SCARILY RETROGRADE THOUGHT NO. 1: RHONDA SHEAR, THE flouncy, bouncy, giggling blond host of the USA Cable Network’s five-hour, Friday-into-Saturday schlock-movie marathon, Up All Night, could be the next Charo. Scarily Retrograde Thought No. 2: She’d like that. Shear, who has made a minor career in stand-up comedy and television (including a small role on Happy Days) as a self-described bimbo, has a lifelong fondness for grade B. She was even named for ’50s B-movie queen Rhonda Fleming. And before settling on her peroxided fluff a few years ago, “I wore a dark fall for years,” says Shear, 37. “I wanted to spend the rest of my life looking like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.”
That prehistoric romp is Citizen Kane compared to the film catalog of Up All Night, which features such titanic turkeys as A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell. Between scenes, thrusting forward her breasts (“36D,” she advises) and squeaking the word “up” in Up All Night, Shear takes jiggle to a high-camp peak.
“To play a bimbo really well,” she says, “you have to have talent.” It could be that Shear has shown too much talent: With the current sexual climate, the producers and Shear have decided that her act should be a bit more demure. But probably not all that much. “What can I say? I love looking sexy,” says Shear. “I’m from the South. My whole family dresses flashy.”
In fiesta wear, apparently. Shear was raised in New Orleans, the youngest of four children of Wilbur Shear, who sold heavy-duty truck parts, and Jennie, a housewife. From the age of 16, Shear accrued 40 titles in some 50 beauty pageants, from the small (Miss Grand Isle Tarpon Fishing Rodeo) to the large (Miss Louisiana USA, 1978). But there was something going on beneath her tiaras. “She was forever ambitious far beyond the dreams of her girlfriends,” says her mom. Rhonda stayed in the Big Easy to graduate from Loyola University with a degree in broadcasting, then headed for Los Angeles. There, her entrée into show business was—curvaceous karma!—a bit part on a Bob Hope special.
“Rhonda’s flashy on the outside, but she really is from the world of the ’50s,” says her boyfriend, Bobby Kelton, 40, a fellow stand-up comedian. “She doesn’t believe in living together before marriage.” So for now, Shear resides, alone, in a Beverly Hills apartment with a single bedroom painted what she calls “Jayne Mansfield pink.”
Ultimately, Shear would like to graduate from boopdom to stardom, but, she admits, “the recognition factor of me as this bimbo is going to be hard to get past.” Still, she can always turn to her idols for inspiration. “I love Cher. It took people forever to take her seriously,” Shear says. “Another one is Joan Collins. Tons of makeup, loads of hair. My kind of woman!”