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Scott's WorldLinda G. Miller -- Gleason's offspring -- in series

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter

HOLLYWOOD -- You won't remember her as the fat little 9-year-old who played a few scenes with her father on the old 'Cavalcade of Stars' show when you see Jackie Gleason's daughter, Linda, in her own TV series.

Linda stars in 'Mississippi,' an hour-long CBS drama of contemporary life on a Mississippi riverboat, returning to the air this fall after a six-week debut last spring.

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There is, in fact, little about Linda to give viewers a clue to her father's identity. She is slim, beautiful and feminine.

She is convinced, nevertheless, that she does resemble The Great One and that she has inherited his sense of timing. Her graceful movements may be traced to her mother, former dancer Genevieve Halford.

It's not enough that Linda, who uses the name Linda G. Miller, is the daughter of a TV legend. She also is the ex-wife of Jason Miller, actor, director and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'That Championship Season.'

One might hazard that Linda -- who uses the middle initial of her maiden name because the Screen Actors Guild already lists a Linda Miller - has suffered an identity crisis most of her life.

First, last and always she is Jackie Gleason's daughter. She was Miller's wife for 10 years. She is also the mother of three teenagers, Jennifer, Jason and Jordan.

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But out of this maelstrom of celebrity Linda has emerged a secure, uncomplicated woman with a remarkable sense of self-identity who candidly says she is working to pay the rent.

She laughs over the fact that everyone wants to discuss her father whose Ralph Kramden, Reggie Van Gleason, the Poor Soul and loud-mouthed bartender made him a TV superstar of the '50s and '60s.

Since then she has continued to live in the bulky shadow of her father's enormous silhouette with his starring roles in 'Smokey and the Bandit' and other films.

Linda obviously adores her father but says, 'It's tiresome having people discuss Dad and his talent, but there is also my pride of family and I can understand why people are fascinated by him.'

She would love to work with her father in a movie someday and recalls how much she enjoyed working briefly with him as a child.

'I looked exactly like Dad when I was a short, fat 9-year-old,' she said. 'As I grew up people expected me to come up with one-liners like he does.

'I'm blessed with a sense of humor, so I developed some snappy dialogue. But sometimes I just went away and cried. I tried to compete with him, so he would notice me and so other people would admire me.

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'My mother and father were separated most of my life, so I didn't see as much of Dad as I might. He didn't encourage me to go into show business because he didn't want to see me hurt, rejected, put down and turned down.

'But by example he showed me that if you believe enough, it can happen. And I think to a certain extent talent is genetic.'

Linda married Miller when they were students at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. They appeared together in stock. While Linda devoted many years to her children, Jason distinguished himself in films, notably as the priest in 'The Exorcist.'

Linda was destined, it seemed, to live in the reflected fame of father and husband.

'As a child I never felt accepted for myself,' she said. 'Famous parents should always reassure their kids that they are special in themselves. My mother did that for me.

'Any time a youngster compares or competes with a famous parent, she is going to come up short. I worried about my own identity. I used humor protectively and for attention. I was the class clown.

'Now I'm making certain my three kids have a sense of their own value. I don't think they will be overwhelmed by the celebrity of their father and grandfather. I certainly hope not.'

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Linda herself may attain enormous fame if 'Mississippi' becomes the hit that CBS hopes it will. Even so, Linda doubts she will ever become a superstar.

'Dad came out of an era that produced legends,' she said. 'That isn't happening anymore. And I'm not so sure I'd want that anyway.'

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