Catching up with Gless, Daly of 'Cagney & Lacey' fame

The Baltimore Sun

THE SHELF life of an actress is usually seven years, by law. That Sharon and myself have survived since Cagney & Lacey is something of a miracle."

That's Tyne Daly, who was Mary Beth Lacey to Sharon Gless' Christine Cagney in the classic series about two female detectives, often at odds with each other and with themselves.

Tyne, Sharon and Barney Rosenzweig - Sharon's hubby and the producer of Cagney & Lacey - arrive early for breakfast at New York's Regency Hotel. Tyne, who says (jokingly I hope) that's she's "retired," sports flawless, gleaming skin and a thick head of salt and cinnamon hair.

Gless admits she's been made-up since 6 a.m., and she looks sensational in short, slicked-back platinum-blond locks. Sharon stripped her hair for her coming suspense series, Burn Notice, in which she plays "the mother from hell from Miami." Gless remarks, "In this new show, I wear it more ... Miami! But today I didn't know what to do with it, so I just put something in and left it alone." She looks young, sexy and punky.

Cagney & Lacey won 14 Emmys during its run, including four for Tyne and two for Gless. "Would have been nice if we evened out there, but - that's OK!" Sharon laughs. The first season of the show is finally available on DVD, and Rosenzweig sighs, "Can you believe it took all this time?"

Tyne and Sharon dig into real breakfasts like real women. They have genuine chemistry and affection, a back and forth banter that speaks not only of nostalgia, but an appreciation of one another in the here and now. Tyne says she'd heard so much about dissension on TV series sets, she told her manager, "Look, all actors are fakes and liars and live in pretend. But if I don't get along with this woman [Sharon], I don't think I'm a good enough actress to fake it, if we go on for years." Gless chirped, "I knew I wasn't a good enough actress to work a long time with somebody I hated!"

They talk of the "roller coaster ride" that was the run of Cagney & Lacey, the almost cancellations, the fan support, the hard work. Gless remembers, "When I came into it, Barney, who I wasn't married to yet, says, 'Uh, this is going to be hard work.' And I go, 'Yes? I've worked hard before.' And he says, 'No, no. I mean this is going to be really hard work, and I go, 'Yes, I've worked hard, for God's sake!' And I left that meeting thinking, 'I don't like this guy.' Of course, he was right, I'd never worked so hard. And I came to like him."

Remembering the first days on the set, with Tyne and Sharon, Barney says, "We thought we had something special, just watching them on the set. But when we saw the footage, these two women, toe-to-toe, confronting each other in close-up, the whole room was blown away!"

Tyne remembers, "We didn't shop for six years. Who had time? We did nothing but order from catalogs. I fell in love with the Vermont Country Store catalog. In fact, I actually went to Vermont and visited the store."

The women agree that Cagney & Lacey, though rooted in a standard "detective" format, broke ground not only because of two female leads, but because of the issues it tackled - alcoholism, breast cancer, abortion, race bigotry and the conflicting personalities of Cagney and Lacey: One woman married with children, the other single and searching - both characters flawed, volatile and vulnerable.

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