As Constance Carlyle on NBC’s Flamingo Road, her slinky lingerie, bed-hopping antics and blond bitchiness put Morgan Fairchild at the top of the Moral Majority hit list. In the end, however, it was a fall from Nielsen’s grace that doomed the Dallas knockoff, leaving one of Hollywood’s steamier glamour queens without somebody else’s husband to call her own. Times being what they are in Tinseltown, quality scripts—those in which she could keep her clothes on—did not pour in.
Tired of being offered what she calls “glitzy bitch” roles and hoping to broaden her acting credentials, Fair-child fled Los Angeles for a three-month off-Broadway run in Geniuses, Jonathan Reynolds’ well-received and wickedly funny Hollywood send-up now playing at Manhattan’s Douglas Fairbanks Theater. In it, Fairchild plays—wouldn’t you know it—a scantily clad, blond starlet whom nobody takes seriously (she’s savvy and they should have). “I turned down big bucks in L.A. to run around in short shorts and halter tops so I could come here and work for nothing in short shorts and halter tops,” laughs Fairchild, who turns 33 next month. “But this is art.”
So far the transition has been painless, aided in large part by a good relationship with the show’s cast and crew. “I made sure they knew I was not a prima donna and that they could say anything to me and not worry about hurting my feelings,” says Fairchild. Geniuses is Fairchild’s first stage outing since 1973, when she starred in such fluff as The Tender Trap (opposite Tab Hunter) and The Seven Year Itch (she had the Marilyn Monroe part) at a Jacksonville, Fla. dinner theater. Like most off-Broadway shows, the Equity minimum $195.80 weekly pay is negligible (“In three months I’ll make less than I would for a one-day personal appearance”), the backstage trappings are sparse (a blanket separates her dressing room from her male co-star’s), and the transportation is every-actor-for-herself (she has bused to work). But Fairchild is enjoying the ordinariness of it all. “It’s nice being away from Hollywood stuff,” she confesses. “I worried there would be that New York attitude like ‘What does that TV bitch think she’s doing here?’ but everyone’s been great.”
Fairchild’s first starring role in a film, 1982’s The Seduction (she played a TV reporter in various stages of undress who is stalked by a psycho), disappointed her and left critics cold. Wrote one New York critic: “She has real talent for gracefully soaping her long, fine legs.” But Morgan shrugs off such vitriol. “I knew it wouldn’t be a classic,” she says. Meatier roles, she complains, are elusive. She wanted to do Tootsie and met with Dustin Hoffman, but lost out to Jessica Lange.
The New York stay will mean a separation from beau Craig Denault, 36, a Hollywood camera operator she met a year and a half ago on the Flamingo Road set. Fairchild and Denault, both divorced, are talking marriage but no date has been set. “We have a hard enough time just being in the same city,” she quips. Denault, who just ended a two-week visit, isn’t worried by the bicoastal arrangement. “Women come on to me, too,” he says. “We’ve built up a good trust bond.” But Fairchild looks forward to her return West with mixed emotions. “I would rather be off-Broadway and work for nothing,” she insists, “than sit around Hollywood and do schlock for big money.”