Avedon, Barbara Hammer (1930–1994)

views updated

Avedon, Barbara Hammer (1930–1994)

American television writer who, with Barbara Corday, created "Cagney and Lacey." Name variations: Barbara Hammer (ceased using her married name in the 1990s). Born Barbara Hammer in New York City in 1930; died in Palm Springs, California, on August 31, 1994; married and divorced; children: one son, Josh.

Television credits, 1969–1983: (co-written with Barbara Corday) episodes of "The Doctors," "Medical Center," "Maude," "Sons and Daughters," "Fish," "Trapper John, M.D.," "Grandpa Goes To Washington," "Harper Valley PTA," "Turnabout; (co-creator of the series) "Cagney and Lacey"; television movie: "This Girl For Hire" (1983).

Though Barbara Avedon is most known for her work in television, her final piece of writing appeared in a periodical called The Desert Woman. The last line reads, "Each star in the ink black sky reminds us that if we do right, our light will shine long after we are gone." It is a fitting tribute to the co-creator of "Cagney and Lacey," the first television series to give the viewing public a crime show in which the two central characters were female.

A longtime political activist, Avedon met Barbara Corday in 1968 when Corday joined the grassroots antiwar organization begun by Avedon and actress Donna Reed . Called Another Mother For Peace, the group made famous the slogan, "War is not healthy for children and other living things." Soon after, Avedon and Corday became writing partners. For the next few years, the team wrote for many successful episodic television shows. In 1974, they created and wrote the original pilot script for the series "Cagney and Lacey." It took the partners (plus Corday's then-husband Barney Rosenzweig) another eight years to convince a network (CBS) to back it.

The series, which starred Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless , looked at the lives and careers of two New York City women detectives. As Gloria Emerson of Vogue noted, "Daly plays a woman (Mary Beth Lacey) of principles, who runs out of hand lotion from time to time, wishes she could see more of her husband, Harvey, and have time for her kids." Gless' character, Christine Cagney, was Lacey's opposite. Single, pretty and datable, Cagney was in Emerson's words, "sweeter, more accommodating." Fortunately for the audience, the producers allowed the character room to grow. In the 1984–85 season, John Leonard of New York Magazine said, "The series is really about friendship and increasingly about adult sexuality, especially Cagney's … the sexuality on Cagney and Lacey is complicated by intelligence and doubt…. On Monday nights, I am watching grown-ups."

Ironically, though the series, which ran from March 1982 to August 1988, was never a ratings grabber, it nonetheless changed forever the way women are portrayed on television and will likely continue to be seen in syndication, as Avedon said, "long after we are gone."


Emerson, Gloria. "The Rewards of Tough Police," in Vogue. May 1983.

Hammer, Barbara. "A Desert Woman's Reflection," in The Desert Woman. Vol. 1, Issue 1, November 1994, pp. 12–13.

Leonard, John. New York Magazine November 26, 1984.

Thuna, Leonora. The Journal of the Writers Guild of America. October 1994.

Uhnak, Dorothy. "I'd Walk Through A Dark Alley with Cagney or Lacey Behind Me: A Female Cop's Testimonial," in TV Guide. February 2, 1985.

Deborah Jones , freelance writer, Studio City, California