Is She a Gamer? You Bet Your Life!
STOP NOW—SHE HAS HEARD IT. "PEOPLE say, 'What are you, Vanna White?' " reports Robbi Chong. "No, I'm Vanna Brown," she quips back. Chong—Bill Cosby's assistant on the syndicated game show You Bet Your Life, daughter of actor-comedian Tommy Chong and half-sister of actress Rae Dawn Chong—doesn't think being hostess of a game show spells clone. "My job is similar to Vanna's," says Chong, 29. "Let's hope the comparisons stop there."
On Life, horror-film buff Cosby introduces Chong as "the very intelligent Renfield"—the character who, Bela Lugosi fans will recall, was Dracula's aide-de-camp. "The one who picked the bugs out of his hair," says Chong, who welcomes contestants and calls out numbers. Cosby thinks her veritable silence is golden. "She moves aside to let the comedy unfold," he says. Robbi likes the gig. "It's giving me a chance to work with Mr. Cosby and in front of the camera," says Chong, who auditioned even though she's a friend of Cos's daughter, Erika.
In the '70s, as her dad's star ascended higher as half of the cannabis-fueled comedy duo Cheech and Chong, Robbi was being raised in L.A. by her mother, Maxine Morrow, a former radio-station manager who split from Tommy when Robbi was 7. She's close to Rae Dawn, 31, with whom she grew up, but recalls Tommy as an absentee parent. "Having a father everybody knows but you hardly know is difficult," Robbi says. Her response, at age 16, was to "become your basic juvenile rebel." She passed a high school equivalency test and headed to London, then Paris, where she modeled. Stateside she scored bit parts on TV and in movies. She was cut from Pop's 1990 flop Far Out Man—"Thank God," she says, laughing.
When Life is taping in Philadelphia, Chong haunts art museums and pines for her fiancé, L.A.-based artist Tobias Keane, 29. She has her eye on writing and directing—with the playful blessing of her father. "I'm a little disappointed," he says, "that she turned out so straight."
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