Charlie’s Latest Angel
The locale is Charlie's Angels, not King Arthur's court, but the arrival of this sophisticated Connecticut Yankee has proved hardly less dramatic. Since Shelley Hack, 32, picked up the fallen halo of bumptious Kate Jackson, the TV show good-naturedly dismissed as the Bod Squad has experienced chic shock. Suddenly ABC's Charlie's Angels is threatening to junk the "jiggle." True, the series opened the season last week with bounteous Cheryl Ladd stuffed into a bikini, but the prospect for the future is to emphasize the caste and class of the "Shelley Hack look."
Explains Angel's co-producer Aaron Spelling, "To just bring in another 'body' would have been demeaning as hell. The girls are tired of having the show referred to as T&A. We've never seen it that way." And he adds, "Suddenly it is 'in' to be well-dressed. I'd love to see Charlie's Angels become a fashion plate show." Says Nolan Miller, the show's fashion designer, "Men watch the girls. Women watch the clothes. Kate Jackson was the fly in the ointment. She always wanted to wear jeans, but Shelley knows how to wear clothes like a model." Miller likes to pretend each Angel is an oldtime Hollywood glamor queen: "Shelley's a young Kate Hepburn—sophisticated, with poise. Cheryl is like Lana Turner—no hips, full bust. Jackie Smith has real class—a Gene Tierney type." Each Angel will average eight costume changes per show this season (except Farrah, who rated 12 for this year's first guest shot). In pursuit of such glamor, Charlie's Angels has budgeted $10,000 a week for clothes, TV's highest wardrobe outlay.
The new direction seems tailor-made for Hack, a 5'7½", 118-pound Smith graduate who still has 18 months to run on her modeling contract as Revlon's breezy Charlie girl. Hack's "Tiffany Welles" character ("more New England, a drier sense of humor") likewise seems a good fit, although nobody is sure. Her acting is a question mark, even though she had a starring role in Joe Brooks' cloying If Ever I See You Again ("a bomb," she admits), a memorable bit as a vacuous WASP in Annie Hall and the lead in Death Car on the Freeway (a TV movie airing next week). In the first few episodes of Angels, Hack has explained, "My part is minimal because when the scripts were written they had absolutely no idea who the new girl would be." Her part will expand as writers get to know her.
Shelley has proved coolly adept at handling the rumors that, predictably, greet each new Angel. "No, I did not grow, cut or dye my hair to look less like Cheryl. We're different types," she says. "Jackie and Cheryl and I hit it off immediately. Cheryl is multitalented, very sweet and funny. So is Jackie—she's close to her family and very polite." Shelley chain-smokes on the set despite an attempt to quit, but that's due to the hurry-up-and-wait nature of TV shooting, not friction. "We're the happiest we've ever been," coos Cheryl, who has installed an electric piano in her motor-home dressing room to distract her from her own cigarette habit. "We even have lunch together," Jackie adds. "When I see Shelley cleaning out her motor home, I run and clean out mine. She appears very organized with everything under control."
That includes a personal life recently stripped down for the rigors of 14-hour days. "I don't have time to date. I'm up at 5 a.m. for hair and makeup at 6. That means bed at 9:30. It's a question of eating right, pacing yourself and not getting sick," says Shelley, who likes to bake rich desserts while only nibbling at her meals. ("She eats fruit while I'm having a Big Mac," moans Jackie.)
"Shelley doesn't swing or run to discos," says Manhattan photographer Steen Svensson, whose six-year romance with her ended 18 months ago. Yet Hack now complains, "The press is linking me with men I never heard of." That's because she recently split with author-director Nicholas (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) Meyer, 33, although she denies rumors that their troubles started when he refused to cast her in his upcoming thriller, Time After Time. "That story upset me a great deal because the truth is I was the one who didn't want to do the movie," Shelley has said. "After all, our relationship had just started—what if we broke up in two months? He would have been stuck with directing me." Hack now says of Meyer, "He is bright, clever and doesn't have another girlfriend." She's in a position to know. Though she calls Meyer her "ex-boyfriend," she's still living in his bucolic one-story Laurel Canyon home while searching for her own pad (she's seen 52 so far). She wants "a garden—a pool isn't necessary—just something in the hills that reminds me of New England."
Shelley grew up in affluent Greenwich, Conn., the eldest of six children. She was the shortstop on the family baseball team that included her father, a Wall Street financial analyst who died three years ago; her mother, a former Conover model; Shannon, 29, now director of regional affiliations for rival NBC; Shawn, 23, who traveled West this summer to become her sister's factotum; Torry, 24, an electrical engineer; Lance, 19, a Princeton sophomore; and Babe, 12, "who wants to be an Angel."
"It was a real nice upbringing. I wasn't spoiled," says Shelley. "I was always doing chores, folding diapers, and we all took care of the next youngest child." The work went upscale at 14, when a photographer urged her to try modeling. "I was brought up not to close doors," explains Shelley, who eventually landed on the covers of Glamour and Vogue. "Modeling was a great summer job. It beat waitressing."
After graduating from the private Greenwich Academy, she entered Smith College ("When people say 'upper crust' it sounds so silly—most of the girls there were on scholarship"). Dismayed to find "Smithies go to bed at 10 p.m.," she escaped her junior year to study archeology at the University of Sydney in Australia. The hiatus also involved a trip around the world. "My mother worried I'd end up in some fleabag hotel in Bangkok," grins Shelley, who is fluent in French and Danish (the latter thanks to ex-boyfriend Svensson). Returning to Smith ("The same girls were playing bridge right where I left them"), Hack graduated with a degree in history.
She moved into a third-floor walk-up in Greenwich Village, signed full-time with the Eileen Ford model agency and took acting lessons at the Herbert Berghof Studio. "My father encouraged me to invest my money," Shelley remembers. "As far as he was concerned, I was in business—the business of selling my face." She sank her earnings into a 244-acre farm in New York's Catskills. "It's dairy country, not chic," she says. "It's a nice contrast to put on my barn clothes and go out and slosh."
Such rustic concerns as smoking fish and putting up "Shelley's jellies" are now temporarily in the past. "I wasn't interested in a TV series, but my agent said, 'Go to L.A. and test for Charlie's Angels,' " Shelley admits. "I was oblivious to the big 'Scarlett O'Hara' hunt [for Jackson's replacement]." Though she had seldom seen the show (her New York apartment has no TV), Hack caught on quickly. After her screen test, the producers brought in the other two Angels for a "personality test," and Hack quipped, "Oh, damn it, I didn't rehearse my personality this morning." (Both Jackie and Cheryl telephoned co-producer Aaron Spelling afterward to say, "We sure like Shelley Hack.")
She was in the shower when she learned she had won the five-year contract (though for considerably less than Jackie and Cheryl's reported $20,000 to $30,000 per episode) over Barbara (The Spy Who Loved Me) Bach and some 500 other hopefuls. Hack toweled off, set her hair and wind-dried it with her head out the car window as she and her agent raced to Spelling's office.
"Maybe the show will make me a star overnight, maybe it won't," Shelley sums up. "First of all I'm having fun. Of course it's fluff, but high-grade fluff. You don't compare Agatha Christie to Tolstoy. It's a great job and I'm in front of the camera every day." Longer-term plans will have to wait. "Someone I want has to ask me to marry him. No one has—not yet," says Shelley. "I have a ways to go in my career before having kids. There is a time for everything. I can be an archeologist when I'm 60. But now," adds Charlie's newest, brainiest and perhaps most determined Angel, "it is time to be an actress."
BACKGROUND CHECKBy Martha Smilgis People Magazine September 24, 1979
"Jackie and Cheryl and I hit it off immediately. Cheryl is multitalented, very sweet and funny. So is Jackie—she's close to her family and very polite."Shelley Hack
"Maybe the show will make me a star overnight, maybe it won't," Shelley sums up. "First of all I'm having fun. Of course it's fluff, but high-grade fluff. You don't compare Agatha Christie to Tolstoy. It's a great job and I'm in front of the camera every day."Shelley Hack