PHOTOS: Charlie's Gay Angel
Donald Sanders was in the right place at the right time. A still photographer working for ABC in the mid '70s, he was given the opportunity to stand in for a higher ranking photog, Bert Middleman, to shoot some "bimbos" on a show that Middleman assured Sanders was a joke and a dud. Sanders was hungry and thought it sounded like fun, and coincidentally was already friends with Farrah Fawcett.
Charlie's Angels, for those of you born yesterday, was Aaron Spelling's (Tori's father) mega-monster hit about three beautiful private investigators that often had to go undercover as prostitutes, women behind bars, or lady wrestlers to catch the bad guy.
The three young ladies on the show — Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith — were indeed beautiful, but Sanders was told to play it down, to give them a "casual California" look. And these stills, unretouched, show exactly how beautiful they were.
Sanders was in other "right place, right time" moments, like being able to cover the first Gay Pride parade in Hollywood in 1970. As a go-to still photog he was also called in to photograph many of the celebrities appearing on ABC shows, most especially Regis Philbin's morning talk show. See the end of this portfolio for a selection of those images including many gay and lesbian stars.
Not all Hollywood stories have a tragic ending. Twenty-five years ago Sanders and his partner (together 43 years and now married) packed up the dogs and moved to the Big Island of Hawaii where they began careers in the visitor industry and bought a tiny coffee farm.
Check Amazon for Sanders's first book Farrah Fawcett: A Photo Essay, and this fascinating book, The Original Charlie's Angels Scrapbook. It's filled with behind the scenes information and paints a vivid picture of that time in the show business world.
On the following pages, see stills of the original Angels and other celebrities from Sanders's unpublished stash >>>
Donald Sanders on Farrah after her Charlie's Angels years: "Occasionally I would run into [Farrah] at red carpet events or places like the shopping street in Santa Monica and once at a little restaurant in Malibu. Farrah was always a superstar and when I'd see her all she wanted to know was about 'me'. How are you? How is your partner, Lamont? What are you doing? Farrah would always say we have to shoot again."
Sanders on Jaclyn Smith: "As soon as the filmed scenes were finished, Jaclyn was rushed to do interviews. I was shadowing Jaclyn, grabbing a roll of film whenever we could fit it in. The session was wonderful. Jaclyn was very concerned as to whether I was getting enough material to keep the bosses happy. Jaclyn was a pro, she never complained and I loved every minute with her."
Sanders on Kate Jackson: "...Kate was really lovely. I follwed her around that day and everything was really perfect. Kate was super easy to photograph. She was so creative often making suggestions for our photo session. Kate was fun and really into the shoot. I never had to pose Kate."
On the right, Jackson holding up the script fpr the first episode, Hellride.
Chery Ladd and Shelly Hack, later Angels.
Ann-Margaret and Richard Chamberlain.
Dolly Parton and Gore Vidal
Michael Jackson and Kelly McGillis