A Slice Of Television Heaven: “Charlie’s Angels” turns 30.
Once upon a time, thirty years ago this week to be exact, there were three little girls who went to the police academy, and they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But, one man took them away from all of that and they worked for him…his name was Charlie and these were his Angels. And the face of crime fighting women on television would never be the same or lovelier than it was with, Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, aka “Charlie’s Angels.”
Though there were personnel changes at The Charles Townsend Agency during its five year run on ABC, with Cheryl Ladd replacing Fawcett, Shelley Hack replacing Jackson and Tanya Roberts replacing Hack, the series was always grounded by Bosley (David Doyle) and the disembodied voice of Charlie (John Forsyth), who instructed the Angels on their assignments via a speaker box.
I spoke with two authorities on the “Charlie’s Angels” experience, actress Cheryl Ladd, who spent four years on the show as the plucky kid sister of Farrah Fawcett’s character.
And, Mike Pingel, who has amassed an amazing collection of memorabilia and quite literally has written the book on “Charlie’s Angels.” Angelic Heaven is a look inside the show that captured Pingel’s heart. As an actor, Pingel even tried out for the role of Cameron Diaz’s boyfriend in the film version of Charlie’s Angels. If that wasn’t enough of a testament to his fandom, Pingel also oversees the website http://www.charliesangels.com
Unfortunately, I was not able to converse with either one via a speaker box, heavy sigh.
Cheryl Ladd was born Cheryl Jean Stopplemoor, but began her career as Cherie Moor, and was the singing voice of Melody on Hanna Barbera’s “Josie and The Pussycats” cartoon. She later married David Ladd, son of actor Alan Ladd, and had a daughter, Jordan. The two later divorced, but Ladd kept the surname, and began making a name for herself as an actress on such television shows as “Happy Days” and “Police Woman,” and was approached to take part in the “Charlie’s Angels” phenomenon.
Ladd, who corresponded with me via e-mail while filming her recurring role on Las Vegas, called filling Farrah Fawcett’s shoes “extremely daunting.” And before she would accept the role of Kris Munroe, she asked producers to make a few adjustments to her character.
“I wanted to make Kris Munroe more comedic and less glamorous; the rookie who tries really hard, very well meaning, but makes mistakes.” Ladd explained.
Meanwhile, there was a little boy, Mike Pingel, growing up in Europe in awe of these women that were generating worldwide attention. His love for the show has its roots during the show’s second season in 1977, and the introduction of Ladd’s Kris Munroe character.
“I got hooked on “Charlie’s Angels” when I was a kid about 9 years old. They took the world by storm on every magazine cover, posters, etc.” Pingel said. “I fell in love with Cheryl Ladd, as my favorite Angel, because that was her first year she was on, because Farrah was the year before. The second year they actually put the show on the air an hour earlier, so as kids we were able to watch a half hour of the show. And, if we had babysitters we’d tell them we could watch the whole show (laughs).”
And from that point on he couldn’t get enough Angel Stuff, as he began collecting all things Angels-centric.
“The first pieces I remember as a kid were the puzzles, the posters, ads from TV Guide, the “Charlie’s Angels” trading cards. I always wanted the dolls, but my parents wouldn’t let me have them, because those were for girls.
“Later on when I was a teenager, my parents were kind of like, ‘Ok, time to move on.’ So, I threw the stuff away, a lot of the stuff I had, but I still have the puzzles from when I was a kid. And, when I moved to Los Angeles in 1990, I started collecting again.”
And, yes, Pingel did get the dolls he had coveted as a child, along with a knowledge about the show that would lead him to write Angelic Heaven, which offers up some juicy morsels for fans who are hungry for more information about “Charlie’s Angels.”
“When Shelley Hack was cast, Connie Selleca was really up for the running…it was head to head with both of them.” Pingel related. “Tanya (Roberts) being on the set and asking Cheryl and Jaclyn if they would like to do another year, and they both said ‘no’ at the same time.”
Pingel is indebted to Fawcett and Ladd for supplying his book with candid never before seen behind-the-scenes photos and forewords. He found those personal touches to be key, and professes to acting like “a 9 year old boy” whenever he converses with Ladd.
The two have formed a bond, as is exhibited when they both uncannily cite one particular episode as their favorite.
“The episode where my character was introduced, where Kris comes through the door of The Townsend Agency. And, the first episode that I filmed, which was the ‘circus’ episode; that was the episode where the character started to develop. She was allowed to be clumsy and funny.” Ladd reflected.
“ ‘Circus of Terror’ was the second season and Cheryl Ladd’s kind of audition piece. They threw her into the mix, and they actually did an episode with her. By the time the episode was all said and done, she was the new Angel.”
The gay gasp moment at The Emmy Awards this year had to be when all three original Angels appeared on stage together. Pingel was fortunate to be with them backstage, and had this to say about the experience.
“The Angels were having an insanely fun time together. Just being there and being with them, it was really, I don’t even know what words can describe it. Here you are with three women, who I’ve enjoyed on television, and the world has too; and they’re running around getting ready, and having fun, and laughing, having a great time, and enjoying being back together. It was so much like I walked into 1976 and I was on the set of “Charlie’s Angels.” Pingel described.
Even before the Angels set foot upon the Emmy stage to pay tribute to the late, great Aaron Spelling, there was already talk of a televised “Charlie’s Angels” reunion show. Ladd said this about partaking in said reunion.
“Yes, I would participate. I think it would be fun. I worked with Jaclyn the longest and we still spend time together.”
Amazingly, three decades have passed since Charlie uttered his first “Good Morning, Angels,” and each had their own thoughts about the lasting appeal of the show.
“We were like grown up girl scouts. We cared about each other, and did fun things and we looked great doing them.” Ladd said.
While Pingel had this take on the longevity of the show.
“Aaron Spelling had that special golden touch, when he put a cast together, it just clicked. For some reason, “Charlie’s Angels” clicked and it clicked in a worldwide way. The world still knows these women, and they adore them and love them.” Pingel ruminated before continuing. “It was such a forward movement in women in television, it did help that they were drop dead gorgeous and on every magazine cover. They’re angels, you have to love angels, and everybody has a special place in their hearts for them.”
This interview was first published in September 2006.