03/07/1994 at 01:00 AM EST
WHO SHOT J.R.?
The answer, we all know now, was his conniving sister-in-law Kristin. But when the 79-'80 season of Dallas closed with a cliff-hanger, the question became a cause célèbre. Three foreign tabloids offered Larry Hagman $250,000 to spill the beans. A London gambler tempted Mary Crosby with £500,000. But since five endings were filmed, not even the principals knew for sure. "I thought, 'I'll believe it when I see it on TV,' " recalls Crosby, 35. Watching along with her that Nov. 21 night were 83 million others, breaking ratings records until the M*A*S*H finale in 1983. Crosby relishes her place in history. "Growing up, I was Bing's daughter. Now I'll always be the woman who shot J.R.," she says. Hagman, 63, chalks up the success of Dallas to "one of those Zen mistakes."
10's MISMATCHED LOVERS
Bo, 37, is still a "10"; Dudley, 58, is still...5'2". And they still make an enchanting odd couple 15 years after they rode to stardom on the box office waves made by 10, Hollywood's wittiest beach party ever. But today the sun-crossed film lovers have to mind the rays: Bo is at high risk for skin cancer on her chest, while Dudley developed vitiligo (the pigment-fading disease afflicting Michael Jackson) in 1985. Though he today concentrates mainly on music and Bo spends most of her days raising dogs and horses with husband John on their San Ynez, Calif., ranch, both admit that their cinematic celebration of sun, sand, surf, sex and cornrows (John's idea) gave romance a new dimension. Says Dudley: "People were fascinated by a small man—excuse me, a 'vertically challenged' man—going after this gorgeous woman."
For the 80 million viewers who sat in rapt attention for 12 hours over eight nights, Roots was an eye-opening education in slavery, told from the point of view of those in bondage. But for its 45-member cast, the Emmy-winning miniseries, based on Alex Haley's Pulitzer Prize-winning ancestral epic, was nothing less than an awakening. "It was the most meaningful experience," says Georg Stanford Brown, now 50, who played blacksmith Tom Moore, "putting yourself in the position of having no self."
During the grueling shoot, actors came to terms with their own powerful emotions. Ben Vereen remembers turning on the TV and watching the flotilla of tall ships enter New York City's harbor as the nation prepared to kick off its bicentennial bash. "The anger burned my stomach," says Vereen, 47, who portrayed cockfighter Chicken George. "Because I thought, 'My people didn't come as passengers. They came as cargo.' "
"It was hard not to leave the set with some of the emotions we'd been playing," adds Lynne Moody, who acted the role of Brown's wife, Irene. "You wanted to blame someone, and there was no one to blame who was around."
Some white actors feared they might be marked for culpability. "I was a little concerned about doing this role," admits Lloyd Bridges, 81, who played slave owner Evan Brent. "I had a lot of black friends, and I didn't know how they would take it." But Bridges found the experience illuminating. "I learned more about the heritage of black people," he says. "I have more respect for them."
Lynda Day George, 47, had misgivings about portraying a plantation wife with a largely black cast. "I was taught that there was a difference between blacks and whites," she says. "It was wonderful because I found out there wasn't a real spiritual difference."
That revelation united not only the actors but the country. "America responded so strongly because the scars left by that period had never really been dealt with," says LeVar Burton, 37, whose right ankle bears its own scar—from the shackles he wore as the young African slave Kunta Kinte. "Roots got the nation to take a look at this ugly part of our past."
Despite the tensions, cast members are proud to have taken part in the history-making series that spawned a 1979 sequel, Roots: The Next Generations. "Roots has enriched my life enormously," Burton says. "It was an experience of family coming together and discovering that we are inextricably linked."
For John Amos, 52, portraying the adult Kunta Kinte took on even more significance. At the first wardrobe test, he put on his costume and went out into a field where the cameras were waiting. Suddenly, he suffered a seizure. "I feel I was being visited by my ancestors," he recalls. "They wanted to be heard."
THE HEROES OF FLIGHT 847
Just hours after they first met, on June 14, 1985, TWA pilot John Testrake and chief flight attendant Uli Derickson flew into a 17-day nightmare. Their plane, Flight 847, scheduled to fly from Athens to Rome, was hijacked by Lebanese terrorists. Derickson puts it simply: "We tried all avenues to survive." While Testrake calmly piloted the Boeing 727 between Beirut and Algiers, Derickson—though unable to stop the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem—prevailed on the gunmen to spare the other 149 passengers and crew. The two returned to work within weeks of their ordeal. "Flying," explains Derickson, now 49 and a Delta attendant, "is in my blood." Since then, they have met six times, including twice when Testrake, retired in 1987 and living with wife Phyllis in Gallatin, Mo., traveled on Derickson's flights. But they still downplay their bravery. "What's a hero?" asks Derickson. "I didn't even think about it." Testrake, 66, agrees: "Like Uli says—you do your job."
THE GONG SHOW
The proudly tacky ancestor of the Stupid Human Trick, The Gong Show (1976-80) was created with demented enthusiasm by producer Chuck Barris, who also served as host. Barris clapped, laughed and danced a jig while introducing a parade of bizarre no-talents. "I just got crazier and crazier," he says. "The show went with me." Most contestants were gonged by a raucous celebrity panel that included singer Jaye P. Morgan and M*A*S*H's Jamie Farr. Morgan remembers Count Banjula as her favorite act: "He would wear a cape and hang upside down, playing the banjo. And he was good."
DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS
To Cynde Lewis, a substitute teacher in Lewisville, Texas, "They were the most fun years of my life." So when the 1993 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders invited several hundred high-kicking veterans to join them at halftime last fall, Lewis, 39, ran to Texas Stadium along with squadmates VonCeil Baker, 40, a flight attendant, and Tami Barber, 36, an L. A. cosmetics-company executive. The trio (two of whom, Baker and Barber, appeared in the 1978 TV film The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders) had lost touch, Lewis says, because "life went on." Lewis remembers breast-feeding her daughter in the bathroom during her 1976 tryout, while Baker cheered in 1975 when she was six months pregnant. "The hardest thing I ever did was turn in my uniform," says Barber, who then gave up pigtails for good. "It was like being a fairy princess."
THE FIRST MTV VEEJAYS
Within months of MTV's launch at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, 1981, its five pioneering veejays—recent college grad Martha Quinn, actor and part-time Manhattan bartender Alan Hunter, actress Nina Blackwood and veteran radio jocks J.J. Jackson and Mark Goodman—would experience the g-force of instant celebrity. "I went to Cheyenne, Wyo., to make an appearance at a record store, and there were like 2,000 people waiting in front," recalls Goodman, now 40 and a Chicago deejay. "I was wondering, 'Who's here?' Then I realized, 'It's me.' "
Critics scoffed that the new network was devoid of substance. But television would never be the same. "Suddenly there were phrases like 'MTV-like,' " says Hunter, 36, "and we knew we had become part of the culture." And yet the original gang of five, replaced with younger, hipper vid kids by 1987, got left behind. "I thought when I left I'd have Mary Hart's job in six months," says Quinn, 34 and an L.A. actress. Jackson, 47, works in radio in L.A., Blackwood, 41, landed a string of forgettable acting roles, and Hunter runs a production company in Birmingham, Ala. "My prediction has come true," says a cheerfully resigned Goodman. "I said in 1981 that in 10 or 20 years I'll be the answer to a trivia question."
SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR AND GERALDINE FERRARO
In the '70s feminists wore T-shirts declaring A Woman's Place Is in the House... and in the Senate. A decade later the slogan seemed shortsighted: Sandra Day O'Connor, a former Arizona appellate judge, had become the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and Geraldine Ferraro, a New York congresswoman, was running alongside 1984 presidential candidate Walter Mondale. Female achievers? "People come up to me and say, 'My kid is studying about you in school,' " says Ferraro, now a practicing Manhattan attorney. O'Connor, meanwhile, may have started a trend—or at least another T-shirt. Back in October, she found herself laughing out loud as an association of women judges presented her new colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a shirt emblazoned The Supremes: I'm Ruth, not Sandra.
We're movin' on up to the East Side/ We finally got a piece of the pie-ie-ie...." The theme song said it perfectly. In 1975, almost a decade before The Cosby Show introduced the Huxtables, The Jeffersons was the first sitcom to showcase an upscale black family. Irascible dry cleaning entrepreneur George Jefferson, his exasperated wife, Louise, and their college-educated son, Lionel, had been Archie Bunker's neighbors on All in the Family. On their own, in what turned out to be TV's longest-running spinoff (1975-85), the Jeffersons moved into a posh Manhattan high-rise, where George, loud and proud, flaunted his nouveau riche status.
Today, though, it's Louise who's sounding off. "CBS pulled the rug out from under us," protests Isabel Sanford, 76, who became the only cast member to win an Emmy, in 1981. "We deserved a closing episode, and they didn't let us have it." Her TV spouse agrees. "We just got a gold clock," says Sherman Hemsley, 56, who went on to star on NBC's Amen. But they couldn't let their old show fade away. So last spring the two turned three episodes into a stage play, signing on Maria Gibbs, 62 (tart-tongued maid Florence), Franklin Cover, 65, and Roxie Roker, 64 (neighbors Tom and Helen Willis), and Ned Wertimer (Ralph the Doorman)—and The Jeffersons drew standing ovations at Detroit's Fox Theater. What audiences liked was "the parents being respected by the younger people," believes Roker, whose own son is rocker Lenny Kravitz. Gibbs agrees: "People want to get back to The Jeffersons' family values."
Yet at least one cast member wanted to flee the family. Damon Evans, 43, who succeeded Mike Evans (now a real estate developer in Palm Springs, Calif., and no relation to Damon) as Lionel in the second season, quit in 1978 to pursue an opera career that led him to England. "My development as a musician had to take place outside my country," says Damon, a 1992 Olivier Award nominee for his performance in Carmen Jones. But with time, even he has mellowed. "I had no idea I was walking into one of the biggest hits of the '70s," Evans says. "The public's memory of the show follows me worldwide."
Three provocative private eyes ordered around by an unseen boss. Great drama? Nah. But Jaclyn Smith (Kelly Garrett), Kate Jackson (Sabrina Duncan) and Farrah Fawcett (Jill Munroe) captured the spirit of 1976 and drove their recreational vehicle to the top of the ratings. Charlie's Angels, which ran on ABC until 1981, was more than a hit show; it played a complex role in the pop culture. In one sense, it was in sync with '70s feminism by showing that a woman could crack a murder case as well as any man. Meanwhile, you had clingy costumes, titillating plots—what critics called "jiggle TV."
The original stars have stayed friendly. Smith, 46, now a Kmart spokeswoman and miniseries queen, split from her third husband, filmmaker Anthony Richmond, in 1989; they have two children, Gaston, 11, and Spencer Margaret, 7. Jackson, 45, starred in Scarecrow and Mrs. King and has ended three marriages since her Angels days. Recently she told her old pals about a new boyfriend. "Go slow this time, Kate," warned Fawcett, 47, who divorced Lee Majors in 1982, triumphed in The Burning Bed in 1984 and now lives with Ryan O'Neal and their son Redmond, 9. But slow is not this trio's specialty. Ask national correspondent Lois Armstrong, who listened in on the conversation in L.A. that begins on page 136.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS TODAY
Photographed Exclusively For PEOPLE
Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith
SMITH: I'm much busier now than I ever was! It's the kids with their schedules and the homework. I'm doing these flash cards with Gaston, rooting for him. He gets in the car after school, and I say, "Did we pass?"
FAWCETT: I work with Redmond. He won his spelling bee last year, but then he missed, and I said, "This is unacceptable—because you know those words." Somebody said to me, "Don't ever say that to your child!" and I said, "But it is unacceptable."
JACKSON: Farrah, I read that you were getting married.
FAWCETT: Well, the press is wrong. We weren't fighting, so they didn't have anything else to write. I feel married. Maybe we'll do it someday, but no one is going to tell me when, [Changing the subject] What's Spencer Margaret doing?
SMITH: Dancing and showing signs of wanting to bean actress.
JACKSON: Whatever you do, don't let her be an actress.
SMITH: But we were never typical actresses. We never competed for close-ups and costumes. The National Enquirer said we were vying with each other, but what we were really thinking about was getting some sleep.
JACKSON: Yeah, we'd beg to get more sleep. We'd say, "Isn't she featured in this shot? Couldn't I just sit down over here, out of camera range—wouldn't that work?"
FAWCETT: And that "jiggle" thing—what was that about? Look at that show compared to what's on today. There was nothing that sexy in our shows.
JACKSON: Some people criticized us for the bikinis and whatnot. But we understood that we were three powerful women who were stars of the No. 1 show on television.
FAWCETT: But we never really used that power. Our characters were the same in every show, and we never were able to change that. Why couldn't I have been depressed on one show? Why couldn't I have cried? Once I went into [executive producers] Aaron [Spelling] and Len [Goldberg] and I said, "Wouldn't it be great if in one show I took Kate and Jaclyn home with me, and they met my parents, and we explored the possibilities of these girls as friends..."
SMITH: We were experimenting.
FAWCETT:...and they said, "We have a show. It works. We're not changing it." And that's when, in my heart at least, I was out of there. They didn't appreciate what we had and what was so special.
SMITH: We've always had a wonderful rapport. It was never the same after Farrah left. [Cheryl Ladd joined the show in 1977, replacing Farrah, who did guest appearances thereafter; Shelly Hack replaced Kate in '79 and was herself replaced by Tanya Roberts in 1980.]
FAWCETT: Whenever I would come back, it was much more competitive. It was weird.
SMITH: The three of us always stood together. Remember when they wanted us to pose for a TIME cover during lunch hour? Don't rest—just pose. They could walk all over me, but Kate, she's smart. She says, "I've got to eat." Then she goes in her trailer, closes the door and says, "Oh, my goodness. It's jammed."
JACKSON [innocently]: God-danged if I wasn't locked in there for 45 minutes. Held everybody up.
FAWCETT: It would be nice if we could do a series or a movie together now. But we'd have this obstacle to overcome. People would say, "Isn't that Jill? Sabrina? Kelly?"
SMITH: That's the way a lot of people still see us.
FAWCETT: That show made such a great impact. Remember when they told us the numbers, and we're going, "Yeah?" We were the No. 1 show in the ratings, and we're saying, "So, isn't that the norm?"
JACKSON: If we'd known what a phenomenon we were. . .
FAWCETT: ... we might have appreciated it.
SMITH: We might have been overwhelmed.
As they part, the women hug each other in a tight circle. Then Kate speaks.
JACKSON: Hey, we've got to get together again soon. I want you to meet my boyfriend.
SMITH: Okay, I'll call you.
FAWCETT: How 'bout next week?
1980 OLYMPIC HOCKEY TEAM
They were America's most beloved Cold Warriors, that brash crew of ice bandits who first whipped the all-powerful Soviet Union team, 4-3, then the Finns, 4-2, to capture the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. Though there was considerable flag-waving at the time, goalie Jim Craig, 36, now an ad salesman in Boston, says, "It was never a political thing for me. It was about playing hockey." Adds team captain Mike Eruzione, 39, Director of Special Programs at Boston University: "We didn't beat communism, we beat a great hockey team. The fact that we won didn't free the hostages in Iran or solve the problems of the Cold War." Yet all agree that their moment was an American Camelot on ice—one that may never be repeated. Says Dave Silk, 36, who has been coaching at B.U., the trio's alma mater, while completing his M.B.A. studies: "You don't see kids going out in their neighborhoods to play hockey these days. They'd rather stay inside and play Sega."
LAST HELICOPTER OUT OF SAIGON
For more than 18 years, Marine Jim Kean had carried in his wallet a list of 10 names. And though he had often wondered what became of the men with whom he had shared a turning point in history, he hadn't seen any of them since April 30, 1975. On that day, they clambered off the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam and onto a CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopter. Commanded by then-Major Kean, these men—members of the Marines' embassy guard detachment—were the last of the 2.7 million American armed forces personnel to serve in Vietnam. They had fought their way to the roof through mobs of panicked South Vietnamese who were hoping to hitch a ride on one of the U.S. helicopters ferrying Americans to ships of the Seventh Fleet out in the South China Sea. The South Vietnamese, recalls former Gunnery Sgt. Robert Schlager, 53, "were offering us gold, jewels, cash. It was unbelievable. We could have been very, very rich. We were either very loyal or very stupid."
Confronted by chaos, says former Staff Sgt. Mike Sullivan, 48, "we just tried to be fair, to get mother, father and kids together. We tried to pick up entire families. There were so many civilians taken out in those last days, it was crazy. But we knew that all the people who wanted to leave might not survive if they stayed."
The Marines also knew that their own role wasn't a heroic one. "As with so many American military situations, from Tripoli on," says Kean, 53, who retired in 1983 as a lieutenant colonel, "there are always a few Marines who stay behind and mop things up."
The Final 11's trip out was not routine, though. At one point, the Saigon-Seventh Fleet shuttle seemed to be shutting down, and they started making contingency plans for escaping by land to the coast. Former Sgt. Stephen Schuller, 40, says he never lost faith. "I knew in my heart they were going to come back for us," he says. "Marines don't leave other Marines behind."
Eventually, a CH-46, code-named Swift 2-2, arrived. "All we had was what was on our backs," says former Master Sgt. Juan Valdez, 57, who got on board last, thus becoming the last active U.S. serviceman in Vietnam. Even then the trip wasn't easy. On liftoff, the helicopter's rotors sucked up clouds of tear gas the Marines were using to keep the would-be Vietnamese refugees at bay. The pilot briefly set the gas-filled Sea Knight back down.
After the 11 made it back home, they stayed in only sporadic contact. All of them became career Marines, though Terry Bennington is the only one still on active duty as a sergeant major at Quantico, Va. One of the 11, Robert Frain, died in 1993. Three (Sgt. Philip Babel, Sgt. Duane Gevers and Cpl. David Norman) couldn't be located, while Cpl. Stephen Bauer—the youngest man on the chopper at 19—wasn't able to join PEOPLE'S reunion in December.
Now that relations between the U.S. and Vietnam are approaching normalcy, the war's legacy is bittersweet. "When I look back on Vietnam now, it seems useless," says Valdez. "A lot of good people got killed, and for what?" Kean agrees. "We went because we believed in our country and what we were doing there," he says. "But the best thing we could have done for those people would have been to turn around and get the hell out of there."
"We all went on to live our lives," concludes Valdez. "It happens. But none of us ever forgot those last days. It's a bond we share and will share for the rest of our lives."