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16 Classic Celebrity Appearances on 'Fantasy Island'

Before the reboot arrives, let's celebrate the show's fabulous, kitschy past

spinner image Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize star in Fantasy Island
Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize starred on the original "Fantasy Island" TV series that aired from 1977 to 1984.
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

In TV's ever-expanding passion for nostalgic series reboots, it's high time that Fantasy Island, that iconic late ‘70s/early ‘80s Saturday night series, is making a kitschy comeback. In the brand-new version (premiering Aug. 10, 9 p.m. ET on Fox), Puerto Rican-born Roselyn Sanchez (Without a Trace) is host Elena Roarke (the descendant of Ricardo Montalban's Mr. Roarke), still guiding guests through fantasies that prove you'd better be careful what you wish for.

Like the era's other Saturday night hit The Love Boat, Fantasy Island's storylines relied on a diverse group of guest stars. Some appeared at the apex of fame, while others were yet to make their mark. And of course, others popped up on the downhill side of their careers. It was all part of the who's-on-this-week? fun.

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And so as the guest-star-making machinery revs back into gear on a new Fantasy Island, let's look back at some of the stars who stepped off the plane, the plane!, back in the day.

Michelle Pfeiffer

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: 1979's Delta House, an Animal House clone for network TV

The episode: “The Artist and the Lady/Elizabeth's Baby” (Season 4, 1981)

The role: Pfeiffer's single line of the episode — “Who is he, Naomi?” — earned the then 23-year-old model the Screen Actors Guild card she coveted. 

Bonus trivia: Pfeiffer and fellow episode guest star Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch) share the same birthday.

Geena Davis

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: Soap opera actress April Page in Sydney Pollack's critically acclaimed 1982 hit Tootsie

The episode: "Don Juan's Last Affair/Final Adieu” (Season 7, 1984)

The role: She's fashion buyer Whitney Clark, determined to end her affair with her married boss. The problem: She was taller than costar Alejandro Rey. “We had to film the scenes on a big slope,” she said. “I was on the downhill side, and he was uphill."

spinner image Sammy Davis Junior and LeVar Burton in a scene from the TV series Fantasy Island
Sammy Davis Jr. and LeVar Burton (right) on "Fantasy Island."
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

LeVar Burton

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: His breakthrough appearance as Kunta Kinte in the 1977 smash hit miniseries Roots

The episode: “Edward/Extraordinary Miss Jones” (Season 6, 1983)

The role: He's Edward Ross Jr., the son of publishing mogul Edward Ross (Sammy Davis Jr.), who's come to the island to reconcile with his estranged ex-wife and son.

spinner image Loni Anderson in a scene from the TV show Fantasy Island
Loni Anderson as Kim Holland on "Fantasy Island."
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Loni Anderson

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: Receptionist Jennifer Marlow on sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982)

The episode: “The Love Doctor/Pleasure Palace/Possessed” (Season 3, 1980)

The role: Anderson plays Kim Holland, a glamorous movie star seeking a weekend getaway where no one will recognize her. Sent up a jungle river, she falls for a doctor far from civilization — but it turns out they have generators, TVs and Kim Holland fans, too.

Melissa Sue Anderson

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: The child actor had already caught America's eye as Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie (1974-1981).

The episode: "Rogues and Riches/Stark Terror” (Season 3, 1980)

The role: Anderson appears as Amy Marson, seeking answers for her mother's death, which left her mute.

spinner image Susan Lucci with the rest of the cast of Fantasy Island
Susan Lucci (third from left) with the other cast members of "Fantasy Island" during her guest appearance on the TV show in 1983.
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Susan Lucci

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: Soap opera royalty as Erica Kain on All My Children (1970-2011)

The episode: "The Songwriter/Queen of the Soaps” (Season 6, 1983)

The role: Of course La Lucci appears as Gina Edwards, a soap opera actress trying to stop her evil character from coming to life.

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spinner image Tori Spelling in a scene in Fantasy Island
Tori Spelling (left) plays young orphaned Lori Shannon in a 1983 episode of "Fantasy Island."
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Tori Spelling

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: A 1981 appearance at age 8 on TV show Vega$, produced by her hitmaker father Aaron Spelling

The episodes: "Eternal Flame/A Date With Burt” (Season 6, 1983), “God Child/Curtain Call” (Season 7, 1983)

The roles: As Fantasy Island's creator, papa Spelling may have had something to do with Tori appearing twice in one year (but in two seasons): first as Christy, a scheming little girl who cons a movie star out of his autograph, and then as Lori Shannon, who wants to ask God why her parents were killed.

Cybill Shepherd

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: Shepherd had already appeared in The Last Picture Show, The Heartbreak Kid and Taxi Driver.

The episode: "Return to the Cotton Club/No Friends Like Old Friends” (Season 6, 1983)

The role: Liz, a college friend of island guest Doreen Murphy (Markie Post!), striving to impress her old classmates at long last. With her fame waning from 1976's Taxi Driver, Shepherd's career had stalled and she needed the part. “I was so far down on anybody's list I didn't even get to be with Herve Villechaize,” she said. “It was all embarrassing.” But the appearance got her back on TV, and within two years she was starring with Bruce Willis on 1985's hit series Moonlighting.

Scott Baio

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: America already knew and loved Baio from his TV turn as the Fonz's younger cousin Chachi Arcola on Happy Days (1977-1984).

The episode: “Amusement Park/Rock Stars” (Season 2, 1979)

The role: Baio plays Rob, one of four orphaned Collins siblings (including Jimmy Baio, Scott's younger cousin, and Love Boat kid phenom Jill Whelan), determined to be rock stars to keep a social worker from splitting them up.

Ed Begley Jr.

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: With a bunch of TV and film credits already under his belt, Begley had a recurring role on Room 222 from 1969 to 1972, and a part in Battlestar Galactica in 1978.

The episodes: "The Prince/The Sheriff” (Season 1, 1978), “The Chateau/White Lightning” (Season 4, 1981)

The roles: In “The Prince,” Begley plays a commoner who meets a prince who wants to live like his average countrymen to better understand their challenges. In “White Lightning,” he's a member of the McAllister clan, which is feuding with the Scoggins clan over ownership of a moonshine recipe.

Esther Rolle

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: Rolle's unforgettable character of Florida Evans was introduced on Norman Lear's Maude (1972-1974) and then featured on Lear spinoff Good Times (1974-1979).

The episode: "Edward/Extraordinary Miss Jones” (Season 6, 1983)

The role: Rolle plays the role of Mama in LeVar Burton's fantasy (see above)

David Cassidy

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: Tiger Beat-fueled superstardom as Keith Partridge on The Partridge Family (1970-1974)

The episodes: “Unholy Wedlock/Elizabeth” (Season 3, 1980), “The Songwriter/Queen of the Soaps” (Season 6, 1983)

The roles: In “Unholy Wedlock,” Cassidy plays a young man who finds out his bride turns out to be the girl from his bachelor party cake; in “The Songwriter,” he's a pianist who travels back to Tin Pan Alley to find his grandfather's unpublished songs.

Katherine Helmond

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: A star TV turn as matriarch Jessica Tate in Soap (1977-1981) and in two guest appearances on the show's spinoff, Benson, in 1979 and 1983

The episode: "The Big Switch/The Hooker's Holiday” (Season 7, 1983)

The role: As Laura Walters, Helmond plays a wife fed up with her chauvinist husband, George (Vic Tayback), so she asks Roarke to let them walk a mile in each other's shoes.

spinner image Bob Denver and Hervé Villechaize in a scene from Fantasy Island
Bob Denver (left) and Hervé Villechaize in a scene from the "Fantasy Island" episode, "The Magic Camera/Mata Hari/Valerie."
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Bob Denver

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: The titular role on the iconic 1964-1967 sitcom Gilligan's Island

The episodes: “Eagleman/Children of Mentu” (Season 3, 1980), “House of Dolls/Wuthering Heights” (Season 5, 1982), “The Magic Camera/Mata Hari/Valerie” (Season 5, 1983)

The roles: First, how apt that America's most beloved castaway would find his way to Fantasy Island not once but three times. In “Eagleman,” Denver plays a widowed businessman who wants to become a comic book superhero to impress his estranged son. In “House of Dolls,” he's a window dresser in love with his mannequin, so he asks Roarke to bring her to life. And in “The Magic Camera,” he's a photographer whose pictures foretell the future.

Debbie Reynolds

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: A career full of high-wattage roles, including 1952's Singin’ in the Rain and 1964's The Unsinkable Molly Brown

The episode: "Goose for the Gander/Stuntman” (Season 3, 1979)

The role: She's a woman who needs to win a cooking contest to raise cash to relocate her diner, about to be razed for a highway.

Bonus trivia: In 1981, Reynolds starred in Aaron Spelling's Aloha Paradise, another guest star vehicle like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.

Sherman Hemsley

Pre-Fantasy claim to fame: Pioneering the comedic role of racist Black businessman George Jefferson on Norman Lear's All in the Family (1973-1978) as well as costarring in the Lear spinoff The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

The episode: “The Kleptomaniac/Thank God, I'm a Country Girl” (Season 6, 1982)

The role: As Fred Simpson, Hemsley wants Roarke to cure him of kleptomania.

Want more Fantasy Island?

Has this trip down memory lane made you nostalgic for more? Good news: All seven seasons of the original series (and a 1998 remake) are available to stream on Fox's free streaming platform, Tubi. See you on the beach!

Gayle Jo Carter, the former entertainment editor at USA WEEKEND magazine, has interviewed newsmakers for AARP, USA WEEKEND, USA Today, Parade, Aspire and Washington Jewish Week.

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