Starting out in the beauty pageant arena, American actress and singer Susan Anton first achieved prominence in the late 1970s after starring and singing in TV commercials for Muriel Cigars. Before long, she co-hosted the ABC variety special “Mel and Susan Together” (1978) with Mel Tillis, starred as Susan Williams on “Stop Susan Williams” (1979) and headlined her own musical show on NBC titled “Presenting Susan Anton” (1979). Anton earned a Golden Globe nomination for her feature acting debut in “Goldengirl” (1979) and later a Razzie nomination for her supporting role in “Cannonball Run II” (1984). In the early 1990s, she attracted attention with her recurring role of Jackie Quinn on “Baywatch.” Anton has also appeared in the Broadway plays “Hurlyburly,” “The Will Rogers Follies” and “All Shook Up” and hosted the “Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular” show at Las Vegas' Flamingo Hilton. As a singer, Anton is well associated with her single “Killin' Time” (1980), which peaked at No. 10 on the U.S. Country chart and No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Anton has been married to her second husband, actor Jeff Lester, since 1992. In the early 1980s, following her divorce from first husband Jack Stein, she made headlines for being in a romantic relationship with then-married Sylvester Stallone. She also had a long relationship with British actor Dudley Moore.
Childhood and Family:
The daughter of Wally and Lou Anton, Susan Ellen Anton was born on October 12, 1950, in Oak Glen, California. She graduated from Yucaipa High School in Yucaipa, California, in 1968 and then went to a community college at the San Bernardino Valley College in San Bernardino. She competed in a beauty pageant while in high school on a dare from her high school boyfriend.
Susan tied the knot with Jack Stein on June 29, 1975, but they divorced on May 20, 1980. On August 15, 1992, she married actor Jeff Lester (born on May 4, 1955). She presently lives in Las Vegas.
Stop Susan Williams
Susan Anton got her first taste of performing as a third grader when she played “Hungarian Rhapsody” on the piano during her class talent show and ended up winning the competition. In high school, she took part in the Miss Redlands beauty contest and won her first title after charming the judges with her singing performance of “Since I Fell For You.” Anton experienced her next triumph when she was crowned the Miss California title in 1969 and as the winner competed in the Miss America contest in 1970, where she finished second runner up. Armed with her success in pageants, she headed to Hollywood to try her hand at show business.
As a struggling performer, Anton made her television acting debut in 1973 with a small part in the ABC made for TV drama “The Great American Beauty Contest,” opposite Farrah Fawcett and Kathrine Baumann. She also took on odd jobs, like cleaning office buildings, to make ends meet. Her first break arrived when she was chosen “Miss Muriel” in 1976. As the new spokesperson for Muriel cigars, she appeared in a number of Muriel television commercials. With newfound popularity, she was invited to and eventually became a favorite guest on “The Merv Griffin Show.” In the late 1970s, she also appeared in radio and television commercials for Serta Perfect Sleeper Mattresses.
An accomplished singer, Anton was hired by ABC to costar with country singer Mel Tillis on the 1978 variety series “Mel and Susan Together.” The following year, she starred as Susan Williams, a TV journalist investigating the murder of her brother, on the “Stop Susan Williams” episodes of NBC's “Cliffhangers.” The same year, she also hosted the NBC musical variety show “Presenting Susan Anton” and reprised her role of Susan Williams in the TV film “The Girl Who Saved the World.” More prominently, she made her big screen debut in director Joseph Sargent's “Goldengirl” (1979), which was loosely based on a science fiction novel by Peter Lear. Starring in the movie, she received a 1980 Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture - Female.
Anton began performing in Las Vegas in 1980. The same year, she released the album “Killin' Time” (released in Japan as “Foxy”), which achieved gold status. The title single, a duet sung with Fred Knoblock, rose to the Top 10 on the Country charts and the Top 30 on the Pop charts.
In 1982, Anton joined the U.S. national touring company of Neil Simon and Marvin Hamlisch’s musical “They're Playing Our Song” and starred in the independent film “Spring Fever,” which was released in the U.S. on January 14, 1983. She next portrayed Leslie Wades in two episodes of “The Love Boat” (1983), Jill, Lamborghini Babe in the Burt Reynolds sequel “Cannonball Run II” (1984), for which she was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress, and Kalotte in the TV film “The Boy Who Loved Trolls” (1984, PBS), where she acted with Sam Waterston and Matt Dill. She debuted on Broadway in 1985 when she landed a role in “Hurlyburly,” a dark comedy by David Rabe. Directed by Mike Nichols, the play also featured performances from Danny Aiello, Christine Baranski, Frank Langella, John Rubinstein and Candice Bergen.
Anton next costarred with John Anderson in the TV film “Hardesty House” (1986), played various characters on “Jonathan Winters: On the Ledge” (1987), which was a disappointing TV special starring Jonathan Winters, had an unaccredited part in the film “Making Mr. Right” (1987) and starred as Joanna Pacula/Princess Nicole in the indie comedy “Options” (1989) for director Camilo Vila. She also made guest appearances in various television series during the late 1980s, including “Hotel” (1 episode), “Alfred Hitchcock Present” (1 episode) and “Murder, She Wrote” (2 episodes).
In 1991, Anton revisited Broadway when she replaced Cady Hoffman as Ziegfeld's favorite chorus girl in Tommy Tune's Tony award winning musical “The Will Rogers Follies.” The same year, she played the supporting role of Sara in the independent movie “Lena's Holiday” and began her famed recurring role of Jackie Quinn on the syndicated series “Baywatch” the following year. She appeared in 13 episodes until 1994. She then played Mrs. Anderson in two episodes of “City Guys” (1997) and appeared with Kelsey Grammer in the comedy “New Jersey Turnpikes” (1999). Anton also made guest appearances in “Quantum Leap,” “Out of This World,” “Blossom” and “Dangerous Curves.” In 1997, she hosted “Las Vegas” for the Travel Channel.
In 2000, Anton hosted the successful “Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular” show with the Rockettes at the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada. She appeared in the show until July 2000. Also in 2000, Anton made her producing debut with the twelve minute comedy “The Last Real Cowboys,” starring Billy Bob Thorton. The film was directed and co-written by her husband Jeff Lester. She returned as an executive producer eight years later with the short “Speed of Life” (2008), which was also directed by her husband. Anton also performed in a San Francisco production of “The Vagina Monologues” in 2001 and released an album titled “One Night.”
In 2004, Anton resumed her screen career by starring as Dixie Dawson in the short film “Whistlin' Dixie” for director/writer Morgan Schechter. Four years later, she costarred as Sandra Newell in the thriller “Playing with Fire” (2008), opposite Kelly Albanese. On stage, she starred as Velma Von Tussle in the musical “Hairspray” at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas in February 2006. She then appeared in the Broadway Across America tour of “All Shook Up” in 2007.
Recently, in 2010, Anton played Jenny Coswold in an episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” called “Bedtime.