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Blonde Ambition
Is everybody beneath Debra McMichael?
By Bill Banks


        How many of us are Melrose Place fans? Heather Locklear, one of the stars of the show, portrays Amanda Woodward—the beautiful but dangerous blonde who has schemed and connived her way to the top. Several seasons ago, Amanda purchased the apartment complex Melrose Place and found it an unlimited source of lovers, enemies and potential clients for her advertising business. Amanda is extremely demanding and when anyone crosses her there's hell to pay.

        Maybe the producers of the series were thinking of Debra McMichael when they created the character of Amanda Woodward.

        A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Debra grew up with three brothers and a sister in what she calls an average family. Her mother was a nurse, her father worked in a foundry and in her free time the high school cheerleader liked to ride horses on their 10-acre spread. But she dreamed of a career in television and movies.

        "Growing up, my parents were very protective, and they didn't even want me to become a cheerleader," Debra revealed in a telephone interview. "But I snuck out and did it anyway, and there wasn't much they could do about it. From there, I got involved in beauty pageants because I thought it would be fun to dress up in beautiful gowns."

        Debra went on to become Miss Illinois America and Miss Texas USA. In 1985 while on a Chicago flight Debra met the mother of her future husband, then-Chicago Bears football star Steve McMichael. After meeting on a blind date, the two hit it off and eventually married. It must have been like winning the lottery for the Southern belle. In her own words, their lifestyle was like "the Super Bowl every year." Money may not buy happiness, but it certainly helped Debra open a few doors.

        The beauty made certain that wherever Steve went, she was a star as well. As a result of their marriage, Debra was featured on ESPN and HBO, numerous sports talk programs and Oprah Winfrey's show on two occasions. In addition, Debra appeared in half a dozen television commercials, two of country singing star George Strait's music videos and landed roles in films such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre IV.

        "My second appearance on Oprah was the best," Debra recalls. "The topic was 'How do you handle your mate being a sex symbol.' Well, Steve was the NFL star, but I was the one who was the sex symbol on the show."

        When Steve entered World Championship Wrestling, it wasn't long before Debra accompanied him. The woman who came from Tuscaloosa with the dream of making it in show business must have fallen in love with the bright lights and the big city. After all, she was turning more heads than her husband.

        In the South is where Debra also first met Jeff Jarrett. Without much hesitation, McMichael quickly cast aside her husband for successful business relationship with Jarrett. Her marriage to Steve deteriorated and they soon divorced. Debra followed her protege to the World Wrestling Federation within a year.

        After debuting on RAW, McMichael quickly asserted her power. Proving she was above the gyrations of Val Venis when she resisted his advances—something other "ladies" would jump at—Debra turned the table and played Val! While the former beauty queen pretended to be interested in him, Venis left himself wide open to an attack by Jarrett. Other women superstars are no threat to Debra either. After Terri Runnels confronted McMichael over what she had done, the business woman simply shrugged it off like a fly. Once McMichael gets a reaction out of someone—male or female—they're little more than pawns in her game. In the big picture, the beauty knows that all who cross her will have to pay a price down the road.

        Jarrett's recent battle with Al Snow is another example of how Debra combines intelligence and beauty. After learning that Head had an eye for the ladies—and Debra in particular—McMichael did everything to take advantage of the situation. Soon Head was completely out of the fight, thanks to a shrewd strategy and her provocative attire. Debra knows what men want, and using that to her advantage is just one of her many skills.

        McMichael is equally clever in her business dealings. According to sources, prior to signing a contract with the Federation Debra made it clear that she would be the only one controlling her business dealings. Thanks to her connections in both entertainment and business, she seems to have the dirt of anyone who dares to challenge her. But one wonders what might happen if the beauty queen ever hungers for more. Would she cast aside Jarrett, like her former husband, to further her own career?

        After all, Amanda has no problem deceiving her long-time clients for the prospect of power and wealth on Melrose Place. Why would Debra do otherwise?