Mike Pingel: Charlie’s Angels was your original idea back in 1974?
Leonard Goldberg: Yes, Aaron [Spelling] and I.
M: Did that just come out of the blue?
L: The genesis of Charlie's Angels started even before ‘74. Television was going through kind of a back alley, realistic, gritty, down and dirty kind of period with Baretta and shows like that.
Aaron and I were talking one night and we always tried to go against the grain, so we thought we should do a show that is very glamorous, very pretty, very romantic. We came up with this high style idea about three beautiful private-eyes. They were named Alison, Katharine and Lee and we called it “The Alley Cats.” Not the classiest title ever to come down the pike. We pitched the idea of the show to Barry Diller and Michael Eisner, who were then running ABC, at a breakfast meeting. They responded, “That it was the worst idea we have ever heard. Could we please order breakfast?” Subsequent to that, we had done a TV movie, “The Affair” with R.J. Wagner and the late, Natalie Wood. As part of the arrangement, ABC was to put up $25,000 to write a pilot script which would be owned by our production company and R.J. Wagner’s production company.
Eventually I received a notice saying that the time was up, and I called Michael Eisner. I said, “Look, you’re going to have to send us a check for $25,000 and you have nothing to show for it. Why don’t you let us write a script? At least you will have a script to show your management.” He said, “Fine, write anything you want.” So, I told Aaron, “Why don’t we write what we always wanted to write” and he thought it was a great idea. I called R.J. Wagner since he was going to be our partner and he said, “I think it’s a terrible idea, but I don’t know anything about making TV.” So we went ahead and had a script written and that's how Charlie’s Angels got started.
M: How was it having a hit show and learning that Farrah Fawcett decided to leave the series. What went through your mind?
L: I was totally shocked. I heard about it on television. I was home, it came on the news “Farrah Fawcett is leaving Charlie’s Angels” that was my first inkling that she was unhappy. We tried very hard to dissuade her from leaving, but she wanted to leave to have a theatrical career. Aaron and I went to Columbia Pictures, got her a fantastic five picture deal, we also agreed to postpone the start of shooting so she could do a film at Paramount [Foul Play] with Chevy Chase .
But that was not enough for Farrah. It was shocking. Farrah left after the first year. Everyone thinks she did two or three years. She did only one season.
When the second season started with Cheryl [Ladd], we were nervous about the ratings, but they were even higher than the first season.
M: When Kate Jackson left the series in 1979 that was a blow because she was the anchor of the series. How did you deal with that?
L: We didn’t want Kate to leave. She had told us in a nice way she wanted to move on. It didn’t come as a sudden shock. She had done her work and had worked hard for three seasons. We were sad to see her go and we thought it would hurt the series, but we understood and she handled it in a very professional manner.
M: Both you and Aaron [Spelling] had worked with her before?
L: With Kate, yes. She was on “The Rookies.” I first saw her when she did the serial “Dark Shadows” when I was running ABC daytime.
M: Do you have any memory which stands out regarding the original series you would like to share?
L: I remember visions of our wardrobe department, which started out as a very small department. Yet, it rapidly grew to encompass the purchases of our Angels. As hard as they worked, there was always time on Saturday or Sunday to shop and they could shop!
M: That’s why the show’s budget kept going through the roof?
L: One of the reasons. But that’s ok because that was part of the charm of the series.
M: With the new movie do you see the same with the new Angels?
L: Absolutely. We learned from the series that woman like to see the Angels in different clothes; they like to see them as trendsetters. Fortunately we have three Angels who like clothes and who like to dress up, particularly Lucy. So it’s wasn’t a problem getting them to have extensive wardrobes. I believe they had a 112 wardrobe changes in the new film.
M: Wow, that’s awesome.
M: Can you share the story when your daughter Amanda first met Jaclyn Smith of the set of “Charlie’s Angels.”
L: That was many, many, many years ago. Amanda was just a little girl and she played with the Charlie’s Angels dolls. Jackie was her favorite angel. One day I brought her to the set. As Jaclyn Smith walked in, Amanda just stared at her. She looked up and could not believe her doll had grown to these heights and was walking and talking.
M: With the first season of Charlie’s Angels coming out on dvd, do you have a favorite episode you like to watch?
L: Yes I do. My favorite episode is “Angels in Chains”
M: OHHH yes!
L: I always remember that fondly. When we were first talking to ABC, they had seen the pilot and asked about some of the upcoming episodes? Aaron [Spelling] and I talked about the “Angels” getting arrested to infiltrate a woman’s prison and eventually escaping. We called the episode “Angels in Chains.” When we played the episode it got huge ratings and a huge amount of publicity. If we didn’t stop ABC, they would have played it every other week.
M: With the impact of Charlie’s Angels in the 70s, do you see the same impact on woman with the movie now that you saw in the series?
L: I think, for whatever reason, when “Charlie’s Angels” came along, it was the first time in entertainment that we showed that woman can be beautiful, smart, strong, and sensitive; and they could a do a host of roles that had been strictly defined for men. It hit a nerve with women in the audience -- women of all ages. And the guys didn’t mind looking at them either. It seemed to become part of the fabric of our society. Nothing we envisioned when we first started the show. And that was the reason, I thought, it could be brought back as a movie twenty-five years later.
The Angels are strong but they care about each other, and I think although they are beautiful, they are not so beautiful that they are unattainable. I think every woman can be an Angel. I think that comes through and I think that’s why they become role models for young girls.
M: Let me mention the Angels names and your thoughts on each. . .
M: Farrah Fawcett . . .
L: Farrah was a Phenomenon. She had a smile that lit up the screen. She was every guy’s fantasy.
M: Jaclyn Smith . . .
L: Lovely, classy, elegant, kind, warm, totally likeable.
M: Kate Jackson . . .
L: Very good actress. Smart.
M: Cheryl Ladd . . .
L: Just great! I still see her occasionally. She has now gone on to a music/comedy career on Broadway. She sings, she dances. She’s still this little package of dynamite.
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