She’s had sexy parts in films ranging from the Rat Pack farce Ocean’s 11 (1960) to the film noir classic The Killers (1964) to Brian De Palma’s erotic shocker Dressed to Kill (1980) and played foxy Police Woman ”Pepper” Anderson on TV from 1974 to 1978. In real life, she is said to have romanced both a President (JFK) and a King (Larry). Now, at 61, Angie Dickinson has the juiciest role of her career as the evil Josie in Wild Palms. In the living room of her elegant but cozy three-bedroom Beverly Hills home, Dickinson discussed her career and her charisma.
Have you ever analyzed your personal appeal?
It’s a wonderful mystery. I love that men of all ages wink and whistle at me. I was walking on the beach in Hawaii recently — not even in a bathing suit — and I passed this kid about 12, and he screamed, ”Hey, I got a boner!”
Some feminists might say you encourage men to treat you like a sex object.
Oh, God, we live in a world with so little humor. It’s disgusting — you can’t even make a pass at someone these days without being taken to court. That’s my problem with feminists. I believe in women’s rights, but I’m feminine — and I have a sense of humor. Clarence Thomas is supposed to be able to say, ”Hey, Anita, nice tits,” and she’s supposed to say, ”You’ll never know,” and go about her business.
Ironically, it was Police Woman that ushered in the feminist era on TV.
I don’t usually get the credit for that. Before me, women were always funny, or they were just tough. Pepper was really a first. She was sexual, funny, and in control.
How’d she get the name Pepper, anyway? The original name, Lisa Beaumont, was boring. We needed something like (Goldfinger’s) Pussy Galore. I came up with Pepper. It was perfect, although I was afraid of being called Sergeant Pepper. And when I got an honorary doctorate from an L.A. law school, it was ”Here’s Dr. Pepper ”
Have you considered a Police Woman reunion movie?
If I could do it sitting behind a desk with lines like, ”Okay, my kid will be right on it,” maybe. Who would believe Pepper seducing a gang leader in the backseat of a car at my age? I’m not exactly going to be asked to strip down.
Why not? Don’t you think you’re still sexy?
There are just certain things that a woman shouldn’t do when she gets to a certain age. I mean, I love Jane Fonda dearly — no one looks as good as she does for a woman her age — but that dress at the Oscars? Mistake. And her hair was a bigger mistake! She retired — she shouldn’t have been up there. I didn’t retire. Why wasn’t I up there?
Are you hoping for an Emmy nomination for Wild Palms?
Wouldn’t that be nice? I hope I deserve it, but I don’t like my performance anymore. I’ve seen it too many times. It’s a wonderful role, but now I see every flaw.
It has long been rumored that you had an affair with John F. Kennedy. Want to clarify the record?
No [laughing]. I don’t believe in lying. But I will, uh, dodge the question, okay? Some things are just no one’s business. I will say you should be so lucky to have lived this life. It’s been great.