Morgan Fairchild: TV's Go-To Blonde Power Broker Of The '80s, Then And Now
Actress Morgan Fairchild poses for a portrait in c.1985 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
On shows like Falcon Crest and Flamingo Road, Morgan Fairchild cornered the market on a certain type of TV persona -- the beautiful, ruthless and powerful woman. In TV land of the '80s, of course, a rich and powerful woman had to have a magnificent mane of hair and beauty-queen looks. "They're not paying me to play a chairwoman," Fairchild said of her on-screen roles. "They're paying me to show up looking glam and, damn it, I'm gonna show up looking glam!"
People magazine called her "the ultimate two-faced man-eater prowling the 1980s’ prime-time soap operas."
"I got typecast by Hollywood," she told the magazine. "I didn’t even see it happening at first, but I probably should have. I played a dish in a TV movie [The Initiation of Sarah, 1978], and it’s haunted me my whole life. Ever since, I’ve been cast as the glamorous bitch."
The 'Dallas' Actress Really Was From Dallas
Morgan Fairchild was born as Patsy Ann McClenny in Dallas, Texas in 1950. She was an intelligent child, attaining high grades and was often the teacher’s pet. However, when she was too shy in to give a book report in elementary school, her mother enrolled her in drama lessons and by the age of 10, she was acting in plays. The gorgeous star was a chubby kid with glasses and when she was in elementary school, the other kids gave her the nickname “Fatsy Patsy.” A diet of hard-boiled eggs and grapefruit caused the weight to drop off.
From 'Fatsy Patsy' To Model
The future Morgan Fairchild began acting in dinner theater and stage productions in Dallas. She also competed in to be “Miss Teenage Dallas” but lost. While still in high school, she began modeling for the Kim Dawson Agency. She graduated early from high school and then, in 1967, at the age of 17, she married Jack Calmes, a rock music promoter. During the time she was married, she and Calmes entertained several big names in the music industry.
Becoming Morgan Fairchild
In 1970, Fairchild was abducted by a street pimp in New York City who threw her into a taxi. She remained calm and talked and joked her way out of it. Her marriage ended in divorce in 1973 and she chose the stage name Morgan Fairchild. Her first name was inspired by the film Morgan, A Case for Treatment. Morgan, a revolutionary, is stuck in a fantasy world. Fairchild’s last name arose from a discussion with a friend as they discussed finding a last name to complement her new first name, which was traditionally male. After deciding o pursue a career in television, she moved to New York and within six weeks, she got the part of Jennifer in Search for Tomorrow. The role lasted until 1977.
Her Acting Career Takes Off
Fairchild moved to Los Angeles and played the part of Jenna Wade on Dallas in 1978. She had guest appearances on multiple shows, but it was her role as Constance Carlyle on Flamingo Road that was her breakthrough performance. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role. The list of shows she has had roles on is quite extensive, including Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, and The Love Boat. She has also been in multiple movies, starting as Faye Dunaway’s double in Bonnie and Clyde in 1967 and later landing roles in many other films.
Stealing The Show As Jordan Roberts On 'Falcon Crest'
Fairchild was at the height of her powers in the mid-'80s when she played Jordan Roberts on Falcon Crest. A tough, driven and (of course) beautiful lawyer, Roberts was only on the show for one season, in which she discovered she had multiple-personality disorder. But she left her indelible mark, and the latest "Morgan Fairchild role" opened another door: comedy. Fairchild had reached peak Fairchild-ness, self-parody awaited, and she was prepared for it. One of Fairchild's early comedy moments came in a humorous bit she never actually participated in -- the character of Tommy Flanagan, a pathological liar played by Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live, always claimed to be married to her. "My wife, Morgan Fairchild -- yeah, that's the ticket."
The Lighter Side Of Morgan Fairchild
Another unforgettable (if brief) comedic moment of the mid-'80s came in the final moments of Pee Wee's Big Adventure, when Fairchild showed up in the Hollywood movie-within-a-movie version of the story audiences had just seen. Fairchild played a glamorous version of Dottie, opposite Josh Brolin as "P.W."
Fairchild became an in-demand sitcom guest star, showing up as an over-the-top glamorous character whose aesthetic perfection contrasted hilariously with the flawed regulars. She played memorable parts in some of the biggest sitcoms of the day: Murphy Brown, Roseanne, Cybill, and Friends -- as Chandler Bing's conspicuously sexy mom. She was also well known for a series of Old Navy commercials in which she essentially spoofed herself. "I’ve always loved poking fun at that glamorous public image of me," she told People magazine. "I like to take the blonde icon thing and twist it all over the place. ... “I wish someone would do a sitcom where I spoofed myself."
What Is She Up To Now?
In recent years, she has returned to the stage as Mrs. Robinson for a production of The Graduate and briefly, to soap operas with an appearance on Days of our Lives. She also recently appeared in the Hallmark movie, Perfect on Paper.
In addition to her acting work, she has published a book, Super Looks, which includes tips for hair, makeup, and exercise. A fan of ballet with an interest in paleontology and anthropology, she is also an activist, working on AIDS prevention, awareness, and education, efforts to save California deserts and other environmental causes.
Her Role As An Activist
As part of her dedication to environmental causes, she helped to found the Environmental Communications Office to encourage people in the entertainment industry to become more educated and more active on environmental issues. She is ardently pro-choice and is on the Board of Directors for the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee, a political action committee dedicated to helping to raise money to support liberal candidates for office. After being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 1989, she became an advocate for the Solve ME/CFS Initiative.
Tags: Ladies | Morgan Fairchild | Then And Now
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