Shelley Smith, the statuesque super model who starred alongside Martin Short on a sitcom and was a regular on game shows like The $10,000 Pyramid before she launched an egg-donor program to assist infertile couples, has died. She was 70.
Smith died Tuesday at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, her husband of 18 years, actor Michael Maguire, tearfully announced on social media. She had been in a coma after experiencing cardiac arrest three days earlier, and her health had deteriorated in the past year, he said.
On the 1979-80 ABC comedy The Associates, a sequel of sorts to The Paper Chase from creators James L. Brooks, Ed. Weinberger, Stan Daniels and Charlie Hauck, Smith played a sharp, upper-class Bostonian who works at a Wall Street law firm.
The show, which also featured Short, Joe Regalbuto, Alley Mills and Wilfrid Hyde-White — with whom she graced the cover of TV Guide in November 1979 — lasted just 13 episodes.
The 5-foot-9 Smith then played Capt. Carolyn Engel on another short-lived series, the 1983 NBC military drama For Love and Honor, which also starred Keenen Ivory Wayans and Yaphet Kotto. It was inspired by the box office hit An Officer and a Gentleman and aired 12 episodes.
Meanwhile, Smith was proving to be a popular contestant on game shows including Super Password, Body Language and the Dick Clark-hosted $10,000 Pyramid (followed by its inflation-adjusted $25,000 and $100,000 versions). Her skills helped her partners win thousands of dollars.
“She was really good at Pyramid,” The A.V. Club noted in 2014 when it placed her on its list of celebrities who found their “greatest fame” on game shows. “Not only did Smith possess a formidably agile mind for the English language, she also carried herself with a preternatural calm that put contestants at ease.”
Born on Oct. 25, 1952, in Princeton, New Jersey, Smith graduated from Connecticut College and built a thriving modeling career, appearing in such magazines as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour and Mademoiselle.
She debuted as an actress in 1979, appearing in an NBC telefilm about cosmetic surgery, Mirror, Mirror, and on The Associates. She would go on to guest star on such shows as Fantasy Island, Hotel, The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, Hunter, Magnum. P.I., and Simon and Simon into the early 1990s.
Smith exited acting, obtained a master’s degree in psychology from Antioch University and became a marriage and family therapist.
In 1991, she founded The Egg Donor Program after having twins, Nicky and Miranda, through in vitro fertilization. She sold the company, now known as Hatch Fertility, a few years ago.
“When she wanted to have children and was having a hard time herself, she went through the process and discovered in vitro fertilization and saw what was wrong with the industry … and started her own company,” Maguire said. “She helped thousands and thousands of people have babies. It was so sweet, and she got to relive her own struggles and help other people avoid those struggles. It was beautiful to watch.”