Karen Valentine Reflects on Unpleasant Encounter during The Dating Game

Karen Valentine reminisces about the challenging journey that led her to the award-winning role of a student turned teacher in the popular TV series Room 222.

The show, which catapulted her into stardom, holds a special place in her heart even after almost 50 years since its last airing. In contrast, her participation in The Dating Game is remembered as an “awful” experience, and she harbors no affection for that particular memory.

Before achieving fame, notable personalities like Suzanne Somers, Tom Selleck, Leif Garrett, and Farrah Fawcett graced the set of The Dating Game. This pioneering dating reality show, which aired almost 50 years ago, not only paved the way for numerous similar concepts in the future but also served as a platform for launching the careers of aspiring actors.

Karen Valentine, a former teen beauty queen, became one of the stars featured on Chuck Barris’ TV series Dream Girl of 1967. Subsequently, she was invited to appear on another show created by Barris – the dating show known as The Dating Game.

In this unique experience, Valentine, thinking it would be “harmless fun,” had the opportunity to interview three eligible bachelors who were hidden behind a dividing wall. However, what she thought would be a lighthearted encounter turned into a terrible experience due to her chosen bachelor’s misguided expectations.

Describing the ordeal, the now 76-year-old Valentine shared with Closer Weekly, “That was awful because the guy thought that this was really going to be a date, right? The Dating Game got more serious later where people would be sent on trips. I only got to go to the Ambassador Hotel to see a show, but the guy thought we were going to make out in the limo, and it was like, ‘You know this is a first date, right?’ It was so sleazy. You’d go to dinner and then to a show, which is the prize I won, but the guy thought this was serious. I wanted to get out of the date.”

Putting that regrettable experience behind her, Valentine went on to star in the TV movie Gidget Grows Up (1969). This paved the way for her significant role in the hit TV series Room 222 (1969 to 1974). The groundbreaking show revolved around a black high school teacher, portrayed by the award-winning Lloyd Haynes (1934 to 1987), who aimed to teach students about tolerance.

The show “Room 222” was created by James L. Brooks, the mastermind behind “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Taxi,” as well as acclaimed films like “As Good as It Gets” and “Terms of Endearment.” It was produced by Gene Reynolds, known for his role in developing and producing “MAS*H.”

In 1970, “Room 222” achieved success at the Primetime Emmy Awards, winning the title of Outstanding New Series. Karen Valentine and Michael Constantine, also recognized for his role in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002), both secured awards for their supporting roles.

Valentine expressed her astonishment at the rapid success, particularly meeting legendary figures like Carol Burnett. She recalls the surreal moment when Gregory Peck, another iconic actor, acknowledged her achievement during a singing class.

Despite critical acclaim, “Room 222” faced a decline in ratings during its fourth season, leading to its mid-season cancellation. Valentine reflects on the sadness of losing a show she believed in, citing the network’s decision to go in a different direction as the reason.

Following the cancellation, Valentine starred in her own show, “Karen” (1975), created by Reynolds. However, due to low ratings, it was canceled after four months. Describing the premise as “controversial political stories” reflecting current headlines with a humorous touch, Valentine notes that the show was ahead of its time.

Valentine, a stage actor with Broadway appearances, continued her career with roles in “The Hollywood Squares” (1971 to 1977), and TV shows like “Murder She Wrote” and “The Love Boat.” Her last film was “Wedding Daze” (2004), co-starring with John Larroquette and broadcast on the Hallmark Channel.

Looking back on “Room 222,” Valentine cherishes the fond memories and acknowledges that the show set the bar high for her career. Despite challenges, she considers herself fortunate to have worked on projects that were enjoyable and well-executed. She expresses gratitude for the experience and acknowledges that it has left a lasting impact on her career. For fans of Karen Valentine, the question is posed: What is your favorite show or movie featuring her?