The Double Lives of Cagney and Lacey

One's settled, one's single. They're fiercely loyal, hotly competitive but ready to join forces against injustice. And that's off screen

In a dank Los Angeles warehouse, detectives Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey advance menacingly on a middle-aged, bearded man. "Barney, you can't do this to us," hisses dark-haired actress Tyne Daly, who plays Lacey on the CBS series. "We can't shoot any more today. We're ready to drop." She pokes a finger at him. "Do you hear what I'm saying?" Producer Barney Rosenzweig calmly regards Tyne and co-star Sharon Gless, the blond, cocky Cagney. He knows they've been working 14 hours a day, knows they sometimes rise at 4:30 A.M. SO sore from the previous day's action scenes that they can barely move. He also knows that unless Cagney & Lacey stays on schedule and on budget, it could get the ax. Again. He smiles sweetly. "If the show is canceled, you'll have lots of time to rest."

Tyne and Sharon look at each other, shrug and take their places for the next scene.

Cagney & Lacey has died twice. Twice it's been resurrected-thanks to unprecedented support from loyal fans who nagged the network into putting the show back on the air. And its future still isn't certain.

What viewers fought for was the chance to keep alive one of the few honestly portrayed women's friendships on television. Off screen, after a rough start, the two stars have forged a connection that mirrors their partnership on the show. Says Tyne, "Lacey has a husband and children; being a cop isn't her whole life. Cagney is single and ambitious, with a real edge to her. These two may get mad and frustrated and take it out on each other, but they are partners. They get each other, respect each other. They lead different lives, but they're soul mates.

"Sharon and I are completely different from our characters. It is true that I'm married and Sharon's single. And that we have a healthy competition; sure, that's normal. We care about what we do. And we do stick up for each other. And we do battle sometimes in private. We're close enough to be able to do that." She laughs. "Okay, I guess there are some similarities between us and our roles."

Tyne and Sharon-both in their late 30s-have other things in common with their fictional counterparts. At first they seem to be a study in contrasts. Tyne is dark, solid, settled, married, mother of two teenage daughters. Sharon is fair, bubbly, prankish, free-spirited, single. What they share, as they talk about themselves and their show, is sweetness and strength, dedication and decency. Like Cagney and Lacey, they are tough/ vulnerable women doing the best they can for themselves and the people they love. Both have a grown-up beauty rooted in guts, not glamour, and their viewers love them for it.

Considering Cagney & Lacey's odd history, it's remarkable that viewers got to know them at all. In 1975, Barney Rosenzweig, then a producer for Charlie's Angels, decided it was time for a movie about women with the kind of warm buddyship exemplified by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He asked the woman who's now his wife, writer Barbara Corday, to collaborate with her partner on a screenplay. Cagney & Lacey bounced from studio to studio until in 1981 it became a CBS "Movie of the Week" and starred Tyne Daly and M*A*S*ffs Loretta Swit. It was a smash, earning high ratings and critical praise. CBS wanted a series.

Tyne, a veteran of stage, soaps (General Hospital), television (guest spots on more than 100 shows) and screen (Clint Eastwood's The Enforcer) was worried about how a series would affect her career and her marriage to actor-director Georg Stanford Brown, former star of The Rookies. But she agreed to do the show. Since Loretta Swit had gone back to M*A*S*H, the hunt began for a new Cagney. Sharon Gless, the first choice, was under contract to another studio, so Rosenzweig chose Meg Foster, an actress with few credits but strong skills. CBS scheduled Cagney & Lacey to follow Magnum, P.L and sat back to wait for a hit. They got a disaster. Says Rosenzweig, "Millions of people were getting up out of their chairs and turning off our show. Millions." In a few weeks Cagney and Lacey was canceled.

Rosenzweig begin hounding the network with research proving that Magnum, P.I. was the worst show for- C &, L to follow, since their audiences were so different. A network executive finally agreed to air one of the unseen shows during rerun season, and the co-stars set off on a publicity blitz. Ratings were respectable, and C & L was set for fall. There was only one problem: CBS declared that Meg Foster had to go-they wanted someone with a lighter touch.

Says Tyne, "When they let Meg go, I really carried on, screamed and cried. After all Meg and I had been through to save the show, stumping the country, it was just unfair." She was even madder when Rosenzweig asked her to coax a now-available but reluctant Sharon Gless to do the part. Sharon, who'd had it tough time when she replaced Popular Lynn Redgrave on House Calls, wasn't anxious to step into that situation again. But, once Tyne realized there was nothing she could do about Foster's firing, she went to Sharon's house with champagne and balloons. The two women hit it off, and Sharon finally agreed to take the part.

The show returned in the fall of 1982 to big audiences and good reviews. By the following year, however, ratings dropped again. Rosenzweig got a death notice from CBS-and bags and bags of mail from viewers who loved the show. He sent back letters suggesting that the writers express their feelings to the networks and newspapers. Soon CBS was being inundated with "Save Cagney & Lacey," mail. The grass-roots publicity campaign was boosted when both stars of the canceled show were nominated for Emmys.

The awards were given before the actresses knew the fate of their show. Tyne won; Sharon didn't. Says Tyne, "It was lovely for both of us to be nominated. After all, we support each other on the screen, so it's a compliment to each of us that the other was nominated. Sharon had a lot to do with my winning. She knows that.

"Sharon had been filming down in Texas. And after I won she flew back there. Everyone on the set was uncomfortable, trying to keep out of her way. Finally, Sharon got everyone together, got up on a chair, bowed her head dramatically and announced, 'The bitch won.' Her humor cleared the air. She couldn't wait to call me and tell me. 'Well, I got off a good one today!' "

Impressed by the Emmy and the fan e-mail, CBS decided to bring back C &, L a second time-the only time in TV history that a network has reinstated t show because of viewer protests. Tyne and Sharon had no time to savor their joy. Because the two are on camera almost every second of the show, their schedules arc punishing. And. once a day's shooting is finished, they grab the next day's script and head for Sharon's dressing room to study it. Both take the show's characters and its message seriously. "We're pioneering,"' Sharon has said. "We show women who can do a so-called 'man's job' without ever forgetting that they are women. We're telling true stories in a very grown-tip way: How does my character, as Cagney, feel about being single and devoted to her work? How does Tyne, as Lacey, juggle being wife, mother and career woman?"

Adds Tyne: "We're allowed to grow from week to week. But we also make mistakes. We are definitely not super-women." Sharon thoughtfully concludes: "The bottom line is that they trust each other. They both have real job skills, but they are very different people." The same might be said of the two actresses themselves.

For Tyne, acting was a family tradition. Her father, the late James Daly of TV's Medical Center-, and her mother, Hope Newell, were both actors. "I'd moved nine times before the sixth grade," Tyne says. "My two sister and I each had our coping devices-Glynnis was real private, an artist. Peg was a floater; she just fit in. I was the 'joy girl'; I tried to be funny and made sure everyone knew I was around. My brother, Tim, was born after we settled on Long Island, so he missed all that."

After a year at Brandeis University, she transferred to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. There she met the man she would marry, fellow student Georg Brown. "He was working his way through classes as the academy janitor. We wound up scrubbing the school's dance floor together," she recalls with a smile.

"He's very courtly and romantic, and I'm a fool for romance. We decided to marry as soon as we graduated-in June of 1966. We had a great wedding at my parent's house-tinder an apple tree-and honeymooned at my uncle Don's apartment in New York City." The couple have two daughters, Elizabeth and Katheryne.

Tyne is straightforward in discussing her interracial marriage. "My sister asked me if I were marrying a black man for show. I married Georg because we were in love and I loved his talent. I don't mean to give the impression that it's easy, but everyone has to work at marriage."

Sharon Gless always wanted to be an actress, but was afraid her strict, Irish Catholic family would disapprove.

"I remember being angry and scared a lot as a kid," she says. "I didn't know what was expected of me, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think there was a free spirit in there somewhere-I saw Auntie Mame seventeen times.

"I never hid any boyfriends. My mother said I was a case of arrested development. Personally, I think it was because I weighed a hundred and seventy-five pounds and was ugly."

After her parents' divorce. she was sent to a private school run by Dominican nuns. Lonely and anxious, Sharon became a troublemaker. "Once we were almost expelled for sending a mannequin to a neighboring boys' school with some suggestions about its use. The sisters weren't amused." After graduation-by now slim and lovely-she headed for Gonzaga University in Washington State but was kicked out for smuggling beer into her dorm. She went to work selling aluminum siding in Seattle, but left by mutual agreement after she was discovered trying her sales pitch on the owner of a brick house.

"I came to Los Angeles and worked in an ad agency. One of my jobs was to interview actresses for commercials. I used to read with them. It occurred to me that I could do what they were doing.

"I discussed it with my grandfather, and he didn't disapprove. In fact, he gave me enough money to get started in acting school." Someone at Universal Studios spotted Sharon in an acting class, and she was signed to the contract that eventually led to a detective's badge.

Rumor has it that Sharon, divorced six years ago from actor John Colvin, may soon marry her longtime boyfriend, cinematographer Hector Figueroa, whom she describes as a short, stocky Tyrone Power. Gless isn't talking. "I'm just Catholic enough to believe that marriage should be forever. But sometimes I like being with someone, and other times I like to be alone. I can't imagine asking someone else's permission to do something."

And what about the future of the show? Tyne has won a second Emmy, and C & L received a 1984 Women at Work Broadcast Award from the National Commission on Working Women, but no one's sure what will happen. The ratings battle continues, and the network remains ambivalent.

This season will bring a change of direction based on viewer feedback. The show will de-emphasize crime and focus on the personal lives of the two policewomen. Earlier this year, in a special two-hour segment, Mary Beth Lacey discovered she had breast cancer and had to choose between a mastectomy and a less drastic procedure. Other segments will deal with sexual harassment, marriage versus single life and family financial woes.

Ask Barney Rosenzweig how long Cagney, &, Lacey, will last, and he smiles. "Maybe one year, maybe five. That's not really important. What's important is that this is the show whose audience wouldn't let it die. It means something to

Back to start of Cagney and Lacey section

My Index Page