BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
“You never saw us sleep with anyone,” says Ladd, who joined the 1976-81 ABC-TV series in its second season, after co-star Farrah Fawcett jumped ship. “We had morals. As [fellow Angel Jaclyn Smith] always says, ‘We were nuns, but we had great hair!’’’
Now 61 but still blonde and well-coiffed, Ladd says she’s ecstatic the complete series, also starring Kate Jackson (and later Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts), is available on DVD (Sony, $66).
“It was a show the entire family could watch, yet it was exciting, powerful women who had each other’s backs,” Ladd says. “There were so many great messages: We were not trying to be men. We wore great clothes, had great makeup. There was something powerful in that.”
Before she married actor-producer David Ladd (son of movie star Alan Ladd), Cheryl Stoppelmoor of South Dakota already was making a name for herself. She provided vocals for the Saturday morning cartoon classic, Josie and the Pussycats, and later appeared in ‘70s TV staples including The Partridge Family, Happy Days and Police Woman.
“When Aaron asked me to do it, I turned it down twice,” says Ladd, who didn’t want to carry the burden of being Fawcett’s replacement. “This is not like taking a part, it’s like making me a huge target.”
Spelling came up with the idea of making Ladd’s character (Kris) the little sister of Fawcett’s (Jill). “She wasn’t trying to be Farrah. She could be family, the other girls could love her,” Ladd says. “She could just join the happy band. It was still enormous pressure.”
The pressure quickly lifted, Ladd says: “The ratings went up in the second season – woo hoo!”
In 1979, Ladd, then the mother of a 4-year-old girl, told the network she wanted to star in a TV movie about child abuse, When She Was Bad.
“You should have seen the looks on the faces of the powers-that-be at ABC,” Ladd says. “I understand, it’s a difficult subject and I’m not running around in a bikini.” Still, she got the part and since then has been an ambassador for Childhelp, an abuse support group.
The Ladds divorced in 1980 and the following year she married Brian Russell, who executive produced her 1983 TV bio, Grace Kelly. The film was in development when Princess Grace of Monaco died after a car wreck. Both Grace and her husband, Prince Rainier, had already approved of the movie, Ladd says.
Despite the highs and lows of early success, Ladd says she’s been able to stay grounded “no matter how far off the track you might be wandering.”
“I’m a Christian,” say reveals. “However I lose track of Him, He never loses track of me.”
Ladd says she isn’t born again. “I don’t understand that term. I chose it for myself and continue to choose it for myself.”
Also, Ladd dislikes being stereotyped for being a Christian. “I don’t judge people, that’s not my job. That’s not what I’m on the planet to do. I have a hard enough time keeping myself in order,” she says. “We all assume and you know what that means. It’s so easy to label someone. All that does is tear us apart from each other and we need to love each other.”
After a few more minutes talking religion, Ladd stops herself and laughs. “I didn’t think I was going to become a philosopher. We were here to talk about Charlie’s Angels. Let’s go back to jiggle!”