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Victoria Principal

Victoria Principal

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: January 3, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Japan Profession: Cast ... actor self-improvement non-fiction writer television producer model agent
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BIOGRAPHY

Fondly remembered for her role as one of television's most beloved "good girls," Pamela Ewing, on the long-running primetime soap, "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) actress Victoria Principal was a petite, wide-eyed leading actress of TV, whose luxuriant reddish-brown hair, angular, sculpted features and olive complexion give her a certain exotic look. A long-time favorite of celebrity gossip columnists, Principal's face was a regular sight on tabloid and movie magazine covers for many years, having dated such high profile men as Frank Sinatra, Desi Arnaz, Jr. and most famously, Andy Gibb. Due in no small part to her own much envied face and figure, Principal also found success marketing her beauty products and exercise videos/books.

Born Concettina Ree Principale on Jan. 3, 1946 in Fukuoka, Japan, Principal was the eldest of two daughters born to Italian-American Victor Principale and his wife, Bertha Ree Veal. The daughter of an Air Force sergeant, Principal's family lived around the world, but settled in south Florida when Principal was in her mid-teens. In high school, Principal dabbled in some commercial modeling, but did not seriously consider it as a career. Instead, she opted for a future in chiropractic medicine. Halfway into her first year of schooling, however, Principal was involved in a serious car accident, which spurred her to re-evaluate her priorities. Deciding life was too short; Principal switched directions mid-stream, deciding to give modeling a shot.

In 1966, Principal moved to New York City, which is where things started to happen for her career. After appearing in a number of successful campaigns in both the U.S. and Europe, Principal moved to England where she took classes at London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dance. Hoping to branch out, she returned to the States in 1971, settling in Los Angeles, CA. Within a year of arrival, Principal landed her first role playing Paul Newman's Mexican mistress, Maria Elena, in John Huston's "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" (1972) - not a bad first attempt. The fledgling actress later upped her screen time with her role of bimbo du jour, Cathy, in her next picture, the laughable sexual satire "Naked Ape" (1973), in which she briefly appeared topless. Principal's big break, however, came the following year when she won the co-starring role of Rosa Amici in the star-studded disaster epic, "Earthquake" (1974). Unfortunately, although the special-effects laden film was a hit, it failed to fast track Principal's career as she had hoped.

In the mid-1970's, Principal's acting career entered enough of a dry spell that she actually quit acting entirely and switched careers. Not quite ready to leave the industry, however, Principal compromised by becoming a talent agent - her big plan, to earn enough money to put herself through law school in the hopes of becoming a studio executive. Fortunately, fate intervened.

In 1977, bigwig producer Aaron Spelling offered the comely Principal a co-starring role in a pilot called "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1978-1984). Though the actress initially declined, Spelling sweetened the deal by offering to pay Principal's first year of tuition if she accepted the role. It was an offer no one in their right mind would refuse. As it turned out, it was the right decision to be made. Not only did the highly rated pilot win a spot in ABC's 1978-79 line-up, it also resuscitated Principal's acting career, sending her down the path to Southfork Ranch.

In 1978, Principal landed her breakthrough role as resident good girl on the Stetson-wearing, whisky-swilling primetime soap, "Dallas." Principal's Pamela Barnes Ewing was the dramatic catalyst of the entire series - a forbidden star-crossed romance of Shakespearean proportions and the rifts that erupt because of it. Only in the world of 1970s sudsy TV, instead of Verona's Capulets and Montagues, the feuding clans were oil baron families, the Barnes vs. the Ewings. Cast as the usually virtuous, always long-suffering wife of Texas oilman Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), Principal enjoyed considerable media exposure, though the limitations of the role, combined with her breathy line delivery and modest histrionic capacity, left viewers enjoying the glamour of a personality rather than the craft of an actress. Principal was generally at her best in the show in romantic encounters with Bobby or arguments with his slimy sibling J.R. (Larry Hagman). In addition to the overnight fame enjoyed by each cast member (Linda Grey, Charlene Tilton, et al), the stratospheric success of "Dallas" not only ushered in a slew of successful primetime soaps ("Knot's Landing," "Falcon Crest," "Dynasty") - it helped make the season finale cliffhanger a TV staple - most memorably, with the 1980 season ender, "Who Shot J.R?" In fact the furor surrounding this particular finale, culminating in a kind of mania - money exchanging hands, Vegas bets, bribes - reached its personal peak for Principal, when during a flight, the pilot reportedly came on over the loudspeaker, and threatened not to land the plane unless Principal told him did the deed to ole J.R.

At the same time Principal was enjoying her success on "Dallas," tabloids enjoyed profiling her every move as it pertained to the men in her life. After dating Frank Sinatra and Desi Arnaz, Jr. early on, Principal dated and married actor Christopher Skinner in 1978 - just as her career was about to take off. However, after only three years of marriage, the couple divorced in 1980. It was at that sensitive time that Principal met the much younger, but equally successful in his own right, singer/actor, Andy Gibb. After hearing of his very public crush on her, Principal surprised the "Baby Bee Gee" by popping up unannounced during one of his talk show interviews. The couple was inseparable shortly thereafter, moving in with each other in a matter of weeks. With Gibb in his early twenties and Principal in her mid-to-late 30s - this May-December romance was quite the scandal in those pre-Ashton/Demi times, which made them even more desirable to the press and tabloid-buying public. The couple lasted for over a year - long enough to weather the embarrassment of their recorded duet of the Everly Brothers' single "All I Have to Do is Dream" - which was one year longer than most cynics predicted. However, in the end, it was not shifting fame nor the age difference which split them apart - it was Gibb's cocaine problem. After giving him the ultimatum of her or the drugs, Gibb chose the drugs and the couple broke up in 1982. Although Principal would move on and marry plastic surgeon Dr. Harry Glassman, Gibb reportedly never recovered from the break-up, losing himself in drugs and drink and dying of an undiagnosed infection of the heart in 1988 at age 30.

Despite the spotlight on her private life, Principal enjoyed nine successful seasons on "Dallas" before leaving the show, just as it stepped onto its inevitable downhill slope. The determined, feisty and now-experienced Principal campaigned for the title role in the TV-movie, "Mistress" (1987), in order to escape the confines of her "Dallas" image. A restless, energetic woman, Principal formed her own production company and began executive producing a series of TV-movies, including "Naked Lie" (1989) and "Sparks: The Price of Passion" (1990). While these and other efforts did not garner her any new critical acclaim as an actress, they suggested not only an increased confidence and savvy, but also that Principal's true forte may been as a commercially-minded TV producer.

Her most notable achievement outside of acting, was the creation of Principal Secrets, a successful line of beauty and skin-care products. The actress also wrote three books on the subject of health and beauty, starting with 1983's The Body Principal. In 2000, a mature but still beautiful Principal made a brief return to primetime in the role of matriarch Gwen Williams in the short-lived drama "Titans" (NBC, 2000-01).

In 2003, the actress returned to the glare of the tabloid spotlight when her second husband, Dr. Glassman was arrested for domestic battery. The incident left Principal hospitalized, but the charges against Glassman were eventually dropped. Their reconciliation did not last. In 2006, Principal filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences.

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