I’ve always enjoyed well-written TV sitcoms with likable characters, and one of my favorites from the 1990s was Coach, which starred Craig T. Nelson, Shelley Fabares, and Jerry Van Dyke. It has been rerun fairly often through the years and Mrs. BigGeez and I have tuned in a number of times, but she had to remind me that the lady on the screen was also once a teen idol who not only had a number-one hit record, but even co-starred in several movies with Elvis Presley.
While growing up in California, young Michele Marie Fabares was a natural fit for a modeling and acting career. Her aunt, Nanette Fabray (who would later play her mother on Coach) was already a well-known actress, and it didn’t take long for Shelley to begin landing parts in TV shows and eventually movies too, in one case playing Rock Hudson’s 12-year-old daughter.
A couple of years later she landed a part as the daughter on Donna Reed’s new TV show, and the role built her popularity while also providing her with the opportunity to begin a musical career. (As it also did for her TV ‘brother’, Paul Peterson.) With the help of the show’s producers, Shelley’s “Johnny Angel” was produced and was a breakout hit, soon shooting to the top of the charts.
Although she would later follow with moderate hits on “Johnny Loves Me” and a few others, Shelley’s musical career didn’t really sustain itself. But her popularity with fans helped her continue her career in a way that was sort of musical — she starred opposite the King of Rock and Roll in movies like Girl Happy, Clambake and Spinout.
In subsequent years, Shelly built a solid if unspectacular acting career, and although she has had to deal with some serious health issues, is still performing whenever possible. She has also been happily married to her second husband, actor Mike Farrell (from M*A*S*H), for almost three decades.