“C’mon, Teeth, let’s go,” shouts Kate Jackson, holding up a magnifying glass to the famous mouth of Farrah Fawcett-Majors. “Now, smile,” she orders. Farrah obliges with a blinding display of ivory. “Wow!” Jackson yelps, reeling backward. “Look at that, everybody!” In reply Farrah shakes her Niagara of cascading hair. “Weird,” she mutters. “She’s the weird one.” A moment later Farrah and Jaclyn Smith threaten to fix Kate’s makeup so “she’ll never work again. We’ll get rid of her one way or another.” Kate warns, “Be careful what you wish.”
Kate’s serious. The lighter-than-air bubble of ABC’s Charlie’s Angels, already canonized by Nielsen as the only new hit of a leaden TV season, can last only as long as the edgy harmony among its three achingly beautiful stars. Their nervous banter on the set is a giveaway that they’re coping with the kind of tensions that could only have been created by some stygian malefactor.
Every weekday Kate, Farrah and Jackie (Sabrina, Jill and Kelly as Charlie’s gun-toting agents) are picked up by limousines around 5:30 a.m. and hauled half asleep to locations as far away as 30 miles. Each segment is cranked out in seven tense 12-hour days. The show is on its third producer and has felled one director with a heart attack.
Farrah, 29, has worried eight pounds off her slinky 5’6½”, 112-pound frame. Exhausted and weakened by a cold, she recently broke down in tears. Unlike her bionic husband, Lee Majors, Farrah is blessedly mortal. In one frightening incident on location she was slammed to the ground by a careening race car, badly bruising her leg (which was at first thought to be broken).
Kate, 27, can be sharply outspoken on the set and suffers from occasional headaches. After standing around cold and sopping wet during one scene, she asked for some vodka to warm up. “I got smashed and nearly blew all my lines. I spend only three waking hours a day at home,” Kate says. Home is a secure high-rise apartment to which she fled after her house was burglarized four months ago.
“You tend not to have a life of your own,” agrees Jackie, 29, the most placid of the Angels. “You come home, eat dinner, study your lines and go to sleep.”
Not that work is pure hell for the pampered Angels. Each retreats on the set to her own $25,000 Pace Arrow mobile home, stocked with flowers. They may take home clothes from the show’s wardrobe and are trailed all day by two hairdressers, two makeup men and two wardrobe women.
Encouragingly, the Angels are solving their inevitable jealousies and differences (Kate’s single, Farrah’s married, Jackie’s divorced) and banding together. “If somebody is late or irritable,” Kate explains, “the others say, ‘It’s not her fault. She couldn’t help it.’ ” “We started out as strangers,” Jackie echoes, “but now there’s a real warmth and fondness between us.” On Kate’s birthday in October, Jackie typically ordered a cake and decorated it with three little dolls, one blonde and two brunettes. The fact is that, for all their flossy TV image as sexually hip females, Kate, Farrah and Jackie are still sweet Southern belles at heart. On the set and at home recently, the three of them talked about their lives.
Jackie, the Shy One
“I don’t look good in a bikini,” insists Jaclyn Smith. “I’ve got skinny legs.” Maybe so, but Charlie’s Angels’ producers are no more likely to hide Jackie in crinolines than they are to give Farrah an urchin cut.
The quietest of the Angels—and a cushion between flashy Farrah and analytical Kate—Jackie is a self-styled “old-fashioned” girl who lives in a Tara-style house in Beverly Hills. But her role model is less Scarlett O’Hara than the gentle Melanie Wilkes. Jackie, who once helped found a Head Start ballet class for poor kids in New York, means it when she says, “The deeper pleasures in life are in concentrating on someone else.”
Like Farrah, Jackie is a Texas rose, the daughter of a Houston dentist and his wife, “the sweetest people in the world.” She was even closer to her maternal grandfather, the memory of whose death last Palm Sunday at 101 still brings Jackie to tears.
She studied drama at Trinity University in San Antonio and, after battling acute homesickness, moved to New York to live in the Barbizon Hotel for Women and try ballet. She wound up instead in commercials, first with Listerine and then as one of the country’s most ubiquitous and highly paid models, moving from Breck to Wella Balsam (“I’ve Switched”) and Max Factor. (Jackie and Farrah peddle separate products for Wella Balsam, and Jackie once guested on The Rookies, but not with Kate.)
Along the way Jackie’s five-year marriage to TV actor Roger Davis broke up, a disappointment that still pains her. “I learned how to be emotionally independent and not give that up for another person,” she reflects. “But I’d wanted to have five children by now.”
Though a live-in maid fixes Jackie’s meals, the actress ventures out at least once a week for Italian and Mexican food. Like Farrah and Kate, she’s a nonsmoker and claims a hard drink has never passed her lips. Jackie refuses any role calling for “nudity or bad language” and still flushes angrily at the “total lie” that she won her Angels part because she had dated the producer.
Few other clouds trouble her. “It sounds corny to say I enjoy working with Kate and Farrah, but it’s true,” Jackie sums up. “I was happy before the show, I’m happy now, and if it stopped tomorrow I’d still be happy.”
Kate the Sophisticate
“I’d like to be Katharine Hepburn,” allows Kate Jackson. Indeed, the brainiest and “plainest” Angel does have a hint of the other Kate’s intelligence and intensity. When the producers offered color TV sets for their mobile homes, Kate asked instead for bookshelves. The Angels themselves sprang partly from Kate’s brow when she was playing nurse Jill Danko on The Rookies. Her producers then wanted a show about three “karate-chopping types,” she remembers. “I said, suppose they work for a detective named… Harry. He calls them on a squawk box. Then I saw a picture on the wall of three angels…”
Even as the daughter of a building materials wholesaler in Birmingham, Ala., Kate acted out her dreams in the family garage, and later at Birmingham-Southern University. She did summer stock in Vermont and broke into soaps in ABC’s Dark Shadows. That led to four years in The Rookies, where she spent days off studying directing and editing techniques.
A natural athlete who considered trying pro tennis, Kate still works with a coach on weekends. “I only have time now to play tennis and go to the shrink,” she jokes. Though she once lived with actor Edward Albert Jr., Kate claims “My love life ain’t what it used to be. I’ve stopped smoking and drinking and staying out late. I’ve got to discipline myself or the work would kill me.”
Though Kate is paid twice as much as Farrah and Jackie ($10,000 to their $5,000 per show), her overall take is piddling beside the more than $100,000 apiece the other two earn from commercials. Kate vehemently defends Charlie’s Angels against charges of sexism. “It’s not any more sexist than Rock Hudson as McMillan. He’s a handsome man. And Telly’s supposed to be la-de-dah, baby. Isn’t that sexist?
“I can’t live like Holly Golightly the rest of my life,” says Kate, who wants “the warmth of family life” someday. For now, “It’s like I’ve got a little angel riding on my shoulder. Strange I should end up an angel myself.”
Farrah the Free Spirit
With two hit shows in the family, and little free time between them, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and her Six Million Dollar husband, Lee Majors, “take it when we can get it,” Farrah smiles. “The other day I caught him coming out of the shower and grabbed him. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘this is it! Now or never!’ ”
That wholesome, she-leopard sexiness makes Farrah the most popular of the Angels with the public and the trio’s emerging superstar. Yet so far she hasn’t developed a superego and remains a loyal Total Wife whose TV contract specifically permits her to knock off at 7 p.m. so she can be in Bel Air when Lee arrives home. “When I read that I rush home just to fix dinner,” Farrah bristles, “that makes me sound like some superhuman. I do it because I love Lee and I love cooking.” Farrah regrets too that their new houseboy has had to take over the shopping. “I like marketing,” she says. “But I can’t do it anymore without signing 40 autographs.”
If not for ABC, Farrah might plausibly exist only in TV commercials (nearly 100, including Ultra-Brite, Noxzema, Wella Balsam and Mercury Cougar). Even her name sounds like an invention, but it was actually given to her by her parents (her father is an oil contractor) in Corpus Christi, Texas. An art major, voted one of the 10 most beautiful girls at the University of Texas, Farrah began decorating TV series (Harry O) and movies (Logan’s Run) before she was apotheosized in Charlie’s Angels. “I thought, ‘Hurray, now they’re going to let pretty girls do more than just walk through the background.’ ”
While the other Angels are trying to upgrade the show’s treatment of women, Farrah has no complaint. “First of all, I’m a female,” she points out unnecessarily. “Any woman who says she doesn’t use her femininity to get what she wants is deceiving herself. Men don’t have our instinct, and we don’t have their strength.” When Lee took her quail hunting in Oklahoma, Farrah gratefully cooed, “A lot of men wouldn’t like their wives to go along.”
As for Kate and Jackie, Farrah says, “We get along tremendously. That’s not to say we’d all go off to Colorado to ski for a weekend. There may be times you’d wonder what’s taking them so long, but that’s the way with Lee too,” Farrah continues. “We came into this as little girls, but now we’re women.” While Jackie and Kate might question Farrah’s assumption, neither would argue her conclusions. “People are ready for glamor on TV. Women like watching women. The chemistry between us works.”