Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

I appear here today to honor the birthday of a woman who will probably never be mentioned among the great TV babes of the 1970s—your Farrahs, your Linda Carters, etc.—yet for a particular kind of geek, she will always rank there.

Ladies and gentlemen, Marcia Strassman.

She started as a model and became a stage actress while still a teenager, but grabbed her first TV role on M*A*S*H. She appeared in only six episodes during the first season as Nurse Margie Cutler, but that was enough to make an impression—on me at least. Her most famous role came as Gabriel Kaplan’s TV wife Julie on Welcome Back, Kotter, which ran from 1975 to 1979. She was extremely fine by that time. I was a sucker for girls in eyeglasses, and I vividly remember one episode where she came on set dressed entirely in denim, long hair flowing, wearing those big glasses in style back then, and it nearly put me into a coma. She spent the 1980s doing various TV roles, and in 1989, she appeared in the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and in the 1993 sequel. After that, it was back to mostly TV roles. In 2007, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, although her prognosis is extremely good, apparently; she’s working for a drug company whose product helped her fight her disease. And based on the photos on the Facebook page devoted to her current work, she still looks mighty good.

This little tribute has a musical angle, for way back in 1967, the teenaged Marcia Strassman had a brief recording career. She cut some singles that were co-written and produced by Jerry Goldstein, who later produced several albums by War and managed Sly and the Family Stone. (Earlier this year, Sly sued him for $50 million, alleging stolen royalties.) “The Flower Children” was a fairly substantial hit on the West Coast in May 1967, hitting the Top 10 in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Escondido, Santa Maria, and Monterey, and going Top 20 in Los Angeles. It’s sometimes credited with coining the phrase that would be so frequently applied to the young generation starting that summer. I suppose that could be true, although it’s just as likely that Goldstein and his songwriting partners plucked a phrase from the California air that spring. A followup single, “The Groovy World of Jack and Jill,” got fewer plays on fewer stations. A third single went nowhere, and Marcia was free to focus on her acting career after that.

But “The Flower Children” remains, an artifact of its time—not just of the Summer of Love, but of the time when nearly anybody could make a record and score a hit, even if they weren’t a particularly good singer, which the teenaged Marcia Strassman was not, though it pains me to say so. But if anybody’s going to forgive her for that, it’s going to be me.

You can hear “The Flower Children” here. There’s much more Marcia, including photos, here.

Recommended Reading: I can’t recommend this post from Michele Catalano at Sound System strongly enough. Go read it now.

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