May. 25th, 1947
Sebastopol, California, USA
Karen Valentine's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
While Sally Field found a way out of the wholesome trap that engulfed her and her career after years of playing adorable surfer girls and flying nuns in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the equally wholesome Karen Valentine was not as lucky. Admittedly, the last name couldn't have helped, but Karen had this built-in adorableness that left audiences completely smitten. Her smile was SO sunny and infectious . . . and profitable. Be that as it may, the petite and talented brunette beauty with the slightly appealing overbite and dimpled chin would find the going very rough after earning kudos as a pixilated pretty on TV. Although her novice teacher Alice Johnson on "Room 222" (1969) won the hearts of audiences and scooped up an Emmy award and Golden Globe nomination in the process, Karen got to see the downside of it all within a short time.
Born in 1947, Karen was a straight-A student where she grew up in Sebastopol, California. Her Portuguese grandfather Americanized the family surname of Valentin years before Karen was born. She began fighting the terminal case of the cutes even as a teen, when she competed in beauty contests. She would deliberately perform sexier musical numbers during her talent segments to offset the burgeoning "cute" factor. Such competitions as "Miss Teenage Santa Rosa" and "Miss Sonoma Country" eventually brought her to the attention of Ed Sullivan (I), who, like everyone else, was quite taken by her. She appeared twice on his variety show.
In 1969 Karen received her huge break when she was cast as the fumbling new teacher in town in "Room 222." This charming, star-making success went five seasons and led to a series of lightweight mini-movies. While they didn't challenge her to the nth degree, they certainly solidified her status as the "golden girl" of TV. She succeeded Sally Field as Gidget Lawrence in the TV-movie Gidget Grows Up (1969) (TV) with Paul Petersen (I), and continued on a roll with Coffee, Tea or Me? (1973) (TV) co-starring John Davidson (II), and The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped (1974) (TV) opposite the late Richard Long (I). In between she kept busy with several episodes of "Love, American Style" (1969) and was seen chatting frequently with Johnny Carson (I) on his late night show. During the day she was a semi-regular panelist on _"Hollywood Squares, The" (1966)_ for a greater part of the 1970s.
A return to series TV in the ill-fated "Karen" (1975) started her decline. Fed up with the seraphic stereotype, she pursued more dramatic material with the made-for-TV fare Muggable Mary, Street Cop (1982) (TV) and the thriller Illusions (1983) (TV), but it was all for naught. Perfectly suited for Disney, she acquiesced for a time and appeared in their lightweight theatrical releases Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978) and The North Avenue Irregulars (1979), plus the TV movies Skeezer (1982) (TV) and Perfect People (1988) (TV).
Fortunately, Karen was keen enough to channel her talents on stage, where she has been allowed more depth and gratification. Such stock productions as "The Moon Is Blue" (1972), "Born Yesterday" (1973), "Bus Stop" (1975) and "Two for the Seesaw" (1979) kept her happily challenged. As she matured, she tackled more promising theater parts in "Romantic Comedy" (1988), "Social Security" (1989), "Breaking Legs" (1992) and "Steel Magnolias" (2003). Sporadically seen on TV and film these days, she most recently played a beleaguered mother of three in the comedy Wedding Daze (2004) (TV), a "Father of the Bride" imitation that co-starred John Larroquette. Karen has been married to third husband Gary Verna, a musician, since 1977. After years on the road in regional and touring shows she and her husband recently resettled in Los Angeles in 2004, having relocated from their home of many years in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
- She was a contestant on "Miss Teenage America" and when 'Ed Sullivan (I)' (qv) saw her talent he called in and said, "I want that girl on my show."
- Worked as a model, waitress and switchboard operator during her salad days.
- She was the Apple Blossom Queen of Sebastopol, California when she was a teenager.
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