It was the afternoon before Valentine’s Day, and Jaclyn Smith had an hour to spare for an interview before picking up her 5-year-old daughter, Spencer-Margaret, to throw a small valentine party for her. When Jaclyn was a girl, her mother in Houston would pack her a school lunch on Valentine’s Day with heart-shaped sandwiches made of bread dyed pink.
Her 8-year-old son, Gaston, receives no less special treatment. Every night before bed, Smith reads a book to Gaston, or vice versa. When she takes her son to the batting cages, “People come by and say, ‘You’ve really got a baseball player there,’ ” Smith said proudly. “He’s the star for the moment.”
To her kids, Smith is not Hollywood royalty. She’s just Mom. Together they ride bikes, visit parks, attend church and escape the city on short trips.
“I don’t even think my children are aware of what I’ve done,” Smith said over tea at the Bel Air Hotel. “When somebody will ask me for my autograph, Spenser-Margaret will say, ‘You must watch “Charlie’s Angels.” ’
“You know, that’s like all I’ve done to them. They don’t know there have been a few other (projects).”
One of those other projects is CBS’ psychological thriller “Lies Before Kisses” Sunday night. Smith plays a wealthy wife and mother whose publisher husband, played by Ben Gazzara, is accused of beating and murdering the woman with whom he was having an affair.
The role is the latest in a stream of romantic TV movies and miniseries in which Smith, 43, has starred over the past decade. Although she has played an ambitious lawyer, an American ambassador to Romania, George Washington’s mistress, Florence Nightingale and Jacqueline Kennedy, her son is on the mark: Smith is still best known as sexy detective Kelly Garrett on “Charlie’s Angels,” which ended its successful five-year run in 1981.
“You can say I want to do this fantastic piece that will make people forget totally about everything, ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and everything, and I’ll become this new character. But you know something? That’s just a lot of dreaming,” Smith said. “All you can do is choose good projects, and get to work on time, and know your lines, and do your best.”
The former ballet dancer says her career is a sideline to her family. Her third marriage, to British cinematographer Tony Richmond, resulted in a separation a year ago amid screaming tabloid reports. The incident brought back the familiar wolf-pack style of the tabloids, which Smith knew too well from her early days as an Angel when guards were hired by the show to fend off the press for Smith and co-stars Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson.
“I’d sort of forgotten about the effect it can have, that gross exaggeration of your personal life,” Smith said. “They don’t have the facts, the story behind closed doors. I thought, well, I could come out and talk, but I didn’t want to because it brought more attention to everything. I felt it was a betrayal to the two most important people in my life, which are my children (Richmond is their father). When they (children) want to ask questions, then I can answer for them. It just seems what happened was between the four of us, and no one else.”
Smith calls her mother in Houston at least once a day for friendship and support. She wants nothing more than to come home after work and live a normal life, something you might expect from a mysterious, exalted beauty who chose to design an extensive line of clothing for K mart. Smith has been hailed as one of America’s most beautiful women, lives in an elegant French Colonial Bel-Air home and works out in a home gym the size of a ballroom, but that doesn’t mean Smith can’t spot a good bargain when she sees one.
“K mart uses such mass production that they are able to lower their prices. My hose for instance is made by the same factory, the same machines, the same threads as the hose made by four top designers,” said Smith, who claims to work closely in the design of her sportswear line and the formulation and packaging of her Max Factor fragrance. “If people want to be snobs and pay 10 times more, that’s OK.”
Snobbery is not unfamiliar to Smith, who wears her K mart line with dignity. Like her clothing and fragrance, Smith’s acting is for the masses. From the critics she has received mixed reviews, but her TV miniseries and movies score high ratings. Her push into feature films, the 1983 thriller “Nightkill” and the 1984 reincarnation drama “Deja Vu,” were fast forgotten.
Today, Smith is content to limit her work to television, where she has some control over her projects and where the rushed shooting schedules provide time to spend with her children.
“I get better roles in television. I’m not going to do a lesser role just to be in a feature film.” She paused and searched for her next words. “You know, I’m just very settled in this lifestyle and happy where I am.”
There are two women Smith wants to play: Margaret Mitchell and Clare Boothe Luce. But she has not been able to convince the networks that viewers would be interested in such historical dramas. Smith also has expressed interest in a sitcom should the right one come along. But she confirmed that there will be no TV reunion with ex-Angels Fawcett and Jackson, although producers constantly approach her on the subject.
“The thing is,” Smith said, “I’m really not that desperate to work. If it’s not something that has some quality to it then I’d just as soon stay home. I have a great life that I love. My children taught me to stay in the moment, day by day. And that’s it. Just live it.”
“Lies Before Kisses” airs Sunday 9-11 p.m. on CBS.