Sagal likes Peg Bundy but could live without her

Her ups and downs include backup with Dylan and Midler

May 22, 2004|By Joe Neumaier | Joe Neumaier,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Peg Bundy sings!"

Katey Sagal, who became famous playing the high-heeled housewife from hell on Married ... With Children, has heard that before.

Sagal, a singer for 30 years, releases her second album, Room, a collection of pop originals and classics, on June 1.

She also took over as the star of ABC's sitcom 8 Simple Rules last year after the sudden death of John Ritter.

But no matter what she does, her most famous TV character always hovers over her like a poofed-up hairdo.

"When I made my first record, in '94, it was harder for people to see me in a different way because I was ensconced in Peg's red wig," says Sagal, 50, who played shoe salesman Al Bundy's wife for more than a decade on the raunchy sitcom.

"I loved that wig, and that show, but when I would go to radio stations, deejays would say, `Maybe you could sing as Peg,' and I'd say, `Hmm, no.' But I understood that. I got it." In fact, she says she proudly keeps the wig in a plexiglass container in her basement. "Peg was tough," Sagal says admiringly. "She was a real broad."

For Sagal, there's been a lot of triumph and tragedy since she started in show business as a backup singer for people like Bette Midler, Bob Dylan and Olivia Newton-John. "I have one of those lives with very high highs and very low lows. That's how it's always been."

She says becoming a TV personality was an accident. "Things didn't work out the way I thought - I would be a rock star right now if it had been my plan."

Sagal was born in Los Angeles, where her mother was a singer and writer and her father a film director. For more than five years in the mid-1970s, Sagal sang backup for Midler as one of "The Harlettes." In 1978, she sang backup for Dylan - until he fired half the band and the singers, including Sagal, a week before the tour.

In her personal life, things were just as stormy.

She divorced actor-musician Jack White in 2000, though the marriage did produce two happy results: Sarah, 9, and Jackson, 8. She is now engaged to Kurt Sutter, a writer-producer for The Shield.

Her father, Boris - who directed, among other things, Elvis Presley's Girl Happy (1965) and the Charlton Heston sci-fi flick The Omega Man (1971) - was killed directing a TV movie in 1981, when he was struck by a helicopter blade.

Last fall, Sagal again found herself in the middle of tragedy : Ritter died of a heart attack after filming a few episodes of the second season of 8 Simples Rules. But the show continued with her and the rest of Ritter's TV family.

"As corny as it sounds, it's what John would have wanted," she says.

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