It's such a drag being toooo pretty.
"That is the story of my life," grumps Morgan Fairchild, the actress and television sexpot. "I've lost a lot of parts because they said I was 'too beautiful,' 'too classic,' 'too glamorous,' 'too chic,' 'too fragile,' 'too delicate,' 'toooo pretty!' One producer told me, 'No one will identify with you as the heroine,' so they put me in as the bitch. It's all right for a beautiful woman to be a creep, I guess."
Indeed, it's as "the bitch" that this frisky blond cloud has floated into the American mind, on NBC's steamy, dopey, soapy "Flamingo Road." But Fairchild -- whose eyes are bluest blue and whose nails are pinkest pink -- says, "I have ambitions to do more in life than 'Flamingo Road,' " and so she is starring in a new film, "The Seduction," opening Feb. 26 in area theaters.
"I'm really a puppy dog. If you talk to me for two minutes, you can tell I'm just a little kid from Texas," says l'il old she, who hails, if people can still be said to hail anymore, from Dallas, but who has hit it big ripping men's shirts off them and making pouty-mouth on TV, first on daytime serials, now at night. She's virtually all there is to "Flamingo Road" but, even at 5 feet 4 and 102 pounds, she is something.
Something, but what? "I'm not a stupid person, not one of your vacuous Hollywood bimbos," she declares, seemingly echoing the protests of countless vacuous Hollywood bimbos. "I'm intelligent, and not without talent."
Fairchild, 32, arrived in Washington with her sister Katherine, a cousin, publicists and her bodyguard Steve, the kind of Aryan tough often seen toadying to villains in James Bond movies. Fairchild would rather not have a bodyguard, she says ("he's cute, though," says Katherine), but she almost got "smushed up" against a window in New York during the weekend mob scene for the "Night of 100 Stars" benefit (to be seen as a TV special on ABC March 8) and so such precautions are necessary. "It was a madhouse," she says. "It was really crazy. It was a little bananas."
Her day in Washington was the occasion for "doing our Texas-against-the-world thing," Fairchild says. Asked if she were visiting the Hill, she says, "What hill?" Asked if she were visiting her senator, she calls out to an aide, "Jerry, am I visiting my senator today?" No, she is told, but she did visit the Rayburn Building. Informed it is one of the ugliest in Washington, Fairchild's sis chirps, "Just as long as it's the biggest, we don't care."
The possibility of going to the White House is also raised. "Yay!" says Fairchild. "I want to see Nancy's closets!"
"Chicken neck," says Katherine, from across the room. "Chicken neck is what we really call her in the family when she gets too thin." Fairchild frowns. This tantalizing pippin, who has driven male viewers a little bananas in her silk slips along stupid old Flamingo Road, says that as a child she was actually a prime frump. "I was a fat, dumpy little kid with big, thick glasses -- I'm blind as a bat -- and nobody paid any attention to me," she says. So she sat around reading books about her childhood idol, Louis Pasteur. Riiight.
Then came puberty, and contact lenses, and at the age of 14 she was a finalist in the Miss Teen-Age Dallas contest. Fairchild read a scene from "St. Joan," though all the other girls were singing "Getting to Know You." And then she started to be noticed. "All these little boys who never looked at me twice suddenly wanted to carry my books and follow me around and all. I said, 'You've known me all these years and never thought I was worth knowing until THIS changed.' " She gestures along the outlines of her body with both hands.
That's when it began to dawn on her: She was getting to be toooo pretty. "All this sex symbol stuff," she sputters. "I've been acting for 20 years! That 'poster girl' business, that was all the media. I did do a poster, true; they offered me a lot of money, and the pictures were already taken, me in some old bathing suit or something, but this year they wanted to do another poster and I said I didn't want to do it, because I wanted to move on to features. Yes, I've had to take some bad parts along the way; a girl's gotta pay the rent. It's better than hooking on the side." (Am I dreaming, or is she really saying this?).
"Sex symbol!" Sigh. "This is the same body, these are the same breasts, the same bottom I've always had, but all of a sudden you're a sex symbol. What do you do? You just don't take it seriously. There's no one's opinion of me -- man, woman or child -- that I value more than my own." So, though she worships the memory of Marilyn Monroe and has decorated one wall of her apartment with Monroevia, she is not going to end up all wrecked and ruined like Marilyn, she says. Oh no.
Sex symbols do have their problems, however, even if they don't fall in with booze and sleeping pills. The Rev. Jerry Falwell, of Moral Majority fame, has cited "Flamingo Road" as being typical of pernicious prurience on the air, and Fairchild says she was told by a reporter from People magazine that Falwell singled her out as a wanton and a slattern and all that other fascinatin' stuff, and denounced her from the highest pillar, which is what Falwell calls home.
"They told me Falwell said 'Flamingo Road' was the worst show on television and he mentioned me since I was the most prominent and the least-clothed woman on the show, and I said, 'Well, I suppose that means I'm the worst woman in television,' and the next thing I knew, that was on the cover of People magazine!
"You know I'm the straightest person in Hollywood. That's why it's so funny that Falwell would go after me. I don't smoke, I don't drink, I've never even had a puff from a marijuana cigarette. I'm not into group sex. I'm just a nice kid from Texas who's a workaholic. When you think of all the other people in that town who he could go after, but he picks me because I wear lingerie on television. I think it's just the height of Christian dogma, or something. These people should not be doing the judging."
"The Seduction" has opened to healthy box office in the West, Fairchild says, and that pleases her since she gets a percentage of the profits, but she doesn't expect the critics to sing its praises. "I never expected to get any good reviews out of the picture. It's not an artsy movie. Just a little suspense film. But I think it's an important career step. It will establish me with a box office record for a movie."
Yes, her father, an engineer, and her mother, a retired high school English teacher, have seen the R-rated film and its Fairchild nude scenes, and they were not shocked. "I was real nervous about doing it," Fairchild confides, and she broke up laughing when she spotted one of the crew hanging upside down from the rafters to get a peek at her in the bufferoo. And oh, the goosebumps she got from doing that nude swimming scene in, horrors, an unheated pool!
"Flamingo Road," meanwhile, has had some of its passion cooled for the new season. "Mainly, we have better stories," says Fairchild. "And all my scenes are not in the bedroom now. I went to the writers and I said, 'Could I please have a scene in the dining room once, where I'm dressed? And not just in the bedroom in my underwear?' "
She will concede that "Flamingo Road" is not greatly enhancing the quality of life for those who watch it. "In defense of it, I will say that it's about as good as most shows on television. It's a hoot, really, a style show -- Howard Duff and I try to do it in style -- almost campy. I try to play it like I'm right out of a '40s movie.
"On the other hand," she says, getting serious, "when I think about this generation of kids, and how between video games and watching television all day their minds are just dribbling away -- oh! I go on TV and talk to Rona Barrett or Tom Snyder and mention Thoreau or Yeats to them and they just drop their teeth!
"It should not be a shock to people," she says, "to find out you have a mind!" So how about if it's not a shock, just a nuisance? Oops. Forget we asked.