Cathy Bach's Marriage Sinks, but She Reigns in The Dukes of Hazzard
"I'm not defensive—I don't mind if they use my physical attributes," explains Bach. But she did veto a poster of her in a bikini for a more sedate shot, and her latest reading is Marilyn French's feminist The Women's Room. While Bach, 25, may be the only thing in the Smokey and the Bandit ripoff worth a rebel yell, any country ballad could have warned her there would be a price to pay. She has denied it until now, but last June she separated from her husband of three years, agent-turned-contractor David Shaw, 35, son of English producer Peter Shaw and stepson of actress Angela Lansbury. "Though the show didn't cause the problems in our marriage, it magnified them," mourns Cathy. "We do love each other very much. We are trying to work out our differences. Even through our separation we have stayed very close."
"Cathy and I couldn't give our full attention to each other," confirms David. "It wasn't the show but the business itself and Cathy's drive that were most harmful to our marriage. I'm looking forward to the show's hiatus," he adds. "Cathy and I are going on vacation hopefully to get back together."
In the meantime Cathy has moved to an airy one-bedroom apartment within motorbike distance of the Warner Bros, studio (she visits their Malibu beach house only on weekends when David's away). As for that "drive" David refers to, it's full-bore. After putting in five 12-hour days on the set, Cathy was booked last weekend to be grand marshal of California's El Centro rodeo and do some barrel racing. Next week she's supposed to put the pedal to the metal in a celeb auto race in Phoenix. And the three miles she runs three times weekly ("enough to blow my carburetors") keep her in such shape that she finished only five yards behind Michael (Running) Douglas in the mile race on ABC's Battle of the Network Stars earlier this month.
She developed the competitive instinct early. Born Catherine Bachman in Warren, Ohio, she lived in L.A. with her Mexican mother, a secretary ("a real independent, healthy woman"), after her parents divorced when she was 6. Then her family decided the city was no place for a teenager so she spent her high school years with her dad on the seven-square-mile ranch homesteaded by her grandparents near Faith, S.Dak. Cathy studied ballet more than rodeo riding, and after graduation at 17 she took the money saved as a Woolworth counter girl and ran away to Hollywood. She worked as a legal secretary and helped run an organic restaurant while acting in small L.A. theaters. Eventually she won minor roles in Clint Eastwood's 1974 Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Burt Reynolds' 1975 Hustle, and TV guest spots. Her biggest exposure pre-Daisy (a role she snagged from 150 hopefuls) was as a Chevrolet pitchwoman.
Now negotiations are under way for a feature film and a made-for-TV movie—which may mean even more of a writer's cramp for her mother. Mom answers the hundreds of letters Cathy receives each week, which often include return postage money (fans assume she's as impoverished as Daisy). Cathy matches the amount and donates it in their names to the City of Hope, a medical research center. Career pressures leave as little time for reading as for correspondence, but Cathy couldn't put down Women's Room, a work full of implications for someone with a shaky marriage. "It tore me apart and made me reevaluate whether I am happy," says Cathy. "I realize now you have to be truthful to yourself. You can't live your life for anyone but yourself, because if you do, it ain't gonna work out."