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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Loni’s Life Actress Says She Believes An Autobiography Should Tell Complete Story ‘Warts And All’

Paul Lomartire The Palm Beach Post

Before Loni Anderson can hit the road, 20 cities in 33 days, to promote her just-published autobiography, “My Life in High Heels,” she has to get her hair in order.

“I am at the hair salon having my roots dyed blond,” she says brightly by phone, then laughs. “It’s kind of a regular deal, an every-other-week thing all my life.”

From a comfy seat at the North Hollywood salon, the veteran actress talks about her new book.

Her side of the story has been hotly anticipated since her ballistic June 1993 breakup and eventual divorce from Burt Reynolds, a crash-and-burn marriage that lurched and festered through tabloids and talk shows for more than a year.

That media feeding frenzy went on without any quotes from her, even while her ex lobbed nasty gossip grenade after gossip grenade.

“I wanted to wait two years,” she begins, “so I wasn’t angry or bitter. I wanted to write about Burt from a place of love, because I wasn’t with a monster for 12 years. I was with someone I loved and it was very complicated and I wanted to get that across.

“There was no way to say it in a fast or haphazard, flippant manner. I spent almost half of my adult life with someone who changed my life dramatically,” she explains. “I wanted to be as truthful as I could possibly be without any anger.”

That would seem a generous attitude coming from the woman who was not favorably portrayed by Reynolds in interviews and his 1994 autobiography “My Life.”

Anderson offers stories to show her ex-husband as maniacally possessive and irrationally jealous before they were married in 1988. She describes his various pill addictions, flashpoint temper and chronic womanizing that is backed by anecdotes from his former lovers, such as Adrienne Barbeau, Susan Clark, Lucie Arnaz and Lorna Luft.

Those details are woven in a story that chronicles Anderson’s Lutheran-anchored life from her beauty-queen teen years growing up in St. Paul, Minn., to regional theater, TV commercials, the “WKRP in Cincinnati” sitcom role that made her famous, two ex-husbands (before Burt), raising a daughter, Deidra, as a single working parent, the deaths of her mother and father, plastic surgery and more.

“I am a survivor. I wanted to give hope to other people who keep thinking, ‘Can I get up and do it one more day?’ Yes you can.”

She doesn’t skimp on her own sex life, including a fling with actor John Gavin, to which her mother replied the morning after, “Oh, my God, that’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard!”

There’s also her romance that evolved into an addiction to sex with former “WKRP” co-star Gary Sandy: “I couldn’t keep my hands off him. I admit that I was sexually addicted to him. We would go out to dinner and not even make it home from restaurants; we had to pull over to the side of the road. On a busy street!”

Says the uncompromising author, “I think you should tell it, warts and all.”

Anderson spent six months with a tape recorder answering questions from co-author Larkin Warren, a former Esquire editor. The actress, whose next movie is a mystery/thriller due from NBC on Dec. 5, found herself doing frequent eight-hour-a-day talkathons. She said it was “much more emotionally taxing than I ever thought it would be.”

The 50-year-old actress knows that newspapers and TV gossip shows will cannibalize her book into sensational highlights, sandwiching her between Mary Tyler Moore’s recent revelations about alcoholism and whatever’s in the next celeb’s bio.

“I find it amazing and kind of appalling,” she says. “You know that that’s going to happen in the tabloids. You’re upset, but you just hope people buy (the book). If I could help save one woman from any of the mistakes I’ve made, just one, that would make me happy.”

To that end, she says a recent “Oprah” taping in Chicago cheered her into thinking that real people may not wallow in the same cynical, sleazy world portrayed by the media. (That “Oprah” show aireds Thursday. A second hour with Anderson is scheduled to air in December.)

“The ‘Oprah’ audience,” Anderson recalls, “and Oprah took a step back and said, ‘We just want to take a minute to applaud you for the way you handled yourself for the last two years.’ It was a very rewarding show.”

Oprah’s female audience, she adds, dwelled on facts about her first husband, who was physically abusive, and Reynolds, who worked her over psychologically.

“Everyone was questioning, ‘Why would a woman stay with an abusive man?”’ she recalls. “There are so many seductive reasons, and it happens so slowly and it’s so complicated. It’s not black and white. It’s not an easily understood question to ask someone. You really have to delve into the ins and outs and ups and downs of what makes that relationship what it is.”

A fact many find amazing is that Anderson called every former husband (except Reynolds) and former lover mentioned in her book for their permission to use stories.

“I didn’t want to overstep any bounds anywhere.”

Anderson’s former lovers end up on her Christmas card list and are invited over for a holiday.

“Everybody has remained friends,” she says. “If you had a relationship with someone that lasts years and years, you must have liked them in the first place. Isn’t it a shame a divorce or breakup means you lose that friendship, too? I do think there’s a period when everyone has to get it together, and once you get past that, you say, ‘We were friends first. Let’s not forget that.”’

But none of that good will applies to her most famous ex, Reynolds.

“He does not speak to me,” she says. Visitation details for their son, Quinton, 7, are worked out by lawyers. “It’s very sad. I tried to have a dialogue for Quinton’s sake, but he handed the phone to Pam (Seals),” says Anderson, of the woman Reynolds reportedly left her for.

“He’s an angry, angry man, a very vindictive person, and I’ll never understand why it’s directed at me,” she concludes. “I’d like to ask him a lot of questions, and that would be one.”