Darling of Dallas
Sometimes you want to kick Pam Ewing. The woman is simply too sweet to survive in the company of her oily in-laws. She’s 90 percent quivering jelly. Finally, though, that other 10 percent is emerging; Pam is getting tough. She slapped J.R. and told him to “shut up and stay out of my life.” Husband Bobby began following in J.R.’s fetid footsteps (as Sue Ellen put it: “He has a new mistress, Pam—Ewing Oil”), so Pam left. “Our marriage just doesn’t work anymore,” she said, “and I want a divorce.” That, says Victoria Principal, has been “a long time coming.” In this season’s fiery finish, the Ewings’ tawdry Tara, Southfork, went up in flames (shades of Dynasty) with J.R., Sue Ellen and their son trapped inside. Next season, the stage seems set for J.R. actually to become a good guy, for Bobby to end up in flagrante Dallas with Pam’s sister, and for Pam finally to go all the way with Mark Grayson (“your favorite stud,” J.R. calls him). It will be, says Victoria, “a major change in Pam and the show.”
Victoria, on the other hand, has always been tough—90 percent of her, at least. “I love the deal-making,” she says. In 1978 she hard-bargained her way onto CBS’ Dallas for a reported $25,000 a show (now at least doubled, by most estimates). Last October she renewed her contract to flog Jhirmack shampoos with a new $1 million-plus salary (“the second largest endorsement contract ever,” she claims—reportedly second only to Lauren Bacall’s High-Point Coffee deal). And Principal personally called the editor at Simon & Schuster to sell her first book, The Body Principal, which will be published this fall.
Unlike Pam, Victoria has played around. She dumped financier Bernie Cornfeld when he allegedly tried to strangle her; she dated Frank Sinatra; she watched her affair with Andy Gibb end in a fight over drugs. At 33, she’s sexy, self-assured, earthy and outrageous. She posed for May’s Harper’s Bazaar and “wore the best thing possible”: nothing. “There are many ways to say I love you,” says a joke-gift button she sports. “F——-g is the fastest.” This is the 90 percent of Victoria that Hollywood and the public know.
But the rest of her is a cautious, even frightened woman. She has built a fortress off Beverly Hills’ Benedict Canyon. “You bet I’m paranoid!” she says. Rattled by threatening calls, letters and a confrontation four years ago with three youths in her garage (she talked them out of trouble), Victoria now protects herself with a half-dozen alarm systems and two attack dogs, China and Dyla. “My Dobermans have been trained”—her tiny voice grows quiet—”to kill…. I give them bones once a week so they won’t lose their taste for blood.” She bricked over windows against paparazzi; she bought a Porsche with a sunroof instead of a convertible because “somebody could grab me out of it.”
Victoria gives a tour of the home she bought in 1978, showing where her new 12-by-16-foot gym will go, the framed cover-girl pictures of herself, the video recorders (she watches Dallas but never tapes it, “absolutely not—I don’t want to end up an old lady rerunning tapes of my shows”), and a jar of X-rated fortune cookies (she opens one—”Marriage has ruined many a good love affair”—and laughs). Then comes her pride and joy: “Let me show you my bulletproof bathroom.”
Her luxurious loo’s earthtone-brown walls, floors and ceiling are armored in steel. “It totally protects me,” she says. Its skylight has bars (“I’m going to hang some plants to soften it a bit”); its one window is hot-wired, so “by the time anyone gets this far, they’ll be fried.” Next to her John is a red phone that “will always work even if the lines to the house are cut…. Wouldn’t it be awful to be shot on the toilet?” she wonders with a laugh—not a hearty one.
Victoria is equally protective of her past. She hates her image as a man-hunter (as another of her buttons puts it: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere”). “No one who ever dated me has ever said an unkind thing about me,” she exclaims. “I’ve probably had fewer relationships than many in my 33 years, but no one will ever believe it.” Since 1978 she’s dated only three men. The first was Chris Skinner, an aspiring actor seven years her junior. After three dates, they married. After 20 months, they divorced. Her 75-hour-a-week job was too much for him.
Then she met Andy Gibb, now 25, on The John Davidson Show. Andy had told PEOPLE that he watched Dallas just to see Victoria, so she went on the program to surprise him. They soon lived and worked together. Careers never conflicted. “Absolutely not,” Victoria says. “I did some of my best work because of Andy.” He taught her to sing for a single: “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” His albums still litter Victoria’s dream house. Andy does not.
They broke up last spring when “I said for him to choose between me and the problem.” It was drugs. “I am adamant about drugs. If I would end my relationship…” She wipes away a tear. The press castigated her, but Victoria says they got it wrong—the breakup didn’t lead to his problems; it was the other way around. “To come forward and say what really happened would have been a terrible breach of our relationship,” she says now. “Andy is eternally dear to me.”
In the middle of her “emotional divorce” from Andy, Victoria fell in love with Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Harry Glassman, 39. He too was going through a divorce. Glassman and his almost-ex, Jane, have been arguing over property, including a ring that Jane claims Harry bought for Victoria. Victoria “swore on a Bible” in a deposition that he bought her no ring, but she later bought herself one with a 3.89-carat diamond. The price: “It was my 33rd birthday and I felt the numbers should be appropriate” (add four zeroes).
Harry is troubled with his fame-by-association. “One of the things about the relationship with Victoria I’ve grown to resent,” he says, “is the lack of privacy.” Victoria treasures him. “With Harry,” she says, “I feel completely fulfilled. I’m just wild about Harry.” She’s also crazy about his children, Andrew, 15, and Brooke, 13. “You can’t have two parents turn out two wonderful children like that unless they are very nice people,” she says.
But mention a marriage date and Victoria turns coy. “Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot of Modern Bride because I believe in the institution of marriage and always being well-dressed,” she chortles. “But if I were going to get married, the only man in the world I would get married to is Harry.” Ask her whether she’ll ever be a mother and she says: “I believe in having babies when you’re wed. But at the moment I’m not planning on having a baby and I’m not planning on getting married. But someday…”
Victoria has approached her career the same way she is now approaching the altar: carefully. After growing up an Air Force brat in Japan and Georgia and points in between, after acting and modeling in New York and Europe, she moved to L.A. in 1971 and made The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean with Paul Newman. Suddenly, she recalls, “People started inviting me to parties. I thought these people really liked me but I found out I was only a hot meal ticket.” Her next film, The Naked Ape, “went into the toilet and so did my telephone number.” She never again wanted to feel the pain of failure. “I wanted to be successful simply because I didn’t want to get hurt,” she says. “I began to get hard. I became very protective of myself.” Then, in 1975, “halfway through Vigilante Force, I realized I was so unhappy I didn’t want to live.”
She left acting to become an agent, where “I was being treated for what I could say or do as opposed to how I looked.” Concentrating on her brains, not beauty, she headed for law school. On the way, she stopped off on Fantasy Island to earn her tuition and “I never did make it to law school.”
Then, at age 28, came Dallas. Today, it seems, Victoria is about as rich in real life as she is on the show. She’s careful with her money, too. She rents out her walled, guarded retreat in Palm Springs, “so it actually pays for itself.” She owns some office real estate and has built a home in Atlanta for her parents, retired Air Force Master Sgt. Victor Principal and his wife, Ree Veal. Victoria is about to become national chairman of the Arthritis Foundation “as a love letter to my parents.” Her father suffers from arthritis and her mother from lupus, a related disease (and Victoria says she’s beginning to suffer trace symptoms of both).
She has fame, money, love and a sense of humor. There’s one thing more: beauty. Victoria works hard to keep it. Even better, she makes money from it—on Dallas, in her book, selling shampoo, and as the visible spokesman for Jack LaLanne, Vic Tanny and other health clubs until Jaclyn Smith started replacing her a few months ago. Even if her psyche’s a little soft, Victoria makes sure the same won’t apply to her body or bank account.