I was first introduced to my next interview subject, Shawn Weatherly, when I read the book Hit And Run, which was about the rise and fall of Jon Peters and Peter Guber at Sony. When discussing their pre-Sony career, the show OceanQuest was discussed. Shawn Weatherly was the star of that show, and as I read about her travels around the world in the ocean, I knew she would make for a fascinating interview subject. An accomplished actress, beauty queen and real estate agent, I interview Shawn about her diverse life on Tuesday, October 1st, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know her.
Say hello to Shawn Weatherly!
Johnny: Hello, Ms. Weatherly.
Johnny: Johnny Caps here. First of all, thank you for agreeing to do this interview, and thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this.
Shawn: Oh, sure.
Johnny: I have my questions ready to go, starting with this: You first came to prominence as a beauty queen, winning the titles of Miss USA and Miss Universe, so let’s start with Miss USA. What went through your mind when you won that honor in 1980?
Shawn: (Laughing) “What? Not me”. I was shocked. It was just a huge shock. I was blown away. It was quite an honor. I was a nursing student at Clemson, and I had entered the Miss South Carolina pageant to go to the Miss USA pageant. I’d had some pageant experience before, but the pageant to go to Miss America had talent involved (laughing). I won first runner-up in Miss South Carolina to go to Miss America, so that was the year before. I was finishing my third year of nursing school at Clemson when I got a call from the pageant franchise owner Paula Miles. She said “We need 26 or 27 girls to have an official pageant. Would you be interested in coming down?”. I said, “I don’t think I can be in it because I was in the other pageant”. She went, “No, you can do it as long as you didn’t win”. I went, “Well, okay. What do you win?” (laughing). She said, “You win a free weekend at the beach at the Hilton Hotel, a piece of luggage and a lifetime membership at a local health club”. I said, “Wow, that’s awesome. Sure, I’ll do it”, so I went to Charleston. I had never really known about Miss USA or Miss Universe, honestly. In the South at the time, it was all about the Miss America pageant, so the only time I had ever seen anything like that was as a waitress the summer before. When I was getting some drinks for the table I was waiting on, my boss pointed to the TV, and The Miss Universe pageant was on. I was looking at how beautiful the gowns were, and I wasn’t paying attention to the drinks I was supposed to get. My boss said, “Shawn, you should enter that. You would win”. He was always sweet to everybody, but I didn’t think twice about it until the next year when I got the call from Paula. I was like, “Oh, THAT pageant”. It wasn’t that well-known to me or the people who were involved in pageants in my area, and so it was all a huge surprise. I guess that goes to show that when you don’t win something, you never know what’s going to come your way (laughing).
Johnny: Definitely. Moving to Miss Universe, did you find that competition to be harder than Miss USA, or did your confidence help allay your fears?
Shawn: I wouldn’t say harder. I don’t think that anything was as difficult for me as was going into the Miss South Carolina pageant to go to Miss America because you have that individual talent and everyone was so competitive at the time. It’s changed a lot, Miss Universe. I think it’s just as competitive now as Miss America, maybe even more so, but at the time, it seemed like a lot of fun. I got to travel, and it was just interesting meeting these women from all over the world. I had met Miss Sweden and Miss Scotland. They were two of my best friends. We spent a month together in Korea. It didn’t feel nerve-wracking, but looking back on it, maybe it was just because I didn’t know any better (laughing). I guess, looking back on it, maybe if I had been aware of the competition…I didn’t even know they had scores. I had no idea that was going on while I was up there. I guess if I had known that, I would’ve been a little more nervous. I can sometimes be a little more naive in situations where things are new.
Johnny: Alright. I asked this of actress and documentarian Michelle Maren when I interviewed her several years ago, so now I’ll ask it of you: Did you find the world of beauty pageants to be as cutthroat as depicted in Michael Ritchie’s movie Smile, or was it friendlier than that?
Shawn: To me, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the women I met. I enjoyed being around the people who run the pageants. They were really supportive. I never had any cross words from anyone, really. I felt that it was a really supportive environment, and you have to remember this was in the 80s, so for young girls to be successful in areas that weren’t typically available to them, it was one way to find something you could be good at. I think there’s a lot of stereotypes, but I think it’s really an opportunity for people. It’s not that women go into it to feel so beautiful. I think that is the biggest misnomer ever about beauty pageants. It’s simply a lot of girls who are trying their hand at a lot of different things, and are enjoying something that, to them, means something. My daughter is a big volleyball player. Everybody has something they enjoy doing. For me, also, my mother passed when I was 9. I felt a very strong connection to a female figure, and being around the pageant coordinators and the people who ran it was really wonderful for me because it gave me a lot of confidence. They would give me a lot of attention, and cheer me up and make me feel like I belonged there. For me, it was wonderful for my self-esteem.
Johnny: That’s fantastic to hear. It’s good to have support like that.
Johnny: Between your beauty pageant days and the start of your acting career, did you ever do any fashion or runway modeling?
Shawn: I was in New York just before I gave up the crown, and I went to interviews with different modeling agencies. They were all telling me I had to lose 15 to 20 pounds, and I thought I was thin enough. i tried. When I moved to San Francisco, I got a modeling agent and I did a little modeling, but I was never going to be a real runway model. It was just not really my body type or what I think I was even interested in at the time. I made some money out of it, but I didn’t make enough to make it worth putting all my effort into it, so that kind of segued into getting a theatrical agent. That’s when I started going on auditions and getting into acting.
Johnny: Alright. That does lead me into the acting, starting with this: One of your earliest roles was playing the semi-recurring character of Claudia Cole on the series T.J Hooker. What are your favorite memories of working on that show?
Shawn: Dale Robertson was awesome. He was an icon who kind of reminded me a lot of my dad (laughing), and he was a little rough around the edges, a little gentleman. I enjoyed working with him. It was fun to have the relationship my character had with his. I remember one time sitting in the makeup trailer, looking at my script. Dale said, “Are you married?”. I said no, and he went, “Well, that script isn’t going to keep you warm at night” (laughing). He was old-school, and I went, “Hmm, okay”. It was fun being around somebody like that who knew the business.
Johnny: That answered my question about J.J Starbuck, but I actually asked about T.J Hooker.
Shawn: Oh, T.J Hooker. I forgot. I’m sorry. I was thinking about Dale. T.J Hooker. Oh, yeah, that was pretty early, one of the first acting jobs I ever had, and I was nervous. I didn’t know what I was doing for a long time, but those were the first couple of jobs. I think the first job I had was a quick scene or two in Cannonball Run II with Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. I remember my dad telling me, “Don’t go near that dirty old man!” (laughing). “Dad, it’s acting!”. I was very nervous, but Dean was very sweet to me.
Shawn: I think when I did the TV show T.J Hooker, it was a little bit more intimidating. On a TV show, it’s on a train of its’ own and you have to hop on to do the episode. You’re like a stranger or somebody who’s not supposed to be there. I grew up with Star Trek and I watched Captain Kirk every week, and it was a little intimidating to be working with him (laughing), so it was pretty surreal.
Johnny: Yeah, I can imagine. To go to my next question: You had a starring role as the character of Melissa McDonald on the sitcom Shaping Up. As I asked my previous interview subjects Max Wasa and Julie Winchester, what do you think made physical fitness such a popular topic for entertainment in the 1980s?
Shawn: It was sort of a new fad coming around. I remember when I won that lifetime membership to the health club when I was at Clemson, there wasn’t any place to work out there unless you were an athlete, and I had to drive thirty miles to get to the gym. I mean, it wasn’t a big, fancy gym, but it was a gym, and so that was 1978 or 1979, and now there’s a gym on every corner. That was just the beginning of, I think, the excitement and the energy of physical fitness for regular people that was starting to happen. Shaping Up was written by, I believe, the same writers who wrote Taxi. I think, obviously, their goal was to be successful like Taxi, but that was like a goldmine. The idea was to write a gym and make it a place where all these things happen with a bunch of fun characters. The first actor they hired for one of the parts was Tim Robbins, and he was not known to be a “comedian”, so they fired him and he went on, of course, to great things like The Shawshank Redemption. It just goes to show you that in the entertainment business, you can get cast in places where you won’t shine and it doesn’t lend itself to what you do, but then you go and do something else and find what you’re good at. I think that was the case with Tim Robbins, so they hired one or two different actors to play characters. There were a lot of problems with just trying to find people and not make them caricatures which, you know, can be fun, but they really have to be kind of rooted in reality. It didn’t work out, but it was sure fun working with Leslie Nielsen because he was always doing pranks when we were doing read-throughs. I couldn’t keep a straight face. He was very fun to work with.
Johnny: Cool. You played yourself on the scuba diving-themed series OceanQuest. How did you get involved in that project?
Shawn: Shaping Up had been canceled, and my manager said, “Oh, there’s this documentary”, they would’ve called it a docudrama at the time as this was before reality TV, “and they need somebody who can swim. You just have to fly up to San Francisco where they have this big tank. The director, Al Giddings, will do some tests with you diving”. I just basically did it because I needed a job. I did not really know we were going to be gone 18 months and I’d be scuba-diving 200 feet, or I’d go to the Antarctic and swim under 10 feet of ice in 80 degrees below zero. Probably if I would’ve known that, I would’ve been too scared to do it, but I tend to always say yes, so doing it was not easy. It was difficult, but now that I have grown children, I’m proud that I did stuff like that because they think that I’m a real Nervous Nellie and I don’t take risks and I don’t do anything fun, but I say, “Oh, I used to do that before I had kids” (laughing). It’s evidence I have in the back of my pocket that I’m really not a scaredy-cat.
Johnny: Cool. In probably the most memorable episode of OceanQuest, you visited Castro-era Cuba to go scuba-diving, and Fidel Castro himself was in the episode. Was there any hesitation on your part about visiting Cuba in that era?
Shawn: Honestly, I had no idea about politics, and I honestly didn’t know I was meeting with the Communist leader. I didn’t know. It was another thing I might’ve said no to (laughing), but we were with reputable directors and cinematographers. They had an agreement with him because Al Giddings had made underwater camera equipment for Castro when he used to scuba-dive, and apparently he had an attempt on his life. Someone had put poison into one of his diving suits and he stopped diving after that, but Al knew him from that, and so I kind of relied on their relationship. Looking back on it now, these pictures of me sitting next to him, it reminds me of this conversation. We were all standing around, Peter Guber, myself, Al Giddings and Fidel Castro, and to talk to him, you had to speak to his translator and then they would translate to him. Looking back now, I know he spoke English, but he always pretended like he didn’t. He was educated in the United States. He asked me something about the white sharks that we had found, and he asked, “Was that scary?”. It just popped out of my mouth. I said, “Not as scary as the land sharks” (laughing). I don’t know if the joke was translated properly or anything, but I made it out of there alive, so I suppose he had some humor about it.
Johnny: Alright. As you did mention Peter Guber, OceanQuest was produced by him and Jon Peters, who were rather notorious for their behavior towards pretty much everyone, so how did you handle working with them?
Shawn: Peter was awesome. I really enjoyed him and his wife Lynda. I haven’t seen them in years, but they were great. I didn’t have much contact with Jon. I don’t think that he was really involved so much in the production of it, but Peter, any time I had contact with them, they were awesome. I really enjoyed working with them. They were great.
Johnny: Okay. Well, to segue from that to the next project, they also produced The Color Purple, which was directed by Steven Spielberg, and Steven Spielberg produced Amazing Stories, where you returned to the world of beauty pageants, albeit fictionally, in the episode Remote Control Man. An episode top-heavy with TV star cameos, what stood out the most to you about appearing on that show?
Shawn: That Steven Spielberg was there and he was watching the scene we were filming. Afterwards he came up to me, and complimented me on the fact that, “I don’t know if you know how funny you are”. I said, “Is that a compliment? (Laughing) Funny like ha-ha or funny like oh no?”. No. He was very supportive and complimentary, and I was blown away that he was even there on the set. It was also great working with Barbara Billingsley. She was obviously an icon.
Johnny: That’s fantastic. That was really an interesting episode. To go from the small screen back to the big screen, one of your most noted big screen roles was playing Cadet Adams in Police Academy 3: Back In Training. You’re the first talent from that franchise that I’ve interviewed, so what are your favorite memories of shooting the film?
Shawn: We were up in Toronto, and I had never been there. It was a beautiful city, and we had a great chase scene on jet-skis. It was great, and it was great. It was really fun because I love being on the water, and I had never been on a jet-ski before. and I had to act like I really knew what I was doing on it, so it was pretty fun learning how to do that. We were sitting around between takes and Michael Winslow kept everybody laughing with his voices and his sounds. The whole cast was lovely. All of them were great to work with. A picture like that with a lot of financial support and talent is pretty much a dream come true. I didn’t feel very confident about my acting, but you know me. I never say no (laughing).
Johnny: Alright. Were you asked back for the following year’s Citizens On Patrol?
Shawn: No. I think they pretty much switched casts out. They would have their main people, but they would switch out a lot of cast members.
Johnny: Alright. To go to my next question: You played Stacy in the 1988 thriller Party Line, which was released earlier this year on Blu-Ray and DVD by Vinegar Syndrome. Were you approached about appearing in extras for that release, or was the movie not one you felt comfortable revisiting?
Shawn: No, I wasn’t asked. I would have. Mind Games is coming out and I did one for them. Party Line? You have to remember these were all like boom boom boom. Leif Garrett was in that. Poor guy. They made him put on a wedding dress. I don’t know. I kind of enjoyed the character I played. I played a detective, I think (laughing). It was a long time ago. I think it was 30 years ago, maybe a little less than that. I enjoyed the character a lot. I didn’t feel any worry about it. It wasn’t, you know, great quality, obviously. It was a B-film, but I was just making my way through getting experience and trying to be a better actress. I felt pretty honored they would hire me, actually.
Johnny: Alright. Well, to go to Mind Games, as you mentioned, you played Rita Lund in that movie. What made it stand out for you?
Shawn: I really liked working with Edward Albert. I remember seeing him in Butterflies Are Free, and I thought he was fantastic. Maxwell Caulfield was someone I really liked working with. He was great. Bob Yari was directing it. I don’t think he had ever directed before, but I had no idea. I thought he was doing a great job. It was interesting because we spent three months on the road. The whole time we went up and down the coast. We went to Big Sur through to San Francisco. There were great locations. They were beautiful. Working with Matt Norero, who played my son, was kind of sweet because I never really thought about having kids, and I got to visit that idea for a little bit, and it was fun. I loved working with Mary Apick. She was sort of the mother of the production and the producer all in one. She kind of took care of us and led us all along, even though it was very, very low-budget. She was awesome. She did a great job of taking care of everybody.
Johnny: Cool. I’m looking forward to that movie’s DVD and Blu-Ray release, especially since you’re involved in extras. I’m definitely big on physical media. I know everybody says that streaming is now, but I’m always a sucker for a DVD or a Blu-Ray. I love to actually own my movies, you know?
Shawn: Yeah, and I love that about the great ones. We have a couple that I want to keep forever, but I guess we’ll have to transfer it at some point because you need to transfer them before they go bad. At least you have the physical one to keep until you have to transfer it.
Johnny: Definitely. Well, enough about me. Let’s go back to you. We now come to your role as Jill Riley in the first season of Baywatch, which celebrates its’ 30th anniversary this year. You didn’t exactly have the best time on the show, but have you kept in contact with any cast members of the show, and would you participate in any 30th anniversary celebrations if you were asked?
Shawn: For the 30th anniversary, we were out of town seeing my daughter. She’s in her last season of volleyball at Princeton, so we’re kind of stalking her, and we didn’t get back in time for the celebrations. I would have, definitely. I loved working with Greg Bonnan and Doug Schwartz, and the cast was great. I enjoyed all of them. I mean, I was only in the first season, so I didn’t meet all the other gals, but Erika Eleniak and I worked great together. I mean, it was pretty much a dream come true. Our trailers were set up at Santa Monica Beach or Marina Del Rey. I think we did a lot of our pilot in Hawaii (laughing), so you can’t really complain.
ShawnL The only complaint I had was the dialogue. I mean, the storylines were fine, but I was promised it would be like “Thirtysomething at the beach”, and instead of being story-driven, it got to be more visually driven. I understand that. That’s where their bread was, so they made a good decision to go and get funding after the first year to keep it going, obviously, because they had a huge following around the world, but I really couldn’t see myself doing it for another year or two. I’d gotten married, and I wanted to get into serious roles, and I was also thinking about having children, and I couldn’t imagine myself running around. I mean, now a pregnant lifeguard would probably be pretty cool (laughing), but I don’t think it would’ve worked back in 1989. It probably wouldn’t have been okay.
Johnny: Alright. Well, to go back to the big screen, you played Petra/Peter in 1990’s Thieves Of Fortune, a movie which took you to South Africa for filming. What, if any, was your favorite part of working on that movie?
Shawn: The country was beautiful. We would wake up in the early morning and shoot late into the night. Zebras were crossing the street and monkeys were in the trees. It was just beautiful. I love animals, so I was just blown away by the beauty of the country and the resources. Obviously, they had their political and social struggles, but the country itself was absolutely stunning and gorgeous. It was a real treat. I loved working with the director, Michael MacCarthy. He was awesome. Michael Nouri is great fun, a guy that just loves life and is fun to be around. It was a long three months to be in the country, and I was kind of travel-weary from everything else I’d done, but it was a beautiful setting to work on a movie.
Johnny: Alright. That was also Lee Van Cleef’s final movie. Did you work with him?
Shawn: Yeah. We had a scene or two, not much dialogue, but I had a scene or two with him. Yeah, that was his last film.
Johnny: What was he like to work with?
Shawn: He was kind of a quiet, silent type, you know? I can’t even remember if he said anything outside of our scene because he came in and went out pretty fast.
Johnny: Alright. Well, to go back to the small screen, as with quite a few of my previous interview subjects, you appeared on an episode of Murder, She Wrote, playing that character of Kate Danbury in the episode Shooting In Rome. What was your favorite part of working on that episode?
Shawn: Angela Lansbury. Working with her was just terrific. It was amazing (laughing). I was really lucky to work with some incredible actors and actresses that are legendary, so it was wonderful. It was so professional, so focused. It was fantastic, really fantastic. It was a little nerve-wracking for me, too, because it was the first job I took after I had my son, so I was worried about myself, thinking about the baby, how the baby’s doing, when am I getting home, but I was able to relax after the first day or two and just remain in the moment, knowing that it was just one episode, you know? You know you’re going home and not going on a long stretch of time away.
Johnny: Alright. Although you’ve kept a foot in the world of show business, a turn your life took was towards real estate, so how did you get involved in that field?
Shawn: We had moved to Orange County for my husband’s business, and my kids were 3 and 7, and my daughter had had open-heart surgery. Thankfully, she was fine and is now this incredible athlete, but it was a scary time. I lost my mother when I was nine, and I just didn’t want to be away from them. I wanted a job where I could be home, so my mother-in-law was thinking about retiring from real estate. She had been in it about 30 years, and she said maybe she’d do it a couple of more years if I went in with her, and I said, “Well, that sounds great”. I mean, I could be home at night. It’s just a perfect job for a mom, so I got my real estate license and worked with her, and she was fantastic at what she did. I learned so much from her, and she had been in the business long before, so I loved learning about a whole other different topic, so it was great. I think it was about five years I did it, and she retired, and then I decided to pretty much stay at home.
Johnny: Alright. What would you say was the most incredible house that you had sold during your time as a real estate agent?
Shawn: Oh, some big ones. There was a bay front that had an infinity pool, just an extraordinary home. I think it was for sale for 23 million back in 2005, a 23 million dollar home on the bay. It was spectacular. There was another one, maybe even a larger home, not quite so much money, but it was about 10,000 square feet at Pelican Hill, and I would get lost in that house. I was thinking to myself, “If I lived in this house, I’d have to have 20 children”. It was so enormous. There were some pretty big mansions down here. I was blown away.
Johnny: Fantastic. Did you find that your entertainment background helped you when you were selling houses?
Shawn: Probably indirectly. I don’t really know. I happen to be a people-pleaser by nature, so I would do everything I could to, you know, assist their anxieties about selling their home. I think I would just do it naturally. One of the first incidents I had showing a home was so bizarre that it caught me off-guard, and I was just sure this didn’t happen in real estate. When I went to relay the story to my mother-in-law, she went, “Oh, that happens all the time”. I thought, “Oh, I’ll get better”. I put on my game face because I think my jaw dropped. I had a woman come into the house, saying she wanted to see the house. It was a pocket listing. It wasn’t on the market yet, so she brought her agent. Her agent came to the door, we let her in, she went upstairs, and then the doorbell rang, and another agent came in and said she was her agent. This was really awkward. She was upstairs with the woman she came in with, and she says that’s her agent, and so I asked the woman, “Maybe you can leave and we’ll call and work it out later”. She wouldn’t leave. She walked through the house looking for the woman, and I didn’t know what to do (laughing). She walked up the stairs, looking for the woman she said was her client, and she’s nowhere to be found. The agent was just standing there like she ate a mouse, and I said, “Virginia, where is Marcia?”. Marcia was the client. She said, “I don’t know”. Well, it was a big house, about 1500 square feet, and she had to be somewhere in the house. The agent looked all around and up in the closet. She searched in the back of the clothes, and there was the client hiding behind the clothes in the closet. She said, “I can’t tell her I’m in here”, and she’s standing right next to me. I said, “I’m sorry. I can’t lie to her”. It was the most awkward moment, so when she left, I called my mother-in-law and said, “This is so weird. Why would she do that?”. She said, “Did she like the house?” (laughing). Well, I don’t know. I was so weirded out that a grown woman was hiding behind these clothes because she had gotten two agents to work for her, and she didn’t have the backbone to commit to one. It was pretty funny.
Johnny: Alright. I now come to my final question: Have you ever done any conventions like Chiller Theatre in Parsippany, NJ or The Hollywood Show in California, and if not, would you consider doing so?
Shawn: I don’t know what that is.
Johnny: Oh, those are autograph conventions. You go, you sell your autographs, take pictures…
Shawn: Oh, yeah. I’ve been asked, but I’m not really interested in it. I’m always happy to sign autographs if my agent sends them or stuff like that, but I don’t really go to conventions to do it.
Johnny: Alright. Well, I’ll definitely have to send something your way because I would love to add your autograph to my collection.
Shawn: Sure! Absolutely.
Johnny: That about does it for my questions. I thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this. I actually first read about you in the book Hit And Run, which was about the rise and fall of Guber and Peters. I read about OceanQuest and I saw you mentioned. That just struck me as so fascinating, and then I looked up your IMDB filmography and I reviewed your material and I thought, “You know, I’d like to interview her someday”. I’m glad I finally had the chance to do so.
Shawn: Well, thank you. I appreciate your interest, and it’s kind of nice to go down memory lane.
Johnny: No problem. I loved doing this interview. You had some great stories, and the Pop Geeks audience is going to love it, so thank you again for your time, and I’ll definitely be in touch.
Shawn: You’re so welcome. You take care.
Johnny: Have a good evening.
Shawn: You, too. Bye bye.
I would like to thank Shawn Weatherly for taking the time out of her schedule to speak to me, and I would also like to thank Erin Connor for helping to set up the interview.
Who will I Flashback with next? Stay tuned.