was in elementary school. I rode my horse to school. So show business wasn’t exactly what I aspired to pursue when I was little. But I’ve managed to find myself in fortunate situations. And I think it was the right time. This was when you had girls like Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Tiegs, and Lynda Carter making their marks.
Fox News: Were you compared early on to Farrah Fawcett?
Anton: Yeah – We both had big smiles and big hair. But I was always so grateful for Farrah’s success. I met her briefly and I wished I had the chance to get to know her. She helped pave the way for the new blonde bombshell. At that time, the blonde sex goddess was not in favor as it once was, but she made it happen again in a big way.
Q: You’ve had a very successful music career. What surprised you the most about Kenny Rogers?
Anton: First of all, I have to say that I’ve been incredibly blessed to work with some of the nicest people in the entertainment industry. And Kenny Rogers was just everything you imagined him to be and more. He was loving, so generous, and always happy to share the stage with you. He supported you and cheered you on. And, my gosh, he was so much fun off-stage.
He was always pulling practical jokes and shenanigans. After a show, he loved visiting drive-thrus for some fast food. He would be like a kid in a limo. And when we drove up, he would just casually introduce himself. People were stunned. Imagine Kenny Rogers driving up to Jack in the Box. That’s just the kind of guy he was. He was always ready to have fun… He was a huge star by then, and yet he was always humble and kind. He never took anything for granted. I think that was part of his charm.
Q: What about Frank Sinatra?
Anton: Sinatra was the epitome of a gentleman. So much has been said and written about him. What I witnessed was an incredibly gracious host. He was very aware of everybody who was in the room. No matter how big that room was, he could tell if someone’s glass was empty and he made sure they were taken care of. He always made you feel like you were the most important person in the room. He was very, very passionate about his music.
I remember we used to have debates about the songwriters of the time. I was raised in the ’60s with bands like The Beatles. Frank would say, “There are no good songwriters today.” And I would say, “I’m sorry, but I disagree.” Everyone in the room would just gasp. Like wait a minute, are you disagreeing with Frank Sinatra? No one does that. But he welcomed those debates. He loved having an intellectual conversation with you. We would have these amazing conversations about what makes a great song and how something stands the test of time. Those conversations helped me how to pick material wisely.
Susan Anton in concert, circa 1981. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty Images)
Q: What’s one memory of Mel Tillis that you still treasure to this day?
Anton: Oh I remember we did a show in Utah. In those days it was hard to find caffeinated coffee and alcohol readily available and the man loved his beer. He had a private plane and would have his people flying in on the weekends so he could enjoy his cold beers. And here was this grown man hiding his beer from the Osmonds who were also performing. He was just a darling.
Comedian and actor Dudley Moore with his arm around then-girlfriend Susan Anton, arriving at Heathrow Airport, London, October 1st, 1980. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Q: Your relationship with Dudley Moore was the talk of the town due to the height difference. How did you cope with the scrutiny?
Anton: Oh we just found humor in it. We knew we were not a usual-looking couple. I was a good foot and a half taller than him. But here’s the thing, when you’re with someone who fills your heart with joy and love, things like that just don’t matter. And that’s something we realized quickly. And I think we also showed people that. The heart goes where it wants to go. It doesn’t care about your skin color, height, or anything else.