As a homicide detective, Rosemaria Baker is known for her street smarts, her feisty personality and her ability to nail the bad guys. Being the daughter of a cop and an actress gave little Rosemaria a dichotomous view of life. Her mother was inclined to get lost in her fantasies while her father had to face the harsh realities of a world filled with murder and mayhem. Nine-year-old Rosemaria loved both her parents and admired her mother’s talent but even at a young age she felt drawn to her father’s work as a detective, constantly begging him to share with her every detailed description of the dangerous criminals and close calls he survived while chasing the bad guys. Whatever Rosemaria did she did it well; be it hitting baseballs, shooting baskets, writing school papers, she put her all into every endeavor. When tragedy invaded her world at the tender age of ten, she survived because of her innate ability to compartmentalize her feelings and move forward. While still in college she was faced with a terrifying situation where she had to use all of her mental and physical capabilities in an effort to save her father’s life. Ignoring what would have been safe and expected of her and asking no one’s advice, she risked everything to find him and bring him home alive.
When you have a passion for your chosen profession, especially if it involves the arts, a lot may depend on luck and people you know or are related to in order to reach the pinnacle of success that you envisioned when you were young. After the years go by, and it looks as if that pinnacle may never be reached, discouragement, depression and hopelessness may set in. That doesn’t have to happen if you remember two things. One - besides your passion you also have a calling – something you were meant to do to help others that is just as important. Two - remember the first Rocky movie. Against incredible odds, a nobody was selected to go up against the world champ. Rocky Balboa trained as never before, reached the peak of his ability and almost won. Rocky told his wife before the fight that if he can go the distance he will have won. In life, if we go the distance we win – as a genuine, giving, loving person we can never be a loser, only a fabulous winner.
From the time I was in high school I thought that if I didn’t make it big as an actress by the time I was 40 I might as well be dead. Like Rosemaria’s mother in A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH I gave acting my all, put it ahead of everything and everybody and willed myself to become a star. But it didn’t happen. There were terrible betrayals by agents and casting directors, bad decisions by me, big stars who used nepotism to dump me in favor of their child or girlfriend, and, at times, just plain bad luck. I had my share of good roles but as my career moved along at a slow and steady pace, I realized my big dream was not going to happen. Amazingly, I didn’t want to die. There were other things in life that were important - my family, my friends, helping animals, enjoying nature and so many other things. If you want to make it big in any career it helps to be obsessive but if you put all your blood, sweat and tears into that one basket, failure can destroy you.
My heroine in my Hollywood Mystery books, Rosemaria Baker, has a close relationship with her father. He has always encouraged her, respected her and loved her unconditionally since she was a child. My own father was distant, cold and never showed the slightest bit of affection for me, my sister or my mother. He had endured terrible experiences as a young man during the Nazi occupation of Norway when he lived in fear every day as he worked as slave labor at an airfield where he never knew from one day to the next if he would be killed. Eventually he moved as far away from those experiences as he could and took his family with him to the U.S. But maybe he couldn’t ever erase the memories of those dark days in Norway. Maybe they hardened his heart for the rest of his life and caused him to shut us all out. I wondered how he could ever have married someone as sweet and loving as my mother and why she would want to be with someone like him. They never talked to me about their personal lives, so I’ll never know the answers to those questions. But I’ll always wonder.
It’s very exciting to launch a new book. For months I’ve been sharing my thoughts about writing, acting and life through book bubbles and this time I want to express how happy I am to share what Rosemaria Baker’s childhood was like in my new book, A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH. When I wrote DECEPTION – A Hollywood Mystery, I always knew what it had been like for Rosemaria to be the daughter of an actress and an L.A. homicide detective and that her young life had not been easy. I hadn’t thought of putting her childhood experiences into words until my publisher suggested I write a short prequel doing just that. So, before I publish the next instalment of Hollywood Mysteries, MALEVOLENCE, here is A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH that gives you some idea of how Rosemaria Baker grew up to be the intense, focused, persevering cop that she is.
Josh Sibley, singer/songwriter, is handsome, talented, smart and headed for oblivion. Alcohol provides relief when his demons threaten to overwhelm his every effort to break free of his past. When his friend Jennie Seger arranges for him to write songs for a multi-million-dollar feature, all his doubts and fears fall away, and he embraces the opportunity like a starving man who has found a bounteous feast during a famine. Lightning strikes his lonely heart in the form of singer/actress Lila Levy who is married to the producer of the movie and flaunts her sexuality at Josh knowing her breathtaking beauty more than makes up for her lack of talent. Knowing his love for Lila is doomed from the start, he overlooks her shortcomings and keeps his feelings under wraps as he teaches her to sing his songs. But this is Hollywood, and nothing is as it seems. Lila has secrets that Josh cannot begin to fathom and doesn’t want to know. When her husband Stan is murdered, Lila disappears and Josh is confronted by the woman determined to track her down - Sergeant Rosemaria Baker of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Rosemaria is the opposite of Lila; hates show business and considers Josh a delusional loser. When the cops track down Lila and bring her in, Lila declares herself innocent and the fight for the soul of Josh Sibley begins.
As I sit at my computer and write there is no greater joy than having my cats lying on the bed next to me, deep in slumber. Just looking at them makes me feel good. Am I a far-gone, nutty animal person? Absolutely! I can’t imagine life without animals. I’ve had a goat, rabbits, dogs, birds and cats as my best friends. Each and every one was special. My sweet Teeny loves to sit on the chair behind me and nudges my hair whenever my inspiration lags. I’m sure that when I stop typing, he thinks I’m not working. Doesn’t he know I have to take a few minutes off to search for words?! Yesterday, the veterinarian told me Teeny’s kidneys are failing and said he doesn’t have long on this earth. He gave him special food to eat and something to stimulate his appetite because he has lost so much weight. I choose to believe Teeny will overcome this and I’m asking God to spare him. I’m not ready to let him go yet. Not having Teeny looking over my shoulder as I work would be a terrible loss and leave an empty place in my heart.
In my new book Malevolence, Sammy the elephant is an avatar for the real-life elephant, Billy. For twenty years I have worked with others to free Billy from his prison in Los Angeles Zoo so he can be released to a sanctuary. He has lived at the zoo for over 30 years, was beaten with bull hooks as a child, and lives alone in his enclosure at the zoo as his health declines. Court cases have been filed, petitions signed, and we have testified in front of the City Council numerous times. But council members remain unmoved. Last year I developed a plan to free Billy and wrote about it in MALEVOLENCE. I sent the plan to Cher and Lily Tomlin who have spoken out on Billy’s behalf, but I received no answer. My plan would involve having both ladies be proactive in order to box the City Council into a corner and make it impossible for them not to release Billy. In a couple of months my book will be published, and I will send it to other celebrities who purport to care about elephants. Maybe one of them will go the extra mile for Billy. At times like this I do regret that I am not rich and famous.
I have been reminded lately of how commercials make us want to buy things we really don’t need. Those small laptops on TV look so sleek and easy to use and the new cell phones have so many interesting doo dads and take such great pictures. The gorgeous new cars I see in commercials are especially enticing. I’d love to have a screen on the dashboard and having Sirius radio would be fantastic. But after renting some brand-new small cars on recent trips, and then coming back home to my big, roomy, dependable 2004 Saturn, I really am able to appreciate that old thing. Why do I need to spend money on a new car that I don’t need just for a few extras? After being together for 17 years Satty feels like an old friend who never lets me down. And I’m not ready to let him go. As new fancy cars pass us by on the freeway I give him a pat on the dashboard and say, “You’re just as good as they are and so am I. We’ve got nothing to prove.” The two of us are growing old together but neither one of us is ready to be put out to pasture yet.
Horses have always had a special place in my heart. While living in Washington I volunteered to help physically, and mentally challenged kids overcome their social and physical fears by learning how to ride horses. Seeing their excitement as they become comfortable on top of these magnificent, gentle horses was incredibly fulfilling. The wild horses who roam free on our hills and prairies are a special breed – proud, independent and faithful to their families. The brutal helicopter roundups of these horses are heartbreaking to watch. That is why my friends and I wholeheartedly supported Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior. She promised to protect the wild horses. But she betrayed us with her insidious lies. She turned her back on the horses and condemned even more of them to slaughter. No matter who is in office, no matter what the political party they belong to or what candidates say, it’s always up to those of us who love nature and the animals to protect them and support the Earth’s lawyers who win our battles in the courtroom.
When I was seventeen I wrote an article for a contest for Brides Magazine and won a movie camera. Looking back now, it was an obvious hint from God to start making movies. But all I did was record my friends laughing and talking. Years later at UCLA film school I was so obsessed with my dream of being an actor that I didn’t take advantage of the wonderful classes I was attending and failed to write, produce and direct the short movie I needed to graduate. I would have had an incredibly talented cast and crew to work with, but I dropped out because I was getting cast in TV shows. A glorious opportunity wasted! No one told me that to work as an actor you either must wait for someone to cast you or make your own movie and act in it. The second way puts everything in your own hands instead of leaving it up to fate. Sydney Pollock was wonderful as Dustin Hoffman’s agent in Tootsie. He was both actor and director, and like many lesser known actor/directors, cast himself in his own movie. All these years later I’m finally trying to produce (not act) in my own movie. Is it too late? Did opportunity pass me by? Only time will tell.
There are three bands that I am immensely gratified I can still see in person. Two of the bands I have a personal relationship with, the third one I’m merely crazy about from afar. I first met Billy Vera at a backyard picnic of a mutual friend. He was so quiet and shy that I was shocked when someone told me he had a band, Billy and the Beaters. I couldn’t imagine this quiet guy up on a stage singing rock and roll. When I went to hear him play, my jaw dropped – he was a totally different in person – rambunctious and funny with an incredible voice. We became friends and I’ve faithfully followed him ever since. Rob Lind and the Sonics I first heard in concert and was bowled over by their R&B sound and Rob’s incredible sax playing. We married, he became a navy pilot, commercial director and airline pilot. Then the Sonics were rediscovered by hipsters and again began playing to sold out audiences all over the world. Rob and I are no longer together but the Sonics are as fabulous as ever. The Eagles were the soundtrack for my youth. And thank God, they are still playing. I’ll see them again in October. True love never dies.
As an antivivisectionist and health freedom activist, the past year and a half have been filled with challenges for me. The billionaires in the drug/vaccine/vivisection industry have taken over the world. The work I have been doing, along with hundreds of thousands of other people, to abolish animal experimentation, has gone through serious setbacks. Millions of people are willing to give up their freedom and endanger their health on the say-so of drug company criminals who have killed millions of people because of their never-ending lust for more money. Pursuing acting work used to drive my life. It was all-consuming. Whenever I’d get an acting job I’d be over the moon happy. It would still thrill me to be cast in a wonderful role, but my life’s calling to fight evil has taken over. There is so much more of it evident in the world right now. I’m only one person. I can’t make everything right. But I have to do my part, as do we all. The Chinese have an ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” I used to wonder why that was a curse. Now I know.
The arts are a place where we have freedom to express who we are as actors, dancers, writers, painters, sculptors and more. We are allowed to move beyond physical boundaries and challenges that we face in the outside world. Discrimination is left behind as we embrace and develop our God-given talents and share them with others. That freedom is now being threatened for many of us actors and writers as censorship and control of the television media has been taken over by the pharmaceutical industry. SAG-AFTRA, my own union is supporting discrimination against actors who have chosen not to be vaccinated. In the past, SAG-AFTRA has wholeheartedly fought every kind of discrimination. Now our leadership is firmly under the control of pharma and they would like to coerce actors into getting the Covid jab if they want to work. In a democracy we control what goes into our bodies. We’re fighting them on this. We’ll see how it all turns out.
In DECEPTION, my guy Josh tries to turn Rosemaria, the hard boiled detective, into a vegan. But the vegan pizza he convinces her to try just doesn’t have the delicious taste of real cheese. Josh has always loved animals so being a vegan is a no brainer. Rosemaria never thought much about the welfare of animals or where her meat comes from so she has a much longer journey to travel toward becoming vegan than Josh ever did. I, like Josh, loved animals since early childhood. I never wanted to eat them. But nagging people to think and do as you do is never a good idea. Nagging people to stop smoking doesn’t work either. I’ve had close friends gradually cut down on their meat eating and eventually, after a few years, become vegan. It wasn’t because I criticized them (although I let them know certain animal food choices on the menu would make me leave the table) rather it was because they heard and saw my activism regarding factory farming that influenced them. Their own conscience made them stop eating animal products. That’s how it should happen. It has to be their choice to make the change last.
My cat Teeny loves to sit behind me on my chair as I write. All he asks is a hug now and then and he is content. Teeny led his mother and little brother to my door one cold, rainy day up in Washington seven years ago. He asked for food and I fed them all out on the porch. Because they were feral they were a little skittish at first but gradually knew there were meals to be had on my porch and let me pet them. My neighbor and manager of our condo complex had already captured them, had them spayed and neutered and released them. One day, the teenager and little tot stood outside the screen door looking inside. They wanted to escape the snow and rain and live in safety and comfort. So in they came and have given me nothing but love and joy ever since. But Teeny is the one who feels the need to be near me at all times and help me with my work. No one could do a better job.
A famous writer once said that in order to be a good writer you have to read a lot of books. I’ve done that ever since I can remember. I’ve always checked out three or four books a week at the library, ordered books on my Nook and received books from friends. My favorite pastime is to wander around Barnes and Noble after someone has given me a generous gift certificate enabling me to buy at least three books. Heaven! When you’re a writer, you take on a lot of the same writing characteristics of the authors you love. For me, it’s Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Ann Perry, David Baldacci, Lee Child and Ann Rule. I hope I do them proud.
My faithful readers know I am working on packaging my own script. Even though it is low budget I need to find investors and have a pitch deck to give them. Right now, I am waiting for a well-known actress to say yes to our offer and my pitch deck will be complete. Then I can go out and raise money. I feel incredibly lucky to have assembled the team I have now. But getting that all important ingredient of a famous actress has proven to be illusive. When I look at movies on Netflix that probably were made for about the same budget as mine I wonder, “How did they do it? Did it take them years of work to make it happen?” When I was working as an actress I didn’t appreciate what it took to sell an idea for a TV show, and then convince a studio to make the pilot, and then allow the show to go on the air and be given a chance to succeed in the ratings. Being on this side of the process gives me a whole new insight into what it took to get me in front of the camera saying my lines.
During this debacle when pointless lockdowns destroyed many lives, the live music industry suffered terribly. Groups that made their living touring or playing local venues were out of business and out of luck. I have two friends who play in bands, and I love going to see them play. Not being able to took a lot of joy out of my life. My friend Billy Vera told me yesterday that Billy Vera and the Beaters will be playing at Vitello’s, a venue I love, in July. Finally! Billy is the king of the blues as far as I’m concerned, and I need an infusion of blues as soon as possible. I can’t wait to see and hear him again. I hope my friend/actor/musician Jude Ciccolella will be back in action again soon as well. Today I found out that my beloved Eagles are coming to the Forum in October. Prices are steep but nothing will stop me from being there. I never realized how much going to see my musician friends perform means to me until they were gone. But now that they’re all coming back, I will appreciate them more than I ever did!
I was channel surfing two days ago and came upon the Columbo Movie I did back in the 90s. I looked at the pretty girl with the long blond hair and thin figure and asked myself, “Who is that person?” Was that me? Plus, the lighting geniuses at Universal had spun their magic and made me look much better than I did in real life. I looked in the mirror and thought, “Yikes! I’m in need of help! How did I get here?” That’s one of the things about being an actor. As the years go by you get to see the changes that slowly happen with age. Actors do the best they can to hang on to their looks but unless you have J.Lo’s talented plastic surgeon to hold gravity at bay, you’re going to show a little wear and tear. I keep hoping I’ll win Publishers’ Clearing House one of these days in order to get my movie made and end vivisection. But maybe I’ll put a little aside in case I run into J. Lo and she can give me some helpful hints on how to never look old.
My hero in Deception, Josh Sibley, is having a lot more luck in his show business career than I am, especially in the not yet published sequel to Deception, Malevolence. Trying to package a low budget movie as I am trying to do is exceedingly difficult. But as they say, if it were easy, everyone would do it. I am now working on the last ingredient I need for my pitch deck, the portfolio I show to investors to convince them to invest – getting a leading lady attached. Because my project involves saving animals I had thought that if we approach animal loving actresses, we would have no problem getting them interested. But standing between them and us are the agents who want money up front and a definite contract. Because we can’t do that until we have investors, we’re caught in a catch-22 and must have the luck of the Irish in contacting the right actress who will jump at the chance to play a wonderful role that will also help animals. I hope it happens fast. I’m eager to get going on my last leg of my journey to start production – getting the money to make the cameras start rolling.
Right now, I’m watching my favorite TV show when I was young --- Perry Mason. And witnessing my acting teacher Darryl Hickman being accused of murder. And he was guilty! I used to love Darryl on The Loves of Dobie Gillis where his younger brother, Dwayne Hickman played Dobie. Little did I know then that many years later I would be lucky enough to end up in Darryl’s acting class. He was every bit as wonderful in person as he was on TV. Years after his appearance on Perry Mason I saw him play a murderer in a movie with Burt Reynolds and he was marvelous as a vicious killer. I had a huge crush on Darryl, but he was engaged which disappointed me terribly. As student/teacher we had a very close relationship but nothing more than that. It was the first time in my life that I was interested in being with someone instead of the other way around. And it was hopeless. My soul mate slipped out of my grasp.
Anyone who has read my memoir Learning How to Fly knows that to my parents acting was a sin and they did everything in their power to prevent me from following my dream. Acting was the road to ruination, to sleeping in the gutter and being damned to hell. My mother used to plead with me to go to law school and become a lawyer – a respected profession. But I kept moving forward toward my goal despite great blowback from my parents. In the upcoming sequel to Deception, Malevolence, Rosemaria becomes a prosecuting attorney and I had great fun describing her wheeling and dealing with criminals and their lawyers. I could have done that! But I chose acting. Now that my non profit People for Reason in Science and Medicine is fighting for health freedom and to preserve our civil liberties I wish somehow I could’ve found time to become a lawyer. Knowing my way around the legal system would sure come in handy now. I wouldn’t just have to advocate for our rights, I could actually go to court and fight for them.
In Deception, Josh and Rosemaria discover that they’re the most unlikely of soulmates. I never met mine. My best friend met her soulmate in high school but broke his heart by deciding she needed to experience more of the world before marriage. After two bad husbands for her and one bad wife for him, they met again, clicked again, were married in the most beautiful wedding I ever saw, spent several years together traveling, including sailing down the Seine in Paris, riding their Harley through the mountains and making up for all their years apart. They were meant to be together. Then two years ago he became ill, spent a year trying different therapies but last month he died leaving my best friend devastated. But if you ask her was her heartbreak worth it because she got to spend those few precious years with her soulmate, she’d say of course. If I had found my soulmate and then tragically lost him would I still want to meet him? You bet.
My cousin Peter told me that Tom Cruise is coming to Norway to film another movie. How I would love to be a part of that! I haven’t been able to visit Norway more than four times since we moved to the U.S. and for some reason, my last visit two summers ago, is so memorable, I can remember almost every single minute – My friend Jonas coming from Sweden to be my guide in Oslo and taking me to the incredible new Opera House, my cousin Peter showing me around Stavanger, my cousin Berit putting me up in her beautiful house above the fjord in my hometown, Sauda, and taking me on grueling hikes in the mountains, and lastly, my incredible time in Bergen with Berit and her daughter where I bought a suitcase full of Norwegian thrillers. I have no idea why that trip is so ingrained in my mind. I’m already visualizing what I want to see and do on my next trip. Not going home again is unthinkable.
I am almost finished writing A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH, a prequel to Deception - A Hollywood Mystery. It is a short novella giving readers a taste of what Rosemaria Baker’s life was like when she was young and how she became the person and great homicide detective she grew up to be. I will publish it before the sequel to Deception – which is called Malevolence – A Hollywood Mystery which will be ready to go after editing by the publisher. The prequel, like the other Rosemaria and Josh mysteries wrote itself. It seems as if my characters have lives of their own and I just have to type fast to keep up with them. It was great fun writing about Rosemaria’s childhood and her journey to becoming a cop. I hope everyone enjoys it.
As an actor, all we have to worry about is getting an agent, getting auditions and, by hook or by crook, booking that acting role. Producers have to raise money, build relationships with networks or movie studios, get their projects sold or optioned, hire crew, work with writers, scout locations, hire all the people involved in a production, and a thousand other things that it takes to get a show or movie off the ground. Actors arrive after all the hard work as been done to say their lines and bring the scripts to life. Now, as a producer, working extremely hard to get my own movie produced, I am facing all the same obstacles faced by producers since the beginning of movie making. Unless you have family or friends in the business or are rich enough to finance your own projects, it’s not easy. I may not have any of those things but I have vowed to only work with nice people and as I move forward, so far that is exactly what is happening. I have faith that everything I’m working toward will happen in good time.
At one time or another most of us feel overwhelmed with the different tasks we’re expected to perform. In MALEVOLENCE, my upcoming sequel to DECEPTION, my heroine Rosemaria Baker proves herself to be an excellent multitasker. She actually thrives on it! But having too many things to be and do can be overwhelming at times --- some of our jobs can include wife, mother, writer, bank teller, business owner, secretary, doctor, PTA president and the list goes on and on. A few years ago, I read a book about writing. In it, the writer tells the story of how she landed a huge book publishing deal and had to write about and draw several hundred species of birds. She panicked and asked her father, “How am I ever going to get all of this done?!” And he calmly said to her. “You’ll get it done just fine, bird by bird.” And she did get it done, just like we all will, bird by bird.
As a young girl in Seattle I used to watch Perry Mason with my mother every week. I would study the credits and wonder who all those people were and how they got there. I wish I had known then that many of those directors and some of the actors and even the makeup man were people I would come know as an actress in LA. When I went down alone to Hollywood, knowing only one person, not having a clue about pictures and resumes, not knowing how to get an agent or what it took to join the union, I was just as nervous as every other struggling actor wondering if I ever would find work. I didn’t realize until recently watching Perry Mason reruns that I had worked with many of the directors on the show. If I had known they had worked on Perry Mason, I could have asked those directors what it was like to work with Raymond Burr whose acting I very much admire and what working on TV was like in those days. Opportunity lost. I wish I could go back.
I’m now deeply involved with packaging a script I wrote. We’re finally making some headway, have almost finished our pitch deck and it looks good. We have one Oscar winner in our cast and now need a leading lady. We know who we’d like but convincing her to sign on before we have funding is the difficult part. Even more difficult will be finding investors and then convincing them to invest. This is my first time doing this and only because this movie involves animals, am I putting my heart and soul into trying to get the movie made. This movie, a thriller, has an underlying message that must be told. When I see well-made, low budget movies I have immense respect for the producers who made it happen. It’s far from easy. I wish I had done this years ago but where there’s life there’s hope and I intend to move forward until the movie is released and reaches an audience of millions. I guess that sounds pretty optimistic, even unrealistic, but all things are possible when we have right on our side.
My acting teaching Eric Morris has written another terrific book on acting called The Actor’s Other Selves. In it he describes in detail how to use our subpersonalities to enrich our acting craft. As I was reading I started thinking about my own subpersonalities and how they have affected my life. We all have them – TEACHER, VICTIM, MARTYR, WARRIOR, FIGHTER, TRUTHTELLER, and many more. I realized while reading the book that my VICTIM personality came into play when I was quite young and spent too much time in control of my life. Playing the VICTIM or the MARTYR can be very destructive in our lives. Thankfully, my FIGHTER and TEACHER finally came on strong. I’m looking forward to using the book as a guide to using this technique as soon as Eric’s classes open up again. I wish I’d know about it during my younger acting years so I could have given more depth to the roles I played.
My publisher told me it would be a good idea to write a short novella prequel to DECEPTION in order give readers the backstory as to how Rosemaria became a cop and the strong woman that she is. I hadn’t considered doing that but as soon as I did, little nine-year-old Rosemaria demanded that her story be told. She had a lot to say about her father the homicide detective and her beautiful mother the aspiring actress. For years her childhood was ideal with two loving parents showering her with affection. Then, as happens to most of us, her life turned dark and tragic. Rosemaria had to learn through her pain that fear, once faced, never again can have power over those who choose to value life and the people they love.
I just ordered a Norwegian thriller from Norway so I can stay fluent and in touch with my roots. I don’t know why I constantly feel such a longing to be in Norway. It’s much too late to move back now. Everything that I do, and all my friends are in the US. People I know who grew up in Encino, Woodland Hills and other cities don’t seem to feel as strongly as I do about where they spent their childhood. Maybe it’s my connection with the hills, fjords and mountains themselves that draws me back - living in a town at the end of a fjord at the base of mountains, listening to the river flow by outside my bedroom window, hiking in the hills with my friends, swimming in mountain lakes, and enjoying the winter wonderland that we were gifted with every year. Every minute of the time I spent in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and my hometown Sauda two summers ago is ingrained in my memory. I’ve applied for dual citizenship which wasn’t allowed when my parents brought me here. Maybe Norway will accept me back. Meanwhile, I stay close to my roots by reading books. Jo Nesbø is my favorite.
Because many people have been forced to work from home and are alone much of the time we live in a world where we now feel apart from others, aching to just get together with other people and have fun. Staying emotionally balanced has become a challenge. We need physical touching and bonding with friends and family and forced to face the challenges that the outside world puts us through every day. I miss that so much! For me, the answer is, fight back. Becoming victims makes us depressed and suicidal. Don’t accept that you are helpless. Read, research, use your common sense and stand up to the people who are using and suppressing us for their own ends. I’m lucky. I am president of a nonprofit that is fighting back. (peopleforreason.org) My calling and my true nature is to be a truthteller. Not only is it cathartic, it saves me from ever becoming a victim. My mother, in her nineties, used to say in her heavy Norwegian accent, “I’m so happy I still have my brain!” And she did. As do we all. Use your brain. Don’t be a victim.
I have read hundreds of true crime books and some of what happens to real people inevitably finds its way into my stories. I love true crime authors like Ann Rule, Gregg Olsen and Carlton Stowers who focus on the victims and their families and on the detectives and prosecutors who are dedicated to bringing murderers to justice. I recently discovered that one of those writers, Carlton Stowers, had a son who committed murder. While Stowers was winning awards for his books, his son was making his life hell. Stowers did everything possible to help his son and get him on the right track, but it proved to be a hopeless endeavor. For years, Stowers and his family suffered terribly because of the crimes committed by his oldest son until finally his son killed his own ex-wife and was imprisoned. In prison, Stower’s son developed enough of a relationship with his father to contribute to a book about their ordeal, Sins of the Sons. Through all of the hardships, disappointments and depression, Stowers managed to keep writing and become one of the most respected writers in his genre. For all of us writers who sometimes get discouraged and find it difficult to face a blank page, he serves as an inspiration.
On Martin Luther King day I wrote on my FB page about how he gave everything, including his life to fight racism. With Obama’s election his dream seemed to have come true, but the next administration ratcheted up racism to a fever pitch never seen before. We must work hard to undo this. I live by MLK’s words – “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” In my own work to expose the lies, greed, corruption, and complete disregard for human life of the pharmaceutical industry I take positions that go against what is reported in the media and against the belief system of the majority. But I’ve been called to be a truthteller and cannot do otherwise. My wonderful Rosemaria, heroine of DECEPTION, is not afraid to stand up for what she believes no matter what. In the upcoming sequel MALEVOLENCE she goes even further in risking everything to do what’s right. I like to think there is a little bit of me in her and a little bit of MLK, Jr. I hope so.
It’s more difficult than ever for young people to get started in show business. Because of this debacle, meeting people and networking is almost impossible. If you don’t already have a good agent and connections, getting acting work is almost impossible. Just before the craziness hit, a young actor friend of mine impressed me with his diligence in working on his craft. He’d had one great role on TV and a commercial here and there. Instead of getting a swelled head, he kept attending his actors’ group, taking classes in acting in front of a camera, doing scenes for casting directors and taking feedback to heart. He now has a national commercial that appears many times a day on every channel and on movie screens in theaters. His face is now familiar to all of us. The commercial gives him a great opportunity to show what a terrific actor he is. I have no doubt offers are pouring in. He never thought he had “made it,” always worked hard to get better and eager to learn more. He has demonstrated to those of us who know him that hard work pays off bigtime.
I just spent two days locked in a hotel room working on the sequel to Deception – no TV, no email, no texting, no phone calls. When I finally emerged, it was to havoc being committed in the capital. It was incredibly difficult to come back to the real world. When I write I become so immersed in my story and my characters, especially Rosemaria and Josh that they become more real to me than reality. I feel as if I can go over to Rosemaria and Josh’s apartment in West Hollywood, knock on the door and say hi. And I know they would make me feel welcome. I always feel that they have such strong personalities that they already know exactly what they’re going to do and I have to type fast to keep up with them. I run a nonprofit and am an actor as well so I can’t spend every day writing about Josh and Rosemaria even though doing that is my ultimate pleasure. I’m sure if I could do that, I would enter another dimension and possibly never emerge back into this world. (Not really, but sometimes, especially right now, it is a lovely thought.)
I wrote last time about my first movie director Clint Eastwood and how inspired I was to hear that he is now working on an action movie which he will direct and star in. He’s in his 90s but that hasn’t slowed him down one bit. Wow! My acting teacher Eric Morris is the same. Eric starred in many TV shows when he was young and then realized his true calling was to be a teacher. He is absolutely brilliant in helping actors act from a true organic place. His book No Acting Please says it all. Since that first book he has written many others and is about to publish a new one. I can’t wait to read it. Eric is in his late 80s but to meet him you’d swear he was a lot younger. His energy and passion are the same as when I first met him in acting class 30 years ago. Like Clint he refuses to slow down. Both of them are determined to live life to the fullest doing what they love. Not for them are boring cruises, or sitting in a rocking chair waiting for the inevitable. No, they will go out in a blaze of glory never regretting a moment of life. They inspire me to do the same.
Recently, a friend told me that my very first director and major crush Clint Eastwood has started work on his next movie. He is not only going to direct but act in an action movie! Wow! Clint is now in his nineties and is still going strong. He has a passion for film making and acting that will never die. I absolutely want to be like him. I have no urge to go on endless cruises or sit around for any length of time on faraway beaches. If I get to have a vacation I’d rather spend it in Italy going to museums, in England learning about all the historic places and, of course, in Norway, visiting my home town and soaking in the glory of God’s creation. But moving forward with work for the animals and trying to get my own movie made are where my passions lie. Clint is my inspiration. And I still have a major crush on him.
Someone told me that the relationship between my two protagonists in DECEPTION is difficult to understand – Josh is in show business and Rosemaria is a police detective who hates show business. But I beg to differ. The careers and passions of two people may seem to be diametrically opposed but they can still be soulmates. The important thing is to support each other one hundred percent. Josh spends days and nights working on a song in the recording studio. Rosemaria spends several weeks tracking down a killer. But Rosemaria loves Josh’s music and respects his immense talent, and Josh, after being initially put off by Rosemaria’s kick-ass attitude, comes to respect her dedication to finding justice for crime victims. Rosemaria learns to love the animals who mean so much to Josh, and Josh accepts Rosemaria’s support in overcoming his alcoholism. To outsiders, they may seem too different to love other but their hearts knew from the first they were soulmates.
With so much time on my hands, I’ve been reading even more true crime besides watching it on TV. Ever since I read The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, I’ve been hooked. Murder usually takes place between friends and family, especially spouses. It is not just the lower middle class and poor who commit murder. It’s surprising how many rich, successful, religious people decide to eliminate their spouses. I was just reading about an extremely religious, judgmental wife who taught young wives in her church to totally subjugate themselves to their husbands. After 30 years of this, the husband snapped and beat her with a pipe as she sat at the piano. I’m always amazed at the beautiful mansions some of these people live in. Now, sometimes, with my overactive imagination, I look at supposedly ideal couples and wonder if there are homicidal tendencies lurking somewhere in the psyches of those people. No one is safe.
The hero of Deception, Josh, is involved in the music and movie business. I believe show business is the most brutal business there is after politics. People give their lives to become rich and famous and fall to the depths of hopelessness when those dreams crash and burn. One of my favorite actresses from when I was a child wrote a book called Famous Enough, and the title says pretty much what I feel. I was able to fulfill my dreams of working with some of the best actors in the business and loved every minute of being an actress but when it all fell apart (as I describe in my memoir Learning How to Fly) you have to have something more to fall back on, like a special purpose in life beyond your career. But that doesn’t mean you don’t go on trying to accomplish more. As I continue to work on packaging my movie and meeting with one obstacle after another I am determined to keep going. I want to do this movie in order to help animals and like Josh, helping animals is more important to me than rejections or disappointments. Like the Energizer Bunny I refuse to give up.
My hero in Deception is a singer/songwriter but like most creative people has to have another job to support himself. In Josh’s case, he works as a caretaker at the zoo. Josh loves the animals that he takes care of but he hates seeing animals meant to live in the wild being imprisoned in small enclosures. Elephants especially need hundreds of miles to roam to stay healthy. And they need friends as companions. Sammy the elephant in the zoo where Josh works is in solitary confinement. Billy, a real-life elephant, has been imprisoned for over 25 years in the L.A. zoo. Billy bobs his head up and down constantly which indicates that he is losing his mind. His eyes look dead with hopelessness. He was beaten as a youngster to teach him to do as he is told or suffer more pain. We will continue to work towards Billy’s release to a sanctuary but overcoming the greed of zoo officials who look upon the animals as nothing more than amusement park rides is difficult. However, giving up is not an option.
Music feeds my soul and hearing bands in person is heaven to me. When I went to see the Eagles play in Las Vegas last year I enjoyed them so much I was on a natural high for two weeks. My friend Billy Vera has a band The Beaters and no one in the world sings and plays the blues better than Billy. Whenever I would feel down, a good dose of Billy Vera and The Beaters would get me back to normal. I’m a blond Norwegian so who knows why I have so much affinity for the blues, but I do. I’m sure I fell in love with my first husband because he played R&B with his band The Sonics and his sax playing was like nothing I had ever heard in my life. I miss going to hear my bands in person. I can't wait for this debacle to be over so I can enjoy listening to incredible musicians play in person. I miss it!
When the world is chaotic and politicians and big corporations are running amok and stripping away our civil liberties, it is overwhelming to all of us. As the president of a nonprofit who fights everyday for the rights of individuals, animals and the environment, even I want to run and hide. The stress of telling the truth when millions of people don’t want to hear it can get wearing. I feel so fortunate that as an actor and especially as a writer I can escape the real world for awhile and get lost in another world with my beloved characters and block out reality for a least a short time every day. My stories do involve problems that my characters must solve but, in the end, they do solve them, and life gets better. I pray that the craziness that is going on now will end soon and our lives will return to the normal we used to take for granted.
When I was a young girl the first true crime book I read was In Cold Blood by the incomparable Truman Capote. The killings were gruesome but the anatomy of the crime and the lives of the two criminals as related by Capote were fascinating. I then read A Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule about Ted Bundy, who she had worked with at a suicide hotline phone bank. I read every Ann Rule book after that and became a dedicated true crime reader. How does a kind, compassionate, nonviolent person become so interested in murder? Who the heck knows? But considering the mass amount of true crime TV that is extremely popular now, a lot of other perfectly normal people find it fascinating too. Maybe, it makes us feel safe. Or we might think, “Thank God that isn’t me who has that kind of scary, dangerous family!” Whatever the reason, when I sat down to write a novel, of course it had to be about crime and murder. A writer I admire used to say to me, “There is no drama in a misdemeanor.” And he was correct. So murder it is.
While writing my memoir, Learning How to Fly, and then Deception I discovered how much I love writing books. I had written several scripts through the years and enjoyed that very much too. Several actors, directors and producers optioned my scripts but none of them managed to get a studio deal. So I decided I would write a low budget thriller, First Do No Harm, and raise the money myself. How hard could that be? As it turns out it’s harder than getting an acting job. First you have to put your team together, get a director attached and at least one A list actor before you can go out and try to find investors. But agents don’t want their people attached unless there is money up front. It’s Catch 22 – you can’t get money without A list actors and you can’t get A list actors without money. This is the predicament I find myself in now. Because the sub theme is near and dear to my heart (animals) I will not give up. Like the song says, “The difficult I’ll do right now, the impossible will take a little while.” I’m ready to conquer the impossible.
In the past few years and especially in the past few months the way we actors audition has changed drastically. Back in the day, agents would go by producer’s offices and try to get us auditions. Then maybe ten people would be called in to read for the director and producer, they would decide who they want and that was it. Now, thousands of actors submit over the internet for every role. Casting directors sift through the headshots, an untold number are asked to make audition tapes which must abide by strict guidelines, then we send them to our agent who sends them on to the casting director who decides which ones will be seen by the director and producers who then make their choice. I feel sorry for young actors entering the business in this day and age. The odds are against them. They have no chance to win over directors and producers with their personality as well as their talent. But time marches on and unfortunately that’s just the way it is.
Josh Sibley, my main man in DECEPTION, is based in L.A. but gets to spend some time in New York as well. When I went to NY for the first time with a person I never should have been with (read my memoir Learning How to Fly for details) I fell in love with the city at first sight. It was everything I thought it would be from the movies and TV shows I’d seen. But the joy didn’t last long as I had to move back to L.A. to flee unpleasant circumstances. Years later, I moved back to NY on my own – no job, little money, no place to stay but again, I loved it. Through God’s grace I found a rent-controlled apartment, plenty of work, friends, a Broadway bound (almost) musical, singing with a gospel group and my cat Squeeky to keep me company. I was in heaven. It may seem strange that a girl who was born in Norway and was used to the most spectacular scenery in the world could love the fast pace, frenetic energy, crowds and city canyons of NY. But I sure did. If I were wealthy I would own a co-op there and visit often. There are many sides to all of us. Be sure to explore and enjoy them all.
It’s obvious from the work I do for animals, from what I wrote in my memoir Learning How to Fly and from the subject matter of Deception, that I love animals. Today I was ecstatic when I learned that France has banned wild animal circuses and that Poland and Lithuania are not far behind. The entire UK has banned wild animal circuses. Animal activists in Europe are incredible and making big positive changes in ending animal cruelty. Here in the U.S. we shut down Ringling for good but other circuses and zoos continue to abuse wild animals. We’re working on putting them all out of business and we'll never give up.
Like my singer/songwriter Josh, in Deception, most singers, actors and dancers have to take “survival jobs” to be able to continue to audition and follow their dreams. For Josh, it was working at the zoo. He was not happy working there and considered the place a prison for animals, but at least his best friend was there as well. I have worked hundreds of temp jobs and sometimes the sheer boredom and repetitiveness of the work threaten to take your sanity. I have worked in car dealerships, hospitals, hundreds of offices, factories, banks and as a personal assistant to the mother-in-law of a famous presidential candidate and senator who was the meanest woman I ever met. Spending your life working at jobs you hate, going to acting classes, having endless head shots done, nagging your agent to get you out is not fun. That’s why my advice to young actors is – if you don’t absolutely have to do this, do something else. The rewards can be great but they may never come. Taking a chance on a big maybe is not for everyone.
Rosemaria Baker, the heroine in my book DECEPTION, is independent, feisty and loves her job as a police detective. I grew up in the “Cinderella Complex” generation when husbands were the boss, made all the important decisions in the family and only through men could you find success in your career, if you had one. That was me. Then I lived on my own in NY for several years, had some struggles (as I write about in my memoir LEARNING HOW TO FLY) and eventually had my epiphany that put me on the right track. Every once in awhile I slide back into my old way of thinking but quickly recover. We can be married, in love or just dating and be a wonderful partner but still retain our sense of independence. And that’s exactly what will happen to Rosemaria in MALEVOLENCE the sequel to DECEPTION. Stay tuned!
When young people ask me, what is the best way to get started as an actor I tell them – know somebody famous in the business who will help you, preferably somebody who is a close relative. That’s by far the best way. Actors of every age and type have managed to find work on their own through sheer perseverance and a lot of luck. But no one should go into the business unless they feel they absolutely have to. There’s too much rejection and disappointment involved unless it means the world to you. Otherwise, you just won’t last. If you have no relatives in the business, it helps to be young, attractive, talented and persistent. If you only have desire and persistence, I say go for it. You never know if you will be that special person whose break will come out of nowhere and you’ll become a working actor. As for how I got my first break, you’ll have to read my memoir, Learning How to Fly! Thank you, Clint!
Josh, my wonderful singer and songwriter in Deception is very real to me. I have known several musicians and when a person has a musical talent, I consider him or her to be extremely blessed. I took piano lessons for nine years starting in grade school. I practiced hard for an hour every day but knew I was never going to be a musician. That is something innate you are born with. I loved singing and begged my parents for singing lessons instead. But my parents were determined that I continue with the dreaded piano lessons. In later years I did take singing lessons and was able to perform in public but the gift of being able to play the piano will always be with me. Now I can play and sing for my own enjoyment. Linda Ronstadt, one of my favorite singers says that is why she sang, for the joy of singing. Thank you parents, for forcing me to do those piano exercises every day. It has paid off in a lot of joy.
Rosemaria, my heroine in DECEPTION is a terrific detective, very intuitive and focused. When we first meet her, she knows what she does best, knows what she likes and doesn’t like and lives her life concentrating on her career. But even though she has some preconceived notions about certain things and seems a little intransigent, she still is open to possible change and letting someone into her life who is less than her ideal. She overcomes her initial reticence and the result is attaining a joyful life she never expected to have. We all need to be open to new experiences, meeting a variety of people, traveling to places we never thought we’d visit. When we do, our life will become enriched in ways we never expected.
Josh Sibley my musician/songwriter in DECEPTION has had a hard time getting anywhere in the music business even with his immense talent. Josh is like some singers and songwriters I have known who have gone through that same kind of constant rejection. If an actor has a relative who is a director, producer or star of a TV show, that actor will most definitely work on that show. But in the music business, it doesn’t matter if your relative is famous, getting a record deal yourself and finding fame and fortune is next to impossible. There are always exceptions to the rule. After Glenn Frey died, Don Henley was ready to break up my beloved Eagles. Then at Glenn’s funeral his son Deacon sang and knocked everybody for a loop. I guess they’d never heard him sing before. He seamlessly fit into the group and the Eagles continued on. Thank God. I saw them in Las Vegas and Deacon was fabulous, as was the entire show.
When people ask where I get my ideas and story lines for my books I think of the people I have known who have given me a wealth of information. One person especially comes to mind. He was the son of a famous child actor who grew up to be a famous adult actor. This friend of mine was immersed in show business from birth. He knew all the inside information about all kinds of famous people. When he would tell me stories I would say more times than I can count, “No, that can’t be true!” What you read in gossip magazines is nothing compared to reality. To me, his stories weren’t really gossip, because they were true, and I knew that all those crazy exploits would someday come in handy. And now that I’m writing about Hollywood and show business murder and mayhem, those stories, as I predicted, have turned out to be very useful. Truth is stranger than fiction yes, but I get to have fun turning truth into fiction.
People have suggested that I write a one woman show based on my memoir Learning How to Fly. The book does have many humorous moments, music, drama and all the elements necessary to make for an entertaining evening, but I resisted the idea. What I love most about acting is the interaction between actors, not only on stage and in front of the camera, but the preparation and discussion about the story and various characters that happens before doing a play. Learning lines and using your craft to prepare is a solitary endeavor but then comes the moment when you put what you have prepared to use. I am constantly surprised at what actors who I work with will bring to their roles and how I am challenged by them to react in ways I hadn’t planned on. That is the fun of acting for me. Being alone on stage in a one person show is not nearly as fulfilling to me as working with others. I need that connection in real life as well. I miss the smiles of strangers, friendly conversation, socializing with friends, all the human interaction we need to be normal and happy. All of that has been stolen from us and we will never be the same.
People sometimes ask me of all the really famous actors I worked with, who was my favorite? I have to say, it’s difficult to choose. But it seemed like the more famous they were the nicer they were, especially the veterans. Jack Palance was a legendary figure to me before I worked with him and people told me it was rumored he could be temperamental and difficult. The total opposite was true. He was kind, gentle, considerate and loved his big menagerie of animals more than life itself. Tony Curtis was the consummate professional and had a great sense of humor. I felt honored to be working with him. But I have to say my very favorite was Peter Falk. Every day he had a twinkle in his eye, was always ready to run lines, would ask if a direction I was given was helpful and treated extras with the respect they deserved, When his wife came on the set I told her I wanted to run off to Mexico with him and too bad he was in love with her. She laughed. We had worked together on a show where one of the leads had little regard for other actors. Peter was special. His talent was awesome and most important, he loved animals.
Recently, having to write several papers for my non–profit reminded me of how much I do love to communicate with the written word. Before and during my career as an actress I would write stories and scripts in my spare time, but it wasn’t until I tackled writing a novel that I realized that this is something I really care about. I feel like I wasted so much time not doing it a long time ago. Now I even have a blog at brittlind.com where I’ll be writing mostly about my work as an anti-vivisectionist. For years, when it came to my activism, I followed others. I went to protests and meetings, always taking a backseat to people who were much more aggressive than me. Now that I am president of an AV non-profit and have to speak to large groups and research and write informative pamphlets I’m actually enjoying being able to express myself, especially with the written word. My passion and my calling joined to effortlessly give voice to my feelings.
Spending a lot of time at home in my little office where I research and write I end up looking out the windows a lot. One view is of the hillside that is part of the botanical gardens. Right outside my window are trees, flowers, bunnies, squirrels, pheasants, birds, bees and butterflies. There are lots of blue jays and one of them thinks he owns me. Early in the morning he sits outside on the railing and starts squawking that he wants his almonds and, of course, I oblige. He sits on the railing as I place them in single file and is ready to hop on my arm if I don’t do it fast enough. He is the only blue jay who won’t fly off until he can fit three almonds into his beak. It may take awhile but he keeps trying until he has three. Then he flies off to wherever he has his nest. When I was young I dreamed of living in a big mansion and giving lots of money to animals. Life didn’t work out that way, but I love where I live and I still help animals. Big isn’t always best.
During this downtime period in the movie/TV industry actors have had to do a lot of self-taping. One casting director asked that we just talk about ourselves and share who we are with them – roles we’d like to play and so forth. I did that and told stories of how sometimes I did everything I was asked to do in an audition – knew my lines perfectly but because someone threw a wrench into the process I lost those roles. I told of how Alan Jay Lerner, composer of My Fair Lady and other big musicals, wanted me to play Gigi in the stage version at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion but Katherine Hepburn wanted her protégé to do it. They argued and Alan lost and so did I. I was asked to audition for Gypsy at the Music Center with Debbie Reynolds as the star. They wanted me, but Debbie said if her daughter Carrie didn’t do it, she would drop out. They didn’t want Carrie and the show was never done. At the time I was heartbroken but if you hang on to frustration and bitterness it is said that it’s like drinking acid and hoping the other person dies. Good things are always ahead of you. No need to drink acid for anybody.
I think most writers love to read. I love reading almost all genres but detective books especially. Some successful writers concentrate on the investigation of the crime and have little time to concentrate on personal relationships and growth. Others delve deeply into the hearts and minds of their characters besides having fascinating investigative plots. One of my favorite crime writers was a screen writer and reading his books is like watching a terrific movie. Another writer I know was also a screen writer but his writing is so spare you have to fill in a lot about the characters yourself. As for me, I want my plot to be intriguing but I also care deeply about my characters who come to life out of my imagination but are very real to me. They move forward investigating the crime but they also manage to escape my keyboard and start racing forward on their own. It’s all I can do to keep up with what they insist on doing. I just try to describe their adventures as best I can. It’s impossible for me to ignore their thoughts and feelings. It’s fun and exciting to find out what they’re going to do next.
In telling the story of Rosemaria and Josh, Josh’s friend Noor, a black panther, is very real to me. Writing her inner feelings was as natural as writing about a human being. I had a friend who raised a panther in Beverly Hills (not the right thing to do) and when this girl got too big he took her to live in a sanctuary. I’ll never forget when I met her. She ran up to my friend and practically hugged him. Then she turned to me and let me pet her, perfectly comfortable with my presence. At one point I was alone with her on the grass, laying down, scratching her tummy. A tour cart came by and I heard the guide say, “These cats may seem tame to you, but you must remember they are wild animals. Only sanctuary workers and the people who the cats know are ever allowed inside the fences.” I froze in place, looked at this cat who was gnawing on my arm and thought, “Uh, oh, this is awkward.” But the moment passed and call me crazy but I think she knew that I felt her loneliness and her strong desire to live free. But my friend had made that impossible.
This time of staying at home and actors being delegated to auditioning over the internet, has been a supreme challenge to a lot of us. Actors are mostly right brain people. We are creative and go by our feelings. We are usually not the most technical of people. Having to figure out how to self-tape, deal with our phone video camera, tripod, lighting, set up and all the rest, then actually having to act is difficult. And then there’s the challenge of having to send your audition tape on to the right person. Trying to figure out how to set up a home studio and audition for voice overs is even more difficult. When I took an online course SAG offered us members last week I figured it would all be so easy. It’s just your voice what could be so difficult? But setting up a soundproof room, getting the correct microphones and headsets and dealing with all of the voice levels and gauges was Greek to me. Young actors coming up now will have to develop their left brain as well as their right brain and they will. There’s no way around it anymore. But once you get the job and get on set, and only have to deal with the right brain, it sure is wonderful.
This time of staying at home and actors being delegated to auditioning over the internet, has been a supreme challenge to a lot of us. Actors are mostly right brain people. We are creative and go by our feelings. We are usually not the most technical of people. Having to figure out how to self-tape, deal with our phone video camera, tripod, lighting, set up and all the rest, then actually having to act is difficult. And then there’s the challenge of having to send your audition tape on to the right person. Trying to figure out how to set up a home studio and audition for voice overs is even more difficult. When I took an online course SAG offered us members last week I figured it would all be so easy. It’s just your voice what could be so difficult? But setting up a soundproof room, getting the correct microphones and headsets and dealing with all of the voice levels and gauges was Greek to me. Young actors coming up now will have to develop their left brain as well as their right brain and they will. There’s no way around it anymore. But once you get the job and get on set, and only have to deal with the right brain, it sure is wonderful.
The ideal life is when your calling meets your passion. Some people never find that or never know that kind of life is possible. I knew from an early age that I loved animals and wanted to help them somehow. At the same time my passion was acting. I thought that the perfect life would be to achieve fame and fortune and give money to animal organizations. When I met Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd I realized I had to do more than give money, I had to actually go out and do something. So I became active with the Sea Shepherd organization. Then I met Chris DeRose of Last Chance for Animals who showed me the realities of animal experimentation and I knew I had found my true calling. Acting fell by the wayside as I concentrated on working to abolish animal experimentation. I still found some acting jobs but didn’t have the will to pursue it the way I had. Then I found I loved writing as much as acting and I started writing scripts, most with animal themes. Now I am packaging a script with the goal of producing the movie myself – finally, calling meeting passion. Whether or not I succeed in my latest endeavor I am living the life I was meant to live.
Whatever I write it ends up having animals somewhere in it, be they scripts, books, online posts, research papers, all involve animals in one way or another. Saving all animals from cruelty is my goal but of course one person can’t do it alone, not even large groups of people working together can do that. But I’m reminded of the quote from Rudyard Kipling that I live by. (a slightly longer version is on my web site brittlind.com) Part of the quote says, “God gave all men all earth to love, but since our hearts are small, ordained for each one spot should prove beloved over all.” In other words, we can’t make gigantic changes in this world all by ourselves, but we can look around us and see our own small sphere of influence and make it better through our efforts.
What a challenge this time has been for actors! We now are asked to self-tape auditions at home. We are given instructions on how to do the technical part and if we are a little challenged in that department, we just have to figure it out and/or get help from somewhere. Luckily, I have a young friend who is willing to help. So much energy is spent on the technical side, the acting performance is secondary, but the good thing is, being at home alone, we can do take after take after take until we are satisfied and send it off. Whew! If I had had to do this when I was starting out I may never have booked a job. I love being in the room with the director and producer and having that organic experience in order to convince them to hire me. Time marches on and self-taping will probably become the norm. But the kind of auditions my characters in Deception must do in person will always be with us because eventually, all those self-tapes will be narrowed down to a select few and then the real decisions are made in person.
Reading and writing seem to go together for me and I’ve loved to do both since I was a child. I usually read two books a week because I read on the treadmill, waiting in line at the post office, in doctors’ offices, in the tub, while eating and more. I’m never without a book that I’m engrossed in! Reading well-written thrillers, whether contemporary or historical inspires me in my own writing. Reading autobiographies about other people who have gone through tough times and triumphed over adversities inspires me. And thrillers written in Norwegian are my absolute favorites because, not only do I get to enjoy the book, it helps keep my Norwegian fluent! What I really miss right now is going to my local Barnes and Noble and checking out all the new books that have come out. If I had to choose between shopping at a clothing store or a bookstore, a bookstore wins every time. If someone gives me a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble I am in heaven. I look forward to going back as soon as I can!
Hollywood has always been a place of great contrasts. Good and evil exist together in an industry where there are those who will do whatever it takes to be successful and the innocent ones who are exploited. Having worked for years in Hollywood, my heroine, Sergeant Rosemaria Baker, has had to deal with the tragic results when dreams are broken and all that is left is survival. After moving to the Beverly Hills police department, she has found that the rich and powerful also often live with insecurity and fear of losing what they have. There are many talented people in Hollywood who contribute greatly to our lives, who have worked hard and entertain us with their acting, singing, dancing and writing. They make the world a better place. But in a cruel town, my gentle hero Josh Sibley, whose joy is writing songs and singing, is struggling to gain recognition. I found that in my ups and downs as an actress that belief in yourself is what matters. No one can discourage or exploit you if you maintain your center and keep your spiritual life intact. Most important of all, having a calling that you are passionate about and following that calling to accomplish something greater than your own hopes and dreams is what truly matters.
Some people wonder where I get my ideas when I write a book or script. Sometimes, an idea comes from a dream, sometimes from daydreaming and imagining difference scenarios and often from real life events that have happened to me or friends of mine. Interesting stories that I have heard from people who have lived in Hollywood for years and know every juicy bit of gossip about celebrities and stories about murders always are fodder for my writing. I always believe in writing a lot of humor into everything. Humor is the way we get through moments of stress and strife and as an actress, I’ve always favored doing comedy on stage rather than dramas. I tend to take roles home with me and feeling depressed for a month or two because of a character I’m playing on stage has never appealed to me. I like delving into dark/confused/unhappy characters in acting class or on a TV show for a week or two but I don’t want to live with those characters on a day to day basis for months. You’ll usually find humor and animals in everything I write.
It may seem like a dichotomy for an animal activist who believes in kindness and compassion toward all creatures to write about crime and murder. The answer to that puzzle is that I am a typical Libra – I love justice. When juries ignore the obvious evidence against criminals, especially murderers, and set them free, it pains me greatly. I was first introduced to crime books by reading The Stranger Beside Me (about Ted Bundy) by Ann Rule. She was such a terrific writer I had to keep reading her books until I had read them all. Then I read other true crime books by Joseph Wambaugh, Joe McGinness, and several others. What I cared about most in reading their books was seeing perpetrators being brought to justice and paying for their crimes. I loved reading about investigators who never gave up on tracking down the killer. Of course, I also read mysteries, police procedurals and fictional crime and spy novels. Since Hollywood and its environs is where I have spent most of my adult life I decided to set my own mystery there. My female protagonist, Rosemaria, is who I wish I were, tough, tenacious but with a sense of humor and a soft heart underneath it all.
From the time she was three years old living in Norway, Britt loved animals and surrounded herself with them. When she moved with her family to America, she discovered she also loved performing. But she had parents who considered all of that a sin. Even cheerleading was a big no-no, but somehow Britt managed to overcome their objections.
After Clint Eastwood cast her in Play Misty for Me while living in Carmel, she moved to L.A. and quickly was able to obtain work. Featured roles led to co-starring roles, which led to guest-starring roles. She married a producer, had a beautiful baby girl and was working as an actress. She had it all. Then tragedy struck and she lost everything. Acting work became hard to find, and life became a matter of survival.
After a daring move to New York, she found herself singing in Carnegie Hall with a gospel group and working in a musical. But still, she felt she had not lived up to her expectations, and she became overwhelmed with hopelessness. But a God-given epiphany set her back on track, and she realized she had a very good reason to go on.
For those who have read my memoir LEARNING HOW TO FLY you know that even though my passion is acting I segued into animal activism and eventually became an antivivisectionist. The abolishment of animal experimentation is my calling. For several years I felt as if we were making progress – labs were shut down, medical schools stopped requiring animal experimentation for medical students to receive their degrees and the vast and gruesome vaccine industry that uses animals as ingredients in their vaccines and as test subjects seemed to be on a downhill track. Then, despite me, members of my groups and hundreds of other people warning the public about the dangers of vaccines the Covid vaccines came into existence and the torture and slaughter of animals has spiked to new highs. I could get discouraged and give up and ask myself, “What’s the use?” But the thought of abandoning the forgotten animals in those brutal labs is not an option.
My favorite time of day is dusk. That’s when the oppressive heat of the day has been replaced by a cool breeze blowing through the valley. I love walking around my complex and my neighborhood, enjoying the trees and flowers and being surrounded by mountains, knowing that the sea is right on the other side. I may not be living in the mansion that I thought I’d end up living in, but I love the home I have and being able to, at the end of the day, walk for miles, breathing in the beauty of nature. If I were a millionaire, would it feel so much better to live in such incredible surroundings? I don’t think so. My back yard may be the botanical gardens owned by the city but if I owned all those plants and the hill they grow on myself would they be even more beautiful? No way. I have everything I need and want right here, and I don’t have to be rich to feel the peace of mind God’s beauty gives me.
Because my sister was 10 years older than me, she was like a second mother. When I was in grade school, my parents spoke hardly any English, so it was my sister and her husband who went to parent’s day. She almost disappeared from my life when she got married except for coming home for birthdays and holidays. When my parents visited friends, they would leave me at her house, and I loved that. There I could watch TV, eat American food and feel a bit of freedom away from my house where almost everything I liked was a sin. Recently, my sister developed some form of dementia. She is often confused and can’t remember what is said from one moment to the next. When I fly up to visit her, I can see that she is slipping away and I wonder how much longer she will remember me. During my latest trip I was gratified that we spent two happy days together. The strong sister who for years was the rock of the family, whose house was the center of every family celebration, now resides in three small rooms in an assisted living facility and lives very quietly away from family and friends. I wish life weren’t that way. I wish the party could go on forever.
Even though I’ve been exposing animal experimentation as scientific fraud for over 30 years, seeing photos of animals being tortured in vivisection labs is still extremely painful. Two weeks ago, White Coat Waste, an incredibly successful antivivisection group who stopped animal experimentation on dogs at the VA, initiated a petition to stop Anthony Fauci from doing more experiments on beagles. Vivisectors breed thousands of beagles every year because they are their favorite experimental subject. Beagles are sweet and loving and even while being brutalized by the psychopaths in white coats, those little dogs try to love their tormentors into stopping the horrors being inflicted on them. Of course, they fail and are eventually killed. Fauci has been overseeing experiments on not only beagles but millions of other animals during his long tenure at the NIH. He cares neither about the suffering of humans or animals. Like all vivisectors, his goal is money and the freedom to experiment on whomever he wishes, and that includes us.
The world has been going through such terrible turmoil these past two years I decided that instead of merely reporting news/facts/figures/warnings etc. in our newsletter that I wanted to write a positive, uplifting email to the supporters of my nonprofit. So I concentrated the narrative on the energy and positive actions being taken by various groups and individuals all over the country. I told them that even though we might not have financial advantage over our adversaries (to put it mildly!) victories are being scored every day by everyday people all over the country. My mom, (who seemed to get wiser and wiser the older I got) used to say the best thing to do when you’re feeling depressed and overwhelmed to is help someone else. And she also used to say that when you feel helpless, do something about it! The response to the email was gratifying. Some said they learned a lot and others just thanked me for sending it. Like running on my treadmill in the morning to get the endorphins going, sharing good news is good for our brains and bodies as well. The bad stuff needs to be reported but even more important, so does the good.
Someone told me I’m like a shark: I have to keep moving forward or I die. Every morning I feel like I must get to my computer and start accomplishing something – for the animals, the environment, health freedom and writing another book. The other evening, I had an especially unpleasant run in with someone I was working with on a project. It was supposed to be a meeting of like-minded people, but it turned into a nasty free for all. In the middle of the whole bruhaha I threw up my hands and let go of any positive expectations. The next day I felt terrible. I made a decision to never work with anyone who goes off on insulting pontifications for 30 minutes. I also decided the next day that I was suffering from PTSD because of the whole unpleasant experience and would do nothing all day but eat, read, look out at my balcony garden and behold, it worked! I got over my PTSD, enjoyed the entire day and let go of all bad feelings. I decided I must do this more often. Doing absolutely nothing can be a very good thing.
South Koreans have many wonderful actors and talented crew and I love watching their movies on Netflix. The people of South Korea are sensitive and kind, and yet, the vile dog meat trade flourishes there. The people want it stopped but the politicians do nothing. I just watched a video produced by Chris De Rose of dogs being tortured and slaughtered in South Korea that is so horrific it’s hard to believe humans are capable of such atrocities. And yet, humans are this cruel, both to animals and to each other. When you’ve witnessed such horrors in the dog meat trade, in vivisection labs and factory farms how do you go on? You must. Your emotional pain in seeing the suffering cannot compare to the suffering of the animals. We don’t have to be famous and have a huge “platform” to alleviate pain in this world, both animal and human. All we have to do is care – and figure out how to do something to help. https://rb.gy/vv8ogp
This morning I was the first person in my condo gym. Two minutes after starting to walk on the treadmill I saw a bird fly down from the rafters and into one of the many floor-to-ceiling windows in the large room. I immediately shut the door to the hallway and opened the outside door. The bird disappeared up in the rafters again and then flew once more into the windows. Finally, he rested on the floor for about 10 minutes exhausted. I was afraid he was injured. I asked God to help the bird find his way to the door and I encouraged the bird to fly outside. After a while he flew around the room for a few seconds then swooped down and out the door and disappeared in the trees. Yay! I was so happy! Sometimes I am like that little bird. I ask God for help for my various projects, don’t seem to get it, knock on doors that stay shut, get discouraged but keep trying, bouncing off closed doors. After what seems like an eternity, a door finally opens, prayers are answered, and I fly. As Hattie McDaniel said about her successful acting career, “I did my best and God did the rest.” Like that little bird, we can't give up.
Sometimes in the supermarket check out line I will succumb to curiosity and buy a gossip magazine. If a headline catches my eye and I absolutely have to read that story I’ll breakdown and throw it on the belt with my other items. Of course, the story is never in depth and doesn’t answer the questions I have about this particular person/incident but what does happen is that I look at the many other stories and pictures and a wave of envy washes over me. All the women are young, famous and beautiful. They are married to young, famous, handsome men. They are smiling and having a wonderful time. I think, why can’t that be me? Why can’t I look like that? Why aren’t I rich, living in a mansion with no worries? Then in a month or so I’ll read in the headlines that one or more of those same people were cheated on, had their hearts broken, were humiliated, and those lovely spouses were drug addicts and alcoholics. Someone once said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” A good reminder. Yes, I’d rather be me. So, my advice is, be happy you’re you. You’re wonderful and don’t need to be anybody else.
Last week the engine light on my 2004 Saturn went on. I love my mechanics. They are honest and have kept my car going for all these years. They, like thousands of other people I found on the internet whose engine lights have gone on and won’t go off, are mystified. Next week my mechanics will try again, no charge, to find out what’s wrong. If they can’t, it won’t pass the smog test and I’ll have to hand my Saturn over to the State of California for a reward of one thousand dollars. For some inexplicable reason, the thought of giving my car to the state to be torn to pieces for parts horrifies me. It runs perfectly and has taken me up to Seattle and back many times. It has never failed me. I have become attached to my Satty as if it were a beloved pet. Yes, it does sound strange but it’s true. I’d rather keep my Satty until he falls apart and is on his deathbed. Then I won’t feel so terrible when I take him to the junk yard where he will donate his organs to other deserving cars. But not yet. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you’re ready for the scrap heap. And that goes for every one of us.
I have family members who have the means and desire to travel all over the world, and they do. They spend very little time in their beautiful mansion high in the hills that has a breathtaking view. If I lived there, I would never leave. But there are places I long to visit: Rome, Florence, Venice, Prague and Stockholm, and, once again, Paris and London. Of course, Norway is my destination of choice since my family and hometown are there. I am worried that I might never have a chance to enjoy spending time in those places again, or for the first time. Now, with the pharmaceutical industry having so much power to dictate our movements by forcing us to mask up and/or get jabbed I may never again be able to travel to other countries. It’s sad that we have allowed this to happen to us. We have to fight for our freedoms, or they will all be taken away.
I envy people who found their soulmates. I never found mine. My friends Coby and Hans were soulmates. They loved to travel all over the world. They were animal activists together and threw vegan potlucks every month. They had a huge circle of friends and enjoyed every minute of their lives together. My friend since Jr. High found her soulmate again after years of going different ways since high school. They had 16 years of travel, fulfilling their bucket list, perfecting their beautiful home, and roaring through the hills on their Harley. A few weeks ago, after a year long illness, he died. If you ask her if the heartache of taking care of him during the long illness was worth having him with her for 16 years she would say without question it was worth it. I consider myself an independent person and have lived alone for long stretches of time, but if I had a soulmate out there in the world who I never had a chance to meet and be with, I hope he misses me as much as I miss him.
In Learning How to Fly I share my life’s ups and downs, including stupid mistakes, betrayals and triumphs. I hope the book is inspirational to my readers. But one thing that I didn’t do in the book was to emphasize that we are never too old to follow our dreams and make life worth living in small ways as well as big. When I watched Phil Mickelson win the PGA Championship last week I was overjoyed. At age 50 he outplayed his much younger counterparts and came out on top. Age was irrelevant and Phil will play until he can’t swing a golf club anymore. His good friend and playing partner Tom Brady, is the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl at age 41. Football is a rough and tumble sport and Brady, a vegan, is not slowing down. So, there’s no excuse for any of us to give up and say we’re just too old to do what we dream of doing! As long as we’re breathing, go for it!
I’ve had animals ever since I can remember. My first pet was a goat named Snø Kvit – Snow White in English. I loved that little goat, but he disappeared after I let him in the house and he left pellets on my parents’ bedspread. Losing him was my first heartbreak. Through the years I’ve had many cats, some dogs, bunnies, birds and fish. I loved them all. And when they died or were taken from me it felt like losing a part of myself. But whatever sadness losing them brought into my life, the happiness, love and comfort they provided in the darkest of days was well worth it. I look at my kitties now and thank God I have them during these difficult times. They are my stress relievers and my very best friends.
I’ve had a few personal heroes in my life. What they all have in common is courage. Now that so many friends, family and co workers have abandoned their common sense and are living in total fear of pharma, retaining common sense and having the courage to follow through on your beliefs is even more important. As an antivivisectionist, I and my nonprofit have been exposing the lies and corruption of pharma for over 30 years. It is a lonely battle and even lonelier now that a lot of “animal rights” activists who should be fighting the vaccine/vivisectors have crumpled completely. So, we find ourselves working with people like Leigh Dundas and Peggy Hall - wonderful, brave ladies who are willing to speak the truth, are afraid of no one and walk the walk. They speak out against harmful mask wearing and never wear them. They speak out against vaccine mandates and organize rallies to prevent the powers that be from ramming them down our throats. In troubled times when our democracy is in danger my heroes are those who are willing to stand up for the truth no matter how many people don’t want to hear it.
When you read this memoir, you’ll see how the long and perilous journey of my life has landed me squarely in the sites of the pharmaceutical industry. As an antivivisectionist I, of course, am against vaccines which are a huge part of this industry -- animal matter is an ingredient in vaccines, and they are tested on animals. Now, during this fierce battle for our health freedoms it is dismaying to see that millions of people are now completely under the sway of Big Pharma, arguably the greediest, most deceptive, most corrupt industry in the world. Two days ago, in Orange County, I attended an incredible event. At least 1500 people showed up at the Supervisors’ offices to protest vaccine passports in OC. We represented every color on the political spectrum. We networked, laughed, spoke to the Supervisors and got them to back down on their intent to allow businesses in OC to discriminate against the unvaccinated. It was a joyful celebration of Democracy in action. This is still a free country. But we must fight to keep it that way.
Ever since I can remember people have asked me to sing. I’ve sung in choirs, a gospel group, in musicals, in trios, in mixed quartets and recorded demos and source songs for TV shows – all of those experiences were tremendously rewarding. I loved my classical voice lessons and my pop voice lessons and being in the opera workshop at UCLA. I never gave a thought to how yelling at animal protests would wreck my voice. All I cared about was getting our message of cruelty out to the public. But I paid the price. I lost my upper range and could no longer sing the classical songs I love. I can’t even sing the old standards that I used to play and sing for my cats almost every day. I should have appreciated my gift and taken better care of it. There are ways to conserve your voice when speaking loudly but my passion got the better of my common sense. I can still sing in my alto voice and along with my favorite Eagles songs but I’ve lost the rest. If only, if only -- but there’s no point in regret. I did it for the animals so it's okay.
The Bible says that the love of money (greed) is the root of all evil. Maybe it’s not the root of all the crimes and murders that take place but when it comes to corporate crimes they are most certainly all about money. Corporate billionaires also lust after power because when they have all the power they can get more money. Like now, when the pharmaceutical industry (my main target as an antivivisectionist) is making hundreds of billions of dollars from their vaccines, that is not enough. They have to subjugate millions of people and program them to do as they are told to have complete power and make more money. A Stanford study recently wrote about the dangers of mask wearing, physiologically and psychologically, but millions of people are under the thumb of pharma and refuse to throw off their masks and their chains. Thousands of people have died from the Covid vaccines but warnings go unheeded. My greedy long-time foes know how to control the masses and the masses are making it easy for them.
People have asked me this question more than once and after giving it some thought, I’d have to say none of them. I’ve met many famous people and have worked with well-known actors but I always feel like they’re just people who worked hard to get where they are and got lucky. The people I most admire are Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd and Chris DeRose of Last Chance for Animals. But they are friends and meeting them would be normal, not an event. The one person who I would be honored to meet would have to be Jill Robinson. She may not be a celebrity but she is someone I greatly admire. Jill “singlehandedly alerted the world to the cruel practice of bear bile farming” after visiting a bear bile farm and was so moved by the plight of thousands of bears undergoing terrible suffering she founded Animals Asia and so far has rescued 600 bears and influenced the Viet Nam government to end bear bile farming next year. One person. 600 bears saved so far. I wish I could meet this remarkable lady.
A few days ago I was asked to submit a taped audition for a part on a TV show. Actors are now required to do it themselves – set up the camera and lights, find a reading partner, film, edit, upload, download and somehow get it to the casting director. Oh, how simple it was in the old days – go in and read, go home and you either get it or you don’t. But those days are gone forever. When we went in to read for live people they could tell us what they didn’t like and ask us to change. Now we have to go by our best guess of what they are looking for and hope we guessed correctly. It took about three hours of work to send in my audition tape and I had to have other people help me. If I were starting out now as an actor I don’t think I could do it. I would just have auditioned for theater and written books. But like any other normal actor, I’ll never turn down a chance to audition no matter how difficult the process may be!
When you listen to your heart and follow God’s plan for your life it’s not always an easy process. For me, being led to become an antivivisectionist was painful. Not only do I deal with terrible cruelty to animals on an almost daily basis, but I am also up against the petrochemical/pharmaceutical industry which now has become the most powerful industry in the world. They own the media. Their lies and propaganda fill the airwaves. My nonprofit gets our messages out via emails, Face Book, Twitter and Instagram. Now that censorship of anything not agreeable to pharma is pervasive we could lose three of those platforms. But more and more social media platforms are being created where we can share our knowledge. One of my favorite Bible verses is, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.” There are many wonderful people in this world whose good works guarantee evil will not last forever.
Last week a wonderful actress who I had the pleasure of working with died. Jessica Walter was an amazing lady. I first met her when I auditioned for a small role in Play Misty for Me at a restaurant on the Monterey Wharf where she and Clint Eastwood were doing a scene. Clint and the producer interrupted filming to take time for me to read and cast me immediately and went back to work. I had hoped to watch them film since this was my first time on set with big stars but I was hustled out and didn’t get to watch them work until later in the shoot. Jessica was awesome in the role of a deadly stalker and the film became a classic. A few years later I worked with Jessica on her series Amy Prentiss for which she won an Emmy. On the flight up to the location in San Francisco Jessica revealed herself to be an incredibly funny lady, nothing like her character in Misty. Fortunately, she got a chance to display her comedic chops in Arrested Development. Comedy was her true calling.
I have a picture in my room that I love to look at of Peter Falk, my mother and me. The picture reminds me of my mother’s last trip to LA. As a Pentecostal, my mother believed that acting was a terrible sin and was horrified that I became one. Then she saw me in the miniseries How The West Was Won and softened somewhat. When she came to LA to attend the Actors Group annual Oscar party at Hollywood Presbyterian Church and was able to talk to her beloved TV pastor Lloyd Ogilvie she softened even more. Meeting my friend Bob Barker on her favorite show The Price is Right and being treated like a VIP put her over the top. Finally, she met Peter Falk who I had just worked with on Columbo at Universal, and his sweet charm won her over. He was the cherry on top of the vegan cream. Actors were A-okay with her after that.
As an antivivisectionist, I have been dealing with the pharmaceutical industry for many years. They torture millions of animals in their laboratories annually and inundate us all with pollution and toxic drugs and chemicals. Pharma executives are not the good guys. They are in business to make as much money as possible regardless of the death and damage they cause. Now, however, through great marketing and ownership of the media they have convinced millions of people to believe every word they say. Big Pharma is now an international cult with members who defend the very people who are enslaving them and killing them, just like every other cult. I love this quote from Gregg Hurwitz from his book about cults – “The human willingness to surrender critical thought is staggering.” Cult members ignore facts. Anything that doesn’t agree with their programming is a “conspiracy theory.” Overcoming the massive brainwashing that has taken place this past year may be near to impossible.
I’m glad I’m an animal person. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with not loving animals but I think those people are missing out. I have had as pets dogs, cats, bunnies, birds and a goat. I don’t know what I’d do without my three wonderful formerly feral cats who I rescued from the cold and snow of Washington State and who now follow me around my home, sit on my chair when I'm typing on my laptop, greet me when I come home and give me unconditional love when I’m feeling down. Being an antivivisectionist is a challenging calling. I constantly have to stick my neck out regarding the lies and fraud of the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve been hassled by cops, threatened with physical violence by bullies, arrested and jailed to expose the lies of pharma. Looking at my three little guys reminds me of who I’m fighting for – the right of everyone, human and animal to live happy lives free of cruelty.
I just started reading a book by my acting teacher Eric Morris and his first sentence leaped out at me --- “Ignorance is the greatest human disease!” He went on to say how most people are devoid of curiosity and walk around in a fog unaware of their deep emotions and desires. It is this kind of sleepwalking through life that makes it easy for cult leaders to convince people to give them their money and be treated like slaves. As I describe in my memoir, I have been exposing Big Pharma’s greed, lies and contempt for human life for 30 years. They have the best con men in the world, marketing geniuses who have convinced the public that there are invisible germs floating around everywhere so do exactly what they say and you'll be "safe." Anyone can research the facts and find out the truth. But they don’t. If people are told a lie long enough and loud enough they believe it. When you sleepwalk through life, con men own you.
When my gym closed last year I wondered how I was going to get the exercise I needed. I found the answer right outside my door in the indoor stairwell of my condo building. Every day I go up and down four flights of stairs for half an hour twice a day or more. It’s a great workout and I can go as fast and as long as I want. It’s also a great time to meditate while moving, say my prayers and affirmations and, of course, get my endorphins up and running. To substitute for the machines at the gym, in the afternoon I do floor exercises and weightlifting. That’s not as effective as the machines but it will have to do until this debacle comes to an end. I was greatly disappointed when my gym closed. I was sure that I would gain lots of poundage and become horribly out of shape. But the stairwell is actually more convenient, and it forces me to take time to think, formulate my plans for the day, set goals and talk to God about everything in my life. In other words, what seemed like something negative turned into a blessing. Sometimes life turns out that way. It all depends on how you look at it.
Actors, dancers, singers and other artists end up having many jobs to support themselves until they “make it.” One of my jobs that I dearly loved was as caregiver to elderly people in their homes. No matter how disabled or uncomfortable they were they were also unfailingly cheerful and considerate of me, their caregiver. During this debacle we’re in now. (I share my thoughts on that in my blog brittlind.com) the elderly are bearing the brunt of pharma’s greed. It breaks my heart that at least 76 per cent of the people being killed and injured by Covid vaccines are the elderly in nursing homes. They are completely helpless and at the mercy of the medical industry and the people who work in those homes. They can’t say no and usually have no idea of what is being injected into them. If they die minutes, hours or days after getting vaccinated it is called a “coincidence.” The elderly person passes from this world to the next, barely making a ripple, quickly forgotten. This is happening to thousands of elderly people all around the world; a massive tragedy that never makes the headlines. Who will stand up for them against a multibillion-dollar industry? We all must.
I remember my friend and fellow Navy wife, Neva, saying to me in Pensacola when our husbands were choosing what plane to fly, “Don’t let him pick jets! If he picks jets you’ll have to live in Mississippi and as liberal you and Rob are, you’ll hate it!” I thought, this is a girl who grew up in Louisiana and if she doesn’t like Mississippi, it must be a terrible place. For me, coming from Seattle, attending an integrated high school and living in an ethnically diverse city neighborhood, yes, Meridian was a shock. In the late 60s the racism was virulent. I had to kick the welcome wagon lady out of my apartment because of her bigotry. Drinking fountains, stores, schools, and churches were segregated. The KKK tried to blow up a nearby synagogue. I welcomed our move to California where mixed couples could walk down the street without fear of reprisal. I never dreamed that all these years later that racism would rear its ugly head. All it needed was an invitation from the administration for the past four years to show itself. Anti-discrimination laws are important but so is each and everyone of us refusing to put up with the careless racism we may come across in our daily lives. None of it is okay to ignore.
As I describe in this memoir, all roads led me to become an animal activist. As such, most of my time and effort is dedicated to the abolition of animal experimentation. I also support other groups that do amazing work like Animals Asia which rescues Moon Bears from bile farms. In bile farms, the bears live in excruciating agony in tiny cages and routinely have their bile extracted from their gall bladder to be added to “medicine” that is falsely believed to cure various ailments. In 1993, animal activist Jill Robinson witnessed the atrocities of a bile farm firsthand, later negotiated with the Chinese government to release 500 bears, established a rescue center in China, founded Animals Asia in 1998, opened another rescue center in Vietnam, negotiated with the Vietnam government to end bile farming and is working with them to rescue the remaining 1,000 bears still in cages. She has rescued over 600 bears who are now living happy lives free from pain. One person, inspiring others to help her, has accomplished all this. We are all capable of doing something incredible. If we listen to our heart, we’ll know exactly what that is.
In Learning How to Fly I talk about my father being emotionally unavailable and sometimes cruel. He did not show any affection for my mother, my sister or me. My animals were always my family and my best friends. I had a pet goat in Norway who I loved. Somehow he got in the house and left pellets on my parents’ bedspread. He immediately disappeared. When I was eleven my cat Taffy was everything to me. My mother and I went back to Norway for a few months and while we were gone, my father took Taffy to the animal shelter after she had babies. When I came home found out what he had done I almost had a nervous breakdown. Four years later he decided my dog was annoying and took him to the animal shelter. When I came home from school my father told my boyfriend and I what he had done. My boyfriend jumped in his car to see if he could get my dog before he was killed. He was too late, and again, I fell apart. I’ve loved animals since I was a toddler. But I think these two terrible losses have something to do why I’ve dedicated my life to saving animals from cruelty. They are my true love.
As I’m writing this, people have invaded the Capitol buildings and shots are being fired. Who would have thought that this kind of thing could happen in our country, in our capital? People have often said to me in the past when I tell them they need to vote, “Oh, why bother? It doesn’t matter who gets elected.” But it does. There may be a lot of corruption in politics but it’s up to every one of us to find candidates who are honest no matter what party you may belong to. Only by being active in our government can it be what it was meant to be, a representation of its citizens. We also must keep close watch over the people we vote for and make sure they live up to their promises. If they don’t, they must be held accountable, but not by rioting, but by organized protests and voting them out of office. For myself, I never let frustrations boil over because I feel like there is nothing I can do. I take action – I call, I write letters, write on my blog and post on the PRISM FB page where thousands of people can be informed of the facts. Staying on the sidelines right now is not a good idea.
While driving in my car I will from time to time listen to one of the CDs we recorded while I was singing with the Marble Gospel Choir in NY. It brings back memories of some of the best times of my life – learning and rehearsing incredible songs, performing in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, on Broadway, Madison Square Garden and other large venues. Our director, David Brown, was a musical genius and incredible mentor. Famous singers like Mark Anthony and Whitney Houston asked that we sing backup for them, but most of them we turned down. We had our own talented soloists. I always told my friends that after they came to one of our concerts they would not be walking out the door, they would be floating out of the theater, their feet not even touching the floor, and they told me they did! I loved how the audience became involved in our songs, clapping and yelling Amen! Yeah! Hallelujah! I thank God I was able to experience performing with my friends in the gospel group while in NY. And the great thing about it is, I am able to relive the great moments as I sing along with the CD and feel the same joy I felt then. Thank you, God.
In my memoir Learning How to Fly I talk about how everything I loved and dreamed of doing was considered a sin by my parents. Acting, singing popular songs, having a TV or watching TV at the neighbors’ house, going to movies and dancing all were considered sin. After finally arriving in Hollywood and striving to accomplish my goals my mother’s constant discouraging words were like a weight on my back. My father completely ignored me. To him I didn’t exist. For two years I had to cut my mother out of my life or her negativity would have killed me. Years later, while taking care of my mother in the years before she died she came to understand that acting was not a sin and I came to understand that everything she said and did was out of love, out of her own fears and worries that she had lived with her whole life. We came to appreciate each other for the people we were. Recently, when I complained to a friend about another friend who I didn’t feel was holding up her end of the deal while working on a project, she said to me, “Remember, we all do the best we can do considering who we are.” I understood and have heeded that advice ever since.
I just found out that my favorite director and first major crush Clint Eastwood is beginning work on a new movie. He’s not only directing a new action movie, he’s starring in it! Wow! For Clint, age is not an issue. His passion for making movies has never dimmed. I love that about him. I want to be like that. Of course, he has been incredibly successful so has the means to do as he pleases. He can make any movie he wants and is the total boss. But he is also rich enough that he would never have to work again. Instead, he chooses to live life to the fullest, not slowing down for a second. He inspires me to do the same within my own limited means. Slowing down or giving up is not an option. Follow your passion and find your joy.
December may be my favorite month. I love the Christmas decorations of red and green, stores filled with possible gifts to buy for family and friends and even in Los Angeles, the air at night is appropriately chilly. When I lived in NY and sang with a gospel choir, our Christmas concerts were fabulous and awe inspiring. Living alone, I still decorated my apartment and loved how warm and cozy I felt when it snowed. As soon as I saw the flakes start coming down, I dressed up in my warmest clothes and ran outside to walk in the snow. Yes, it does turn to slush in the city, but that doesn’t make me love it any less. People talk about how they feel depressed during the holidays if their lives are not ideal. The solution to that is to remember Christmas is not about you or me and what makes us happy, it’s about the birth of Jesus who taught us how to treat one another with love and compassion. As an animal lover, I also love to remember that Jesus was born in a manager surrounded by animals. The first faces he saw were of his mother and father and the gentle animals who watched over him.
I start out every morning standing on the deck of my condo looking out over the hillside in my backyard. The birds are singing, the squirrels are busy running up and down trees and the rabbits are scampering in and out of the low brush to keep safe from the hawks that might be flying overhead. Considering all the wrong detours and terrible blunders I made in my life (all recorded in Learning How to Fly) I feel lucky to be living where I am – far enough away from the city to enjoy nature but close enough to everything I need to do. As president of a nonprofit life can be busy and stressful. And all of us must deal with personal and emotional problems. But my faith in God and knowing I am following my calling gives me strength to move forward. It is important to stay in touch with nature where we can find sustenance in just breathing fresh air and looking at the beauty of our surroundings. There we recognize we are a small part of this awesome planet and we have the ability do our part to protect it, a lot or a little, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to do something and I guarantee, it will give you joy.
In Learning How to Fly I talk about how my acting career is my passion and my calling is helping abolish animal experimentation. All my life I’ve loved animals, but vivisection was something I avoided. It was too horrible to have to deal with. But God kept pushing me in that direction and it was a relief when I finally gave in and did what I was supposed to do. Most people are aware of things they care about above and beyond their careers be it feeling concern for orphaned children, immigrants who speak only Spanish and are the mercy of a system that cares nothing for them, lakes and rivers near you that are being polluted by chemical companies, children on Indian reservations who live in poverty with no hope, elephants, tigers and other wild animals in Africa who are being slaughtered and soon will be extinct. If you listen to your heart, meditate and take one small step toward something that speaks to you, move forward with good intent, you will know when you find your place and it make your life feel worthwhile.
I’ve always appreciated my friends even though many of them live in far away places like New York, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona and Norway. In our present circumstances it is doubtful that I’ll see them in person any time soon. And that makes me sad. There is nothing like meeting with friends to kick up your energy a notch, joke, laugh and share good times and bad. We can’t do that as much as we used to. So even though social media is much maligned by some I am grateful it exists and no matter what, we can stay in touch and let one another know we care.
As I write this, the election result is still up in the air. For me, an antivivisectionist, who has been fighting the petrochemical/pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years, neither choice of candidates is a win. One candidate is busy destroying the environment with drilling in pristine areas, bent on destroying our civil rights and a woman’s right to choose. The other candidate is a slave to Big Pharma, has promised to make dangerous vaccinations and mask wearing mandatory, and intends to embed a “pandemic” office in the White House from which Fauci, pharma and a handful of billionaires can track, control and manipulate every citizen in this country until our Democracy lies in shreds. I wish we had had a viable third choice – one who would not be a slave to pharma or any corporation, one who would end the insanity that pharma has imposed on us with their lies and greed and one who would always put the welfare of citizens above campaign donations and lust for power. But we had no third choice and now we must all wait and see what happens next.
Not being able to meet with friends wherever and whenever we want is frustrating. And for my nonprofit that thrives on tabling at veg fests, animal rights conventions and natural health conferences, not being able to get our message out and talking to people person to person is even more frustrating. Until now, I never realized how energizing and inspiring it is to meet with likeminded people or talk to strangers who are eager to learn the facts about the fraud of animal experimentation. Besides meeting hundreds of people at these gatherings, we love being able to sample vegan food and drinks from many restaurant vendors and get to introduce friends and family to plant based food. Yes! Vegan veggie burgers are delicious! My friends and I thrive on an active social life and educating interested people with our message. But until we can put an end to this debilitating debacle I encourage anyone interested in knowing what my calling in life is all about please visit peopleforreason.org and like our FB page at facebook.com/gotoprism And, of course, read Learning How to Fly.
I’ve loved football since high school. Being a cheerleader and getting drenched with Seattle rain week after week at the games was heaven. We had a losing team, but I was always optimistic that this was the year we’d be great. It never happened. My one and only team now is the Seahawks and every week they make us 12s almost have mass heart attacks. If they continue this pattern of winning in the last few seconds we’ll all end up in the ER. One of the reasons our record is 5-0 is Russell Wilson the quarterback. Not only is he incredibly talented, but he also never stops believing the team can win. Even if we are behind by two touchdowns in the last sixty seconds, he will drive the team down the field to victory. Players on the sideline say his optimism and faith infuse everyone with the same kind of belief in themselves. Every week despite almost giving me a heart attack he inspires me as well. His philosophy is that you never give up, no matter what the odds are against you. Even if it defies common sense and everyone writes you off, you keep believing and keep going forward. I have taken that to heart and made his philosophy my own.
Today, on my FB page, I mentioned something about Chris DeRose, President of Last Chance for Animals. Chris is one of my top two heroes, who, as I describe in my memoir, steered my life in the direction of becoming an antivivisectionist. Because of Chris I ended up doing the last thing I ever wanted to do, dealing with the unspeakable horrors of animal experimentation. But soon after meeting Chris, it became obvious that AV was my calling from God. There was no getting around it and giving in was the only way I would find peace. So I have spent the last 30 years working to abolish this fraudulent, cruel industry. Chris and I had lunch not too long ago and I asked him, “How do you deal about all of the things you see on a daily basis that are so horrific? Sometimes I feel like I just want to break down and cry.” Chris looked at me and said, “Well, that makes it all about you doesn’t it?” And I thought, oops, he’s right. Yes, I want to be the kind, compassionate person that I have to be to do what I do. But it’s not about me and my feelings. It’s about the animals and ending their suffering. It helps to always remember that.
After Katharine Hepburn tanked my dream of playing Gigi on stage, I was called in to audition for Gypsy, starring Debbie Reynolds, at the Music Center in L.A. I was told to sing Little Lamb which is a beautiful, haunting song that I love. The audition went well and they called me back to perform Let Me Entertain You which also went well. Then I waited. My agent called and told me they liked me but Debbie wanted her daughter Carrie to play the part. The producers told her they didn’t want to cast Carrie who didn’t want to play the part anyway. Debbie said if Carrie doesn’t play Gypsy she would drop out, which she did. There went my second chance at fame and fortune in musical theater. Again, I was devastated. This kind of heartache is not unusual for actors. We put our hearts and souls into our preparation and then our spirits can be crushed in an instant. Why do it then? Because when that great audition does result in a booking on set or on stage the disappointments are forgotten, the work is glorious and every heartbreak is worth it.
So there I was on stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I sang my heart out for the legendary Alan Jay Lerner, the only man in the audience. He looked happy and thanked me. I thought, “This is it! My big break in musical theater. I’ll be starring in Gigi with Kathryn Hepburn. I waited for my agent to call. She did. She said Alan wanted me but Hepburn wanted her protégé to play Gigi, someone completely wrong for the part. I crossed my fingers that Alan would win. After all, it was his musical! Shouldn’t he be the boss?! But no. Hepburn won that battle and I was out. I was devastated and swore I would give up singing and trying to get into musicals. I had given it my all and it didn’t matter. Boo hoo. I felt sorry for myself. Shortly thereafter, another opportunity came in. I was asked to audition for Gypsy, starring Debbie Reynolds. (to be cont.)
Sometimes I’m asked about the most heartbreaking auditions I ever had. Actors, for the most part, are forced to endure rejection. It is a normal part of being an actor. I will tell you of some of my most heartbreaking auditions but will have to do it in serial form because this space doesn’t allow for long stories. At the recommendation of my voice teachers, I was called in to the Music Center in L.A. to audition for a new musical, Gigi, that was based on the movie. It was to feature new songs by Alan Jay Lerner, a famous composer of My Fair Lady and other award winning musicals. I was incredibly nervous and excited as I walked into a huge rehearsal hall and faced a group of people sitting at a table at the far end of the room. I gave my sheet music to the accompanist and I sang, I Could Have Danced All Night. After I finished, the auditioners looked at each other and told me to follow the accompanist. We wandered through a maze of hallways and I ended up on stage in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where I faced one man seated in the middle of the theater – Alan Jay Lerner. (to be continued)
Most of us have our career dreams - goals that are near and dear to our hearts that we work hard to achieve. But we also have a calling, something we feel led to do for people, for animals or for the environment. Some of those callings can involve very difficult work dealing with cruelty, hopelessness, greed and destruction. For me, as an antivivisectionist, I have to deal with cruelty constantly. But no one can function as a normal human being without taking time to have fun, laugh and enjoy life. Otherwise, we might get too depressed to be useful. For me, every fall and winter I have my Seattle Seahawks. I have loved football all my life and the Hawks are my team. Watching them play I can forget everything except cheering them on to victory. I look forward to every game. It’s not only enjoyable, it’s cathartic. I can scream at the TV instead of the people I’d really like to scream at. Football is my joy and release.
When I think of what inspires me it’s very clear – my love for animals. There are countless stories in the media that describe the cruelties that animals face every day. Many animals are being hunted and driven to extinction by greedy, uncaring people. And their stories are our stories. All life on this planet is intertwined. From plants, trees and insects to whales and elephants we need each other to survive. None of us can fight these huge battles against greed and destruction on our own. We need to come together in groups and support each other in our endeavors to save the world. But what especially inspires me to never give up or give in are my own animals who love me and watch over me every day without fail. For them, I continue to fight.
If you read my book you’ll discover that abolishing animal experimentation is my calling. Because of that these times are difficult for me. Animal experimenters in the government and drug companies are testing on and killing animals in their laboratories at an unprecedented rate. After 30 years of educating the public about the fraud of animal experimentation it seems as if we have gone back in time just when we thought we were making huge progress toward ending the terrible suffering. I will never give up working to free the animals from their cages. My faith sustains me, and nature gives me serenity. I am lucky to live next to the botanical gardens in my town. The hillsides are filled with trails to walk and breathtaking views. I have doves nesting on my deck and blue jays demanding to be fed. I can see the squirrels and rabbits scampering through the bushes and hear the crickets at night. If we open up to nature and let common sense be our guide, we’ll get back on the right track.
Eleanor Roosevelt said that you gain strength from doing things you fear the most. That was certainly true for me. When I first became an animal activist I would only yell slogans along with the crowd. Our leaders were unafraid to speak with or without megaphones and I admired them for their self-confidence. I didn’t think I could ever be like that. This changed when I attended Ringling protests in Everett, WA where the police were so aggressive in trying to deny us the right to protest it made me angry. When attendees to the circus lined up to buy tickets next to where we were standing, I loudly described the torturous life animals in circuses had to endure. When the police tried to intimidate me and threatened to arrest me, I went to the mayor’s office and reported what the police were doing. The next day, the police acted as if we weren’t there. Thank you, mayor. We closed down Ringling in Everett two years before Ringling went out of business altogether. Now, I look forward to every protest where I can face down thousands of people with my megaphone and share the facts with confidence and not a trace of fear.
It’s been years since I worked with Clint in Play Misty for Me, but I still have a fierce crush on him. He is the reason I was able to get my SAG card and was able to get an agent when I moved to L.A. I was doing dinner theater in Carmel when someone from his company saw me and I was called in to audition for Clint and Bob Daley the producer. He was filming on Monterey Wharf, doing a scene with the incredible Jessica Walter. He took a few minutes away from filming to read opposite me and cast me then and there. I had no experience making a movie and he was incredibly patient and kind to a total neophyte. Years later I had the privilege of meeting his daughter Alison. She is also a talented actor and director but, like me, her heart is really in helping animals. She has one sanctuary near Calabasas and is founding another one. I talked to Clint not too long ago at one of Alison’s fundraisers and he remembered me. And is still just as nice as ever.
As I wrote in my book, there is no doubt that my calling in life is to help animals, specifically to work to abolish animal experimentation. It is not a pleasant topic to focus on but is a thousand times worse for the animals who are suffering. My dream is to end vivisection in my lifetime and I will keep striving toward that goal for as long as I live. When your calling is something as terribly difficult as mine is but you know in your heart it’s what you must do, you still need to make every effort to life fully. You must also keep working to fulfill your passion. Mine is acting and making movies and I will never give up on those. Having a well-rounded life keeps up your energy and enthusiasm even as you struggle against seemingly impossible odds. Friends, nature hikes, celebrations, family, singing, dancing, and much more make life worthwhile. Through it all, keeping your sense of humor and remembering how to laugh is the most important thing of all.
Learning How to Fly describes my journey from actress to animal activist. As an antivivisectionist, it is very frustrating for me to observe that the very people that we, at my nonprofit, People for Reason in Science and Medicine, have been fighting for over 30 years are now in charge of the entire country. For several years, AV activists have felt like we were making inroads, exposing pharmaceutical companies as dangerous frauds who use unscientific, useless tests on animals to excuse releasing their various poisons on an unsuspecting public. Now, our voices have been silenced. Censorship is rife, dissent is crushed, our doctor and scientist friends who speak the truth have their careers destroyed and the antivivisection movement has been effectively grounded. The petrochemical/pharmaceutical industry is the most powerful industry in the world. The drug company executives who now run the NIH, the CDC and the EPA have turned this country into their own dictatorship. Their lies have become truth and truth is now “misinformation.” We predicted 30 years ago that giant corporate entities intended to create a world order run by a handful of billionaires. What we didn’t foresee was that millions of Americans would willingly submit to Big Pharma propaganda and give up their civil liberties without a whimper.
There are performers whose lives seem magical. Fortune smiles on them from the moment they start their journey to become successful. Everything falls into place; they meet the right people and are offered the right opportunities to make their talents shine. Sometimes the tabloids scream out headlines about notorious celebrities, their drug habits, their divorces, their trips to drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. And we somehow feel better knowing that even rich and famous people suffer like we do. But there are other famous people who seem to be blessed, who never suffer and live perfect lives. There really is no such thing, or if there is, it is extremely rare. Sometimes those seemingly perfect people write brutally honest autobiographies and you find out that a beloved female star was repeatedly raped by her stepfather while growing up, that a brilliant comedienne had alcoholic parents who handed her off to relatives, a well known leading man has been hiding his sexual identity for the sake of his career and suffering greatly because of it. Terrible things happen to all of us, famous or not. The important thing is, how do they and how do we deal with it?
My cousin Berit sent me pictures from my hometown Sauda, Norway yesterday and the beauty of the mountains and the fjord was awesome. Most of my family stayed and thrived in Norway while my father forced my mother, sister and I to move to Seattle even though he was the only one who wanted to move. I have such a deep connection to Norway. I often wonder what would have happened to me if we had stayed. I was already being asked to sing in church and no doubt would have become an actress in Norway as well. I would have gone to university in Oslo, joined the National Theater and done Ibsen plays in Norwegian. Heaven! While visiting Norway last summer I thought how much I would have loved living in Oslo and always being surrounded by my wonderful extended family. But we can’t go back and relive the past. What could have been will have to live in my dreams.
For most people exposing your flaws and mistakes is not easy. In good acting classes, it’s what you do – open up, be willing to look like an idiot and be vulnerable. In writing a memoir all those things are applicable as well. In exposing my life as an actor and animal activist I hoped to inspire others who were having trouble reaching their artistic goals. The life of an artist is difficult. We need to be recognized, have a “name” in order to be hired and earn a living. For my friends and I who love animals, our acting careers took a backseat to activism. We found our calling as well as our passion. Some had thriving careers, others, like me had huge highs and low lows, but we all found fulfillment in doing what we are put on earth to do. When I won the Beverly Hills Book Award it was a thrill but to me it meant that exposing all of my flaws just might give others the courage to find their own calling. If I, with all my wrong turns, can find my way, anyone can.
Sometimes when we’re stuck in a rut or feel like we’re going nowhere, know that it is possible to turn your life around. My friend Rod was a talented actor and singer. We performed in dinner theater plays together in Carmel and he was an incredible actor to work with. After I moved to L.A. he became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Pictures of him at that time show him to be so emaciated, he was near death. At his lowest point, he joined AA and everything changed. He became a joyful person, generous beyond belief and full of fun and laughter. He joined the staff of a drug rehabilitation center in Monterey and helped countless people find their way back to a happy life. When he died expectantly of a heart attack it was standing room only at his memorial service with a host of people singing his praises and recounting how he changed their lives. He was in his early sixties when he died but he managed to change not only himself when he felt nothing but despair, he influenced hundreds of lives for the better.
I wrote last time about how important it is to put compassion into action. Regan Russell, a long-time, dedicated animal activist in Canada, did just that. Along with her other activism, she attended protests at a slaughterhouse and gave water and comfort to pigs jammed into trucks when the trucks stop temporarily outside the gates. She moved past her own heartache and courageously helped the pigs face their terror as they knew instinctively they were about to face their death. Last Friday she was hit and killed by one the trucks driving into the slaughterhouse. Last night I attended, along with 250 other people, a protest outside Farmer Johns and did what she did -- comforted the pigs and gave them water. I so admire the people who go there once a week to bear witness for the animals and, through their tears, show compassion. They educate as many people as they can reach to tell them that factory farming is cruel and eating plant-based food is kind. Most of us are not asked to give up our lives for something we believe in. When you put compassion into action you don’t run out of it, you end up with more to give to everyone and that makes our lives better.
Having compassion and empathy for other people and animals are wonderful qualities to have. Your heart aches if you see a helpless baby who has been abused by a parent or a child being spanked in a supermarket for doing nothing more than crying. And seeing pictures of animals and people in third world countries starving and being killed in pointless wars can ruin your day because of the hurt you feel. But feeling badly about what you’ve seen is not enough. When you’re a sensitive person who has compassion for others you must act. If you do not you will never be happy. Being highly empathetic is a gift. But you have to use it to make changes in every way available to you. There is immense satisfaction in doing that. Ignoring your gift, suppressing it will only cause frustration and more sadness. Facing the ugliness you’d rather avoid gives you a strength you never thought you had. A kind, gentle, sensitive person can be an immense force for change if he or she will take action on feelings that the heart inspires.
I always used to envy successful people who talked about how supportive one or more of their parents were to them and their aspirations. Just think, I would ask myself, where I could be if my parents hadn’t stood in the way of everything I wanted to do? They did everything they could to discourage and thwart my every desire, trying to convince me it was all sin and I would burn in hell if I continued on working toward my dreams. But I had to throw it all off in order to move forward. I think of Carol Burnett who had a horribly dysfunctional childhood, but she didn’t let that stop her. Her belief in herself and her talent made her incredibly successful. The same is true of so many other successful people. They rise up out of poverty, alcoholic parents and abuse by focusing on the future, not blaming anyone or anything in their past if things don’t always go their way. Sure, it’s great if you are surrounded by supportive people from childhood on up but unfortunately, for many of us, that’s just not how it was. We can’t use that as a crutch when we get older to blame our circumstances on others. We, and we alone, decide our fate.
Something that has always been a part of me since I was a child, besides my love for animals, is singing. I feel like I was born with a song in my heart. I remember singing in church when I was little and as a teenager. My parents made me start taking piano lessons at the age of 9 and doing scales was pure torture. I did learn how to play well enough to read music and play while I sang but my piano teacher told my parents I was never going to be a pianist. She suggested to them they give me voice lessons instead. But they wouldn’t do that, and I continued on dreading sitting for an hour going over the exercises. But in school I was able to become a part of a trio and an incredible high school choir. I was in heaven rehearsing and performing with them. Finally, later in life I was able to sing with a gospel group in New York and a dream I never even dared to dream came true, singing in Carnegie Hall, twice! You never know what may happen to your deepest desires. Never give up. Never stop dreaming.
Being a creative person can be both a blessing and a curse. Whether you are an actor, singer, dancer, writer or painter, ultimately you need an audience. You crave recognition for your work. Sometimes failure to find that recognition can lead to depression and addiction. Unless you’re Julia Roberts or other select few, you’re going to have your ups and downs and have to live through them the best you can. I wrote this book with people in the arts in mind but actually what I share in these pages goes for anyone with a dream who is struggling. I believe that in order to survive and thrive in this life what we need is a strong spiritual grounding, a belief in a power higher than yourself. But there is also something else. Besides our passion for our craft we all have in our hearts a calling – something we were born to share that is beyond our own personal needs. Be it helping the homeless, saving the environment, being a Big Brother or Sister for a child, or like me, helping animals. This gives us a reason to be alive. I hope my own ups and downs serve as an example of how to find your own special path.
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