Tanya Roberts, a Charlie’s Angel and a Bond Girl, Is Dead at 65
Tanya Roberts, the breathless actress who became famous in the 1980s as a detective for “Charlie’s Angels” and as the brave earth scientist in the James Bond film “A View to a Kill”, died on Monday evening in Los Angeles. She was 65 years old.
Her death at Cedars Sinai Hospital was confirmed Tuesday by her companion Lance O’Brien. Her publicist, who received false information, announced her death to the news media early Monday, and some news organizations prematurely published obituary notices about her.
Publicist Mike Pingel said Ms. Roberts collapsed on December 24 after walking her dogs near her Hollywood Hills home and was plugged into a ventilator in the hospital. He did not provide the cause of death but said it was not related to Covid-19. He said she wasn’t noticeably ill before she collapsed.
Ms. Roberts’ big hiatus came in her mid-twenties when she followed the exploits of three attractive ex-cops who frequently fought crime on the fifth and final season of Charlie’s Angels, the ABC drama series that dealt with the sex appeal of its stars, wore shorts, low-cut blouses and even bikinis.
The show was an instant hit in 1976, but Farrah Fawcett, its breakout star, left the show after a season and was replaced by Cheryl Ladd. Kate Jackson quit in 1979 and her successor, Shelley Hack, was gone after just one season. Mrs. Roberts replaced Mrs. Hack. Jaclyn Smith appeared throughout the series run.
There were high hopes for Ms. Roberts as she joined the cast. Her character, Julie, had some of the streetwise demeanor of Ms. Jackson’s character; Julie was known to hit a gun straight out of the hand of a tough criminal. Her part couldn’t save the show’s falling ratings, but it did lead to an active decade for her in Hollywood.
Most importantly, she was a “Bond girl” who played a geologist threatened by a microchip monopoly (Christopher Walken) in “A View to a Kill” (1985), Roger Moore’s last appearance as Agent 007.
Ms. Roberts also appeared in “The Beastmaster” (1982), a fantasy film. And she played the title role in Sheena (1984), a highly acclaimed adventure film inspired by a comic book character of the Queen of the Jungle. Sheena, a Tarzan woman, wore skimpy fur outfits with a cleavage, rode a zebra, talked to animals and changed her shape. The film flopped at the box office and Ms. Roberts began to disappear from the public eye.
She returned to the limelight on the 1998 sitcom That ’70s Show as the glamorous young mom of a Midwestern teenager (Laura Prepon). In this role she was beautiful, slim and sexy – and delightfully dark. The comical puzzle was, year after year, how her chubby little husband, played by Don Stark with terrifyingly overgrown sideburns, had ever captured her heart. Ms. Roberts appeared on the show for three seasons and later made guest visits.
She was born Victoria Leigh Blum on October 15, 1955 in the Bronx, the second of two daughters of Oscar Maximilian Blum, a fountain pen salesman, and Dorothy Leigh (Smith) Blum. According to some sources, Tanya was her nickname. She spent her childhood in the Bronx and lived briefly in Canada after her parents divorced. She started her career by running away from home to become a model when she was 15.
Back in New York, she studied acting, appeared in a few off Broadway productions and worked as a model and dance teacher to make ends meet. Her modeling career included working for Clairol and Ultra-Brite toothpaste. She made her film debut in the horror thriller “The Last Victim” (1976) about a serial rapist-murderer.
After “Charlie’s Angels,” Ms. Roberts starred on both television and films. Her roles included private secretary Mike Hammer’s secretary in the television movie “Murder Me, Murder You” (1983), an undercover detective in a sex clinic in “Sins of Desire” (1993) and a talk radio host for the adult anthology series “Hot Line” “(1994-96). Her last screen appearance was in 2005 on the Showtime series “Barbershop”.
Even in her prime, Ms. Roberts did not seem to enjoy being interviewed. She chatted with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in 1981, laughing nervously, giving brief replies, and flirting with her fellow guest, Michael Landon. At one point, Mr. Carson mentioned a cover article about her in People magazine and asked Ed McMahon, the host’s pal, to suggest, “Maybe there is something in the magazine that would be interesting.”
Ms. Roberts was a teenager when she married in 1971, but the union was quickly broken at the urging of her new mother-in-law. In 1974 she met psychology student Barry Roberts while they were queuing up in a movie theater. They got married that year. Mr Roberts became a screenwriter and died in 2006 at the age of 60.
Besides Mr. O’Brien, she survives a sister, Barbara Chase, who was Timothy Leary’s fourth wife.
Ms. Roberts had always insisted that she was New York at heart, and not just because she hated driving.
“LA drives you crazy,” she said in the 1981 People magazine article. “I’m used to the weather and walking and people who say what they mean.”