Early life, family, educational background
American actress, Karin Jan Smithers was born on 3 July 1949 in North Hollywood, California, USA. She came to fame from playing Bailey Quarters in CBS’s “WKRP in Cincinnati” sitcom, which ran from 1978 to 1982. In June 2014, the Paley Center for Media hosted a reunion party for the surviving cast members of the series.
Jan was raised in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles with her three sisters and attended a school that has since been renamed William Howard Taft Charter High School. They were raised in San Fernando Valley, Woodland Hills, which is located north of Los Angeles. Their father worked as an attorney, and their mother was a homemaker.
Jan Smithers. Bailey Quarters, WKRP In Cincinnati.This photo posted in the 1970s by DoYouRemember? group.
When Jan was a teenager and studying at Taft High School, she was involved in a car accident. Jan swerved to avoid colliding with another car, causing her to crash into a telephone pole; she still has a scar on her chin from that accident.
After matriculating, Jan went on to study art in Valencia at the California Institute of the Arts.
Family’s personal life
Molly, Jan’s daughter with James Brolin, felt inspired by her parents’ passion for film, choosing to follow in their footsteps, but whereas her parents loved to be in front of the camera, Molly preferred staying behind it, working as a production assistant and producer – most notably on the set of “Men in Black 3.”
From 1988 to 1994, Jan’s stepson Josh was married to American actress, Alice Adair, famous for her roles in 1987’s “Beverly Hills Cop II” and 1992’s “Szuler.” This meant that Jan was Alice’s stepmother-in-law, as she remained in Jess and Josh’s lives.
In 1966, she was interviewed by reporter David Moberg for a “Newsweek” article on American teenagers growing up in the 1960s. Julian Wasser photographed her for the article, posed sitting on the back of her friend’s motorcycle; the magazine issue was published that year on March 21st with Jan gracing the cover, and her photos brought several Hollywood agents to her doorstep with offers. She accepted some, appearing in a few commercials while still studying at the California Institute of the Arts.
When interviewed by “Newsweek” in 2016, she recalled being scouted at the beach by two men Jan described as “…little pencils… One had long hair and cameras around his neck.” They approached her and shared their idea about an article focused on American teenagers, but were still looking for a Californian girl, “We’re wondering if you’d be interested in doing the article.” Jan’s mother took her to meet agents in Hollywood, encouraging Jan to enrol at the California Institute of the Arts. She didn’t complete her studies there, instead choosing to drop out and act full-time.
Jan’s career highlight was when she was 28, and cast in the popular sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” a series about an unpopular radio station in Ohio. Jan played Bailey Quarters, a shy and pretty news reporter working at the WKRP station.
Being a woman in the radio industry in the late 70’s, a lot of Bailey’s storyline revolved around her struggles to be taken seriously, and considered equal to her male counterparts – the series ended in 1982.
She continued acting for five years after the show came to a close. Jan played Kathy Farrell in a 1985 episode entitled “Sudden Death.” of the television series “Murder, She Wrote,” her character was married to football player Zak Farrell (played by Caitlyn – then Bruce – Jenner) and together, they were the parents of Jill Farrell (played by Marcianne Warman).
Jan then appeared in season eight, episode ten of “The Love Boat,” entitled “By Hook or by Crook/Revenge with the Proper Stranger/Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.”, portraying Carol Cooperman, the wife of advocate Marvin Cooperman (played by Ray Buktenica).
Although Jan mostly appeared in television series, she has occasionally performed in films, including 1974’s “Where the Lilies Bloom” playing Devola, and in “When the North Wind Blows,” as the Lady in the Zoo. She portrayed Cathy Wakefield in “Our Winning Season” in 1978, with her character Dr. Lisa Rayon in 1987’s “Mr. Nice Guy” being her last appearance on screen.
Jan retired from acting to spend time with her family, “I loved having a career, but when I met Molly, I just looked at her and told her, ‘You need me…’ I thought, I have to stay! She changed my life. I really longed to be her mom.”
From 1 December 1971 to October 1972, Jan was married to fellow actor Kipp Whitman, and also got along with his brother and fellow actor, Stuart Maxwell Whitman.
The American actor gained his fame through his work in the 1967 film, “Hondo,” the 1973 film “Bummer”, and the 1976 film “The Bionic Woman”. Jan was Kipp’s second and last wife – his first marriage was with Josephine Whitman, whose maiden surname and their wedding date are unknown, but their divorce was finalised in 1983.
Jan then married James Brolin at the Greenwood United Church in Baddeck, Nova Scotia in 1986. They met while working on the set of the television show “Hotel”. The couple unfortunately divorced in 1995. Jan opened up to “Newsweek”, saying “It was good – really good – but somehow, somewhere, we started to wander… He was gone months at a time. I had Molly and wanted to be in the country and get away from that world. I just wanted a different life.”
James is an actor and the father of Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos in the “Avengers” series. Jan was also the stepmother to James’ daughter Jess and son Josh from a previous marriage. James and Jan also had a child of their own, daughter Molly Elizabeth born in 1987.
Rumors spread that Jan and James’ parting was due to an affair between James and Jewish-American singer and actress, Barbra Streisand. However, Jan refuted this when she pointed out that James only began dating Barbra five years after his amicable split from Jan, which included shared custody of Molly. James and Barbra married in 1998 and are still together.
Since retiring, Jan has kept her personal life private.
She doesn’t have any social media accounts, and doesn’t agree to many solo interviews, but she does attend “WKRP in Cincinnati” reunion shows and events. In her 2016 interview with “Newsweek,” Jan spoke about her trip to India, which led to her enlightenment on spirituality and meditation. Her belief is, “the answer to peace in the universe is love.”
In October 2017, she moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to Ojai, California.
Hobbies, favorite things and interesting facts
Jan shares a birthday with British actress and writer, Susan Penhaligon. Susan’s fame arose from her role as Helen Barker in “A Fine Romance,” the British sitcom that aired for four seasons from 1 November 1981.
Jan’s zodiac sign is Cancer.
Jan has blue eyes, light brown hair that has greyed over time and is of slim build, 5ft 7ins (170cm) tall and weighing about 120lbs (55kg), with vital statistics of 34-25-35. She wears a US size 4 dress and a US size 8 shoe.
Net worth and salary
As of 2022, Jan’s estimated net worth is $6 million. She has earned all of her money from acting and modelling, and possibly also received financial support from James following their divorce.