Ponch and Jon seemed to tackle all the big criminals in Los Angeles metro area, but the two California Highway Patrol officers certainly weren’t alone out there on the pavement. CHiPs featured an ensemble cast of brave men and women in beige.
The 1977–83 cop series made Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox stars, and featured wonderful character actors like Robert Pine, father of new Captain Kirk Chris Pine. Speaking of Star Trek, a certain Klingon got his start on CHiPs, too. Of course, it also gave Caitlyn Jenner her big acting break, back when the heralded Olympian was still known as Bruce Jenner.
But what about those others who were riding motorcycles on the show? We followed up on their life after the highway patrol.
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Brodie Greer — Officer Barry Baricza
As Barry Baricza, Greer appeared in a whopping 111 episodes. Aside from a few appearances on The Love Boat and the CHiPs ’99 reunion movie, he did not do much acting afterward. Lately, as reported in the Monterey Herald newspaper, he has been coaching junior varsity volleyball at Carmel High School in California, in additional to helping with basketball and track at Carmel Middle School.
Tom Reilly — Officer Bobby “Hot Dog” Nelson
A former football player at Montclair State College, Reilly was brought onto the series late to fill the black leather boots of Larry Wilcox, who did not return for the sixth and final season. Unfortunately, the actor was pulled over by real LAPD in 1982 and charged with a DUI, after which his role was reduced on the show. “Hot Dog” did not find many roles afterward, and left the acting profession in the 1990s. He now lives in Santa Cruz, California, in the Monterey Bay area, and IMDb notes that he’s worked in construction supply.
Image: The Everett Collection
Brianne Leary — Officer Sindy Cahill
The cousin to LSD advocate and writer Timothy Leary, the actress has a fascinating story beyond CHiPs. She became a creator and writer for the Canadian animated children’s program Stickin’ Around, which aired in the late 1990s. Around the same time, in 1998, she hosted Petsburgh USA on Animal Planet. Oh, she was also the only person to ever appear as both contestant (winning around $9,000) and panelist on Match Game in the 1970s. She also holds a patent for a “portable device for cleaning an animal’s paw.” Around the turn of the millennium, she became an entertainment reporter on Good Day New York.
Randi Oakes — Officer Bonnie Clark
A former Miss Iowa Model of the Year, Oakes began regularly appearing on the series in 1979. That same year, while appearing as a contestant on Battle of the Network Stars VII, she met Gregory Harrison, who portrayed Dr. George Alonzo ‘Gonzo’ Gates on Trapper John, M.D. The two fell in love and married. About a year and a half ago, the couple sold their house in Oregon for about $3 million.
Paul Linke — Officer Artie Grossman
Linke had highs and lows in the late 1980s. He appeared as Dianne Wiest’s lover in Parenthood, not long after losing his wife to cancer. He turned his tragedy into art, penning an acclaimed one-man show, Time Flies When You’re Alive, which aired on HBO. Time Flies grew out of the eulogy Linke delivered at his wife Francesca’s memorial service. “All of a sudden all these people were laughing,” Linke told People magazine at the time. Recently, he was onstage again, performing another show titled It’s Time in a theater in Santa Monica, California.
Michael Dorn — Officer Jebediah Turner
He was Worf — of course, of course — on Star Trek: The Next Generation (and other Trek series). When not on a starship, Dorn can be found zipping around in his F-86 Sabre jet. He acquired the jet from the South African Air Force. He is also now a vegan, which seems very non-Klingon-y.
Lew Saunders — Officer Gene Fritz
As he explained at a cast reunion a few years ago, Saunders now writes and publishes poetry, and sells inspirational, Christian-themed T-shirts.
Bruce Penhall — Officer Bruce Nelson
An ace motorcycle racer in real life, Penhall was the World Speedway Champion in 1981 and 1982. He took on a larger role alongside Ponch after Reilly’s part was scaled back on CHiPs. In 1999, Penhall was inducted into the A.M.A. Motorcycle Hall of Fame. In recent years, tragedy struck Penhall, on the California highway. His son was working construction when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2012. Penhall started the Connor Penhall Memorial Cup in his son’s honor. Wilcox and Pine showed their support.
Tina Gayle — Officer Kathy Linahan
Frankly, we can’t find much on Gayle, the former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who can be seen up top between Reilly and Estrada. As a young traffic officer, she livened up the show with her charm and accent. Let us know below if you know what happened to her!