Question: Help me win a bet, please. Wasn't Heather Locklear in The Fall Guy? — Bruce G., Kokomo, Ind.

Televisionary: Nope. That was Heather Thomas, and it's a common mistake people make when looking back to the time that both Heathers had shows on the air: Fall Guy (November 1981-May 1986, ABC) and Locklear's T.J. Hooker (March 1982-September 1987, ABC and CBS). Considering how they started out, both were in danger of being quickly written off as empty-headed blonde eye candy. Locklear, to her credit, has done a remarkable job of escaping that particular vacuum to launch an admirable career. And it's not like Thomas didn't try.

To see that Thomas had a brain in her head, one need only have looked at the Fall Guy makeup trailer, which sported a Thomas publicity photo taped to a mirror. In it, she wore a tank top and leaned against a street sign and smiled invitingly. On it was scrawled conflicting comments about her hair, positioning and clothing: "Position too flirtatious, looks like a hooker," said one comment. "Position OK, but bland," said another. "Can she give us more leg or even cleavage? Tank top great. Can we get it wet?" asked another. Thomas wrote both points of view herself and labelled the photo "Identity Crisis" after an argument among producers over the nature of her character. The viewers, for their part, favored playing up the physical over the intellectual aspects of her character: one of the show's highest-rated episodes in its first season featured the actress in a bikini, and the network promoted it heavily with shots of her cavorting in it.

Perhaps that's why when an interviewer came calling, many on the set took great pains to point out that the actress really was more than just a pretty... er, face. "She could easily be taken as just fluff — she can play that empty-headed quality so easily — but she's really a very bright lady," said executive producer Glen Larson. "I suppose if she were a balding man, nobody would be jumping in to say how bright she is," added costar Douglas Barr. "But she has such a fabulous body, I guess people feel they ought to mention what a sharp cookie she is, too."

(It's worth mentioning, by the way, that Thomas was perfectly capable of standing up for herself. After the crew forgot to put a chair on the set for her several times in the first season, she loudly asked, "What am I, chopped liver?" From them on, her trailer featured a tag informing passersby that it belonged not to Heather Thomas, but to "Chopped Liver."

Barr, meanwhile, could easily sympathize with someone trying to live down an on-camera image since he was saddled with the role of the rather unsophisticated Howie, cousin to series lead Colt Seavers (Lee Majors). Like Thomas, who was a UCLA film school grad and had aimed to be a filmmaker before being convinced to trade on her looks, Barr went from entering college with an interest in politics to a high-paying modeling career when the money proved too good to turn down. But unlike his costar, Barr came up against the riskier side of the job when trying to please Majors, who often wanted scenes done in a single take if possible — even when stunts were involved.

Now, Majors and Barr weren't allowed to do major stunts, but they were allowed to opt in when less dangerous work was involved. At least, when it was supposed to be less dangerous. Take the time Colt and Howie were supposed to be driving a pickup truck that would get pegged with a bad guy's exploding bottle. The trick was to ignite rubber cement in trays on the back of the truck, throwing a big puff of smoke in the air, then drive a mile down the road to a fire engineer who'd put out whatever small fire was burning. But "small" wasn't always a given.

"So we're driving along, the bad guys come, throw the bottle in and Lee pushes the button," Barr recalled in 1983. "But the fumes had built up or somebody had goofed and put in too much rubber cement. Instead of a ball of smoke coming up, a ball of fire, about 30 feet, went into the air. With the intensity of the explosion, the cab immediately sucked in all the black smoke and noxious fumes. We literally couldn't see from the front seat to the windshield. The fire engine's a mile down the road and we're driving like madmen. The heat is getting intense now and the window is crackling behind us — if that had gone on we would have gotten barbecued. Finally, we come to a halt by the fire truck and throw open the doors. But when we stop, the flames engulf the cab of the truck and we have to jump out through a wall of fire."

Why, you might ask, didn't Majors stop the truck right away? "We wanted to get it in the first take," Barr explained.

Hey, the show was supposed to be about danger, remember.