Cheryl Ladd has made peace with her Angelic past and found new life on Broadway
November. 27, 2000
Photo Editor Mary Carroll Marden, Kathryn McCarver

Horse Play: Ladd, photographed in New York on September 21, says Charlie’s Angels “really gave young women a sense of their own power.”

Forty‑two years ago, 7‑year‑old Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor performed her first‑ever dance recital at her Huron, South Dakota, elementary school, her not‑yet‑famous blond locks flipping around her not‑yet‑famous face with every step as she belted out "Doin' What Comes Naturally." These days, at the Marquis Theater in New York, the woman who became famous as Cheryl Ladd on the TV series Charlie's Angels in the late 1970s is doing that same number as Annie Oakley in the Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun. " I've come full circle," says Ladd.

Although most fans remember her and the other Angels ‑ originals Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, plus replacements Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts – for how good they looked running in bikinis, Ladd says she had always aspired to a career as a dancer and a singer.

"I wanted to be seen as someone that had other qualities ‑ besides my hooters," says Ladd. "Hooters are nice. Nice hooters are nice; people think I have nice hooters. I like that! Don't get me wrong. But I don't want to be an object."

Ladd came to Los Angeles in 1969, at the age of 18, with her pop‑jazz band the Music Shop and landed her first real showbiz job in 1970 as the voice of Melody on the cartoon Josie and the Pussycats, about a girl band that routinely saves the universe with rock & roll. Then, in 1977, she joined Angels in its second season as Kris Munroe, the kid sister of Jill, who had been played by Fawcett. During her four years on the show, Ladd continued to pursue other work ‑ including recording three albums. "I remember one Billboard chart had my album Dance Forever at number one, Paul McCartney was number two, and Elton John was number three. It was a pretty good week!" Ladd says with a laugh.

In the 19 years since she left Angels, Ladd has accrued nearly 50 (big and small) screen credits, including the title role in 1983's made‑for‑TV movie Grace Kelly, a supporting role opposite Ben Stiller in 1998's Permanent Midnight and a recurring role on ABC's Two Guys and a Girl. In 1998, she acted with her daughter, Jordan Ladd (from her first marriage, to actor‑producer David Alan Ladd), now 25, in the chiller Every Mother's Worst Fear, and she wrote a children's book, The Adventures of Little Nettie Windship, with her current husband, novelist Brian Russell.

She has also learned to embrace her Angels legacy."[The series] really gave young women a sense of their own power," she says. "Its funny how we took flak for wearing the bathing suits. If you look at the show, it's so tame. We were three grown­ up girls, but we never slept with anyone. We were about as square and unprovocative as you could possibly get."

She even came close to reuniting with her old television castmates for a cameo in the new Angels movie. But, she says, "it was sort of an all‑or-nothing proposition some of us wanted to do it, some of us didn't."

Ladd says she was more than game. "I'm crazy about Drew Barrymore. I did Poison ivy with Drew, and Jordan did Never Been Kissed. So we're big fans. She's just a wonderful girl," says Ladd. "And I can't wait to ee the movie."