'WHO SAYS YOU HAVE TO PAY DUES?'
At 21, Heather Locklear refuses to feel too guilty about her success on two hit shows
by P.F. Kluge
April 16, 1983
Three years out of high school, a year and a half out of college - what there was of it - actress Heather Locklear sits in her newly purchased four-bedroom, five-bathroom house waiting for a landscape architect to consult with her about a swimming pool.
The market for English-tudor mansions moves slowly in Southern California these days, so Heather's street is raw-looking and new, with many neighboring castles still unsold. Inside, her living room looks unlived in, her kitchen is certainly uncooked in; and a pile of papers here, a stack of records there, an unhousebroken Maltese puppy and a constantly ringing phone are the few signs of human occupancy.
Lately, Heather Locklear has been anywhere but home. In one recent week, she showed up Saturday night as wholesome Stacy Sheridan, fledgling policewoman on ABC's T.J. Hooker. A few nights later she returned to the same network's Dynasty as the conniving and opportunistic Sammy Jo. On recent mornings she was hailed on AM Los Angeles ("A talented actress who stars in two terrific series") and Good Morning America ("just 21 years old!"). She employs a manager, business manager, agent and publicist. And - at least as necessary as any of the above - a landscape architect.
They decide that the front of the house will be easy: tear out the cement driveway and replace it with bricks, ditto for the sidewalk; grass, flowers ("not too busy") and a sizable tree. The crunch is in back, a narrow shelf of land cut into a slope overlooking the wide suburban reaches of the San Fernando Valley. Heather wants a "lagoony-ish" swimming pool with black bottom and lots of plants overlapping the edge. She wants a Jacuzzi, too. What's more, because swimming and soaking are two different kinds of experience, she wants them at separate ends of the yard. The landscape architect warns that to separate the pool and Jacuzzi means doubling the outdoor plumbing. That will mean an extra, say, $10,000. Heather Locklear is undeterred.
"I'm going to be here a long time," she says, "and I want to be happy with it."
House, pool, puppy and all, it's easy to put Heather Locklear down as another splash from the Farrah Fawcett, a TV darling who has come very far, very fast. Locklear enjoys that special kind of California good fortune that invites simultaneous envy and resentment. And, to be sure, Heather Locklear's own emotions about her rapid progress are mixed.
"I feel a little guilty sometimes about being where I am," she says and, having said it, proceeds to wonder whether she ought to feel guilty at all.
"People always ask me about 'paying dues'," she continues. "Why do you have to pay dues? Who says you have to?"
But the wonder of it all catches up with her.
"I see lots of actresses who've been working and waiting 10 years for a break and I wonder, Why am I so lucky? Why me? Why did I get the chance? I have no answers."
Part of the answer is obvious: her petite frame, her mass of golden hair, her startling blue eyes. It's no surprise she began doing commercials during her freshman year at UCLA. She braided her hair Bo Derek-style for Coca-Cola, held a candle at Disneyland for Pepsi and had her Polaroid snapped by James Garner. She laughs at the memories now, as if they were a coed's mildly daffy extracurricular activity. She remembers running up and down the corridor of her dorm, looking for a TV, when word came that one of her commercials was on. It was fun. What was less fun was college itself. One morning, typing a paper at 5 A.M., "I said that's it. I wasn't interested any more. I never even found out what grade I got on the paper."
Soon she was showing up on TV episodes, which she seems to have taken as casually as commercials. "Make them stop! Please make them stop!" was her first television speech, a plea for help on CHiPs. She was a bank hostage in 240-Robert, a love interest in Eight Is Enough; and whatever she was doing, she certainly wasn't paying any dues.
"I laughed at everything until Dynasty came along. Then I realized, 'Hey, you might have a career.'"
"I'm very easygoing," she concedes. "I don't take things too seriously. I laughed at everything until Dynasty came along. Then I realized, 'Hey, you might have a career.' Dynasty was probably the first thing I really wanted. When I got the part, I remember, I was moving out of my college apartment. There was no one there to tell. I called, and my father was in a meeting. There was no one. I remember going downstairs trying to find someone - the mailman, even. And I wondered what people would think, people like my first-grade teacher. I wondered, Were people going to change toward me? Was I going to change toward them? At night I prayed that if I got a big head or got too big for my britches, something would happen to me, so I couldn't work any more."
Signed for one Dynasty season, Heather enjoyed playing Sammy Joe, a character with a mean streak. "When I started being nasty, that's when I started getting letters," she recalls. "It really started with a scene where I
was at a party in a white dress, tipsy, dancing, making a fool out of myself - that's when the letters really started coming. If someone's nice, you don't notice them. If they jump up on a table, you notice."
Though Dynasty producer Elaine Rich found her "everything we hoped for, with a warmth and appeal that goes beyond her being pretty," the series storyline headed away from Sammy Jo, and Heather's contract was not renewed. This came as pleasant news to Rick Husky, who was supervising producer of T.J. Hooker, a police series with William Shatner.
"I was looking for someone beautiful, fresh and a California blonde; someone who could be a breakthrough TV personality like Farah Fawcett," Husky says. "There aren't too many around. You go to the beach at Malibu and you think there are hundreds of them. But that breakthrough ability is rare: to be loved by fans and fan magazines, and by journalists from the National Enquirer to Vogue."
"(Heather is) doing very well for someone who doesn't have a lot of training. We didn't expect that we were hiring Bette Davis in the latter stages of her career."
- Rick Husky, supervising producer, T.J. Hooker
Just as Husky cast her in T.J. Hooker, Heather's singular fortune (her manager suggests the term "good karma") again prevailed. The Dynasty yarn was unraveling in her direction and she was signed for three more episodes while continuing with T.J. Hooker.
Can Heather Locklear act? Dynasty producer Rich finds her work "enormously improved" over the first season. Hooker producer Husky says Heather is "doing very well for someone who doesn't have a lot of background and training. We didn't expect that we were hiring Bette Davis in the latter stages of her career."
The best testimony, though, comes from Heather Locklear. She sits on a cot in a hallway of the T.J. Hooker set, while William Shatner sets up a shot in the adjoining precinct room. The show has something to do with rehabilitating teenage prostitutes. Heather holds a script, the two pages that involve her folded over. She laughs. Her part is small; it usually is, though bigger things are planned. But the smallness of the part does not upset her. She is not pretentious and seems to realize that, however far she's come, she is still close to her beginnings: an eater of tacos, a fan of the rock group Journey, a reader of show-biz biographies. She just got around to seeing "E.T.," just broke up with a boy friend, and, if fortune smiles on her, she smiles back: fair enough. Her manager has just arrived with another offer for her to do a lucrative Farrah-type poster. They both know the answer will be no. Whatever she is now, Heather wants to be remembered as an actress. Can she act?
"I still feel I have quite a way to go," she says. "With certain people I would call myself a beginner. Other people I do scenes with are where I was a year ago. But that's part of the fun of seeing yourself improve. And I am trying to improve myself. I'm not just taking a ride."