May 28, 2024

To Boldly Go…

Sabrina Scharf Schiller

The journey began in a little house on Fort Jennings Road in Delphos, Ohio.  The home stood between Third and Fourth Streets and was built by her mom and her great-uncle Walter Hummer with help from young Sandra Mae Trentman.  Sandy, she was only called Sandra when she was in trouble, was your typical small town girl, playing with her friends and spending time at the Dairy Whip, now Jim’s Restaurant, where her mom spent some time working as a waitress.  Sandy remembers as a young child ordering at the Dairy Whip and dutifully leaving a ten cent tip.  The waitress smiled, thanked her and gave it back.

Sandy was in grade school when her parents divorced.  It was during her seventh grade year when her mom decided that a change was needed and they left Delphos and headed first to Van Wert for two years and then out west to Flagstaff, Arizona.  While attending high school in Tucson, Sandy’s high school algebra teacher asked her to marry him.  Fifteen year old Sandy felt this was her only chance and if she said no she would never get asked again so she said yes.  They eloped later in San Diego where her mom had taken a job at Scripps Hospital. She felt they would be happy and build a long life together but it became clear that a fifteen year old high school girl wasn’t ready to settle down as a housewife and the marriage was annulled after three years.  After a short time studying pre-med at the University of Arizona, a newly single Sandy recreated herself, now going by Sabrina Scharf (her mom’s maiden name).  She hopped into her DeSoto with a gas card in hand and her sewing machine in the trunk and set off for New York.  When she arrived in the Big Apple she stopped at Pam-Pam’s, a diner in Greenwich Village, for a burger and ended up at a long table with members of a local, off-Broadway theater group.  When they found out she had nowhere to stay they invited her to stay at their theater and become an assistant.   She had no intention of having an acting career but soon landed a small role in one of the plays at the theater.  During rehearsal it became apparent that she wasn’t a natural born actress and acting classes were to be in her future.  The Neighborhood Playhouse had the best acting program but also had a strict rule that you had to be a full time student.

Sabrina was working for the developers of a game show based on Charades when she heard a few of the girls auditioning as contestants mention that the new Playboy Club was looking for girls to interview as waitresses.  On a whim she went with them and to her surprise she was chosen while the others were not.  The Playboy Club was a sensation.  While they could get a drink anywhere in the city, patrons would line up at the Club hours ahead of opening just to be served drinks by the Bunnies.  Sabrina remembers “The atmosphere was charged and there was a delicious kind of playfulness between the Bunnies and the customers.”  Working at the Club gave her a sense of power and self-confidence.  When she walked onto the floor, it was her space and she was in control.  Sabrina also kept detailed notes on her customers and when they came in again she’d call them by name and they’d tip her more. 

Sabrina vowed to only work at the Playboy Club for one year and in early 1964 that year was up.  She joined a group of fellow Bunnies at a Grand Bahamas Island resort.  It was while at the resort that fellow Bunny Lauren Hutton roomed next to Sabrina and boldly pulled down the draperies for bedding when none had yet been provided for the girls.

The following September Sabrina was back in New York where she spent a year training at the Neighborhood Playhouse while signing with the William Morris Agency.  During a visit to California to see her mom, her New York agents asked her to meet their West Coast agents in Los Angeles.  At that time Columbia Studios was developing a “talent stable” and Sabrina and a group of eleven other actors, among which was a young Harrison Ford, quickly signed with Columbia and her film career had begun. 

Her first role was in an episode of Gidget in 1965.  That was followed by roles in six more tv shows which included The Farmers Daughter, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Daniel Boone.  In 1967 her career took a giant leap from the small screen onto the silver screen.  She was cast as “Shill” in the biker movie Hells Angels on Wheels as the girlfriend of “Buddy”, played by Adam Roarke.  Shill later becomes the love interest of “Poet”, played by Jack Nicholson.  Sandra recalls that one of the reasons she got the part is she knew how to ride a motorcycle and also adds she also truly thought no one would EVER see the movie.  This cult classic was followed by more tv roles including The Danny Thomas Show, I Dream of Jeannie, The Wild Wild West and as Miramanee on the series Star Trek.  Her role in Hells Angels on Wheels led to her role in the iconic 1969 film Easy Rider starring Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper.  There had been a series of Hells Angels movies and the directors took two to three actors from each movie for Easy Rider.  After Easy Rider, Sandra landed roles in such well known tv shows at The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Mannix, Hogan’s Heroes, The Doris Day Show, Streets of San Francisco and Harry O. 

In 1969 Sabrina married sitcom writer Bob Schiller with whom she has two daughters.  Bob worked on such hit series as I Love Lucy, All In The Family and Maude.  Moving on from her acting career, Sabrina earned a law degree and immersed herself into environmental issues particularly California’s Clean Air Initiative.  She was instrumental in helping pass legislation to establish the regional air pollution control agency and served on its board for ten years.  The board helped develop a ground breaking air pollution control plan that helped rid Los Angeles of its choking smog.  In 1972 Sabrina ran for California State Senate, losing by only 700 votes from more than 250,000 votes cast.  If she would have won, Sabrina would have been the first woman elected to California’s upper house.   Her husband Bob and his writing partner Bob Weiskopf were writing for the show Maude at that time and used Sabrina’s political experiences in their “Maude Runs for Congress” episodes. 

These days Sabrina works as a real estate developer in the Los Angeles area and is currently working on building a 6,000 square foot Plantation style house.  She has traveled extensively and learned several languages.  She is currently working on renovating an old farm house in Decatur, Indiana, right next door to her childhood school friend Linda Knorr Brown.  Sabrina is doing all the renovation work herself with help only from How-To books.  She still has a spot in her heart for the Dairy Whip (Jim’s Restaurant) and much of the information in this article came during an interview held in the corner booth at Jim’s in July 2016.    

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