Back in 1974, when I was 10 years old, I remember watching the very first episode of Police Woman. I didn't specifically plan on watching it. As a matter of fact, I think my mom turned it on and I just planted myself in front of the television as a willing viewer of whatever happened to be on. Well, when the final credits began to roll, I thought that I had just witnessed the most exciting television program in history!
I'm not sure why, but I was mesmerized by the sight of Angie Dickinson playing the role of Pepper Anderson, a Los Angeles police detective who wore only the hippest early '70's fashions and continually had to go undercover, usually as a prostitute, go-go dancer or bra-less gym teacher, to solve only the most bizarre of cases. For the next few years, I had a date every Friday night with Pepper that I wouldn't miss for the world.
One day I got the exhilarating idea to write to Pepper (I mean Angie) and tell her just how much I loved her. I went to my hometown library and did some research. The Reference Department had a collection of telephone books from around the country, so I went over and grabbed the Los Angeles directory ("this is so exciting!" I thought) and looked up the address of NBC Studios in Burbank. Then I looked up the ZIP code of Burbank in the nearby US Postal Service ZIP Code Directory and was on my way. Pretty good detective work for a ten year-old, huh?
I can't remember what I wrote but I tried to sound "grown up" (yeah, like the average adult writes to TV stars blathering on about how much they "LOVE your show!") and stated I would be thrilled to receive an autographed picture.
The next two months were agony, but on one hot and humid summer day, my wait paid off. My family and I had just returned home from a quick day trip to the Jersey Shore and as we exited the car my mom asked me to retrieve the mail. Among the various pieces of mail delivered that day was an envelope addressed to me with a Burbank, California metered postage stamp clearly marked across the top! When I saw that envelope, I just knew what it was and got so excited I dropped every other piece of mail in the grass and proceeded to tear open my much-anticipated correspondence from Angie. I actually was a little too excited, as I proceeded to tear the picture inside in my zeal to rip open that envelope (the tear is still visible, along with the tape I used to fix it).
Getting that picture was nirvana and I savored the moment like I had just won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. Later on I noticed that whomever addressed the envelope got every single line wrong. They misspelled my first and last name, misspelled my street address and instead of East Brunswick, New Jersey, had directed it to East Burnswick, New Hampshire! Luckily, they got the ZIP code right and apparently that's how it finally got into my hot little hands. No wonder it took over two months to arrive. "Angie deserves a better secretary," I thought.
For the next few weeks I was on cloud nine and watching Police Woman was all the more satisfying knowing that Angie had actually seen my letter and took time out of her hectic schedule to send me that fabulous photo (okay, so some administrative assistant at NBC Studios stuffed a previously autographed picture into an envelope and mailed it off to some goofball in Jersey, but I was just a naive kid so cut me some slack!)
Eventually Police Woman was canceled (after a healthy run, thank you) and Angie moved on to bigger roles in the movies. Two of my favorites include her portrayal of a Depression-era widow who goes on a bank-robbing crime spree across the State of Texas with her two buxom teenage daughters in Big Bad Mama, and in Brian DePalma's Dressed to Kill, where she plays a horny housewife who cruises museums looking for sex and eventually winds up being slashed to ribbons in an elevator by Michael Caine in drag! (Screw you, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for not honoring both Angie and Michael with Best Actress Oscar nominations that year.)
As Angie moved on, so did I. I developed other interests, much to the relief of my parents, and proceeded to adulthood unscathed. However, I do, every once in awhile, get the overwhelming urge to dress up in a blonde wig, flared bell-bottom jeans, halter top, four-inch corked wedgies and huge gold hoop earrings, pack some heat and search my neighborhood for crimes to solve.