Friday, September 16, 2016

Top TV Moments: Laurette Spang

My “TV Moments” blogs usually feature performers with careers that span three or four decades. Not so with Laurette Spang, who was strictly a ‘70s girl.  

She debuted in a 1972 episode of The Bold Ones: The Doctors (in the clearly pivotal role of “Real Estate Lady”) and would go on to guest-star in some of the best-loved shows of the disco era. But after a handful of early ‘80s credits she married actor John McCook and disappeared like Keyzer Soze.

Spang was never an Emmy nominee or the subject of a People magazine cover story; she didn’t have a poster, which is surprising because even Erin Moran had a poster.  But if you watched a lot of TV back then, you knew her on sight and were probably happy to see her. The only question was whether she would play the girl you’d like to bring home to mom, or a reprobate to avoid at all costs. For a blond beauty with angelic features, Spang was often cast as a troublemaker.

Adam 12 (1973)
In her fifth TV series appearance, an episode titled “Venice Division,” Spang plays Carla Rogers, a woman frightened by a series of obscene phone calls. When Officers Reed and Malloy arrive at her door, she answers in a powder blue leotard. “When you’re dressed like that, you should close your drapes!” Malloy tells her – a reproach that now wouldn’t be well-received in some circles. But sure enough, when the cops catch the creep, it’s because he wanted more than a good view.

The Streets of San Francisco (1973)
Some shows boost tourism for the cities in which they are set. Given the seedy nature of so many Streets of San Francisco stories, I can’t imagine anyone booking a trip after an episode. “Harem” is typical, but it’s also memorable because of the casting of wholesome Comfort TV icon Ricky Nelson as a flute-playing killer pimp. Laurette Spang plays Kim, one of the irrepressible Ricky’s new recruits. It’s her most substantive part to date, and she’s terrific in it. 

Isis (1976)
This Saturday morning superhero series was one of my favorite shows growing up; in “The Cheerleader” Spang plays Ann, a selfish, scheming flirt who frames the head cheerleader with a stolen science test paper. Great fun, especially when the jig is up and she speeds away from school uttering the classic villain line “I’ll show ‘em! I’ll show ‘em all!” 

Charlie’s Angels (1976)
“Consenting Adults” may be the best Angels episode, and not just because of the famous Farrah-on-a-skateboard chase scene. Writer Les Carter captured the perfect tone for the series, one that sadly eluded so many others. It’s a shame he only wrote two episodes. Just two months after playing a high school cheerleader, Laurette Spang plays Tracy Martel, a hooker, a UCLA honor student, and a front for a burglary ring. She holds her own in looks, polish and charisma in scenes opposite Farrah and Kate Jackson. 

Happy Days (1977)
Laurette Spang was on Happy Days almost as often as Chuck Cunningham. She appeared in six episodes, perhaps most notably in the infamous three-part story that opened season five, “Hollywood Pts. 1-3.” As Wendy, the kind of California girl immortalized by the Beach Boys, she spends much of her screen time in a bikini, if you’re into that sort of thing. And she was front and center as Fonzie executed a now-legendary shark jump. 

Project U.F.O. (1978)
The final series produced by Jack Webb billed itself as a dramatization “inspired by official reports of governmental investigations of claims of reported sightings of unidentified flying objects.” I wonder if anyone checked on that. In “Sighting 4015: The Underwater Incident” Spang plays Linda Collins, an ambitious grad student who doesn’t believe a tour boat operator’s story about a UFO attack. Does she have another agenda? Of course she does, as this is yet another of her bad girl roles, and she’s delightful in it. Better, in fact, than the series’ two stiff, monotone leads, played by Edward Winter and Caskey Swaim.

Lou Grant (1978)
Spang appears twice in the show’s first season as Joanie, the daughter of L.A. Tribune Managing Editor Charlie Hume. In “Airliner,” she returns home early from Paris to surprise her parents, but the plane develops engine trouble as it approaches Los Angeles. It’s barely more than an incidental role, but there are some nice moments between Spang and Mason Adams.

Battlestar: Galactica (1978)
In her only stint as a series regular, Laurette Spang played Cassiopeia, member of the Galactica’s medical staff and girlfriend to Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict). The character wasn’t featured often, but she did have a nice scene with guest star Fred Astaire in “The Man With Nine Lives.” 

B.J. and the Bear (1979)
I’m fairly certain that the two-part episode “Snow White and the Seven Lady Truckers” was intended as a pilot for a spinoff series, especially given how much backstory is provided on Spang’s character of Snow White, and a larger than usual cast (Charles Napier, Sonia Manzano, Janet Louise Johnson, Conchata Ferrell, Julie Gregg, Slim Pickens, Richard Deacon, Andre the Giant). I’m sure Laurette Spang could have carried a show, but I’m not sure this was the one to prove the point.

The Dukes of Hazzard (1981)
Five years after Charlie’s Angels, Spang could still be convincing as a college student. In “The Fugitive” she’s Mindy Lou, just passing through Hazzard when she gets tangled up in a Boss Hogg scheme to steal motorcycles before an upcoming Motocross event. Given her previous credits viewers may have wondered if she’d work with Boss or the Dukes, but this time (at last!) she joins forces with the good guys. 


  1. Laurette Spang wore a "beavertail" wetsuit (albeit one that did not have twistlock fasteners) in her "Project U.F.O." episode.

    Mr. Hofstede, do you have "The Streets of San Francisco" on DVD to some extent? (No, I am not planning to buy a set off you.) Also, do you think the original "Charlie's Angels" was a better show than "Baywatch" in the quality/technical department? Bringing this back to Ms. Spang, do you think she would've fared well as a guest star on the latter series?

  2. I was happy to see a tribute to Laurette here. What a beauty! I remember seeing her on so many TV shows growing up.

  3. I would have went with Cassiopia over Athena....