There were a number of angels in Charlie's stable of sexy sleuths back when Charlie's Angels was a TV and cultural phenomenon. However, my favorite will always be Cheryl Ladd. A perfect image of the gorgeous and glamorous California chickie, Cheryl was actually a mid-westerner, come to La La land to make her name just like so many others before and after her. Unlike many of them, Cheryl succeeded in her goal, earning herself fame and fortune and in the process becoming a symbol of beauty destined to last far beyond her relatively brief time as an angel.
Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor was born in Huron, South Dakota on July 12, 1951. Her dream as a young girl was to be a star and toward those ends, she and her father performed as a singing and tap-dancing duo when she was 5. Hers was the typical young, mid-western upbringing. A cheerleader in high school and a carhop at the local drive-in, she was as any pretty girl aspiring to bigger and better things while still living far from the bright lights. Things went a little wonky however, when Cheryl deviated from her Tinseltown ambitions and decided to gather up a pair of friends and start a jazz trio in high school, for which she sang vocals. Called the "Music Shop Band," they actually had some success, travelling across the US playing jazz. Still, Cheryl was smart enough to know that jazz trios don't hold much promise of success for a girl wanting to make it big in the 1960s entertainment field. So back to those actress dreams Cheryl went. Music would have to wait.
Making the choice to give up everything and become an actress, instead of giving up everything to become a jazz musician, might have sounded like six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. However, that choice did eventually paid off for Cheryl and also allowed her to hang on to a piece of her musical beginnings. For as fate would have it, Cheryl's first big role required her to be both an actor and a singer by providing back-up vocals on the original Saturday morning cartoon Josie and the Pussycats which ran in the early 1970s. It was a pretty significant break for a young girl in Hollywood. However, young Ms. Stoppelmoor needed a little bit more seasoning and a name change before her true big break could come.
Cheryl won her first movie role via the cheap theater thriller JAMAICA REEF in 1976. It did virtually no business. However, that film did bring her together with the first man to call her his wife. Actor David Ladd, son of famed actor and movie cowboy Alan Ladd, was considered a fairly hot TV property at the time of his marriage to Cheryl. Unfortunately for him, that promise never manifested and by the mid 70s he was mostly just a flash in the pan, as was their marriage, which was over by the close of the '70s. However, Cheryl was just coming into her own at that time. So in the end, Ladd's contribution to Cheryl was little more than a cooler name. It was enough to win her some angelic attention later on.
By 1976, Charlie's Angels phenom Farrah Fawcett was growing tired of her angel duties, despite the fact that the show had made her a massive star. Fed up with the lightweight scripts and hungry for bigger and better things, she exited the show, leaving famed TV producer Aaron Spelling without a blonde bombshell to head up his "jiggle tv" juggernaut. Enter newly rechristened Cheryl Ladd, who had just recently auditioned for and lost a role on Spelling's other show, the ABC drama Family, earlier that year. Though she missed that chance, Cheryl's audition reel had impressed Spelling, who wisely deemed her capable of filling his blonde babe vacancy. Seeing gold in them there locks, Spelling had Farrah's Jill Munroe character written out of the show and her younger sister, Kris Munroe, written in. Essentially a somewhat more bright-eyed and plucky version of Fawcett's role, Cheryl's Kris character proved popular with viewers, though not quite the same pop culture wonder that Farrah's short run as Jill had been. Still, she was liked enough to remain with the show until 1981, when her sexy PI exploits were ended via network cancellation.
Around the time Cheryl assumed her duties as an angel on primetime TV, she was also busying herself with reigniting her on hiatus music career. Cheryl's self-titled pop album was released in 1978, her one charting single, "Think it Over" managing to climb to #38 on the Billboard charts. While her follow up album didn't do as well, she didn't let that stop her from enjoying time as a recording artist. It managed to get her front and center at Super Bowl XIV in 1980, where she belted out a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Getting her wings clipped following Charlie's demise didn't hurt her TV career. Cheryl remained a fixture on several movies-of-the-week and miniseries throughout the 80s, the most well-remembered being her role as Grace Kelly in the 1983 docu-drama in which she played the then recently deceased Hollywood legend and beloved monarch of Monaco.
By the late 80s, Cheryl was about to enter her 40s, yet still completely gorgeous. That kept her very much a viable face for continued TV projects. However, it was a relatively minor and mostly forgotten role in the 1989 apocalyptic, sci-fi, time travel mind bender MILLENNIUM that remains a fond throwback for this humble writer. Playing an special operative living in a future where the human gene pool has been devastated by environmental and genetic manipulation, her character leads raids into the past to rescue people from doomed airliners, so that their undamaged genes might revitalize a dying population. It was an interesting concept, rather bizarrely yet memorably executed. It also got Cheryl in nothing but a partially buttoned shirt for a time, which was even more memorable.
Since then Cheryl has kept a fairly consistent presence on various TV shows, doing guest star runs and the occasional recurring character on shows like Las Vegas and many of the various CSI spin offs and copycats. She resumed filling the shoes of other, departing stars in 2001, when she took over duties for Bernadette Peters in the Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun. Cheryl has also gotten back into movie-making, with two films currently in production. When not doing those things, Cheryl is an avid golfer, even hosting her own golf tournament for a time. She has remarked that she prefers practicing her golf swings in the nude, which must surely be a treat for her coach.
Now 62, Cheryl has been married for 33 years to the executive producer of her Grace Kelly biopic and has one son from her marriage to Ladd. Unlike many of her peers, Cheryl remains defiant of that heavy Hollywood ax always threatening to fall on former hotties who may be past their so-called prime, thanks in part to a healthy dose of '70s nostalgia and a rather remarkable ability to hang on to much of that beauty once made her an angel. Cheryl proves that even in your 60s, one can still drop a jaw or two.