Whipple Squeezed Her First
Written by Ileane Rudolph
If it weren’t for a certain sly,
self-deprecating wit, you might take Perfect Strangers’ Melanie Wilson
for a naive, cornfed Iowa product. But don’t let the 27-year-old’s perky
blonde looks or sunny enthusiasm fool you. You could say she’s a born actress:
she made her first appearance at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. Her first TV
role, in fact, was prenatal; her mother, dancer Meg Brown, played on Dennis
the Menace when she was five months pregnant with Melanie.
Wilson is also the offspring of Dick
Wilson, better known for 25 years as Mr. Whipple of "puleez don’t squeeze
the Charmin" fame. Melanie, who recalls telling a teacher that her father
was "a drunk" – he was the resident inebriate on Bewitched
and would take her with him to the set – claims she learned to read by running
lines with her father from Bewitched scripts.
As a teen, Wilson was a voracious reader
who had been moonlighting in the theater from the age of 10. Graduating from
high school at 16, she managed to avoid Tinseltown’s fabled fast life so
thoroughly that she didn’t see her first named man until majoring one semester
in "pastries and tanning" at a university on the French Riviera.
"I was sitting in a restaurant on the beach in Saint-Tropez, I turn to
order – and I’m looking right into his . . . uh. I wanted to write a little
– ‘Dear Mom and dad, school doing fine, saw my first male appendage, love to
Grandma.’ Europe expanded my horizons, and not only academically."
Her first break came when a one-shot on
ABC’s Perfect Strangers turned into a regular role as stewardess Jennifer. In
three years, to Wilson’s chagrin, Jennifer "has managed to kiss [love
interest] Larry [Mark Linn-Baker] a total of two-and-a-half times. We practice
Married to the contractor she hired to
build closets for her new home – "had I known he’d move in a year later
and rip out all the work he did, I could have saved myself hundreds of
dollars" – she still tends to "read and stay home. At 84, I’ll
probably say, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go out partying.’"
A self-described character actress, Wilson
says she "never looked at [herself] as a blonde ingénue coming to
Hollywood to take it by storm. I have very realistic expectations, because I was
raised in the business. But I always knew I would act. Being the daughter of the
toilet-paper king of North America, who was also the nation’s leading drunk,
what chance did I have to do anything else?"