Entertainment » Books

The Q Guide to Charlie’s Angels

by Scott Stiffler
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Thursday Jul 17, 2008
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The Q Guide to Charlie’s Angels is either a hard-hitting collection of shocking facts that delivers an unflinching look at the sleazy underbelly of the Hollywood dream factory, or 228 breezy, bitchy, beach-read pages of pure camp and fluff appreciation.

Although hardly a milestone achievement in the field of investigative journalism, author Mike Pingel’s tell-all brings an expert eye and a fundamentalist’s zeal to the table. The result is an exhaustive, passionate, infectious examination of Aaron Spelling’s exploitative and/or feminist vision of what happens when three little girls who went to the Police Academy swap their badges for bikinis.

It’s been over thirty years since the 1976 debut of "Charlie’s Angels" and gay men continue to celebrate and emulate the Angels, while popular TV detectives like Joe Mannix and Robert Ironside are largely forgotten. Pingel seems to know why, though, and he lays out the facts of his case like a district attorney putting away a criminal busted by the Angels’ heroic exploits.

By examining the Angels’ timeless appeal, Pingel makes good on The Q Guide’s premise: to excavate and thoroughly dissect the gay appeal of its chosen subject matter. In the case of "Charlie’s Angels," it’s the hair, the clothes, and the notion that three beautiful women could solve crime and kick ass just as well as their male peers. His dead-on analysis and fanatical devotion to the show goes a long way in explaining why he’s struck up friendships or working relationships with several of the Angels, each of whom contributed to the book. Tanya Roberts wrote the foreword!

The highly readable, fast-paced, model-thin tome is packed with features. Interviews, character bios, episode guides, celebrity questionnaires and sidebar factoids dressed up in something called the "Heavenly Tidbits" section all conspire to create the mathematical impossibility of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

In an extensive section devoted to the Angels’ hairstyles, famed follicle guru Jose Eber reveals the secret of obtaining the famous "Angel hair" in four simple, revealing sentences. In that same section, Cheryl Ladd admits to nightmares about "hair brushes marching towards me," and "cans of hairspray attacking me." While Eber gushes over the unique properties of Farrah’s legendary golden tresses, Farrah herself dispels the glamorous myth of the make-up chair and speculates on the simplicity of an Angel’s life in pigtails instead of that famous high maintenance flip.

Apart from tons of back story, the real meat of the book can be found in Chapter Six. Pingel’s knowledge of all things Angel shines in this first-to-last episode guide that’s packed with categories like "Gayest Moment," "Guest Star Alert," and "Angel Memories." The guide also veers happily into strange and sexy territory (as does the rest of the book) with diversions such as "S&M Angels" -- which identifies no fewer than nine episodes in which our girls were tied up, strapped, chained and otherwise held against their will in a variety of tantalizingly sexy ways.

Celebrity surveys with topics like "Which Angel are You and Why?" boast responses from the likes of NYC drag superstar Lady Bunny, porn director Chi Chi LaRue, comedians Julie Brown and Frank DeCaro, and John August (screenwriter of the two recent "Charlie’s Angels" movies). Their responses, ranging from the genuinely insightful to the pithy and profane, are typical of the book’s tone: outrageous, affectionate, and well aware that one absurd piece of pop culture can change the life of a gay man.

by Mike Pingel

172 pages. Alyson Books, 2008. Available at bookstores nationwide or online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Scott Stiffler is a New York City based writer and comedian who has performed stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. His show, "Sammy’s at The Palace. . .at Don’t Tell Mama"---a spoof of Liza Minnelli’s 2008 NYC performance at The Palace Theatre, recently had a NYC run. He must eat twice his weight in fish every day, or he becomes radioactive.

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