‘Caddyshack’ actress comes home to Rockford

Matt Trowbridge

Cindy Morgan figured everything would be perfect and professional on the set of her first movie.

“Instead, it was kamikaze film-making,” the former Rockford TV and radio personality recalled today in a phone interview from her Florida home. “It was like ‘Animal House’ on a golf course. Getting anything done at all was amazing.”

Yet that movie defined Morgan forever as Lacey Underall when “Caddyshack” sparked more quotable lines than any movie since “Casablanca.”

“When I first did ‘Caddyshack’ I didn’t get a lot of press from it,” Morgan recalled 28 years later. “It didn’t get great reviews. No one knew ‘Caddyshack’ was going to be part of Americana. I think it’s because we were having the best time possible filming it. Everybody was in a silly mood the whole time. You can’t fool people. They knew we were really enjoying ourselves.

“When I watch ‘Caddyshack’ now, it makes me smile. It’s like watching home movies.”

Morgan returns to Rockford for the first time in 30 years next week to headline Tuesday’s Rockford Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

“Who said you can’t go home again?” Morgan said. “This is so cool. I can’t wait.”

Morgan credits her Rockford media background for allowing her to thrive during the madcap craziness of working with Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. While working full-time shifts at WROK radio and doing the weather at WIFR-23, Morgan said she’d occasionally point to the oceans while doing the weather, and once played a 33 rpm record at 45 rpms.

“Working in Rockford was the luckiest place in the world to start,” she said. “When I started in radio and television, I knew nothing about what I was going to do. I was able to make my mistakes there and everyone was so kind.”

Others made mistakes, too, making her improvise at WROK and WIFR-23. That prepared her for “Caddyshack.”

“Thank God I had the experience I had in Rockford, where a cameraman wouldn’t show up and it was hailing outside and you just had to learn to do your job.”

That was necessary training for a movie that began with one central idea, turned into four different movies cobbled together by comedians making things up as they went along.

“The original film was about the caddies,” Morgan said. “But we had four of the funniest men on the planet who were all trained in improvisation. A lot of that film was improvised. It wasn’t even rehearsed, let alone in the script.”

Like Chevy Chase dropping the bottle of oil on Morgan’s back during a massage scene. He was trying to irritate her. She knew it and wouldn’t give in, although her eyes flashed.

“Chevy and I locked horns over a couple of scenes,” Morgan said. “That’s not a bad thing. Passion reads as passion.”

Chase also surprised her with the scene where he plays the piano and sings “I was born to love you.”

“I was getting my makeup done back stage. Harold said come here and sit down,” Morgan said of director Harold Ramis. “I looked up and the camera lights were on. I knew this was going to be in the movie. Thank God I learned to read camera lights in Rockford.”

She also learned about power plays. Her contract called for a brief nude scene.

Morgan, who went to “12 years of Catholic school,” said the producer tried to capitalize on that by inviting a Playboy photographer on the set. Morgan’s agent was no help.

“He said, ‘Honey, you are not a doe-eyed girl from the Midwest. Handle it.’ So I did,” Morgan said.

Morgan, who was the Irish Springs girl at the time, told the producer she refused to film until the photographer left the set. She said the producer threatened her by saying, “You will never work in this business again.” Morgan won the battle, but didn’t get another job until she was cast three years later as Yori in “Tron,” a ground-breaking science-fiction film that drew rave reviews, but a smaller audience than “Caddyshack.”

“I’m still proud of that,” Morgan said of standing up to the producer. “It was a defining moment in my life.”

A quarter-century later, plans for a “Tron” sequel were announced earlier this week, Playboy has called again because Morgan is writing a book on “Caddyshack,” and she is making appearances around the country to promote golf’s most famous movie. Including in Rockford, where she got her start.

“The best thing,” Morgan said, “is nobody expects Lacey to golf, but everybody is happy to see her.”

Assistant Sports Editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.