SHARON GLESS HAS A SIMPLE REQUEST for the cast and crew milling around the little Los Angeles park, shooting footage for Cagney & Lacey: The Return, a reunion movie airing Nov. 6 on CBS. “Will everyone please join me in saying goodbye to my partner?” shouts Gless, 51, tears welling in her eyes as she embraces Tyne Daly, 48, who has just finished her last scene. Gless, with a scene still to go, walks over to her husband, Barney Rosenzweig, C&L’s producer, and rests her head on his shoulder. “I’m sad,” she tells him softly.
Tearful farewells are common among actors on location, but the weeping often stops the moment the dressing-room trailer door slams shut. This parting is different. As detectives Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey—the excitable blonde and her plainspoken, motherly partner—Gless and Daly established an onscreen rapport that reflected an offscreen friendship. It endured through the six-year run of the series (1982-88) and continues today.
Now the duo that made TV take female cops seriously—Angie Dickinson’s Sgt. “Pepper” Anderson always wore thicker eyeliner than the job required—is coming back in a pair of 2-hour CBS movies. (The second, Cagney & Lacey: Together Again, will be shown next year.) Cagney (Gless) is married now and working out of the district attorney’s office, where she wangles an investigating job for her old pal Lacey. The movies, shot last spring, reunited more than two dozen crew members and actors—including John Karlen as Mary Beth’s supportive husband, Harvey, Carl Lumbley as the affable Det. Marcus Petrie, and Martin Kove as the skirt-chasing Det. Victor Isbecki—who had worked on the show during its heyday. For most it was a chance to exchange news and baby pictures, but Gless and Daly didn’t really have any catching up to do.
“We hang out as much as possible,” says Daly, who divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles, while Gless hews to Malibu. “Our lives have gone in different directions, but the friendship over the years has deepened, and we come to each other in times of trouble.”
Troubles there have been—as well as good times—in the six years since the show went off the air. Daly is slowly picking up the pieces after her 25-year marriage to actor-turned-director Georg Stanford Brown ended in divorce in 1991. “I’m still in recovery,” says Daly, who has three daughters (Alisabeth, 26, a homemaker; Kathyrne, 23, an actress; and Alyxandra, 9) with Brown. “I’m aware that a newly divorced woman is supposed to instantly get a new diet, a couple of new things for her wardrobe and get a new mate. But I was married for a very long time, and it’s taking me time to assess how to conduct my life now.”
Gless hit her own low point in 1988 when, thrown into a tailspin by the demise of the series that had brought her stardom and helped define her sense of self, she checked into Hazelden, the Minnesota rehab facility, to deal with a drinking problem. Once there, Gless discovered that alcohol wasn’t the only thing troubling her. “I was emotionally and physically exhausted,” she says. “I needed someone to pay attention to me as a person, not just as the character I played. It wasn’t anyone’s fault—I think I did it to myself because I’m shy, really. I used to talk a lot but not always with great depth. It was always about work. I walked in there as Chris Cagney and walked out as Sharon Gless.”
Daly, whose father was actor James Daly and whose brother is Wings star Tim Daly, dealt with the breakup of her marriage and her subsequent divorce by diving into work. She toured nationally as Mama Rose in Gypsy, winning a Tony in 1990 when the musical played on Broadway. She made several TV movies and, since last spring, has spent much of her time in Townsend, Tenn., filming Christy, the homespun CBS series in which she plays Miss Alice, a Quaker missionary.
Gless, after seven weeks at Hazelden, concentrated on her personal life, becoming a first-time bride at 47, when she married Rosenzweig in 1991. “Acting has been my life, but now Barney is my life too,” she says. “Learning to compromise was the hardest part. That word was not in my vocabulary.” Responds Rosenzweig, who was married twice before (second wife Barbara Corday was cocreator of Cagney & Lacey): “Sharon is my big passion, my very big deal.” The year before their marriage the pair collaborated on a series, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill. When that was canceled after two seasons, Gless salved the wounds by making her stage debut in London’s West End in an adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery in 1992.
With schedules like these, getting together can be difficult, so Daly and Gless keep up via fiber-optic-assisted dishing. Telephone topics range from politics—both women are outspoken feminists—to the birth of Daly’s first grandchild, Honah, a girl born last January. “I clipped the cord,” says Daly awed. “Seeing a child come out of my child [Alisabeth] was a mindblower.” There also are frequent updates about Gless’s battle to lose the nearly 40 pounds she gained for Misery. “This is a fight all the time,” says Gless, who spent two months at a California spa and now exercises 2 hours a day and avoids eating fats.
When the two began talking last fall about a TV reunion, Gless was gung ho. Daly, remembering the 17-hour C&L workdays, was reluctant. She gave in because filming would be completed in less than two months—and because, as Rosenzweig pointed out, perhaps unnecessarily, “We can’t do it without you.”
That said, Daly finds it’s not easy to leave once her final scene is shot. And it doesn’t get easier when she returns to her trailer, begins wiping off her makeup and opens a note Gless has given her. “Unfortunately,” writes Gless, “I’ve fallen in love again—with us.”
JOYCE WAGNER in Los Angeles