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“Caddyshack’s” Cindy Morgan always had more to offer

Chicago’s daughter Cindy Morgan, now a permanent resident of the movies, died last month. She was 69 years old. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of it. She was never a branded actress. Or a character actor who seems vaguely familiar, moving in and out of roles. He was more like many actors whose names have never been above the titles in cinema history. He had medium-sized roles in a few well-known movies that will never be forgotten, and therefore he has never really faded away. He looked like a random stranger in the background of a family vacation photo, incidental in memories but in the right place at the right time and forever part of the family.

Cindy Morgan was born Cynthia Ann Cichorski in Bucktown in 1954.

His mother was German and his father was Polish and immigrated to Chicago during the Great Depression. After graduating from Northern Illinois University with a communications degree, she sent out two sets of resumes, some to Cynthia Ann Cichorski, some to Cindy Morgan. Only Cindy Morgan was interviewed. Cindy Morgan was smart and cunning and knew how to impress, and Cynthia Ann Cichorski was never heard from again. After a few years of touring radio and TV stations in Illinois, Morgan headed to Los Angeles. She wanted to act in commercials. Maybe even movies. She had no acting experience yet, but eight months later she auditioned for a comedy.

“The ‘Animal House’ on the golf course” — that’s how the producers described it.

They asked Morgan if he had any acting experience or training. He told them he worked at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, but in reality he wasn’t sure where Morgan Goodman was. She read for the role of Lacey Underall, the niece of an arrogant golf club founder. The portion was small. It was more or less spectacular. A seducer.

It was kept to burn a little longer.

Other than the way Morgan played Lacey Underall in the movie—her first, which was eventually titled “Caddyshack”—she was a sexually unflappable, confident, smart, suspicious, funny, sneaky, tough and indelible character. It was a much bigger success than moviegoers knew. The film, made by Harold Ramis, was mostly improvised and thrown together, drunkenly, hungover, day after day. When Chevy Chase’s bachelorette asks her what she does for fun, Lacey says “skinny skiing.” She then adds: “I’m going to go to the bullfight on acid.” Chase held his own alongside Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight and Bill Murray.

He died alone at his home in Florida, less than an hour from Ft. Lauderdale golf course, where “Caddyshack” was mostly filmed. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it was unclear when the woman died, but the cause was likely natural causes.

His career never took off.

Although he landed movies and TV shows less than a year after leaving Chicago, he also appeared in 1982 when he appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the Disney adventure “Tron” and even Johnny Carson on the soap opera Irish Spring. became the face of their advertisements. He just didn’t remember being in “Caddyshack” two years ago.

“Yes,” she replied, with a slightly Lacey, deadpan expression, “I was ‘the girl’ again.”

Morgan played the girl in “Tron.” This would be his last major appearance on the big screen. She almost got the role of Kim Cattrall in “Police Academy” and almost got the role of Linda Hamilton in “Terminator”. But no. Instead, if you watched a lot of junk TV in the 1980s, you probably saw him occasionally in shows like “The Love Boat,” “Matlock,” “Falcon Crest,” “The Fall Guy,” “Vega$,” “CHiPs,” and more. I usually play “the girl”. They had champions. Doug Kenney, who co-wrote “Caddyshack” and “Animal House,” was convinced of Morgan’s potential to transcend one-note femmes fatales. He asked Warner Bros. to show him “To Have and Have Not” so he could study Lauren Bacall and fine-tune his verbal ping-pong. Less than a month after “Caddyshack” opened, Kenney fell to his death in Hawaii.

Morgan, who attended Sister Theodore Guerin High School in River Grove (then an all-girls school, now closed) and worked toward the end of her life on a memoir titled “From Catholic School to Caddyshack,” was rarely comfortable playing a femme fatale . At NIU, he stuttered so much that he was initially placed in a speech class. In Chris Nashawaty’s definitive history, “Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story,” the author describes Morgan’s first scene in the pool, wearing a black one-piece and high heels, as if it were a scene from Jayne Mansfield’s “The Girl Can’t Help It.”

But after the film became a classic and Morgan was sought out by fans and journalists, he would state that by the time the film was made in 1979 he was legally non-contact blind, a poor swimmer, and afraid of heights (but could jump from heights). a staircase).

He exuded charm laced with the self-deprecation of a native Chicagoan.

In another life, she might have been Jennifer Lawrence. In his youth, Morgan was soldering snowmobile circuit boards for work at the Stewart-Warner manufacturing facility in Chicago; He accepted this job because his father was the factory manager. She was a top student at Sister Theodore, but chose NIU because she was uncomfortable with the small number of women attending a public event at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She had gotten a job as a “weather girl” at a Rockford TV station, but she was so bad, she told WGN radio, that after a newscast, her boss would take a Sharpie and write “Pacific” and “Atlantic” on maps.

His confidence grew after he returned to Chicago and settled at WSDM-FM (later WLUP “The Loop”, now WCKL). He spent five years working as a DJ and engineer on the morning drive until one day, during his shift, a station manager called: Overtime was being eliminated. He hung up the phone and walked out while the record was spinning on the record player.

He set out for Los Angeles, confident that he would find himself among real professionals, serious filmmakers, intimidating cinematographers and simply the best screenwriters.

He found himself making “Caddyshack,” an extravagant production he describes as a hedonistic ’70s grocery store party that he describes as “a celebration party every night.” As he told Nashawaty, the morning after the first day Murray was shot, he and Murray woke up naked on the beach.

This job, a life-defining event, was challenging.

Without her knowledge, producers invited Playboy to the set to photograph her nude scenes; yet he refused to play along, even though he was in his 20s and working in Hollywood for the first time. He also said the two should go on stage together after Chase insulted his inexperience. Even after she was hired, she wasn’t sure whether she would stay: whether the producers really wanted Bo Derek or a young Michelle Pfeiffer for the role.

Details surrounding his death are lonely. Morgan was last seen alive just before Christmas. A roommate returned home on December 30 and reported a foul odor coming from Morgan’s bedroom, where police found the actress dead. Details on the surviving family were not immediately available.

As sad as it sounds, he always had those who appreciated him. He spent years as a familiar face at comic book and fan conventions, happy to sign autographs and entertain fans with behind-the-scenes gossip. If the fans were middle-aged men who could quote “Caddyshack” all day long, he knew he’d be etched in their memories. He liked to say that they would approach a woman of a certain age, but soon Lacey Underall’s appearance would come into focus and Cindy Morgan would almost become famous again.

cborrelli@chicagotribune.com

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