Tuesday 23 July 2019

The fall of Hollywood's darling Heather Locklear, television's one time go-to leading lady

Following Heather Locklear's recent run-in with police, Adam White traces the highs and lows of TV's one time go-to leading lady

Actress Heather Locklear attends TLC
Actress Heather Locklear attends TLC "Too Close To Home" Screening at The Paley Center for Media on August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Discovery via Getty Images)
Girl next door: Heather in her prime during the Melrose Place years
Locklear in 2004. Photo: Reuters

Adam White

Over the course of seven years playing landlady of 4616 Melrose Place, the most thrilling address in 90s American TV, Heather Locklear survived kidnappings, explosions, attempted murder and a host of doomed marriages.

Some 10 years earlier, in her role as Sammy Jo Carrington on the iconic soap opera Dynasty, she brushed off arson, embezzlement and illegitimate pregnancies with a dramatic flick of her Farrah Fawcett hairdo.

Throughout her four decades in television, Locklear has infused her characters with a steely if unexpected strength. An all-American beauty so revered by TV bosses that the mogul Aaron Spelling dubbed her his "good luck charm", Locklear possessed such a charmed on-screen life that her recent personal turmoil has been particularly upsetting to watch unfold.

Locklear is currently in a Los Angeles hospital following an alleged overdose, an incident that occurred just hours after the actress was released on bail for attacking police who were called to her home. 2018 has already seen her arrested and placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold, along with a stint in rehab.

For an actress long famed for her work ethic and beloved reputation behind the scenes, it is a shocking, saddening departure from the Heather Locklear that Hollywood once knew.

Starting off as a model, Locklear found success early on, becoming a favourite of Spelling, who cast her as the scheming Sammy Jo on Dynasty, the virtuous beat cop Stacy Sheridan on the camp classic TJ Hooker, and boosted her visibility with roles on Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.Visually speaking, Locklear fit the Spelling mould: blonde and perky but approachable. It was also the kind of career that rarely promised long-term success. Spelling turned female stars into icons, but also inadvertently trapped them in amber, with the likes of Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd and Shannen Doherty all struggling to evolve past their most famous roles.

Lock-ed up: Heather’s mug shot after her arrest on Sunday
Lock-ed up: Heather’s mug shot after her arrest on Sunday

Locklear always seemed aware of the drawbacks of the Spelling boot camp, and spoke about attending acting classes long after she became famous. "I don't want to be one more [blonde], I want to stick out differently," she said in a 1983 interview. "It's very easy to typecast a blonde…"

TJ Hooker helped turn Locklear into an 80s pin-up, but it was Melrose Place that made her a sensation. Spelling cast her as Amanda Woodward, a ruthless interloper who both purchases the art deco apartment complex of the title and takes over at D&D, the advertising agency in which many of the show's characters ended up working. Amanda was forthright, cutthroat and impossibly glam, seducing the majority of the show's male characters (only Melrose's resident gay man proved impossible to crack) and becoming a magnet for drama.

By the end of the show's first season, its ratings had jumped. In Locklear's hands, Melrose Place became a 90s powerhouse, dominating cultural discussion in the US and drawing millions with its outrageous plot twists and unparalleled kookiness.

Locklear also helped create a very 90s version of feminine power. Dressed in dangerously-tight pencil skirts and with hair so peroxide-blonde it was practically white, Amanda was a vision of immaculately-presented strength and voracious workplace ambition, someone who could broker high-risk business deals as easily as she could woo an unavailable man into bed.

She was both villain and unlikely heroine, and single-handedly lay the groundwork for the complex, independent women at the centre of Sex and the City, Ally McBeal and a host of other 90s pop culture.

Melrose Place came to an end in the summer of 1999, with Locklear telling reporters that she was hoping to move into comedy, which raised more guffaws than genuine interest. But despite showing little comic timing in her previous work, Locklear quickly impressed on the cult sitcom Spin City.

She was brought in to help alleviate the workload of its star Michael J Fox, recently diagnosed with Parkinson's. It was another high-risk venture for Locklear, but Spin City's audience skyrocketed, further cementing Locklear as a one-woman defibrillator for ratings-challenged series.

Locklear spent three seasons on Spin City, earning two Golden Globe nominations in the process. But it would be the last long-running series she has been associated with, her televisual good luck coming to an end with the short-lived airport drama LAX, and then her return to the similarly short-lived Melrose Place revival in 2009.

Little has been known about Locklear's life off-screen. In her prime, she was written about as the girl-next-door that tamed wild rock stars, marrying Tommy Lee and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, while her press in the 90s painted a fairytale picture of her bond with daughter Ava. She's had run-ins with police for at least a decade, but somehow kept bouncing back, her positive reputation in the industry largely contributing to the idea that her troubles were odd blips rather than warning signs.

Speaking to Redbook in 1999, Locklear expressed slight apprehension about moving on from Melrose Place, but also gratitude that no matter what, she's always managed to land on her feet. "Things change from one day to the next," she said. "I'm very lucky. The good that I've had so far outweighs the bad. I know that it could go away tomorrow, so I appreciate it. But I keep in mind that if it all goes away tomorrow, I may have another chance."

Heather and Richie Sambora. AP Photo
Heather and Richie Sambora. AP Photo

Irish Independent

Also in this section