I took quite alot of ribbing for this one, but I was really voted best wink and biggest flirt! Just ask my husband!
Touched by an Angel
Decades after Charlie's last call, memories of schoolgirl play remain
Friday, November 03, 2000
By JULIE E. WASHINGTON
THE PLAIN DEALER
Critics dismissed it as a jiggle show, but almost three decades later, women of a certain age still know how to plant their feet, point their fingers and be an Angel.
"You've got to pretend you're holding a gun and say, 'Freeze, mister!' That's all there is to it," said Christine Keller, owner of Talkies Film and Coffee Bar in Ohio City.
In honor of the millennial big-screen incarnation of "Charlie's Angels" opening in theaters today with Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz, we asked some high-powered women in Cleveland to get in touch with their inner Angels.
We wanted them to think back to the days before Palm Pilots and NASDAQ stocks, when the most complicated decision to be made was ... which Angel are you?
Keller recalled that her blonde hair locked her into only one role when she played at solving playground crimes with two sixth-grade friends. "I wasn't able to be Kate Jackson. They would want me to be Farrah [Fawcett-Majors]," she said.
"Charlie's Angels" made its debut on ABC in 1976 with Jackson as Sabrina Duncan, Fawcett-Majors as Jill Munroe and Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett. Sabrina was supposed to be the brainy one, Jill the athletic one and Kelly the sophisticated one, but that hardly mattered, since each episode tried to get the Angels into skin-revealing clothes as quickly as possible.
Fawcett-Majors left in 1977, and the cast went into revolving-door mode. Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts filled in as Angels dropped away. By 1981, the Angels had hung up the phone on Charlie, their never-seen boss, for the final time.
In a television landscape populated with Rhoda, Maude and Alice, the Angels were different. Sure, they had beautiful hair and clothes, but they also carried guns and went into dangerous situations. Girls and young women of the time watched, and learned about female power.
"For that time, I do think they were good role models," said Susan Hennie, executive officer for research and technology at NASA John H. Glenn Research Center, who described the women as professional, independent team players who enjoyed their careers and were different from other female TV characters.
"They offered hope to women who believed that physical appearance, hygiene and fitness were not traits exclusive to 'dumb blondes' with male dependencies."
Although her then-boyfriend (and now husband) wanted her to look like Fawcett-Majors, Hennie said she wanted to look like Smith.
"I identified most with Kate Jackson, the smart, plain one in the business attire," Hennie said.
Jerry Sue Thornton, president of Cuyahoga Community College, was a young English professor teaching at a community college near Chicago during the 1970s. Her classes talked about the Angels in terms of media images of women.
"Kate Jackson was my favorite," very serious, bright and talented, Thornton recalled. "She felt real to me."
Jackson was a strong choice among the women interviewed in this highly unscientific sampling. Chris Link, executive director of ACLU of Ohio, said she also liked Jackson. "She ended years of discrimination towards brunettes," Link said.
Beth Schreibman-Gehring, president of Schreibman's Jewelers East in Pepper Pike, chose a different Angel. "I always would have chosen to be Jaclyn Smith. She had a lot of beauty and class," Schreibman-Gehring said.
Jackson was too brainy. "I hated that fluffy, feathered stuff Farrah was doing," Schreibman-Gehring said. "There was just no way I could ever do that. Jaclyn, I could do."
She used to practice using her eyes like Smith did on the show. "I learned to wink and flirt like she did," Schreibman-Gehring admitted. Did it work? She was voted Best Wink and Biggest Flirt in the Orange High School Class of 1977.
"Charlie's Angels" taught her more than flirting techniques. It showed her how women could be feminine and powerful.
"They had to rely on something other than violence to get out of tough situations," Schreibman-Gehring said. "I just remember feeling different after I watched it - I felt strong."
But the best thing about the Angels, said NASA's Hennie, was "their ability to leap tall buildings, run down speeding automobiles and beat up bad guys - without their hair moving!"
Phone: (216) 999-4539
©2000 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.