Rhonda Lee Oglesby Coullet, a former Pine Bluff resident, has numerous acting and singing accolades to her name including starring in numerous on and off Broadway musicals, performing on Saturday Night Live, and writing a Grammy-nominated song for Jimmy Buffett.
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Rhonda Oglesby was born on September 23, 1945, in Magnolia, Arkansas to Horace and Cecil Oglesby. She was raised in Spring Hill, Louisiana as both her parents were employees of the International Paper Company.
In 1955, her family moved to Pine Bluff. She attended Sam Taylor Elementary School and Pine Bluff High School. She was a cheerleader in high school known for her beauty and singing ability. She also competed in numerous beauty contests.
Upon graduating from high school, she earned a music scholarship to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. During the latter half of her freshman year she toured Europe with the university’s Schola Cantorum Choir.
In 1965, she won the Miss Arkansas competition while representing the University of Arkansas. Three months later she moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue a career in show business. She later returned to Arkansas to relinquish her title as it did not afford her further opportunities to showcase her acting and singing talents throughout Arkansas.
In Los Angeles, Oglesby was an original member of the Aquarius Theatre’s production of Hair. She was later promoted to the lead female. The play was a hit. Eighteen months later, the producers asked her to help them restage a dozen versions of the show, including those performed in Europe. She remained in Europe for three years.
When she returned to America, she settled in New York City. She was married to Armand Coullet from 1970 to 1980.
In 1973, she joined the off Broadway play National Lampoon Lemmings. On the National Lampoon Radio Hour, she starred alongside Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis. She played a variety of characters, including Martha Mitchell, the Pine Bluff native and Watergate scandal whistleblower. She also appeared on National Lampoon Missing White House Tapes and National Lampoon That's Not Funny, That's Sick albums. Many of her National Lampoon cast members went on to star on Saturday Night Live. In 1982, after her close friend John Belushi’s death, Coullet composed and sang a tribute song, “West Heaven” on a Saturday Night Live segment produced by Belushi's widow Judith Jacklin.
She starred in Broadway musical The Robber Bridegroom, and performed on the original Broadway album with Barry Bostwick, known for playing Brad Majors in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. She also starred in Broadway’s Pump Boys and Dinettes, in the off-Broadway productions of Cowgirls, and many regional pre-Broadway productions, including Smoke on the Mountain, Diamond Studs, Mrs. Farmer’s Daughter.
Coullet wrote Jimmy Buffett’s 1985 Grammy-nominated hit song, “Bigger Than the Both of Us.” She had previously served as one of his backup singers. She also sang with Spinal Tap on Saturday Night Live and alongside Cher for Meatloaf’s Dead Ringer album.
In 1979, she appeared in the motion picture Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video. She narrated for the “Outlaws and Indians” segment of The American Experience on PBS. She also recorded songs for the Captain Kangaroo and Sesame Street children’s television programs.
In 1992, Coullet recorded several semi-autobiographical songs for her album The American Secret. In 2005 and 2010, she incorporated songs from her album into her theatrical musical production, The Runaway Beauty Queen, which recounted her Arkansas roots and experiences.
Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard