Our intrepid friend Walter found this cool article on a Dodge website:
Late in 1969, there was a changing of the guards at Dodge. The spokesperson for Dodge cars and trucks, Ms. Joan Parker, was leaving the job of promotion to a new woman. Miller was blonde, tall and blue eyed with a killer smile. Her new tag line was “You could be Dodge Material.”During late 1969 and all through 1970, Miller was seen on brochures, print and television ads. The big auto exhibitions used her image to promote new models including the Challenger at the Chicago Car Show. Fans often saw her sharing booths with Sheriff Joe Higgins. Then, as suddenly as she’d arrived, Cheryl Miller was gone. Ever wonder what became of her? We did.
Cheryl Miller was born Feb 4th, 1944 in Sherman Oaks, California. Her father was an architect and her mother worked as an accountant for Sears department store. Cheryl had a typical childhood of the 1950s and graduated from Ulysses S Grant High School, majoring in Science and Music. Miller followed up her musical education by studying at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. Miller seems to have been destined for a life in showbiz. She’d been discovered by Ivan Tors while appearing in an episode of Flipper. By the mid 1960s, things started going into high gear for Miller. March ’65 saw her promoting Home Seamstress cabinets in her local newspaper. In July, she was chosen by Walt Disney as the “Typical American Girl.” A production deal to star in “The Initiates” was struck by Creative Company in the fall.
By late November 1966, Miller was one of 12 Hollywood Deb Stars and got drawn into the vortex of automotive promotion with an appearance at Special Speed Cars show held at Topanga Theatre which was actually in Woodland Hills, California. There were a lot of other emcee, hosting duties and even a hit television series called Daktari from 1967 to 1969. This is probably where most people outside of California had exposure to Miller. Cheryl was married in December 1968 to Stanley G Shapiro, a stockbroker. Usually this would squelch any further show business aspirations but Cheryl continued with a return to her initial interests in the arts. She was developing a nightclub act featuring what she termed as “good music” in January 1969. It is unknown if the revue ever occurred but in August, Miller was tapped by Dodge to replace Joan Parker for the 1970-1971 year.
Here is a strange coincidence; Parker was from the East Coast raised in Warwick, New York. Miller was from the West Coast, raised in Sherman Oaks. Parker was leaving the auto PR business to marry a stock broker in LA. Miller had just married a stock broker and entering the auto PR business. Another weird coincidence is Miller and Shapiro were divorced by 1971 which is the final year of Miller’s car promotion run. You’d be hard pressed to find a matching set of book ends. It’s almost like Vanishing Point but with people instead of cars.
The big question remains, what happened after the Dodge Material Girl era for Cheryl Miller? If you like the show business world, you keep on working. First, Cheryl got a role in NBC’s soap opera, Bright Promise starring as Samantha Pudding. NBC’s soap effort started in 1969, right about the time Daktari ended its run and Miller was hired by Dodge to replace Ms. Parker. By 1972, Bright Promise was on its last legs and was getting crunched by Edge of Night. Miller entered the movie world with a role in Doctor Death, Seeker of Souls, a 1973 horror flick. Miller was one of five unfortunate ladies to succumb to John Considine’s evil aura. From there it was a role in a mid 70s comedy children’s movie, The Man from Clover Grove. Eventually Cheryl phased herself out of movies and big productions. She gained a family life and had a child in 1980 named Erik Seidenglanz. Today, he is known as a concept artist and was a noted child magician.
Posted 23rd October 2014 by Patrick Smith
One of our readers poses this question; do you know the answer?
I watched the fourth season episode “the runways” and at 20:00m Cheryl is dressed like a princess in front of the mirror. Do you know why, because this is the only scene in this episode with her dressed like this?
Leave your answer in the comments section.
Check out this cute picture available on eBay (thanks Walter!) at http://www.ebay.com/itm/YALE-SUMMERS-DAKTARI-CHERYL-MILLER-WORLD-EXCLUSIVE-7×5-ORIGINAL-PHOTO-1966-/391202968862?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item5b1583951e
Thanks to our friend Walter, we have yet another great find on Ebay – these original color slides of Cheryl Miller in the 1970s and 80s. You will note that there are pictures with her son Eric when he was a boy.
If you want to bid on these slides visit http://www.ebay.com/itm/AA7-23-Cheryl-Miller-Lot-of-19-35mm-orig-color-slides-/351427302013?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item51d2b3127d – the starting bid is $9.99.
Recently a reader known as “squeapler” left a series of lengthy comments on the post about Africa U.S.A. (The story of Africa, U.S.A. and its proprietors, animal trainer Ralph Helfer and Daktari producer Ivan Tors) regarding the floods which destroyed the compound. I decided to create a blog post to highlight these comments as they give a full story as to what happened.
My thanks to “squeapler” for this wonderful information!
Hello again. I found a little more information about the floods at Africa USA in doing my research for “Gentle Ben”, based on California newspapers from the 1960s I accessed through Newspapers.com. It seems like there were indeed two major floods. The first one, which is the one discussed in the Cleveland Amory TV Guide article, happened in Dec. 1965 and is the one that caused Bruno the bear (later the main actor in “Gentle Ben”) to be swept away. He returned on his own a few days later. Several other animals were also mentioned as missing but perhaps not drowned as the news articles mention that the chewed carcass of a cow was found, giving the impression that one of the big cats had eaten it.
The second flood occurred in January 1969 and seems to have been much worse. Prior to this flood, Tors was planning to open the compound to the public for tours and had sought a zoning variance to do so. However, when the flood occurred the water rose so quickly that apparently not all the animals could be rescued from their cages in time, and were shot to prevent them from drowning. The animals that were shot included 3 lions, a jaguar, two tigers, and one or two bears (not Bruno as he went on to appear in 1970s films).
Then on Feb. 25, 1969, there was apparently more flooding (the news article talks about there being two 100-year floods in 30 days) and two alligators and two hippos broke loose and were seen going down the flood-swollen Santa Clarita river. A spokesman for Africa USA was quoted as saying the animals were extremely dangerous and once the flood subsided, “big game hunters would attempt to destroy them from helicopters.”
Shortly thereafter, there was a $50,000 fire also at the complex, although no animals were hurt.
After this, Tors decided to concentrate on his planned “Torsland” park in Florida (which I understand from the documentary on him, never happened, although he did have a number of his animals at the Homosassa Springs Attraction in Florida through the 70s) and Helfer decided to abandon the Africa USA complex and move the operation to a new location near Fillmore in Ventura County.
It seems like in the “Beauty of the Beasts” account, Helfer (or some editor) conflated the two floods as the article talks about shooting “Gentle Ben” and then having Bruno wash away. “Gentle Ben” and “Gentle Giant” did not come out until 1967 which to me would mean that they were probably filmed during 1966 at the earliest (possibly even early 1967) so it seems unlikely that they were shooting “Gentle Ben” in 1965.
Here are some of the newspaper sources I used. There are lots more than this on Newspapers.com – the local California papers covered all of this in pretty good detail.
“All you need is a Coke and stout heart”, Redlands Daily Facts, Dec. 31, 1965, p. 2.
“Wild Animals on Loose – Swept away by Los Angeles Floods,” Eureka Humboldt Standard, Jan. 18, 1966, p. 2.
“Three Dead Lions Reported Stolen From Africa, U.S.A.,” Redlands Daily Facts, Jan. 31, 1969, p. 3.
“6 More Victims of South State Storm,” San Mateo Times, Feb. 26, 1969, p. 12.
“Africa U.S.A. Fire,” Long Beach Independent, Mar. 4, 1969, p. A-7.
“Tors Will Abandon Flood-Damaged Africa U.S.A.,” Fresno Bee, Apr. 13, 1969, p. 12-A.
“HELP – They Don’t Quit,” San Bernarndino County Sun, Feb. 20, 1970, p. B-5.
” ‘Africa’ Opening,” Long Beach Independent, Jan. 26, 1971, p. A-8.
Check out this post for the exact location of Africa U.S.A: Just where was Africa U.S.A.?? Now we know …