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Interview: Cheryl Ladd - My life as an Angel was sheer hell; EXCLUSIVE: CHERYL LADD ON THE TV SHOW THAT MADE HER.

Byline: CLARE RAYMOND in New York

SHE has wrestled rubber alligators and, with a revolver tucked in her skimpy hot-pants, fought drug barons to the ground without smudging her lipstick.

TV's most glamorous private detective was every little girl's role model - and every big boy's pin-up. She was one of Charlie's Angels.

And, 20 years on, Cheryl Ladd hasn't lost it. At 49, she still has the body of an Angel, and eight times a week dances and sings her heart out in the Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun.

Now the cult Seventies series has been brought back as a film which premiered in Britain last night. The new Angels, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Ally McBeal star Lucy Lui, still work for the mysterious Charlie, but they've brought the agency up-to-date by ditching guns and beating the baddies with deadly kung-fu kicks.

But the memories came flooding back for Cheryl, who starred as Kris Munroe for four years until the show ended in 1981. And she reckons the new Angels are every bit as good as the originals.

"I love the movie," says Cheryl, who was the only one of the TV Angels to attend the New York premiere. "I think it's wonderful."

"It brought back so many memories - all the throwing back of hair and Cameron driving a speedboat in a sensational bikini.

"I think they've done a really good job of modernising it. They've had some fun but they've shown the original series some reverence by keeping in all the hair flicking and 'Hi Charlies!'

"And, of course, the things they do are impossible, which makes it really fun.

"The fact that they decided not to use guns was interesting - and a good choice. I held my gun a lot, but I only shot it three or four times.

"In the movie, the girls use karate and it's amazing what they can do. In the original series, we had people show us some moves, but didn't go through anything like that level of training.

"We had to make 25 episodes a year, so nobody could afford to break a bone or get a bruise."

Cheryl was asked if she'd like a cameo role in the new movie, and jumped at the chance.

But the other Angels from the original series turned down the offer so the idea was scrapped.

The new Angels were supposed to pass the old Angels on a moving airport walkway.

Farrah Fawcett is reported to have wanted a bigger part as Charlie's girlfriend, and Kate Jackson - who played Sabrina Duncan - wanted to play a baddy.

"It's a shame that it didn't happen because everybody was looking forward to seeing the first Angels," says Cheryl. "But I wasn't surprised when the others said no."

Cheryl joined the show in the second series in 1977, replacing Farrah who played Kris's older sister, Jill.

The programme makers were furious when Farrah left after just one year and sued her for pounds 3.5million, forcing her to make six guest appearances over two years.

For Cheryl - who had yet to make her name after seven years working her way up to starring roles in TV shows such as Happy Days and Ironside, stepping into Farrah's shoes was daunting.

The show was already an international hit and she knew those already involved in the Series would be unsure of her.

"I wasn't given the warmest of welcomes when I joined," says Cheryl, candidly. "I think everyone was a bit nervous and shell-shocked over Farrah.

"I don't know what happened when she left because the other two girls never discussed it with me."

It was David Doyle, who played Bosley - the only male Angel - who made Cheryl feel at home.

"He was my anchor," she says. "He took me under his wing and said: 'Kid, you're going to be fine'.

"Kate Jackson and I never really bonded. We tried, but it didn't really happen.

"To this day, I can't understand why. She was always a bit distant from me and remained so. She had been very friendly with Farrah, so she resented anybody coming in."

AND it wasn't only the viewers who never got to see the illusive Charlie - played by John Forsythe - the boss who gave the Angels their orders via intercom each week.

Cheryl didn't either.

"In all the years we worked on the show, I never met John because he only did voiceovers," she says.

"Now we are neighbours in Santa Barbara, California."

And it wasn't easy when Farrah returned to the show for the six episodes she'd been ordered to make.

"She was professional, but she didn't want to be there," says Cheryl. "She had moved on and was making films.

"She'd do her work and then go to her trailer. It was awkward, but not impossible. She was never going to be my best friend."

In fact, it was Cheryl who became a household name overnight.

"After the first couple of shows, I realised people did accept me and the show became huge," she says. The ratings shot up after she joined.

"The week before I joined, nobody cared what I ate, or what shampoo I used. But all of a sudden people were fascinated by everything about me." For a short time the experience made her big-headed.

"I couldn't help it," she says. "I was surrounded by people who didn't want to say 'No' to me. I expected a lot of people to wait on me hand and foot, to do things I would normally do for myself.

"I realised I was turning into somebody even I didn't like and I needed to do something about it."

In fact, when producer Aaron Spelling first offered her the role, she turned him down.

"I told him I didn't feel comfortable with the whole glamour thing and trying to be Farrah," she says.

"That would be the kiss of death. I told him I'd like to make the part humourous, so Kris could be funny and make mistakes."

BEING a Charlie's Angel seemed like a dream job. In reality, it was often far from it.

"There were times when it was so much fun," Cheryl recalls. "Like the time when I had to wrestle a rubber alligator, or the time Bosley mooned at us to make us laugh.

"But the work was long and hard. We worked 15 hours a day, five days a week, for nine months of the year.

"And then we had to do publicity and attend wardrobe fittings. There wasn't much time to be anything, but a Charlie's Angel.

"That's difficult when you have a husband and child. I'm not saying have a pity party for me, but there was a lot more to it than people imagine.

"Being in Charlie's Angels was the best of times and the worst of times.

"I had great success as an actress, I was making good money and I was starring in a popular show.

"But at the same time, my personal life was a shambles."

Her marriage to David Ladd was on the rocks and she was wracked with guilt at having to spend so much time apart from her daughter.

"I think that we would have been divorced had there been Charlie's Angels or not, but it added stress to a dysfunctional relationship.

"It was a much more difficult experience than I had anticipated. We both suffered. I regret that and resent the many hours I spent sitting on a set just waiting when my daughter was wishing her mommy was home.

"That's why I didn't do another TV series after Charlie's Angels. Mostly I was a stay at home mom."

Cheryl stayed in the show until it ended in 1981 and she soon discovered the monumental success of Charlie's Angels had a downside. She had been typecast.

"For a little while I couldn't get a film director to even meet with me. It was really tough. I wanted to be a movie star, but I had to do TV movies and mini series instead. I've been everything from a miner to a drug-addicted nurse.

"So I didn't get to be Julia Roberts, but there aren't many people who do.

"I'm finding that, as I get older, the roles are getting smaller, but much more interesting to play.

"I'm happy that Charlie's Angels became so popular and it afforded me this long career and opportunity to play many other characters.

"Had I never worked again after Angels I might feel very differently about it. But I can't complain because it's given me a 20 year career. I'm very happy.

"Now I'm happily married to Brian (Scots-born songwriter Brian Russell) and starring on Broadway.

"Who knows if that would have happened without Charlie's Angels?

"I'm having the time of my life. As much as Angels made me famous and gave me that celebrity, notoriety and success, this is far more rewarding."

And she says there's little chance of the original Angels reuniting.

"I don't think we're ready for the Golden Girls yet," she says. "What about the Orthopedic Angels - in sensible shoes?"

TOMORROW: THE OTHER ORIGINAL ANGELS

CAPTION(S):

AFTER ANGELS: Now Cheryl is starring on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun; UNHAPPY: David Ladd and Cheryl; JOY: With husband Brian Russell; THEN; OLD ANGELS: Cheryl, Bosley and the other girls; NOW; NEW ANGELS: Drew, Cameron and Lucy with Bosley
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2000
Words:1568
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