Barbi Benton (born Barbara Lynn Klein; January 28, 1950) is an American model, actress, and singer.
Benton was born Barbara Lynn Klein in New York City, New York, to a Jewish family. She moved with her parents to California when she was 2 years old. She grew up in Sacramento and attended Rio Americano High School.
At the age of 16, she began to model to help supplement her income. Following high school, she attended UCLA, and at age 18 took a job with Playboy to appear on their entertainment show Playboy After Dark. Her role was as co-host and beautiful companion to the show's director of entertainment, Hugh Hefner. After recording two sessions, Hefner asked the young co-ed for a date. Upon being asked, she reports demurring to the then-42-year-old Hefner: "I don't know, I've never dated anyone over 24 before." To which Hefner replied, "That's all right, neither have I." The two began a relationship that lasted several years, and placed Benton in the center of the Playboy enterprise. Hefner convinced her to change her name from Barbara Klein to the more marketable Barbi Benton.
Benton (initially credited as Barbi Klein) appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine four times: July 1969, March 1970, May 1972, and December 1985 and in additional nude photo layouts in the December 1973 and January 1975 issues. Though she was featured in a number of photo-essays, she was never a Playmate of the Month. She landed a spot on television's Hee Haw doing short comic sketches, and subsequently enjoyed a career as a country singer. She also began acting, and appeared in a few "B" movies before appearing as a featured repeat performer on a number of popular television shows, including The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Benton lived with Hefner from 1969 until 1976 and is known for discovering the Playboy Mansion West where Hefner resides today. Years later when the TV series The Girls Next Door visited her in Aspen, Colorado, she expressed gratitude that the two had remained friends.
Benton is known for her years as a regular on the country variety series Hee Haw, appearing in comic sketches with other cast members. She left the program after four seasons to concentrate on a more Hollywood-oriented career. She also starred in the short-lived 1977 ABC-TV comedy series Sugar Time!, about an aspiring female rock group and in films including the 1982 slasher Hospital Massacre.
Benton was also a recording artist with some success. Her record "Brass Buckles" (1975) was a top-five hit on Billboard's country singles chart. Benton has recorded eight albums, the last of which she personally produced in 1979. She also composed the songs, sang them, and played piano. One of her better-known songs was "Ain't That Just the Way" (1976) - a number one hit in Sweden for 5 weeks, which was also a major hit for Lutricia McNeal in 1996, and was recorded by the Dutch singer Patricia Paay under the title Poor Jeremy in 1977.
Benton married George Gradow, a real-estate developer, on October 14, 1979. They have two children, Alexander (born August 23, 1986) and Ariana Gradow (born July 13, 1988). For many years, they divided their time between their homes in Aspen and Los Angeles.
|1978||Ain't That Just the Way||—||—|
|US Country||US ||CAN Country|
|1975||"Brass Buckles"||5||—||6||Barbi Benton|
|"Movie Magazine, Stars in Her Eyes"||61||—||—|
|"Roll You Like a Wheel" (with Mickey Gilley)||32||—||19||N/A|
|"The Reverend Bob"||74||—||—||Barbi Benton|
|1976||"Staying Power"||—||108||—||Something New|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
- How Did a Nice Girl Like You Get Into This Business? aka Mir hat es immer Spaß gemacht (1970) (West Germany)
- The Great American Beauty Contest (1973, TV movie)
- The Third Girl from the Left (1973, TV movie)
- For the Love of It (1980, TV movie)
- Hospital Massacre (1981)
- Deathstalker (1983)
- The Sonny & Cher Show, as herself
- Playboy After Dark (1968), as herself
- Hee Haw (1969), as herself
- Marcus Welby, M.D. (1972), playing Liz in episode: "We'll Walk Out of Here Together" (episode # 4.3)
- The Midnight Special (1973), as herself
- American Bandstand (1975), guest artist
- McCloud (1975), playing Shannon Forbes in episode "Park Avenue Pirates", performed "Brass Buckles" and "Ain't That Just The Way", in character, during the course of the episode
- Nashville on the road (1975), artist
- Sugar Time! (1977), playing Maxx Douglas.
- Fantasy Island:
- as Shirley Russell in episode "Poof, you're a movie star" (season 1, 1978)
- as Dee Dee Verona in episodes "The Appointment" and "Mr. Tattoo" (season 2, 1978)
- as Bunny Kelly in episodes "Baby" and "Marathon: Battle of the sexes" (season 3, 1979)
- as Erica Clark in episodes "Playgirl" and "Smith's Valhalla" (season 3, 1980)
- as Molly Delahanti in episodes "The Love Doctor", "Pleasure Palace", and "Possessed" (season 4, 1980).
- episodes "The Devil and Mr. Roarke", "Ziegfeld Girls", and "Kid Corey Rides Again" (season 5, 1981).
- as Marsha Garnett/Carla Baines in episodes "The Man from Yesterday" and "World's Most Desirable Woman" (season 4, 1981)
- as Courtney/Miss Winslow in episodes "House of Dolls" and "Wuthering Heights" (season 5, 1982)
- The Love Boat:
- as Brigitte in episodes "Computerman", "Parlez-Vous", and "Memories of you" (1978)
- as Kiki Atwood in episode "Marooned, parts 1 and 2" (1978)
- as Lucy in episodes "Not Now, I'm Dying", "Eleanor's Return", and "Too Young to Love" (1979)
- as Cathy Somms in episodes "The Nudist from Sunshine Gardens", "Eye of the Beholder", and "Bugged" (1981)
- America 2Night (1978), as herself, receiving the UBS Liftetime Achievement Award
- The Hollywood Squares (1978) as a guest panelist
- Vega$ (1979), playing Holly in episode "Design For Death" (episode # 2.5)
- The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1980), guest
- Doug Henning's World of Magic V (1980), as an assistant in the "sawing a woman in half" illusion
- When The Whistle Blows (1980), playing Dixie, or Miss Ironworker, in episode "Miss Hard Hat USA" (episode # 1.7)
- Charlie's Angels (1980), playing Toni Green in episode "Island Angels" (episode # 5.5)
- Lobo (1981) playing country singer Kitty Rhinestone in episode "The Cowboy Connection"
- CHiPs (1981) playing Sal in episode "Ponch's Angels, part 1 and 2" (episodes # 4.14/15)
- Tattletales (1982–84) with playing partner George Gradow
- The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983) as a guest panelist
- Circus of the Stars (1982, 1980, 1979), performer
- Matt Houston (1983) playing Ava Randolph in episode "Purrfect Crime" (episode # 1.13)
- Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1984) playing Susan Lancaster in episode "Catfight" (episode # 2.4)
- And the Wall Came Tumbling Down (1984) playing Caroline Trent
- Safe at home (ca 1985) playing Connie Simpson in episode "Old Flame"
- Murder, She Wrote (1986) playing Sue Beth in episode "Murder in the Electric Cathedral" (episode # 2.16)
- Riptide (1986), playing Gina Potter in episode "Playing Hardball" (episode # 3.17)
- Barbi Benton Presents: Best Buns On The Beach (circa 1990), host
- Barbi Benton Presents: Stripper of the Year (circa 1990), host
- Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time (1992), as herself
- Playboy: The Party Continues (2000), as herself
- Entertainment Tonight (2002), as herself
- Playboy's 50th Anniversary (2003), as herself
- The Girls Next Door, as herself in "Fight Night" (2005), "Guess Who's Coming to Luncheon?" (2007), "Kickin' Aspen" (2008), and "The Wheel World" (2009)
- The E! True Hollywood Story - Hugh Hefner: Girlfriends, Wives, and Centerfolds (2006), as herself.
- Extreme Cribs: Episode 5 (2011), as herself
- Million Dollar Rooms (2012, HGTV), featuring her "Copper Palace" mansion in Aspen, Colorado
- I love my life (1982). The semiautobiographical play was performed January 1982 at the La Mirada Civic Theatre in California. It closed after a few performances.