JoBeth Williams and Ann Jillian: Where’d they go?


Did you watch the World Series of Pop Culture on VH1 last month? One of the big tiebreakers challenged contestants to name all the cast members of The Big Chill. I did pretty well, but I completely forgot about JoBeth Williams. So of course that made me wonder: Where’d she go?

Williams was a household name in the ’80s, thanks mostly to The Big Chill, the Poltergeist flicks and a slew of made-for-TV movies like Adam, The Day After (wow, did that ever spook me), Breaking Through and — oh, yeah — Baby M. Here’s what she looked like back then. (Yes, that’s Glenn Close on the right in the first picture.)

And then Williams’ career seemed to wane a little (though she did do the brilliant Switch in 1991, with Ellen Barkin and Lorraine Bracco). According to IMDb, Murphy Brown was created with Williams in mind as the lead, but she turned it down. Oops.

But she’s actually been plenty busy lately, guest starring on Criminal Minds and 24 and getting regular gigs like The Nine (well, regular while it lasted). And she’s been behind the camera, even earning an Oscar nomination for On Hope, a 1994 Showtime film. Despite the acclaim, it hasn’t been easy:

“Now that I’m directing … I’ve felt how difficult it is. Out of 200 or so movies made last year, only seven were directed by women. There’s been an enormous leap of women producers and heads of studios, but strangely enough, those women haven’t given other women a boost. It’s very frustrating.”

Whatever battles she may face, Williams is handling them (and age) very gracefully:

On a related note, bad machine and I recently saw Steve Miller in concert (go ahead, laugh, but who doesn’t like “Jungle Love” and “The Joker”?) and at one point I found myself reminiscing about Ann Jillian. I don’t even know what prompted the nostalgia; maybe some of the hairdos in the crowd. But anyway, it was another “what ever happened to her?” moment.

I used to adore Ann Jillian. Remember that great show It’s a Living (also called Making a Living), about waitresses in the big city? She played Cassie, and she was brassy and sassy. That show was sort of the original Sex and the City, only better, and Cassie was the original Samantha.

Image from the awesome It’s a Living fan site

Jillian also got a lot of attention for her portrayal of Mae West in the 1982 made-for-TV movie and for Sugar Babies on Broadway in the late ’70s. But it was really all about that dazzling platinum pageboy. And the bad-girl air.

The recent Jillian news isn’t as good as the Williams news. Ann had various TV guest-starring roles throughout the ’90s. But now she appears to be focusing on motivational speaker gigs — not that that’s insignificant, as she is a breast cancer survivor and was one of the first celebrities to raise awareness about the disease.

She also occasionally does concerts (she has a fine voice and sang with the L.A. Civic Light Opera). One thing I can’t help but point out: Jillian really, really needs to find a new website designer. Hey, Ann: I’m available.

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