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January 16, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | January 16, 2009 |

You ever find yourself scanning through slightly older movies on HBO, Showtime, or TBS, and see someone who used to be around a lot, but who inexplicably disappeared? This happens occasionally with male actors (Yahoo Serious?)— most of whom fade away — but you see it a lot more with female actresses. One second, they look as though they’re going to be a big star, and a few years later, you’re watching an episode of “Law and Order” and you’re like: Hey! That’s her! What happened to her career?

We’ll call this the Shelly Long phenomenon.

There’s no way to really top this list, and finding female actresses who qualify is, necessarily, difficult (I mean, they are forgotten actresses, after all), but here’s ten of them, most of whom haven’t completely disappeared, just fallen off the radar. Maybe y’all can add to it:

Rae Dawn Chong


Last Seen: Soul Man, as C. Thomas Howell’s love interest.

Signature Role: Soul Man and Squeak in The Color Purple.

What’s She Doing Now? Still acting. Early in the decade, she starred in a television show I’ve never heard of called, “Mysterious Ways,” and last had a guest stint on “That’s So Raven,” in 2008.

9. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio


Last Seen: The Perfect Storm.

Signature Role: The love interest in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

What’s She Doing Now?: A brief character arc on “Without a Trace,” and a TV movie, The Russell Girl last year.

8. Renee Russo


Last Seen: Yours Mine and Ours

Signature Role: Love interests in Lethal Weapon 4 and Tin Cup

What’s She Doing Now: No clue. Hasn’t had any work since 2005.

7. Mary Stuart Masterson


Last Seen: Bed of Roses

Signature Role: Benny & Joon

What’s She Doing Now: Not much. A few episodes of “Law and Order: SVU” and a few straight-to-DVD offerings.

6. Fairuza Balk


Last Seen: Almost Famous

Signature Role: The Craft and the love interest in The Waterboy

What’s She Doing Now: Although she hasn’t done anything significant since Almost Famous, she is lined up with a part in Warner Herzog’s remake of Bad Lieutenant.

5. Kristy Swanson


Last Seen: Big Daddy

Signature Role: The original Buffy the Vampire Slayer

What’s She Doing Now: An occasional TV appearance, including a show called “3Way” and, in 2007, an episode of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.”

4. Janine Turner


Last Seen: Dr. T and the Women

Signature Role: Maggie O’Connell in “Northern Exposure”

What’s She Doing Now: She was in a few episodes of “Friday Night Lights” and a “Walker Texas Ranger” TV movie.

3. Erika Christensen


Last Seen: Flightplan

Signature Role: The daughter in Traffic and the lead in Swimfan

What’s She Doing Now: “Bus Stop Girl” in a movie called Struck and three movies in development, none of which I’ve heard of, though James Caan wrote one.

2. Joey Lauren Adams


Last Seen: Unmemorably in The Break-Up

Signature Role: Chasing Amy

What’s She Doing Now: She directed a movie I’d never heard of in 2006 and was in a movie called Trucker last year.

1. Lori Petty


Last Seen: Tank Girl

Signature Role: Tank Girl

What’s She Doing Now: Two eps of “House” last year, and some very small roles in some very small movies.

The Case of the Disappearing Lead Actress

A Seriously Random List XLIV / Dustin Rowles

Lists | January 16, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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