Sarah Douglas Brings Her British Bouquet to a Vintage Year on Falcon Crest

What a bitch! “What can I say, my dear?” Sarah Douglas purrs, all English ice. “Let’s face it: I’m trashy.” She was the supervillain Ursa in Superman I and II, and on CBS’ hit series Falcon Crest she has added acid to the wine as the cool, cutting Pamela Lynch—at least until Pamela was kidnapped. The producers hope Douglas will come back next season, but they had to write her out of the script so she could play the terrifying sorceress, Queen Taramis, in the upcoming Conan the Destroyer. “I am evil through and through,” she boasts of the movie role, “and I must say, it’s fun. This time, I even get to sacrifice a virgin!” Better yet, when NBC brings back its miniseries V for a minisequel in May, Douglas will become an alien lizard, complete with a sharp tongue.

Funny, though, she doesn’t look like a bitch. That’s what Falcon Crest’s casting honchos thought when they first saw the imposing, 6′ Douglas without her Superman aura. “They said, ‘God, in the movie, you’re so evil and vicious and in real life you’re so sweet and witty and bright. How do you do it?’ And I said, ‘Well, in England, we call it acting.’ ” Zing!

For Douglas, 31, being bitchy is an act. In real life, she is simply nice. But it’s so much fun playing the queen of camp that she can’t help herself: She loves to entertain, even when the cameras are off. Sarah is sassy just talking about Falcon Crest. “Why, it took me 19 episodes to get laid,” she says. “It’s true, 19! Every week I’d say, ‘When’s it going to happen?’ One day I was horrified to hear on the loudspeaker on the set, ‘Not only is Sarah’s mother arriving from England next week, but she’s getting laid on the next episode.’ ”

Before turning evil in America, Douglas in England “always played a nice girl who was naughty on the side.” A case in point: At age 9, she was cast as Oberon in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in her hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. But she was demoted to third fairy because of a schoolroom prank—”the first and only setback of my career,” Sarah says. At 14, she wanted to join the National Youth Theatre of England. Her mother, a physiotherapist who still lives in Stratford, said she’d go along with this acting stuff if Sarah became one of the handful selected from the 3,500 other kids who tried out. And she did. After working as a governess, a hospital worker and a teacher “to broaden myself,” Douglas mastered British stage, screen and TV roles.

In 1974, as an extra on the set of the sci-fi flick Rollerball, she met her husband, American-born actor Richard LeParmentier, 37. They moved in together almost immediately and got married three years ago. The wedding was, no surprise, “pretty camp,” recalls Sarah. “I tripped down the aisle in this Victorian lace and the bridesmaids smacked into the back of me because they saw their favorite rock star [Stewart Copeland of the Police] standing there taking videos of the wedding. My mother later yelled at me: ‘That’s not an audience! That’s a congregation.’ ”

Sarah and Richard are bicontinental. He lives in England, where his American accent gets him jobs; for now, she lives in L.A., where her English accent is in demand. She moved there to boost her career on Richard’s advice. “Go to Hollywood and go on your own,” he told her. “There’s no work in England.” But they talk on the phone frequently, visit often and are buying a house together back in Stratford.

Living alone wasn’t easy for Sarah. “But I had some wonderful friends,” she says. “They were all transvestites. They were the sweetest boys and girls. I talked to my mom on the phone and I told her Kevin and Katy were there. ‘Oh, they’re a nice couple, are they?’ said Mom. I said, ‘Oh, it’s the same person, Kevin by day, Katy by night. But he’s getting it lopped off next week.’ ”

There’s a twist to every tale Sarah tells. Her favorite story from Superman is about her nose: “I was hanging 40 feet up in the air and I got this terrible cold. My nose was streaming. Well, supervillains don’t carry Kleenex tissues. So they got a man with a 40-foot pole and put tissue on it. I thought, this is it. I have my own nose wiper. Sarah, you’re on your way.”

Indeed, her role on Falcon Crest was to be a small one, playing the high-fashion confidante of David Selby. “But she was so good,” says Falcon’s head writer, Bob McCullough, “that she catapulted beyond her character.” Her best friends are co-stars Susan Sullivan and Abby Dalton. As for Jane Wyman, Douglas says, “She reminds me of the Queen.”

Her Conan co-star, Grace Jones, has become another good friend. They have similar tastes in clothes: Both love leather. “I wear a lot of pig, dear,” Sarah says. “Grace and I are comparing our leather furiously. One night, Grace appeared in mink and beaver fur and leather, and I was in gray metallic leather trimmed in beaver and gray snake jodhpurs. You should have seen us! We were so hot, sweating away, determined to outdo each other.”

Douglas’ biggest TV competition, though, is still her countrywoman, Dynasty’s Joan Collins. When Douglas signed for Falcon Crest, a reporter asked what she thought about comparisons to Collins. Sarah said: “Terrific. She’s marvelous. But why would anyone compare us, because she’s 20 years older.” Ouch!

The stage was set for the “Battle of the British Bitches,” as proclaimed by the London papers. The confrontation came at a Los Angeles party for Collins’ sister, Jackie, author of Hollywood Wives and a friend of Sarah’s. To mend fences, Jackie advised Sarah: “If you say to Joan that you’ve been misquoted, she’ll understand.” Sarah was ready. “I was looking particularly virginal that day, in a white frock,” she says. “Madam wafted in,” and they were introduced. “There was this definite iciness. I said, ‘I’ve long been an admirer of yours. However, it seems I’ve been misquoted about you lately.’ Joan looked at me—looked through me, actually—and said, ‘I hope for your sake you have, my dear’ and swept away regally. What a wonderful line.”

But if Pamela Lynch and Alexis Carrington Colby ever ended up in a Battle of the Network Bitches, Sarah has no doubt who would win—and what would do in Alexis: “The 20 years’ difference,” says Sarah. “Age, my dear.”

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