Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

May 19 2009

Rebecca Holden

Published by doc under Interviews

November, 2008, we attended another special event put on by Tommy and Kathy Hildreth.  Tommy was quick to tell us in advance he had a guest we would want to both meet and interview, Rebecca Holden. We were familiar with her work on Knight  Rider as well as appearances on such shows as Magnum P. I., Taxi, Night Court and Remington Steele.   It was only at the event that we found what an outstanding Christian she is, with a story that has to be told.  We had several conversations with her and her manager,  Kelly Fohner.  At the show she introduced  her latest CD,  Dare to Dream.   In the past she had already  recorded both  Gospel and Country albums.

Ed.:  The first thing I want to cover is based upon the first song you sang in your concert for the Western North Carolina Film Festival,  “Dare to Dream”.  That is also the title of your newly-released CD. The lyrics include the idea of everyone being a star and having a dream.  Does this have special significance for you?  We felt it did.

Rebecca:  It absolutely does, especially since that was one of the songs I wrote.  That comes from the heart when you write about what is important to you.  I think everyone is given gifts and abilities, certain unique qualities from God.  He instills those dreams. He places them there in your heart.  They are not there by accident.  I think He puts them there to motivate you, to use all those gifts and treasures within you to become who he created you to be.

Ed.:  We have noted how some singers have become actors and some actors have become singers.  What came first with you and what motivated you to go from one to the other?

Rebecca:  I never thought I would be an actress.  That never entered my mind.  I had a love of music from the time I was a little girl.  I had piano lessons from the time I was seven.  I studied piano all the way through school.  I won the  Paderewski Medal when I was in high school.  While playing piano for all the choirs in high school and college I discovered I loved singing.    I loved harmony and I sang in church choirs, school choirs and  in the madrigal singers.  You know when you find  something that you believe God meant for you to do.  It’s all I ever wanted to do; it’s where I live and breathe.  I still look forward all week to Sunday morning singing; singing for the Lord is the high spot of my week!

To get around to your question, I was in New York furthering my singing studies.  I studied privately with a teacher from Julliard.  An agent asked me to go on an audition for a Breck Shampoo commercial.   I was at first a little resistant to that as I thought, “I’m not a model, I’m a singer”.  He insisted that I go to the audition and Breck signed me to a series of television commercials.  Work begets work as you know.   That led to lots of other commercials, Dentyne, Kellogg and Ivory Soap etc. Then Aaron Spelling, the successful television producer  in Los Angeles, contacted my agent.  I went to the West Coast and started doing guest starring roles on a lot of the Spelling shows at Universal and Paramount.  I had done a lot of acting in school, but always in musicals.  Music was always the primary thing.  Then acting kind of took over.  I always sang at a lot of charity events and continued singing in church, but acting sort of took over to be the primary focus of my career.  I made a living at that, but singing always remained the biggest love of my life  and always has been.

I have to say that I am grateful for the acting roles. When you are on a national television series like a Knight Rider that is aired all over the world to over 150 countries, it gives you a platform from which to sing on tour and to carry the Gospel message as well.    I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world, all through Europe and through the Far East.  I think God has a divine plan and we don’t always know how things are working  at the time.  Later on you look back and see certain paths and journeys that your life took, all the pieces come together and sort of make sense.  And you think, “Wow, I didn’t understand the direction my life was taking at the moment.”  It all makes sense after a while.

Ed.:  That’s great.  You don’t often hear that sort of thing being said.  That brings up another question that comes up with friends in the media.  Have you ever found your religious faith causing you a problem in getting roles?

Rebecca:  You’re exactly right.  I’m definitely in the fringe minority in Hollywood.  I listened to  an interview with Kirk Cameron about his Christian film Fireproof which I can’t wait to see.  He is a Christian himself and talked about being married to the same woman a long time, which is another rarity in Hollywood.  He has six children I think.  He was telling an anecdote, on a conservative talk radio show  which I listen to.  He told how he had breakfast with a director in Hollywood.  The director said, “Do you realize you have picked the only religion in Hollywood that is not acceptable.”  That is true in Hollywood as they will accept Buddhism, Scientology, etc.  A lot of people will say they are “spiritual” or they are into a sort of new age religion, but Christians seem to be in the minority.  Perhaps there are more Christians in the entertainment community than seems readily apparent; maybe Christians are intimidated regarding discussing their faith.  But I have never been shy about expressing what is in my heart.  It is possible, I suppose that it might affect the ability to get work, but I have never been one to hide my beliefs.   There’s that old song by Aaron Tippin  that says in paraphrase that,  “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I am who I am.    Tammy Bruce wrote a book titled The Death of Right and Wrong, about the prevalence of moral relativism—that the lines between right and wrong in today’s culture have become gray.  There seems to be a tendency to denigrate anyone who lives their life by a more absolute moral code.

Ed.:  This probably accounts for the success of so many Christian movies being made today outside of Hollywood.  You have a major one coming out this year (2009) don’t you?

Rebecca:  I just completed filming the movie Book of Ruth, but I don’t know the release date.  The movie is an adaptation of The Book of Ruth from the Bible where powerful themes of tolerance and acceptance are gained through love and understanding.    I play the role of Beth.  Others in this movie include Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams), Gospel singer Carman and Lana Wood (kid sister of Natalie Wood).  This was filmed in Eureka Park in Arkansas, and we were able to use many of the sets from the Passion Play they do there.

Ed.: I know we have to get back a little bit to show business in this interview as this is something readers will be curious about.  It is  in regard to the original Knight Rider series.  How do you like the new Knight Rider series on TV today?

Rebecca:  I saw a little bit of the pilot, but haven’t had an opportunity to see the rest of the shows.  All I can say is what I have heard from a lot of the fans that they are a little disappointed in it, but I hope the ratings improve and that its audience grows.  I certainly hope this new version does well.   I read the other day that they are retooling it to go back to being more like the original.  I know Glen Larson, who was the original creator, was not involved in this one, but he has the rights and will be writing a feature film, and we’ve stayed in touch.

Ed.:  We’d love to see you in the film reprising your role as “April”.  We have read in TV Guide that the main criticism is that the original show was more family oriented and this one has not met that standard.  The second season of the original Knight Rider, in which you costarred,  has just been released on DVD.  People will be buying that and making comparisons.    Now an awful question.  In the series you are a computer guru, a computer genius.  We’re sure that show helped draw a lot of young people into the computer world.  Were you into computers then?

Rebecca:  That’s funny.    I wasn’t at the time.  It was all acting. Ha!  Being a music major in school I was not computer literate.  I would write everything in long hand and I did a lot of writing and still do.  Then, what really pushed me to have to learn about computers was when I was working on a musical.  All of our calls and rehearsal times were sent by the director by eMail.   I had to say to myself, “O.K. Rebecca, you have procrastinated long enough”.  Now I can’t imagine living without my laptop.  Writing on a computer is so much easier!  Technology is advancing so fast, and we become so accustomed to the “latest and greatest”, that we wonder how we ever survived without it.

Ed.:  Now would be a good time to mention your outstanding web page that we will want to point our readers to.  That’s     Your web page mentions certain groups that you have worked with that we’d like you to tell us about.

Rebecca:  I was president of the Music City Christian Fellowship which is a Christian organization in Nashville, Tennessee (as you may know, Nashville is nicknamed Music City).  I served on the board several years and was elected president two terms.  We do a Christian show every year during the CMA  Music Festival in June.  A lot of country music stars, who are Christians, are in the shows and I have hosted many of them.  I’ve also served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the Christian Country Music Awards and have done benefits for Toys for Tots, Feed the Children, Special Olympics and the Music in the Schools program.

Ed.:  We were also pleased to hear that you know one of our Advisory Board members, Rhonda Fleming.

Rebecca:  Oh, Rhonda is such a beautiful person, inwardly and outwardly.  I always admired her.  Rhonda attends some of the events that I do charity work for in Los Angeles and has been a strong supporter.    One is Thalians which just had their 53rd annual ball in which they honored Clint Eastwood.  Debbie Reynolds was a founder and is still the president.  The Thalians supports The Thalians Mental Health Center at Cedars Sinai and does cutting edge research for everything from Autism to Alzheimer’s—pediatrics to geriatrics.

Ed.:  We have really appreciated you taking time here at this event and we hope we can work together in the future.

Rebecca:   It has been such a pleasure to meet you and your lovely wife Carolyn.   I hope this is just the beginning of a long friendship.

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May 19 2009

Kerri Pomarolli

Published by doc under Interviews

In the past, the people we have interviewed have either been contacted in person or recommended by one of our readers.  God works in mysterious ways and this time it was the net.  The question has come up as to whether God has a sense of humor, something we ourselves do not doubt. So we went on a net search and discovered a young Christian comedienne, Kerri Pomarolli.  We were able to see some of her work on the net, and since have talked with Christian church leaders on the West Coast and here in Virginia. All consider her an outstanding Christian actress and author who uses comedy as her pulpit.  Very popular on TV, she has been on the Jay Leno show 29 times at the date of this writing.  Again through the net, we were put in direct contact.  Even before publication of this interview, we had heard from folks who would like to see her booked in their own churches and organizations.

Ed.:  What caused us to look you up was something we believed and apparently you do too-that God has a sense of humor.

Kerri:  That is so funny that you bring that up because, I just did a church conference that I really liked.  This pastor, who I love, got up and said, “God doesn’t have a sense of humor.  No where in the Bible does it say that God has a sense of humor.”  I was like “Are you kidding? Look at my life.  God invented marriage.  If you don’t think God has a sense of humor. Look around.  I think God has a great sense of humor.

I think he has the ultimate sense of humor.  When we laugh, it gives Him joy.”

Ed.:  People overlook Proverbs where a “merry heart” is considered vital.  We also read stories of Jesus where one may easily miss the humor in his statements.  At that time, some of his words may have been recognized by his followers as very humorous.

Kerri:  He had a very dry sense of humor.  I think Jesus had a very dry sense of humor. He did with his disciples.  We Christians get so caught up with  being righteous and doing things correctly that we miss God’s sense of humor.  I think as a Christian comedienne it is my job to point it out.  If you look around, life is pretty funny.

Ed.:  In one of your standup routines you talk about being from the South and about your mom.  And then when I read some of her work on the net,  she sounds like a very talented person herself.  How did that influence your work?

Kerri:  My mother is just a wealth of material.  People ask me where I get my jokes.  I love my jokes because my family is always doing silly things.  All I have to do is carry my notebook and write it down.  Everything in my act comes with some grain of truth.  When I talk about mother stealing the shampoo from Holiday Inn, that’s how we were raised.  We would go out to dinner and mom would get the ketchup package and put it in her purse.  I think it is life, God blessing me with a funny family.

Ed.:  When you went out to Hollywood it wasn’t to do comedy.

Kerri:  No, I got my degree in theater.  I spent some time in New York doing theater. Then I decided I wanted to try film and television.  At that time I was twenty two years old, and I was able to play the teenage roles.  Shows like Dawson’s Creek where they were hiring people in their twenties to play younger roles.   I had a nice little career for myself as an actress, and it wasn’t until I was about twenty seven or twenty eight that standup comedy came into my life.  I was feeling compromised as a Christian as an actress.  I felt if I could do standup comedy I could write my own clean material.

Ed.:  Prior to comedy you were already building quite a career as an actress.  You had recurring roles on General Hospital, Port Charles and Young and the Restless.  And numerous guest appearances.  And both before and now you have been active in films.  I read where you have a  lead in Engaged with Amanda Fuller and another very interesting one relating to your own work.

Kerri:  There are two as you say.  One is being released on DVD that can be found in stores like WalMart titled Hollywood on Fire.    That is a documentary that talks about Christianity through the years in Hollywood.    It is really amazing as people like Jane Russell the actress from the 1950’s is a Christian, and she is in it, and Pat Boone and some other people in the business. It is a really interesting look at faith in Hollywood. 

Ed.: Kerri, you really are a renaissance lady.  You have three books out and you are a columnist.

Kerri:  I love to write.  I think writing is very therapeutic for my soul.  I was just going to basically write about the trials and tribulations as a single woman who didn’t get married until her thirties, and I was feeling really alone.  I started writing my story and found there were a lot of singles out there who felt the same way.  It was just a way for me to speak to the hearts of other people.  I really think one of the gifts God has given me is a big mouth because when I go through stuff I can’t keep quiet about it.  When I put something on paper I like to tell what God is doing in my life.

Ed.:  One of the things we loved on the net was the surprise you had during one of your bits on stage.  That was when Ron McGehee came on stage, got on one knee and proposed. He had the ring ready for you.   We also saw an  interview when Ron mentioned that when witnessing to a doubter, he would pull out your picture to prove there is a God.

Kerri:  I never thought I’d marry a standup comedian, but God has a sense of humor for sure.  Two comedians getting married is quite an adventure.  We do our best as when God puts two people together it is for bigger purposes.  We have a partnership and a ministry and we just do the best we can.  We have the spiritual battles that a Christian couple will have from time to time but just have to keep our faith in God knowing that Satan will never win.

Ed.:  We have talked with a lot of people who have told stories of problems with having both a successful career and being a Christian.  You seemed to have been able to cope with that.

Kerri:  Well,  I haven’t had a lot of rejection from Hollywood in being a Christian.  I have   to be honest with you, and it is something to really pray about.  A lot of the sadness we have experienced comes from people in the Christian community.  People in Christian production and entertainment saying they want to do God- honoring projects, but not walking the walk.  That is where it really hurts.  They are supposed to be brothers and sisters in the Lord and there is an integrity issue.    I know that we all sin and we all have issues, but we are supposed to be pulling together here and not tearing each other down.  I also think we Christians are not immune to the same thing the world is faced with; money, success, power, greed and pride.  God had really convicted me a while ago that I was climbing so many ladders to success.   He said to me “Kerri, there is no ladder  to God.  There is room for everybody.  You don’t have to be in such a hurry to get ahead of other people.  I will guide your career.”  Basically  I think the world tells us we have to be on a fast track to success which has nothing to do with what God has for us.

Ed.:  This issue will be coming out the latter part of April.  Is there anything we can be saying or doing that could be of benefit to your ministry?

Kerri:  I would ask your readers if they could pray for my husband and I.   That we really want to be bold in 2009 and we really need the prayer support.  It is a definite spiritual battle that I have never experienced in my life, moving forward in Hollywood.   To get the doors open where God wants us to go is like going through quick sand.    God has lifted me out of a slimy pit.  We just covet the prayers of your readers.  We feel like we are missionaries in Hollywood and we do what God wants us to do here.

Ed.:  We’ll pray for your daughter Lucy too.

Kerri:  She is a star, she goes on stage, she goes on tour, she goes everywhere.

Ed.:  You all are stars in our view.

Kerri:  We hope to meet you in person, come to some of your churches in Virginia and  come to your show when you have another one.

Ed.:  That’s what we would like.  On our web pages you may have noted, from time to time, we have put on a Christian media convention.  We would like to do another, in the future, and already several outstanding folks like you have said they would like to take part. They want us to continue that aspect of our mission.  We notice that you and your husband also have put on marriage and family workshops.

Kerri:  We do all kinds of events, if there is a need or a fundraiser or an outreach in a community.  We’d love to come in and do some comedy and share  the Gospel.

Our readers are urged to check out Kerri’s web page The page will direct readers to her  award winning columns, samples of both her and Ron’s work on stage and her cartoons.  There is contact information for people who wish to book Kerri and Ron for their church or organization.

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May 19 2009

Pastor Daina House

Published by doc under Interviews

We always appreciate it when one of our readers helps us make a contact for an interview.   Over the Christmas holidays, Michael Marx wrote us about Daina House, whom he considers an outstanding Christian.  We immediately made contact and we were given the following interview.  She is a person with an important mission and message for others.

Ed.: I want to start right off to ask about your ministry. From looking at your web page it seems intensely interesting and has us wanting to know all about what you are doing.

Daina:  My ministry is at Church on the Way, where I am a pastor for single moms.  I have been a single mom for 23 years.  That is my church ministry; however, I also have a deliverance ministry where I help the down and out as well as people addicted to drugs and alcohol.  I also do a lot of counseling.  I love helping people find their way from the world to Jesus. He’s the only Person who can make them happy.  Basically because of what I’ve been through, I try to help others get their life straight and find their place in this world.
Ed.: What led you to this ministry?
Daina:   It was the Lord. When I first got saved I was in the entertainment industry and doing drugs.   I grew up in a middle-to -upper class family and I didn’t do drugs in high school.  I came out to California and got involved in modeling and entering beauty contests.  I was trying to find my way and what I was going to do with my life when I was approached by Playboy magazine to be a centerfold.  It wasn’t something I wanted to do; I was very adamant against it.   There were all kinds or stories about what Playboy was and what they were offering the girls that got involved.  But after many rejections, they offered me a tremendous amount of money and eventually I did give in and said yes.  However, it wasn’t long after I shot the pictorial when I had a change of mind.  I decided I didn’t want to go through with it.  Since it was a two-year contract and they had given me half the money up front, they said it was too late to get out of it.  They said I could either change my name or write my own story.  I wasn’t going to change my name because my name is who I am.  So they let me write my own story which was called “Decidedly Daina.”  I even wrote in the story that I had great reservations.  Immediately, I found myself in world of riches, politicians,  celebrities, Mafia, you name it.  It was the Devil’s Candy Store.  All of a sudden people were calling me to do this or that movie or television show.  I had gotten married in June of 1975, before I did Playboy and it was absolutely a nightmare for my marriage.  There was so much turmoil we ended up separating, and one night I drove to the Playboy Mansion to spend the night while I was fighting with my husband.   Hugh Hefner asked to see me and I was very nervous when we met - I was 20.   He asked me to be his girlfriend.  I said “I’m married. “I think that’s called adultery, right?”  I don’t remember what he said after that, I only remember having great hopes of saving my marriage.  Then I saw them pull my December cover, and I lost what I thought I deserved, Playmate of the Year!  As I look back on it, I know that the Lord was totally and completely protecting me; but at the time, I saw it as rejection, and that spun me off into a world of rejection.  I wasn’t an actress I was a “Playmate”.  I wasn’t a wife; I was a “Playmate”.  I didn’t know who I was on the inside.  I was a beautiful girl to others, but when I looked in the mirror, for all the success I had, I was empty.  I felt like a failure.  I started to drink and I was introduced to drugs.  There was a four-year period when I did drugs and I drank all the time.  I believe it was 1981 when I took a lot of sleeping pills and prayed to die in my sleep.  I woke up the next morning and said, “Okay, God.  If I’m going to live, I’m going to live.” I just got mad and I remember that my drug dealer at that time came by my house to see if I wanted to get high and I said, “No, I’m going to live.”  Literally I was delivered from drugs completely.  I never entered rehab and never went through any kind of 12-step program.  I called up my sister, who was thirteen and a born again Christian, and she said, “I’m going to take you   to Church on the Way.” It was the beginning for me.

Ed.: I understand this wasn’t the end of your quest for salvation.   So many people assume that once you become a Christian it guarantees a bed of roses.  You still had a long way to go.

Daina: Before going to church with my sister, my agent literally told people that I was out of the country because I would go to interviews and I would be high.  I would be up all night and I would make a fool out of myself.  I was completely and totally broke even though I had made a lot of money.  I frivolously spent all the money I had.  The day I called my sister I had been eating rice for three days, because my unemployment check hadn’t come.  No one knew this.  Everyone thought I was living a life that was grand.  I was at the bottom of the barrel.  So my sister picked me up and took me to Church on the Way.  I got born agai and was baptized in water.  Thus my life as a Christian began.  However, it would be another ten years before it was complete.  It wasn’t that I didn’t know who God was.  I was trying to be sanctified, to make my life work as a Christian, but I found myself being pulled back to my old life, or any easy money, thus always compromising my walk with the Lord.  I was modeling, doing television shows, but doing parts with titles like “Easy” and playing Will Smith’s side kick’s girl friend in a bathing suit.  I still couldn’t find myself or figure out what the whole Christian thing was all about.  I wasn’t living a holy life.  I had one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom.  The dance was continual. I had met my son’s father in 1984.  Three years after I was born again.  He served a dramatic purpose in my life.  It was good for me to be accountable to someone who did not touch drugs, was very upstanding, except for when I got pregnant with our son Tyler.  He wanted nothing to do with the pregnancy and he left our life.  So I decided, “it’s me and my baby.’  In fact I called up Mike Marx and said, “I have no where to go, and I’m pregnant and I don’t know what to do, and I have no place to live.”  So he said ‘You can come and stay on my couch for as long as you need.”  So I stayed on his couch for two months until I could get myself and my finances together enough to get my own apartment.  I will be forever grateful to him…

My son was born in 1986 and he was delivered by C-section.  I was in a room with the baby on my chest and all these lights.  And the Lord suddenly spoke to my spirit.  Almost audibly he said to me, “In seven years you will come into your own.”  I thought, “Wow what was that?”  Usually when you have a birth it is very quiet.  With a C-section delivery, there are lights and people all around but I could not hear what they were saying.  I could just hear the Lord.  So I began to raise my son while I was working three jobs.   I had this little baby and trying to live a straight life, but I was working in a bar where it was really not conducive to Christian living.  I was trying to get back in the industry because it was the only thing I knew I could do, because I didn’t go to college.   I didn’t know my capacity for education.   I had lived off my looks for so long I didn’t even know I had a brain.   Nobody ever said to me “Why don’t you try using your brain?”  I knew that I knew things, but didn’t know I could make a living that way.   I finally quit working in a bar and got a call from my agent and said “You’re going to audition to play a role similar to Tammy Faye Baker.”   I played a preacher and the episode was called “God’s Will.”  When I walked in and looked at the producer, he said “Can you preach?”  I had never preached before in my life and he gives me the script.  I did the sermon and he said it was perfect and I was hired.  I looked at the script and said, “Okay, God’s Will” and I am playing a preacher. Talk about prophetic.”  So I did the part and things started to change in my life.
Ed.: And now events were happening that would lead you to meet Jesus.

Daina: Yes. In January of ‘94 there was an earthquake.  It was really a major earthquake.  In fact, it was also an earthquake of my soul.  I remember after it happened, literally everything I had, had been preserved, untouched.  Nothing in my house was broken. I had my phone and nobody else around me did.  I was holding my hands on a gigantic picture of Jesus I had on the wall praying, “Father, if you let us live I’ll do anything to serve you the rest of my life.  Just don’t let us die. If you do this I will do anything you want.”  I just felt this whispering in my soul, “Okay”  A week later I decided to go to the church with my son and we got baptized together.  Well, I got baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Shortly after that I was sick in bed and there was a Christian gentleman who was mentoring me.  You talk about boot camp. He was boot camp for Jesus.   He said, “You’ve got demons, you’ve got witchcraft, you’ve got pride, and you’ve got perversion and lust.  You need major deliverance.  Instead of being insulted, as I would have been before, I said, “Okay, let’s do this Jesus thing!”  He said, “You’ve got to learn to pay your own bills, and do it with truth and with purpose.”  I did everything he told me to do.   Later he was reading the Bible to me next to my bed because I was sick with a cold, he was reading from Jeremiah 13:17 where it says, “But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, Because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.”  I cannot remember the exact words, but I looked at him and said “Pride, I don’t have any pride!”  He replied, “Oh yes you do.”  At that moment I said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.”  He said “What?”   I said, “It’s a man, it’s a man, its Jesus at the foot of my bed!”  He asked me if it was scary and I said “No.”  I closed my eyes and He was still there, I opened my eyes and He was still there, after a few moments I said, “Okay, okay, okay, I know you are real, I know you are real.”  In the past I had asked, ”If You are real, I need to know You are real.”  I know some people believe in their heart, and their faith is so easy and they don’t question it, but I couldn’t get it from  my head to my heart.  I kept asking Jesus to make it real to me.  I didn’t really believe it; I wanted to really believe it.  So He showed up at the foot of my bed.  He said, “Daina, when you were in the world, wherever you went I went with you.  I followed you wherever you went.  But I’m not following you any more.  You’re following me.”  He spoke to me and my spirit.  Then the vision went away and I looked at my friend and said “It’s real.  I get it, I get it.”   For the next three months all I did was read The Word.  I got baptized in the Holy Spirit and my life changed completely.  This was 2 days after my son’s seventh birthday.  When I was in the hospital and God said, “You’ll come into your own”, I was thinking I would get a call with a big role offer, or a big modeling job or commercial.  I had all these delusions -aspirations about what God meant, but what HE meant was that I would be following hard after HIM in seven years.  By this time the sanctification process began to work.
I didn’t know what to do; I had no means of making money.  I didn’t want to wait tables; I told my agent and manager I was quitting show business.   I had sold my soul to the Devil once and wasn’t going to do it again.  I knew that I had to trust the Lord.  Let me tell you something… That was the hardest year of my whole life.  I was 38 years old, I had a child and I didn’t know what I was going to do to make a living, I just knew I was following Jesus.  I didn’t know what I was going to do, but knew I was on my own.  No more rich boyfriends who paid my bills, no more parts playing prostitutes.  So I started looking in the newspaper and said “Okay, Lord, you have to show me.”   All of a sudden my fingers started throbbing like a heart beat and I looked down to where they rested on the article and it said, a “pre-school teacher” was needed at a Christian school.  I said. “Okay, I’ll go be a pre-school teacher.”  I walked in for an interview and they asked about my experience.  I had done child care at Church on the Way.  They asked if I had ever worked a computer and I said I had.  The pastor’s secretary was out on pregnancy leave and I was asked to take her place until she came back.  Then they could use me in the pre-school.  I said, “Okay God, I get it.  I’m going back to pre-school.”  After all the years doing things MY WAY, I was offered seven dollars and twenty five cents an hour.  I had no car so I walked.  I had borrowed a car to get to the interview.

When they told me the wage I remembered I had received twenty five hundred dollars a day doing shows and signing autographs. At first I thought, “I can’t take this job”, but I took the job anyway.  Someone in their congregation had a house, a two bedroom guest house, they rented it to me for $400.00 a month and every miracle possible that could happen started happening to me. 

Ed.:  We understand that this was just the beginning of your journey.

Daina: I quit almost every bad habit I had and I quit dating.  Everything in my life changed.  Two years after working for the church pre-school, I went back into the world and went to work at an insurance company and started doing accounting.  Then I became a personal manager and started working with different people in their estates and managing their money.  I was finding I could make money using my brain.  In the meantime I did childcare at church, I went on missions, I was singing on the platform, and I worked with a drama group that took the message of Jesus into the world through plays.  I was on the Board of Directors for Safe Passage which was a home for women and their children who suffered from domestic violence. I helped put up tents in Hollywood with my girlfriends and held tent revival meetings.  We had Benny Hinn and all the big preachers come. It was one thing after the next.  One day I woke up from a dead sound sleep saying, “The kings are anointed.”   I asked, “What does that mean, the kings are anointed, the kings are anointed?”   I looked at I Kings, II Kings, Chronicles, Samuel, and I couldn’t figure out what the Lord was saying to me.  A week later I was walking down a hallway at Church on the Way and I looked up and saw a sign on the building that said King’s College and Seminary.  I thought, “Oh no, I’m 48, I don’t want to go to college.”  The Lord said, “You’re going to college.”  So I enrolled in Bible College, and I graduated with honors.  I made straight A’s.  I realized that this is such a passionate thing for me.  The Lord has been saying, “We’re going to go here, we’re going to go there.”  A year after that He said, “We’re going to get your license.”   A year after that He said “Now, we’re going to write the book.”  I’m two hundred pages into the book and I have publishers and it should be out the first of next year.  That’s where I am today.

Ed.:  What a fantastic witness.  Normally I would ask about the TV shows and films you have done, however I hesitate as I don’t want to take away from the main point of your story.

Daina:  That’s an important part of where I was and how I got here. I did Starsky and Hutch, Houston Knights, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Dukes of Hazzard, and I am especially pleased to have done the 700 Club. I did movies with Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Mitchum, Susan Sarandon and Henry Fonda. I did all the TV shows in the seventies and the eighties.   It started when I took the title of The Most Beautiful Girl in California.  Part of the prize was acting lessons and money.  When I was in the world I was just basically trying to make money.  When you come to this town (Hollywood) you discover a whole new world.  They find a fresh face in town and you either survive or you don’t.  Luckily for me I was only in to drugs and alcohol for four years.  I tried to kill myself and get it all over with.  I just said, “No.”  I look back now and my mom’s parents were doctors and they were elders of the Baptist Church.  We were raised with great morals and values.  I was a very good kid and never got in trouble.  But when I was exposed to so much out here I was trying to find, “Who am I.”   It took God to point me to “Who am I.” The answer to “who am I” can only be answered by the God of the universe who made you for a purpose and a destiny.  It is His plan.    The Lord is in complete control of my life and I like it that way.  He put such a great obedience in my life that He has become my Husband.  I was married before as I said, but now I am single now.  I’m not sure if the Lord has a Godly husband for me - His will be done!  If not, praise the Lord as He is my strength and I will live for Him the rest of my life.   The Lord has opened new portals to me and I have had dreams and visions.   I love helping people and it is not about me, it’s all about giving God the glory.

Ed. Note: For more about Daina House and her ministry check out her web site.

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May 19 2009

Leslie Easterbrook

Published by doc under Interviews

Leslie Easterbrook attended our first two Christian media events and was one of the first people to hear about the Point North project, even before we had an official  name for it. She was a major hit at our events and we have been in touch ever since.  Recently we had the opportunity to have an in-depth, interview with her.  So in depth that for the first time we ran an interview in two issues.

Ed.:  We first met you in Hollywood thanks to a breakfast meeting set up by Heather Lowe. We had not announced our start of the Point North Outreach program, in fact not more than four people knew about it.   We described it to you not knowing what your reaction would be to a Christian media convention and you were very positive, didn’t seem to give it a second thought. Did you at the time consider the idea as unusual or as something that was needed?

Leslie: I was enjoying your company, as Heather Lowe and Andy Prine had assured me I would, so when you mentioned the idea of a Christian media convention, I was further impressed and intrigued.  I initially thought it was a great idea, feared it could be exploited in the wrong hands, but you seemed very sincere in your intent and indicated a good deal of experience with both Christianity and fan events.  I wasn’t entirely sure what your ultimate goals were, but was convinced you had a good idea and would go forward with integrity, which you did.  Most promoters, if you will, only book actors for their fan appeal.  That is understandable.  If you are going to spend money to set up and advertise an event, you must book ‘stars’ that fans will pay to meet — and the basic requirement for stars at these events?  Meet, chat and sign.  That’s all   we   are   usually   required to do.  Well, to be fair, it is extremely flattering for us.  Imagine the thrill of thinking people would line up just to meet you.  It’s an amazing high.  However, it’s usually frustrating to encounter so many interesting people and realize, in retrospect, that you never got to know any of them or to share anything of substance.

You were offering us a way to really communicate at Point North – this was before the name ‘Point North’ had even been chosen, as I recall.   In short, you were offering us a dialogue. You were asking us, as guests, to share our views and beliefs with the fans and to listen to theirs, as well. You wanted us to Witness with one another.  It sounded good – I wanted to try it! And if we could improve the Christian message in the mainstream media as a result — Bravo!

Ed.: As a guest at our first event we visited a round table session you conducted in which you used the idea of God being like an artist and life being like a painting. Very beautiful and very unusual. Could you repeat that now?

As I was reading different religious passages and books on faith as a kind of research before attending the event, I became fixated on books of art, paintings and sculptures mostly.  Then I found myself envisioning masterpieces by great artists I’d visited in museums here and in many cities around the world, too.  I don’t know why.  I was trying to collect my thoughts as a Christian and find some inspiration I could share with your guests at a “Round Table.”  It was a new experience for me and I wanted to be prepared.  But why was I so drawn to great works of art at the same precise time?

Suddenly it occurred to me that God is the greatest artist of all.  He has created this universe of extreme beauty, drama, diversity, challenge and change in many ways like a master painter creates complex life, on a canvas – in a much more limited sense, of course.  The thing that struck me was that God’s world is ever changing and growing, just like an artist’s work.  It is said that an artist is never finished with a painting and will work and rework it until it is wrestled, sometimes forcibly, away from him or her. I know from experience that when you are acting on the stage, you may say the same lines night after night, but they are never the same.  You work on them before bed, before breakfast, on the way to the theatre – you constantly rework the character you are playing.  You stay within the boundaries of the direction and the author’s roadmap, but you are never satisfied.  Often I am haunted by a role long after a production has closed.  I will find myself discovering something I’d missed and suddenly see how it would have influenced the entire play if I’d just gotten it earlier.  I am certainly not calling myself a great artist, but I’ve chosen a creative profession and feel called to contribute.

All I was sharing was the concept that God is the greatest artist of all – his canvas is never done.  His creations are never static.  Even stones change their shape over many many years.  We humans are part of his great handiwork and if we listen very carefully, we can hear and feel him guide our lives — day by day, minute by minute and even second by second.  We respond to the stroke of his great and gentle brush in this mighty masterpiece called life.

Ed.: You are both a singer and an actress, actually a classical singer. When did you start with your interest in both fields and which do you feel closest to?

Leslie: For many years I did more singing than acting, then things reversed and I’ve never looked back.  As long as I get to do a little of each every year, I feel grateful.

My father was a music teacher in the public schools and was also a Professor of Music at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.  He was also a wonderful tenor soloist, composer, arranger and church choir director.  He taught me to read music before I even started kindergarten – I had no choice but to sing.  I graduated from Stephens College in Columbia, MO with a degree in music with an emphasis on opera, but ultimately turned down a full post-graduate scholarship to Julliard — only because I had discovered the theatre!  For years my compromise was performing Musical Theatre.

Herein lies the rub  so to speak, my love of music wasn’t just based on hearing or even producing beautiful notes. It was also based on the drama!  I always chose roles and songs because of what they said – their message, if you will.  Even an instrumental symphony speaks to me – it always tells a story.

I really had no choice in any of this because my mother was an English teacher in the public schools and then taught literature at the same University as my father.  She filled in my love of story, my fascination with the communication of characters, my respect for dramatic structure and kindled my passion to express grand emotion.  Between the two of them, I was a hopeless combination of the performer and the storyteller.  If I’d ever shown any promise as a writer, that probably would have been my profession, but, alas, I am but a vessel awaiting directional inspiration.

Truthfully, I’ve always liked acting better than singing.  It’s a little easier, you see, to act spontaneously, without having to do it on pitch or in tempo.  Singing is perhaps more gratifying – when you get it right and I mean just right; when you can tell the story without your technique getting in the way.  If I finish a performance in which I have sung and someone simply tells me I sounded good or even glorious, I feel I’ve failed; but. If they tell me I moved them, I’m on cloud nine for days!!

Ed.: You began your television career with Laverne and Shirley, the comedy on which you were a regular after its first few seasons.  You showed a great flair for comedy and you had a cast of comic trained people to keep up with, often exceeding. What was it like working with those folks and actually getting an opportunity to sing?

Leslie:  I was, indeed, a regular on Laverne and Shirley for the last 3 seasons, playing an actress-model-dancer named Rhonda Lee.  It was a wild ride securing that part with 6 auditions and a 6-month SAG strike between my first meeting with the casting director, the dear and brilliant Bobby Hoffman, and the actually getting the contract.  Every nervous minute was worth it though.  Suffice to say, I learned a great deal in those 3 years.  Most of what I learned had nothing to do with acting, but has helped me navigate the industry for years.  Only recently has ‘the business of the business’ changed radically enough to make those lessons learned on L&S almost obsolete.  I need a new series to learn the new language…what a novel idea…

I loved Rhonda, but believe me, she was never funnier than the other characters, no matter how much I probably wanted her to be.  Those actors were, and still are, really good!

My “flair” for comedy, which you allude to, is, perhaps instead, my constant twisted sense of humor.  But, thank you for the compliment, anyway.  I always seem to find the humor in any situation, much to the chagrin of more serious minded folks, but my sense of humor is what kept me alive and working on L&S.  By the time I got there, the regulars were very unhappy with everything – the scripts, their characters, the producers, the network, the studio, the wardrobe department, you name it…the list was endless and the angst so thick you could cut it with a knife.  But, their endless talents always saved the day.  They could be throwing things one minute and absolutely hysterically funny the next.  They were an inspiration to me and I watched them like a hawk – even managed to stay out of their way.  I’ve never been able get too upset about anything I can’t control, so the only thing that ever got me really nervous was the potential that one of the regulars would become upset with me.  It never happened and that taught me an enormous lesson – just do your job and stay out of sight when you have nothing to contribute.

I never got tired of watching them rehearse and perform.  They were masters of getting the joke, improving the joke and then adapting the joke to their characters.  They could take a script and personalize it in a way I’d never witnessed before.  What’s stunning to me is that I’ve never seen it done as well since.  Penny, Cindy, David, Michael, Eddie, Phil and Betty – brilliant!  Simply Brilliant! The shows haven’t weathered the test of time as well as the their individual work has.

Eddie Mecca and I were the only singers in the group, so I got a couple of opportunities to warble.  It was my first attempt at lip-syncing.  It’s not so easy.  It was also my first time in a recording studio.  I drove them crazy – take after take, to get it just so.  I was like the others with their scripts.  I wouldn’t be nearly so picky now.  It’s like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets.  The more you hear yourself, the more objective you become – the better you sing it the first time, too, knowing how costly and totally boring (for you, but especially for the crew) it is to sing/hear it over and over again.

Ed.:  After Laverne and Shirley you were on such television favorites as Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Masterpiece Theater, Hunter and Dukes of Hazzard. Do you have any special memories of those shows or people you worked with?

All of the other well-known shows came after that very lucky break.  Before L&S, I had only worked on one CBS pilot called The Two of Us, starring Dixie Carter and Peter Cook, and an episode of Me and Maxx,  starring Joe Santos.

Me and Maxx was a short-lived CBS series and I was cast as Maxx”s school teacher, for one   episode  only.    After  it aired,   the network contacted me about wanting the grade school teacher I had just played to become a semi-regular character on the series.  I was thrilled, until the whole show was canceled, 3 weeks later.  Now, The Two of Us was a terrific pilot and we were all pulling for it to get on the air.  It did, but CBS replaced Dixie with Mimi Kennedy and me with a ten-year-old girl.  Peter Cook stayed on and was wonderful in the series, as was Mimi and the 10-year old- girl!  But, get this, I played Dixie/Mimi’s agent in the pilot.  They took all of my dialogue and gave it to the character’s daughter in the first episode – one of the strangest and funniest ‘firings’ I’ve ever had. I did a bunch of Murder She Wrote‘s.   Peter Fisher was very good to me.  I always got to play smart, strong, cranky or funny women — depending on the situations.  My favorite Murder memory is this:  I was 2 hours late to the set the first day of my first episode.  Ms. Lansbury’s son, Anthony Shaw, was directing.  I thought my goose was cooked for sure.  Well, the tears running down my cheeks when I finally arrived on the set for my first rehearsal must have moved him, because he carried on as if there had never been the slightest upset in the schedule.  What a guy. He wasn’t always my director on Murder, but they were all top notch.  I had such a good time working Murder, that when they spun off a show called The Law and Harry McGraw, they cast me as a gangster’s moll in the second episode.  In that episode, my gangster boyfriend had just been killed and Jerry Orbach, Harry McGraw for those of you who may not remember, discovers me at the mortuary tearfully picking out a casket.  He picks my brain and I like the look of him.  We had a very cute relationship and shortly after we wrapped the episode, Mr. Fisher’s company called me to ask me to continue my character and become Harry McGraw’s girlfriend – semi regular employment again!  Of course I said, “YES!” and once again…the show was canceled 3 weeks later.They did cast me as Harry’s bookie, in a 2- hour Murder episode, that may well have been their last.  It was the end of their first 7 years on CBS and Peter Fisher was no long going to produce the show.   Most of the cast and crew thought it was ending – but, Angela Lansbury’s family decided to keep shooting and to produce it themselves.  Good for them.  I was extremely surprised to be asked to return again, under the new management, and do one final episode.  This time I got to work with the great lady herself, instead of in a sub-plot, and it was the treat of a lifetime.  She is everything you’ve ever thought and more.  I’ve never worked with a more giving and professional actor anytime, anywhere.  I was the ‘red-herring’ and played her personal hairdresser.  Oh, what fun we had!  And, the show lasted another five years on the air – all of them highly rated and memorable.

What started out as one episode of Matlock, turned into two.  My character in the first was so evil that they used her/me as a jailbreak killer on the lamb, hunting down Matlock, in another episode. I had killed my lover for sleeping with my daughter and framed my husband in my first episode. Oh, she was a bad woman, but she sure was fun to play.  I loved working with Andy Griffith.  What a generous actor!

Leslie: The last show I’ll share about is Dukes of Hazzard.  It was a ball!  I was supposed to wreck a van in that one and wreck it, I did.  I played a fortuneteller who traveled and worked with a sidekick.  My sidekick was Tommy Madden.  He had been the ‘understudy dwarf’ and my best back stage pal in my very first professional musical, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I got my Actors’ Equity card playing Snow White at the St. Louis Muni Opera for the Disney Company.  Tommy and I hadn’t seen each other in 10 years when we teamed up again in Dukes.  It was wonderful to see and work with him again.  Oh, and he even helped me wreck the van!

Every movie, play and TV episode has a story, for me, behind the scenes, as you can see.  I really appreciate this opportunity to think back and smile.

Ed.: You probably are asked most about the film series, Police Academy, now considered a classic. There too, in six of the seven films, you co-starred with a big cast. What are your favorite memories of that series and is there a possibility of another one?

I love a big ensemble cast – I was adopted and raised as an only child who always wanted to be part of a big family.  Oh, how I longed for brothers and sisters.  A big cast is the perfect answer for me – although there are always some conflicts, you all pull together for the final take.  You become like siblings, in that you can yell at each other, but don’t let anyone from the “outside” try it.  It’s funny that way.  I think that’s why I love big musicals and classical plays – big casts — big families!

Do I have any favorite memories?”   Almost every memory I have of a Police Academy movie is a ‘favorite’ memory of my life.  Our ensemble cast is my favorite film/theatre family of all time.  Almost 26 years after we filmed the first one, my heart still skips a beat and tears come to my eyes when I think of the depth of the friendships that were founded at that retired insane asylum cum police academy campus outside of Toronto.  Other cast members were added as the series expanded and, miraculously, they were welcomed into the heart of the family, as well, and just moved on in.  Of all the strange things, egos were never apparent on the set.  No pouting, no arguing, many hilarious biting insults, though — but that’s what you expect when you work with stand up comics — and no jealousies. Go figure.  Is there a family anywhere that can boast of that?  It’s certainly the only theatrical family, in my history, that got along that well.  Most of them are filled with high drama and then some.

I guess my favorite memory is every memory. Hugh Wilson was our director on the first one and he set the tone.  We all loved him and he trusted his cast totally.  Before every scene we were encouraged to get together and figure it out – block it out, work on the jokes and make them better, rewrite it, add to it, cut some of it; whatever it took.  Most of the time, when Hugh finally witnessed our handiwork, he accepted it, shot it our way and thanked us for the improvements.  Since he had written it, he could un-write it when he wanted – no ego…absolute heaven.  And, when he was right and we were wrong, we respected his decision.  Even when our later directors became rather authoritative with us, we took it with a smile, because we’d had Hugh once upon a time and he had trusted us.  We tried to pass that on to future cast additions and, for the most part, it worked.

There are too many great memories to list here, so I’ll just share with you my most moving Police Academy experience.  We made the 7th one in Russia, soon after the Cold War ended.  We were there when the citizens tried to burn down their white house.  The government was completely unstable and the people were starving.  Among the long list of heartbreaking stories I could tell you are these few:

1. We stayed in Moscow too long (like Napoleon) and it began to snow.  One morning I looked outside our bus and noticed the prop man was making props, wearing no gloves, in a blinding blizzard.  I bundled up, went outside and gave him my own.  He tried not to take them, but I can be very persuasive.  The next day, more snow.  I look outside and there he is again – again wearing no gloves.  I bundle up and go outside to find out why he is still freezing his fingers.  (Mind you, this is all in broken English/Russian)  He tells me he gave the warm gloves to his family – none of them have mittens.  I wasn’t working the next day so I went to the flea market, where I purchased 20 pairs of mittens and gloves – all for well under $1 a pair — and took them to him on the set.  The next day I worked and he was bare handed again.  I asked him why and he said, “I have big family.”  It was then that the entire cast began bringing mittens, gloves and warm scarves, as gifts, everyday for our entire crew.  None of our crew was working for money on the film.  They were working for the hot meal.  Even our American producer didn’t know this – but when he found out, things changed somewhat.  Our crew was made up of the best artisans in the Russian film industry – it’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?

2. One day I needed a check, made out to a charity, for a prop in a scene planned for the next day.  Our producer told the prop guys (2 of them) what was needed and then left the room.  The prop guys looked lost.  They turned to me and asked, “What check?”  I explained what a charity was and how we give them money, but they still looked confused.  I pulled a check out of my purse and made it out to the charity.  I gave it to them, in case they didn’t have one the next day.  My friend from the mitten exchange was looking really confused by this time and finally said, “Ya, understand, but what check?”  During the next exchange, it finally dawned on me that they didn’t know what a “check” was.  As I found out, during that conversation and many afterwards, the Russian people had never ever had bank accounts.  All they knew was cash.  They had never seen a check, let alone a credit card.  This knocked me for a loop, of course, and then I began to realize why, when the value of the ruble fell, so did the Soviet Union.

3. One more Russia story and I will stop.  We were the first western film allowed to shoot in Red Square since the revolution in 1917.  We set up graduation-bleachers right there in front of St. Basil’s, with the Kremlin to our left and Lenin’s tomb further down.  (I finally went to see Lenin’s body the last week both Lenin and I were in Moscow.  It was the last week his body was ever seen by the public, as the new government gave his body back to the company that had been chemically preserving it, as it lay in state, for the last 60 or 70 years.  How could I leave town without paying my respects?)  Our producer had asked for 250 policemen, in uniform, to act as extras for our scene.  Everyone was shocked when 700 of them showed up.  It turned out that the police and the military are one and the same in Russia and the soldiers had heard that we were serving lunch.  Our American producer was flabbergasted and at a loss.  How do you feed 950 extras when you’ve budgeted for a mere 250?  He asked our Hungarian caterer if he could do it.  Our caterer and his staff left the set, actually found enough food and cooked for all of us – no one went hungry that day.  Pictures were taken with every one of those soldiers.  Many happy tears were shed by all of us at Red Square that day!  Believe it or not, the soldiers were all fans of the Police Academy movies, although they had only seen them on bootlegged videos.  Our movies were illegal in the Soviet Union.

My stories about that one movie could go on and on.  When we wrapped and I finally left Russia, I cried all the way to London.  I cried because of the heartbreak and also because I missed our crew and all of the Russian actors we had worked with.  I wanted to bring them all to the US. Their lives may have been difficult, but, though they were shy and reserved at first, they showed us a kind of love and acceptance in the end that I will never forget.  It’s been emotionally draining just to tell these stories.

Our last film, Mission to Moscow, wasn’t very good.  We were there during the coup and could never keep a location long enough to complete a sequence properly.  The government kept changing and the evening curfew kept getting earlier and earlier, so we were shooting on the fly.  We escaped getting arrested several times only by proving we were in the movie.  Michael Winslow would get out and do his noises in order to convince the police we were the cast of Police Academy. It’s a shame there isn’t a better movie to represent our experience there.

Ed.: I have to ask if that is where you and Marion Ramsey became such good friends? A great team and we hope to interview her later. Marion was partnered with you at the two events you joined us for. You both revealed what outstanding singers you are.

Marion is the one who is good on the fly, though.  I really don’t sing well unless I rehearse with an accompanist and kind of become one with my environment, if you will.  I’m even better if I’m singing in character, as opposed to just singing a song.  I’ve been a little embarrassed when I’ve sung for you.  Perhaps one day you will here me sing at my best.  I was in a showcase of a new musical this summer and had a great song – the show was based on the early lives of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez.  I played Lucy’s mother, De De.  I felt absolutely committed while singing my song – you see, I was in character.  The song is called “Little Girls” and if the show goes, it will be a classic.  The show is called Dance with Me.

Marion and I met on the first Police Academy movie.  We worked and played together, but we didn’t become like sisters until the 3rd one, Back in Training.  Our musical backgrounds and our passion for the theatre are probably what really bonded us.  We just got into a habit of watching each other’s backs.  Marion is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. She is a giver and once she is on board with you, she is a lifesaver.  We’ve been there for each other though thick and thin; celebrating the victories and bearing the heartbreaks.  It’s always a treat to travel with her.  Our styles are so different, yet where one picks up the other leaves off.  We are indeed a “Team Thing.”  That’s the title of a song we sang in PA3 and then we sang it again, for you, at Point North.

Ed.: You have made some films, not enough to our thinking, since the Police Academy’s. Some in which you got to display your more serious side as an actor.  Do any of them stand out to you?

Well, I wish there were more, too.  In fact, I was just lamenting the lack of good roles this very morning.  I do that sometimes and, then, I pray it away.  If the good Lord has something in mind for me, I’m sure that he will reveal it in His own sweet time.

A couple of my more recent film roles stand out to me because they were more serious, but also because I had the opportunity to explore my dark side.  I’m sort of a breezy person.  I find humor in unexpected places, yes,  but, when asked to crawl out from under a rock, I seem to be quite ready for it, as well.  That was a surprise to me.  Now, the evil characters I’ve played in the last few years were also a little funny – yes, they were in serious, deadly serious, situations, but they were still able to make light of it all.  Perhaps that’s my specialty?  I’ve also had to use very bad language, yet found it easy, even fun in The Devil’s Rejects which came out in the summer of 2005.  I even hate to mention the name of that film because it’s so disgusting!  But. I am proud of my work in it.  In so many of my films and TV shows, I didn’t get a chance to go beneath the surface.  Rob Zombie not only let me, he insisted on it.  I loved exploring the limits of my own sanity and surviving.  It can be very cathartic, I found.  I had done it in the theatre, of course, but never before on film.

I have a list of new credits, but I’ll only tell you about Black Water Transit.  The others are either too small or too silly to really get me going.  But, Black Water had the best script I’ve ever read.  Notice I said, “had.”  Director Tony Kaye re-wrote it every day on the set, so who knows what it is today.  Tony is a controversial director, to say the least, but brilliant.  He directed American History X. He is English and fascinated by all things American.  American History X is about gangs in America, Blackwater is a drama about guns in America.

Our film takes place in New Orleans, post Katrina.  It is dark and complex.  The film has some really interesting actors in it; Laurence Fishburne, Tom Skerritt, Brittany Snow, Beverly D’Angelo Stephen Dorff and Carl Urban.  It’s a big nasty film — or it should be.  Since Tony re-wrote all of it on the set, he confused his actors just a bit.  We were all adapting to New Orleans accents and the script changes made it all the more difficult to pull that off.  Also, the film may be impossible to edit.  We finished shooting in August 2007 and it’s not out yet – yes, I’m worried it will never be released.  No, I’m not giving up hope.

I play Bet, a character based on a real woman, who, together with her husband, left New Orleans before Katrina hit – without making any evacuation plans for the patients in her convalescent home.  They all drowned.  She and her husband, in the film version, steal the valuables from their decaying corpses, when they return to the stricken city after a cruise. The real woman Bet is based on actually went to trial for her crimes, recently.  She was exonerated.  I don’t know the details, but I think justice may not have been served.  Bet, in the film, meets her fate in a very different way. Again, I’m playing a despicable character, but, true to my legacy, not without humor.  If half of what I shot makes it onto the screen, you should find her horrible, yet ridiculously cavalier.

Ed.: As a Christian, have you ever felt that you were discriminated against in regard to your work as an actress? We only ask as we hear so many  stories about stars who have had trouble getting work because of their beliefs.

Leslie: It’s never been an issue for me.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a character actress and not a star.  My private life has never been big news.  With a name like Easterbrook, being Jewish or Muslim wouldn’t be very likely, I suppose, and since films don’t usually shoot on Sundays, I’ve been spared having to ask for special time off.  I have found that the community of filmmaking and the theatre are a wonderful melting pot of all kinds of people and every religion.  We often talk openly about our differences and lovingly respect each other’s beliefs, even if different from our own.  I think that is one reason I love my profession so much.  It really upsets me when I think of anyone being targeted negatively because of their beliefs – unless, of course, they are using them to hurt others.  That’s a different story!

Ed.: In that same vein, how important do you consider your faith in your  daily life and work?

My faith is what lifts me up in the morning and keeps me going until I fall asleep at night.  I feel it and see it working, always, in my daily life and in the lives of others.  I feel it testing me when I least expect it.   I cannot be separate from it.  That’s how important it is to me.

Ed.: One last question. Are there any future projects you would like to tell us about, things that we could promote on your behalf?

I’ve already talked about Black Water.  There is a film called Hollywood and Wine, which could be quite funny and a cartoon-type film called, Daze, which could be quite funny, too, and interesting, coming out next year.  The problem we face is the same as the rest of the globe – the economy.  Editing money is drying up for independent films.  Cross your fingers for us and I will cross my fingers for all of you.  Let’s get through this!  It will be a true test of faith for all of us.

Ed.: This is not a question really.  You may like to say something about your husband. Please feel free to.  You are an amazing couple.

Leslie: How nice of you to say so.  We have a terrific marriage and it took us years and years to find each other.  He is truly the answer to my prayers. His name is Dan Wilcox and he is a television writer.  He has won Emmy’s and Writer’s Guild Awards for his contributions to Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, Mash, Newhart, The Cosby Show, Growing Pains and The Jeff Foxworthy Show.

That’s a list of some of his shows.  There are more. He’s writing a pilot for a new Internet series, presently.  It’s about a troubled young man, but will have plenty of action. He’s been on the Board of Director’s of the Writers Guild for the past 6 years and has headed numerous committees before, during and after their strike this past year.  He’s still frantically trying to finish some post strike issues.  I feel he is one of the main reasons the guild did so well in their negotiations.  Their efforts opened doors for the rest of us in sister unions.  Personally, I hope SAG does not vote to strike at this time.  Again – the economy!

He is not a religious man, but he lives by the strictest moral code I’ve ever known.  He respects my religious beliefs totally and he is an inspiration to me and to everyone he comes in contact with. He’s smart, generous, talented, giving, gracious, wise, and, most importantly, a fabulous chef!

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Sep 20 2008

Samantha Landy, a Christian with two exciting new missions

Published by pointnorth under Interviews

In a recent communication with Rhonda Fleming, she put us on to a fascinating Christian whom we immediately knew we wanted to get in touch with. Rhonda’s friend, Samantha Landy, has given us an insight into a ministry neglected by too many churches and society in general. This ministry involves the fastest growing group in America, people over fifty.

Ed.: You have an outstanding resume as a Christian author, speaker, TV host and business woman. Your growing up and education apparently gave you a good foundation.
Samantha: I loved to read when I was very young. My mother allowed me to go to the library and check out books, even in first grade, I already knew how to read. In our little town we didn’t have a kindergarten. So it was from my older sisters and brothers that taught me to read before entering school. I’ve always loved writing and loved reading and my mother fostered that. She loved reading and always had one book in progress. It was early in my childhood years that I began writing and my mom saved a little four-page book that I had made when I was in the second grade of school. She saved it and just before she died she gave it to me. It was very precious to me.

Ed.: Some of your most interesting books are geared for senior citizens though I think you’d agree they fit all ages. I refer to Savvy Senior Singles, Savvy Senior Sabbaticals and Savvy Senior Singles Handbook. Why did you consider this an important age group to witness to? You seem to feel very passionate about this.
Samantha: Well I am passionate about encouraging people over fifty. Statistically there are 11,000 people a day becoming 55. That’s going to continue for the next fifteen years. Unfortunately about 43% of those are single in this age group. It’s my desire to remind this age group they can have an excitement for life and not feel their life is over or on a “down hill slide” as one man said, but rather to help them achieve some of the dreams they had when they were young. I have met so many people who have never fulfilled their dream. Maybe they became an accountant, but wanted to be a musician. Maybe a business person really wanted to be an artist, on and on. It’s in this time of life when we do have the extra time. If we have children they are grown up. We have the ability to make choices, to revisit our dreams, to recycle them and look at our life and decide what we want to be in these coming years rather than just let the days go by and say “Rats, its just another day”. There is so much potential that we have and that’s what drives me, to help people get excited about their life. Particularly for singles I feel that many of them feel that they will be happy if they just have a mate. They think that will make the difference, but it won’t. We can choose to be happy and joyful about our life as a single person. Just getting married is not going to bring that change we desire. Our joy and zest for life has to come from within, it has to come from our relationship with the Lord. With that relationship with God we have the stability and ability to have that joy in our life no matter what our marital status is.

Ed.: One of the things that struck us in your Savvy Senior Singles and your devotional book A Shalom Morning is your emphasis on humor not just for seniors; but for all Christians. Would you care to elaborate?


Samantha: Keeping joy and humor in our life is medically sound, not something made up. Our bodies change on a cellular level when we laugh. A example is the difference between a smile and frowning. Physically a smile requires the use of 36 muscles, but a frown uses 97 muscles. The difference is that what happens when we frown, all of those muscles become tight in our head. When we smile those muscles relax. Relaxing the muscles allows more oxygen to get to the brain. When we have more oxygen in the brain we will feel happier. We’ll have a better feeling. There is a statement I put in my book that laughter will scrub out your insides. When times are tough, when bad things happen, relationships break down we go to a funny movie or watch a comedy on TV and that will bring laughter to our lives which will help break the stress. I have a little box I call my “joy box”. In there I put jokes and funny letters from my grandchildren, funny letters that other people have written, even jokes from Reader’s Digest or the internet. When I feel down I always go to the box and find something amusing. It helps me through difficult times. If we choose to be happy and choose to smile when hard times are coming it will help get us through our difficult circumstances. We have all heard of some lady who was dying of cancer who was radiant and reaching out to people. How much better that is than for us to be mad and angry at the world. When we are constantly angry and negative, no one then wants to help us or be around us. Laughter and joy must be a very important part of our life. It will make a difference, especially in senior years, as we choose to be positive, to have laughter in these later years.

Ed.: You have a great deal of media work on radio and TV. Even today there are Christians who regard the media as an enemy, and admittedly there is a lot of bad stuff out there. Do you believe that more Christians of all ages should get involved in radio, television and film to help counteract the bad and to work for the good?


Samantha: Absolutely. I think that this is an area that if we neglect it, we will find more and more evil taking over. There are some ministries now that are involved in Hollywood. The last four or five years I have been teaching a Bible study at Rhonda Fleming’s home in the Beverly Hills area. TV and film producers, writers, television personalities and other media people come as well as different people from all walks of life who live in the Beverly Hills, Hollywood area. They too are like the rest of us, needing someone to encourage them in their circumstances. They are needing to know that God will help them in that room. I am very excited when I hear of some ministry like Dr. Larry Poland who has a very strong affect in the Hollywood area, as well as the Christian Women in Media to which I belong. These and others are important ministries in the media. As Christians, if we can’t go to Hollywood, we can support the ministries that are there.

Ed.: You have quite a ministry yourself in this area. In 1986 you founded Christian Celebrity Luncheons.
Samantha: Twenty three years ago I started Christian Celebrity Luncheons at our country club. Living as I do in the Palm Springs area, it was very difficult for Christians to get to know each other. The “snow birds” would come in for a few months and not really have an opportunity to make Christian contacts. I also wanted it to be an outreach to non Christians. I realized in order to do that I had to bring in high profile people because these people in the secular world needed to see the Christian world functioning. I brought in people like Charles Duke, the astronaut, actors like Gavin MacLeod, the Love Boat captain; Cal Thomas from Fox News; actresses like Rhonda Fleming, authors and other outstanding speakers such as Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, retired Chaplan of the Senate. I brought these people to our country club because I saw this example in what Jesus did. He went to the house of Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus invited his friends for a dinner with Jesus.. Those friends were different from the fishermen where Jesus also went. (Luke 19:1-10) I felt that was what God was asking me to do, go where the “snow birds” were used to going, a country club. What I found was the importance of going where those people we needed to reach were used to going. I found that people who had power and had money have already found out that all their power and money won’t fix their families and won’t fix their health or other problems. They are very open when they find out Jesus Christ is the answer to their difficult circumstances. They are very open to receive the Good News. They really don’t have the power to fix their problems by themselves. The amazing thing is that people have said, “Why would you go to them?” They are people who are hurting just like every other group.

Ed.: Your participants in that program are outstanding from what we have seen on your web page. Outside of our Lord Jesus Christ are there any people you would especially cite as very inspirational to you today?


Samantha: It is hard to cite any one person, as what is amazing is that a speaker may touch on the one thing that I need to hear that day. I remember when Barbara Fairchild (she and her husband have a show) came she said something that day that meant a great deal. She said Jesus was our “forever friend”. In fact she sang a song Forever Friend, and the last line says “Even when I’m not his friend, he’s mine.” That meant so much to encourage people to make Jesus their friend. Because he does want to be their’s. During all these years different speakers will say something so precious, that so resonates in reality that it changes my life. We’ve had people like Stephanie Edwards, she Emceed the Rose Bowl Parade for many years. There is an amazing lady, Baroness Caroline Cox, who is the Speaker of the House of Lords in London. I have been privileged to be over there a couple times with her in the House of Lords. In addition to her work in the House of Lords, the most amazing thing she does is take her own money and travels into dangerous parts of the world and carries medicine and Bibles and will, if necessary, walk twenty five miles to a village. She is in her sixties and is such an incredible woman. There was another lady named Aileen Coleman who just had her 50th ministry anniversary last year who is an administrator of a hospital in Jordan. Even though she is from Memphis, TN, she has spent her whole adult life in Jordan. She started with a little tent and would help the Bedouins who had TB, give them shots and minister to them. She has like an eighty-room hospital. There is no denomination behind her, just people giving to her ministry. We have been blessed with such amazing people as speakers.

Ed. : Are there any special projects you are working on now or planning in the future that we can tell our readers about?


Samantha: For the past three years I’ve had a weekly radio program Psalms of Hope, which, in addition to being heard in California, beams out of a radio station in downtown Jerusalem and is heard all over the Arab world as well as the rest of the world on satellite. It blesses me that our soldiers as well as Israeli and Arab soldiers can hear our message of hope. I am also just finishing up a book for relationships for singles over 50. I am calling it Technicolor Relationships for Savvy Singles. I will talk about the difference between having a black and white non-interesting relationship and a warm, vibrant exciting relationship, with practical ways to implement the kind of relationship we will want in these years of our lives. We will also be talking about things to look out for as senior singles when we are dating. There are some issues the Christian world doesn’t deal with. There are things that happen in our single world, we would like to think don’t happen. I deal with some hard issues, like abuse and venereal disease, as I did in the Savvy Senior Singles book. I am really excited about this book and it will be out in a few months. My books and tapes are available on my web page People who go to my web page will also have access to download articles I have written in the past as well as listen to the Psalms of Hope programs.

Ed.: We will definitely direct our readers there.

In our own program we have tried to do something similar to what your goal has been with your special luncheons. I refer to this publication as well as Christian media events with guests from film, TV, sports and the publishing world who are willing to witness their faith. If there is any way we could work together we would like to do so.

Samantha: I would love that, just let me know if there is anything I can do to help you. I’m open and would be happy to help you with any of your projects.


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Sep 20 2008

Actress Laurie Prange tells us about her project on Fanny Crosby

Published by pointnorth under Interviews

At Tommy Hildreth’s shows, we have been fortunate to meet some outstanding Christians and The Western Film Fair, in Winston-Salem, NC, was no exception. Appearing at her first convention was Laurie Prange who has been included in a collection of biographies by Ace Collins in his book Stories Behind Women of Extraordinary Faith (Zondervan). Once we read about Laurie and her current project we had to agree, she is an extraordinary woman and we knew we had to interview her. Story on Page Three.

Ed.: We want to get to this first. I refer to news about something special you are doing that has excited every Christian we’ve talked with since our meeting in North Carolina. Tell us about your project that involves the amazing life of Fanny Crosby.

Laurie: It is a project most dear to my heart where I portray the prolific 19th century blind hymn-writer Fanny Crosby who wrote over 8000 hymns, most notably Blessed Assurance. Fanny lost her sight at 6 weeks old and despite impossible odds and setbacks during her lifetime, she was able to achieve impossible dreams and lead an enriched life as God’s servant. As a child, her grandmother took it upon herself to be “her eyes”. She would sit young Fanny on her lap on the porch and describe in detail the physical world surrounding her…sunrises and the sunsets. Fanny learned early on through her grandmother and mother to “choose” to see her blindness as a ‘gift’ that awakens more spiritual insight.
I have never been so inspired working on a project. You could say I have been obsessed with Fanny Crosby…she does that. The more you read about her, the more she gets under your skin. The challenge to portray Fanny Crosby and tell her story has enriched my own life’s journey and also my own faith’s walk. We shot just under 40 hours of footage a few years back where I play her from childhood to the evening of her passing. It was shot on a shoestring budget but beautifully shot like an oil painting. The project has been stalled several times because we ran out of the resources needed for quality post production to see it to it’s completion. It was put on hold for a few years and then last year I picked it up again. The generous talents and support of many people have carried it to this point and I am determined to finish it. The finished piece will be about an hour long…an intimate docudrama showing her faith’s journey as a Christian through her poetry and music. I don’t want to say too much about how we tell her story, but I hope that it will be as inspirational to the viewer as it has been for me.
Fanny was born in 1820 and died in 1915. In her day she was the most beloved woman in America. Referred to as the “Methodist Saint” …she was the Mother Teresa of her time. In her later years she would walk the streets of the New York Bowery District ministering to the needs of the poor. The last years of her life Fanny continued her work through various Missions and prisons in New York, encouraging the lost and deprived. She never stopped. Encouraged to slow down in her advanced years she would say, “I’ll never stop…I always considered that for old people!”
I could go on and on about her…She had a mind like a steel trap, retaining anything she heard and could recite entire books of the Bible by heart. She was the first woman to speak before Congress and met and knew as personal friends every president during her lifetime. She loved her country and was laid to rest holding an American flag across her breast. I even read about an incident where Fanny was sitting in a cafe in New York and overheard disparaging remarks made about America across the room. The story went on to relate how this petite elderly blind woman in a black Victorian dress “lunged” across the tables with her cane to take the commentator to task.
I was raised in a beautiful Christian family with four brothers and one sister. Although I attended a Christian school I had never heard the name Fanny Crosby, but certainly knew and sung her hymns: All the Way My Savior Leads Me, Praise Him Praise Him!, To God Be the Glory, Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, Rescue the Perishing and Safe in the Arms of Jesus.
Fanny was raised a Christian but it wasn’t until her early 30’s when she had her true conversion experience where she opened up to allow the Holy Spirit to truly grab and hold her heart taking her to a deeper lever of faith. I feel that her journey of faith is important to the story. She actually wrote a poem in her later years of this ‘conversion experience’ which will be a part of our telling of her journey.
Although Fanny achieved some secular success as a poetess it wasn’t until her mid 40’s after the death of her only child when she was moved to write her first hymn. Her life and how she survived periods of despair and setbacks to continue on with ‘purpose’ to do the Lord’s work is an inspiration. She was always able to regroup and go on.

Ed.: You had a lovely Christian childhood and we enjoyed reading about your parents Evelyn and Joseph. How influential were they in your own Christian development?

Laurie: My mother was an Army nurse during WWII and that is how she met my father who was an Army pilot. They were steadfast devout Christians and the best parents and role models a child could have. While growing up, the kids in the neighborhood gravitated to our house because we had parents with solid values and rules who invited all the children to have a safe place to play…We pretty much tore up the backyard with our outside games, forts, and tree houses…I have great memories of my childhood.
My mother, who will be 90, is very precious to me and I treasure every moment spent with her. She always encouraged me in my dreams and never said “Oh you can’t do that!” I honor the time to be there for her- to care for her needs at this time of her life.
My father died at an early age in his 60’s. Like many of his generation he was a smoker. Two days before he died, he told us how grateful he was that his children had not taken up the habit. He expressed regret losing the many years he could have shared with his family had he been able to quit. My father who passed away over 20 years ago was an extremely ethical and forthright Christian man. I loved him very much. I have come over the years to understand and appreciate his ’stands’ with me….what it must have been like for a father to raise 6 kids in this culture we all face today. He held on to his principles and never budged from his Christian values. In my 20’s, when I was unraveling my Christian values to ‘accommodate’ the secular values of our culture he and I butted horns. I now look back at those years and value the steadfastness in his faith of knowing what was right. It took me years to truly appreciate the courage and sacrifices he made to take a stand against the culture that was pulling at his children. In the book by Ace Collins Stories Behind Women of Extraordinary Faith our relationship is gone into in more detail.

Ed.: You went through a very low point in your life following the death of your beloved brother, Joey, in Vietnam. You found an outlet for your feelings in acting. How and when did this begin?

Laurie: I was in 10th grade when my brother was killed. There are a lot of emotions that erupt with tragedies like this that only a family who has gone through this can understand. It was an emotional tsunami for me and was the beginning of my faith’s unraveling that stayed with me throughout my 20’s. I channeled all of my grief and anger into drama classes. During my 3 years in high school I represented my school in many Los Angeles acting competitions and always placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. In my senior year I performed a 1st place monologue on the Royce Hall stage at U.C.L.A. And later that year a performance of Anouilh’s Antigone brought the attention of several Hollywood agents who wanted to sign me. I was getting advice to change my name and hair color etc. and went with the agent who told me “not to change a thing.” My first professional role was starring with Julie Harris and Robert Stack in a Name of the Game TV series season opener. This appearance coincided with a three- page TV Guide article about how I had been signed from a high school production for such a big role and my career took off from there.
I worked throughout the 70’s and 80’s guest starring on many TV series such as Gunsmoke, Night Gallery, The Man and the City with Anthony Quinn, The Lady’s Not for Burning with Richard Chamberlain, The Waltons, The Incredible Hulk, Highway to Heaven to name a few.
There were also mimiseries’ including Testimony of Two Men and The Dark Secret of Harvest Home with Bette Davis.
One of the highlights of my career was performing on stage for three months with Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, and Maureen Stapleton at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum in the Sean O’Casey play Juno and the Paycock. Mrs. Sean O’Casey was flown in on opening night. I also met and had an exchange with Tennessee Williams which is mentioned in Ace’s book where he said how he would like to have me one day play “his Laura” from The Glass Menagerie. I never played that role but years later did perform the role of Blanche in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire in Los Angeles.

Ed. : One major change that came in your life was your future husband, Richard Lyons, a devout Christian and talented musician. We understand he was an answer to your parents’ prayers.

Laurie: Richard is the only Christian I ever dated. He was raised Baptist and I was raised a Lutheran.
My parents were very happy when I fell in love with a man who was raised with the same values that I was. As I said earlier there was a period in my life after my brother’s death lasting into my 20’s where I bought into all of the sophomoric rhetoric we still hear today about organized religion being the source of all the world’s problems. My communication with God through prayer never ceased but I became detached from my Christian faith. I hear people today as they try to talk intellectually about how ignorant those who have faith are and I say to myself “Oh my!…that’s the same rhetoric I bought into in my 20’s!”
From the culture and values of my upbringing I was suddenly thrown into a Hollywood culture where I met many talented, very kind, charismatic people that were far more well read and educated than I….Very nice articulate voices but not ‘God connected’. I gave a lot of these well-intentioned and worldly people a lot of credibility that changed, reshaped and unraveled many of the values and viewpoints I had been brought up in.
I believe it was God’s hand that placed my husband into my life and me into his. It was truly Him that put us together…for the both of us. Richard is the love of my life and we will be having our 24th anniversary.

Ed.: As a Christian have you found the attitude in Hollywood to be critical when it comes to your beliefs?

Laurie: I feel that much of Hollywood is cynical about Christianity. And certainly Christians are usually portrayed in the most caricatured, negative, cartoonish, demeaning light. Christians are marketed negatively in the media which is where a lot of people form their opinions about Christianity…which they know nothing about…AND are not encouraged to investigate. Any other religion on earth is shown respect and objectivity but Christianity is a target.
A few years back Richard and I were at a fundraiser where a comedian did a whole stand-up routine mocking Christians and their belief in Jesus. Interestingly Christians were not the only ones offended at the performance. The organizers of the event didn’t understand the backlash…”Don’t Christians have a sense of humor?” The Catholic venue that rented out the space for the event wrote the organizers to tell them they would no longer be welcomed to rent the building for future benefits.
Richard and I have gotten surprised looks when it comes up in conversation that we are churchgoing Christians…”Really?….. you go to church?”…Which can lead to interesting dialogue and discussions. I find many of our friends on the outside of Christianity are fascinated by our faith. It goes against their “stereotype’ of Christians as ignorant believers of fairy tales, and they are curious which leads to good talk. I have said many times that I choose to live my life through the eyes of faith than through the eyes of cynicism. Church is our place to worship and also connect to a community of shared values…values we are sadly losing more and more in our culture today.

Ed.: Fanny Crosby’s life apparently reached through the ages to touch you. Not an accident, but a God thing as many Christian young people would say today.

Laurie: Fanny married Alexander Van Alstyne and they had a child and the child died. That sent her into another cycle of depression for about three years. She met a Mr. Bradbury who felt her lyrics should be written for hymns.
I knew what it was like as my brother was killed in Vietnam and I went through such a dark period.
I will be showing what all Fanny went through emotionally and how it took her to a deeper level of faith. She went on to work with the poor and the needy. As I put this together it will show how she put things together to become the amazing woman she was. How she came to this deeper level and
went on to inspire others.

Ed.: What are your plans for marketing this beautiful project?

Laurie: This project has been a challenging journey to complete and I cannot abandon it. Life itself is challenging and I am determined. We hope to market the finished piece to churches all around the country and also to the Christian media. I feel honored to use whatever talents God gave me to put into a project that honors Him. Fanny Crosby has gotten under my skin. You start researching her and you can’t let her go. Her life inspires.

Ed.: You certainly will have our prayers and support on this. We want to stay in close touch with you on this project. We also have to mention that we were very excited about the music your husband Richard performed at The Western Film Fair. He writes and sings with beautiful inspiration.

Laurie: My husband Richard is a brilliant singer/songwriter who has the rare talent to transform an audience and people’s hearts with his voice and lyrics. He just finished recording one of the songs he sang at The Western Film Fair that he wrote for his father who is struggling with parkinson’s called Soul of a Dove/Heart of a Lion. He will have his CD out in a couple of months and we will stay in close touch. We would love to be a part of what you are doing.
Thank you for your efforts in using the power of the media for good.

Ed. Note. Laurie and Richard will have web pages set up in the future and we will be furnishing that information and giving you updates on their projects.


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Jul 03 2008

Presenting Andy Seymour and The Gospel According to Elvis

Published by pointnorth under Interviews

We had a nice surprise from Darlene Tompkins whom we featured in our first issue this year. Ms. Tompkins is an actress/stunt woman now turned author. Darlene was in two Elvis Presley films and they became good friends. She had to call us about Andy Seymour who is not an impersonator.  He is an excellent singer who doesn’t parade around in jumps suits and capes. Andy has a real love for the Lord and for Elvis and out of this a great appreciation for Presley’s Gospel music. Andy’s program is titled The Gospel According to Elvis, appropriately enough, and we set up an interview as soon as we heard about his mission. It is a unique way of introducing people to a genre’ they may not be familiar with. Gospel music



Ed.: We want to get to the big question right away. Your bio says you were familiar with the music of Elvis as a boy. You surely have a mission in presenting Gospel music as performed by Elvis Presley. What prompted you to devote your life to The Gospel According To Elvis?


Andy: I discovered Elvis’ music around seven years old, on the car radio. He was singing How Great Thou Art, and I commented to my folks that I recognized that song. To hear a song on the radio that I sang in church was very exciting to me.


As I grew older, my interest in Elvis remained. When I began playing music professionally, I put him on the back burner for a while as my interest in music continued. I would always go back to my Elvis collection though, and was regularly encouraged to “do an Elvis show”. Sadly for me, I had seen too many Elvis shows over the years to be put in the same category, so I stayed away from the idea. I love all his big hits, but there’s this pressure to look and move like him if you want to sing his songs, and I didn’t want to do that.


Finally the time was right for me, but I decided to do something different and dignified as a tribute to Elvis that was also quite unique. Elvis was passionate about Gospel music, and this was one of the reasons why I chose this direction. He truly believed in what he sang when he performed these songs. He was jaded later in his career, but he always found solace in Gospel. Nothing soothes the soul like singing Gospel music, music with lyrics that speak of hope and love.


The Gospel According to Elvis is a two-edged sword for me. It’s a way for me to perform the music of Elvis without jump suits and karate kicks, and it’s giving me a chance to give back my God-given talents to an audience with a performance that means something. I have been a professional musician and singer my entire adult life. It’s nice to be able to share my gifts and possibly help change someone’s life. Nothing gives me more joy than being approached after a performance by someone with tears in their eyes explaining how they were moved during the show. I’m always thrilled by this because that truly means something, it has a message.


Ed.: You were a traveling “preacher’s kid” which can be an adventure in itself. What were those travels like?


Andy: I was born in Australia in the mid sixties to Christian parents, and my dad had recently graduated from Bible College. His passion to preach the Gospel saw us traveling a lot. I got to see a great deal of Australian country and farming communities in my travels with my folks.



Many folks believe that “The Church” is a building, but it isn’t in my world. “The Church” is the people. You can worship anywhere and have a church service. I’ve experienced just about every variation of a church service you can imagine. We’ve had services with a few farmers sitting under a tree, we’ve had services in cow milking sheds, in barns, services on the beach with baptisms; and musty old circus marquees in a field. Those “tent crusades” were always thrilling as a boy. Farmers and country folks would drive from far and wide to attend these services. The music at these meetings was always exciting with a large spontaneous band consisting of anyone that brought their instrument! There would be guitars, drums, accordions, harmonicas, single string basses made from a broomstick and a packing crate, and even pianos, somehow! There were always folks who would get up and sing, and I recall one craggy-faced farmer with a guitar singing The Old Rugged Cross. Even as a boy, I remember the impact this had on me, as this toothless old man sang with tears running down his face.


The downside to being a “P.K.” (Preacher’s Kid) was the high expectations that were put on you. While all the other kids were running amok after the service, I was expected to set an example. Sadly, my leadership qualities combined with my spirit of adventure, would have me leading a pack of kids into misadventure somewhere. This always ended with my dad saying through pursed lips, “Go and sit in the car”. I lost count how many times I sat in the back seat after a service, due to the mischief I’d caused.


Ed.: Your singing is very disciplined. Did you take any musical training. Were you influenced by other singers than Elvis?


Andy: Well, growing up with so many musical influences really fired a passion in me.


I was always fascinated with Black American Gospel singers who visited Australia and would go to every service they sang at while here. Often, these visiting Evangelists would do four or five nights in a row at the same church, and I’d be right there at all of them. There’s nothing quite like listening to a Gospel Soul singer singing from their soul. That is where my passion for Elvis’ Gospel songs also stems from. He’s clearly influenced by Black Gospel music and he sings with soul from his soul. Most of Elvis’ Gospel songs are revamped traditional old hymns and at a young age, I discovered I knew them all. I somehow felt an affinity with him, with my Gospel roots and upbringing.


Also, having grown up in a small Australian country town, I was limited to just one TV station, so I listened to the radio mostly. I grew up listening to so many artists all coming from that little local station; Johnny Cash, Wilson Pickett, Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra and Elvis just to name a few.


Looking back now, I was always interested in songs and artists that told a story or meant something. Perhaps I began to understand music at an early age, but I seemed to pick songs that would become classics by singers that would endure time. I really listened to those singers and began to form my likes and dislikes with styles.


I never had any singing training, but I’d like to think that being born into a Gospel music environment and singing my entire life, more than compensates for any training that I missed.


Ed.: When did you start performing and where? You’ve been a hit in Vegas according to Darlene Tompkins who is one of your biggest fans.



Andy: Darlene and Bob are just beautiful people. I met them when my wife and I attended an Elvis convention in Las Vegas. They were a calming raft of normality in a sea of insincerity. They have been a great source of help and inspiration for me in this country, and I am very grateful to them.


I began performing in church services from a very early age, around six or seven years old, singing on the pulpit with Sunday School groups, and being involved in a puppet show outreach that my folks had started for kids. It just seemed normal to me to be on the pulpit singing in a service. I had been playing drums since this early age too, and began playing in worship services and outreaches around twelve years old. This was a big thrill for me and I was quite a mature player for my age.


It was also at this age I began getting offers to play in bands. I was always a large framed lad and I looked much older than I was. So, at just twelve years old I began my professional career playing drums in both Gospel and secular bands. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I really decided to sing. As I mentioned earlier, I steered away from anything Elvis for many years despite pleas from friends and family. I finally decided to perform the Gospel music of Elvis, and have only been doing that for about seven years now.


Ed.: You don’t try to be flamboyant like some who try to impersonate Elvis. You are more genuine. Do you have problems with critics who think otherwise?


Andy: Ooh yes, I get criticized constantly for not being “authentic” enough with my dress and my lack of Elvis moves. I have no objection to the guys that are recreating the Elvis experience in concert out there; some of them are incredible, and many are my friends. But, that isn’t what I am about.


Although I have the hair and sideburns, which are relevant to my show, I’m not an impersonator and I get quite offended when called one. I guess I’m a tribute artists, for want of a better description. I’m also more than just an actor playing a role. It’s much deeper than that for me because I really believe in what I am doing and it isn’t a case of being “just another gig” for me.


I conceived this show a long time ago, and co-wrote it with a friend of mine, who also directed it in Australia. This show is a culmination of a life-long passion with a man who gave the world so much of himself, and tried very hard to walk the fine line between serving man and serving God. Sadly, he couldn’t do it, as none of us could in that situation.


Elvis performed songs of worship in his concerts, but he could only do a couple for fear of turning his diehard fans away. And this is what my show is about. It looks at various points in Elvis’ life and how he coped with them through his faith and his Gospel music. It’s a very powerful and moving show that keeps God as the central theme, without it getting too “religious” for those fans who just want to hear great Elvis songs. It’s a fine line I’ll tell ya!


I don’t worry about the constant criticism from “experts”, I’m too busy working. I have just returned from a six week 22-concert tour of Australia, and all of them were sold out to packed houses. What a wonderful way to share my gift!


Ed.: You definitely are an international star, which is unusual for your specialty. What kind of an experience has that been?


Andy: It’s wonderful! This show has a greater cause than just entertainment value and I believe that this is why. I love to meet and greet people in the theater foyer after performances, and I get constant remarks about how I must be a Christian to sing those songs the way I did. That’s a wonderful compliment to me. God gave me my talent and this is my way of sharing it.


Ed.: Have you performed at Graceland and met with any members of the Presley family?


Andy: Sadly I haven’t. I’ve been to Graceland five times but never to perform there or meet any of the Presleys. I have met several of his former musicians and entourage and received some compliments that are dear to me.


Ed.: How would you sum up the influence Elvis had on Gospel music and those who love it?


Andy: At the time, Elvis took hold of old Gospel songs and made them cool. His passion saw him record them with his own style, and he basically turned them into pop songs.


Ed.: Somewhat the way Rhonda Fleming, Connie Haines, Jane Russell and Beryl Davis did as The Four Girls earlier in the fifties. They turned Gospel into Pop Gold, appearing first on TV and in concert and finally recording. In fact I have to add that four of their songs have been re-released on the CD of twenty two Rhonda Fleming hits we announced in our last issue, Rhonda Fleming Sings Just For You. This is an area that we need to give more recognition to as there is a growing demand for Gospel music.



Andy: Elvis was a ball of energetic fury that most parents hated, and certainly not a Gospel singer. But when Elvis recorded people took notice. He introduced a legion of people, a new generation, to a genre’ that they likely would never have listened to.


When he sang Peace in the Valley on the Ed Sullivan show, the switchboard was jammed with people wanting to know where they could get the song. Consequently, they rushed out a five-song album of Gospel songs that sold millions instantly. As his career moved on, he released further gospel albums and won three Grammys for them.


Those songs and arrangements are still going strong today, and I still get goose bumps listening to some of them.


It must be added that Andy Seymour is also a songwriter. In addition to the stage presentations described in this article, he has hosted shows on television, had his own television show and has had minor roles in films.


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May 07 2008

Interview with Pat Boone

Published by pointnorth under Interviews

Earlier this year Rhonda Fleming arranged for us to have an interview with legendary Christian performer, Pat Boone. We not only were able to talk with him, but Pat sent us a copy of his outstanding book, Pat Boone’s America 50 Years: A Pop Culture Journey through the last five decades. This is also the story of Pat’s wife Shirley, the daughter of music greats Red Foley and Eva Carter. The Boones have four talented daughters Cherry, Lindy, Debby and Laury. Pat himself has a heritage in that he is a direct descendent of American pioneer Daniel Boone. Pat and Shirley have 15 grandchildren. (Editorial questions and comments are in bold face.)

Ed.: It is a real pleasure to talk with you. I have of course done some advance research, but I also have my own memories as we are about the same age. Except you look about twenty years younger.
Pat: (Chuckle) Well, I think we’re both about 45

Ed.: The obvious question is that as a former Southern boy, first Florida and then Tennessee what inspired you to get into the music and film worlds?


Pat: The first answer to that is Bing Crosby. My dad, Archie Boone, was a building contractor and my mom, Margaret, was a registered nurse. Nobody in our family was ever in the entertainment business. It was sort of expected I would become an architect and building contractor and follow in my dad’s footsteps. My family were Christians and very involved in church. I went to a Christian high school and college at David L. Lipscomb in Nashville with the idea that I might be a teacher/preacher which is what I did decide to do; but growing up my folks had Bing Crosby records. I loved them, I listened to them and I fantasized when I was milking the family cow, Rosemary, about becoming a singer. It became known there was this kid who lived out in Lone Oak Road who kept up with the current pop tunes and had a lady piano teacher friend who would accompany me and never asked for anything in return. Never asked for money. We would sing at ladies club luncheons, business men meetings, high school assembly programs and even contests. I did it for the fun of living this fantasy that I was a young Bing Crosby. I was even introduced that way sometimes. Bing was my original influence. Later Shirley’s dad Red Foley influenced me greatly in the way he sang country music. Red Foley’s wife and Shirley’s mother was Eva Carter, who sang with her sisters in “Three Little Maids”. Those were my big influences.

Pat Boone also had a good start on the Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. This later led to great success on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. Godfrey was a major fan of Pat and he was welcomed back even when Pat had his own TV show.
Ed.: We remember you whistled in some of your songs the way Bing used to do. I think you and Bing are the only two that ever did that as far as I can remember.


Pat: Whistling is something I loved to do. I looked for excuses in the recording when we would be rehearsing. I would whistle along in the instrumental portion. Even when the band was running down and I wasn’t singing I would whistle. In Love Letters in the Sand, the original recording had a whistling intro, because Randy Wood, the head of the record company, liked the way it sounded and I also whistled in the middle part. It was the biggest selling record I ever had. Eventually when they put the record out they lopped the whistling introduction off. So it started (Pat sang) “On a day like today…” which grabbed people’s attention immediately, but it lost the whistle. I just whistled on the bridge and it seemed so different from other records. I think that made it a huge hit.

Love Letters in the Sand sold three million copies on the singles chart and made the top list of songs for six months.
Ed.: Your Rhythm and Blues music paved the way for Rock and Roll. We don’t hear you credited as much in this regard which is hard to understand. When we visited the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, we were shocked that you weren’t there.


Pat: Well, some kind of perverse rendering of history or mis-rendering had occurred because over the years, first of all I didn’t live a Rock and Roll lifestyle. I did the unforgivable. I recorded things besides Rock and Roll. I mean I did movie themes, my own movie songs, of course Elvis Presley did too. He was much more identified with Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll with numbers like Hound Dog. Even his ballads had a certain rock sensibility. Whereas if I was going to sing Friendly Persuasion, it was really a classy ballad. Even Love Letters in the Sand and April Love were ballads. So people didn’t think of me as a Rock and Roll singer though I had all these huge hits and I consider myself a midwife at the birth of Rock and Roll. I even preceded Elvis in singing Rhythm and Blues songs that we called Rock and Roll. This is unbelievable, but in my autobiography, Pat Boone’s America 50 Years I had to do some research. I had somebody researching for me and when he put the dates in front of me I couldn’t believe it myself. From March of ‘55 to February of ‘56, before Elvis’s record Heartbreak Hotel I had six million selling singles, two of them number one. Two of them back to back, Tutti Fruitti and I’ll Be Home. This was all in eleven months, which is unprecedented and may never be repeated I’m sure. Nobody would think about putting out that many records in less than a year. The record company, Dot, where I was and Randy Wood who ran the company when a record peaked, wherever it was on the chart, would immediately come out with another record. So one was going down while another was going up. I had such a rush, six million sellers in eleven months, it helped me weather the Elvis Tide. I was considered his chief rival. A lot of people said they preferred my version of some of the same songs we did. I think we underestimated, I know I did, his enduring talent. He sounded a little raw, a little shaky on some songs, his singing was certainly untutored. I didn’t have much but I had had more of it. I think we underestimated that visceral appeal that Elvis had and would continue to have even to this moment.

Pat Boone is in the Country Music, Gospel and Hit Parade Halls of Fame. There is a movement to also get him included in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, and we strongly support that effort.
Elvis had great respect for Pat and when they first met he was so much in awe he was shy about speaking to Pat. Later Elvis and Pat exchanged home visits. Pat wanted to do an album in the early ‘60s titled Pat Sings Elvis, however Col. Parker wouldn’t let the name be used without royalties so it was re-titled Pat Sings Guess Who. Elvis himself liked it and felt complimented.
Ed.: You sound like a friend of ours whom we had the good fortune of meeting and interviewing for this publication last year, Jody Miller. She preferred ballads and your type of music and like you had a classical way of singing pop. She was surprised when Queen of the House won a Grammy for country and it wasn’t intended to be in that category. They didn’t know where to put it.


Pat: (Chuckling) Well, Debby my daughter was like that. I was delighted to be thought of as a country artist for a while and at various times, because I had country hits. Even Love Letters in the Sand became a big hit in the country field. It was a huge pop hit, but sort of leaked over. Debby’s You Light Up My Life was also a big country hit. She had had two or three others that were decidedly country and meant to be. She had a number one country hit. On The Road To Loving You. But Debby, like Jody, didn’t want to be thought of as country. I was tickled to death to be because my wife Shirley’s dad, Red Foley, was a great country singer. He was in the Country Hall of Fame eventually. To me that was just as good as pop recognition.

Debby’s You Light Up My Life won an Academy Award. She felt she was singing to Jesus.
Ed.: You’ve also had some great films. Some that have been used in the classroom.


Pat: That’s what I wanted to be, a teacher.

Ed.: Among the films we’ve seen used in schools have been The Greatest Story Ever Told and Journey to the Center of the Earth. However one that is very special and still shown in churches was The Cross and The Switchblade. How significant was this film to you?


Pat: Oh my goodness. People ask me from time to time “What is your favorite film made out of the fifteen or so in your career?” I always say The Cross and the Switchblade.
It was also such a tremendous, eternal honor to be selected by George Stevens, the great director/producer, to be the man at “the tomb” in The Greatest Story Ever Told. saying the most important words that were ever spoken in all the history of mankind, “He is not here, He has risen just as He said.” I got to say those words and I have marveled at that for many years. Of all the actors he could have chosen he had chosen somebody unknown. I think I would have done that as I wouldn’t want someone at that moment to look at the screen and say, “Oh look, that’s Pat Boone.” He did it in such a way, my head was shadowed, I had a hooded robe and the shadow was across my face. At the premiere at the Cinerama Dome out here I had some friends with me and when the lights came up at the end of the film they turned to me and said “Did we fall asleep, where were you?” They hadn’t recognized me even though they were with me which was good, which was wonderful.
Anyway, in The Cross and the Switchblade, to play Dave Wilkerson in the true story of a man who just obeyed God and went into the worst section of the country to try to help kids was a signal honor in my life. It was a real challenge for him to risk his life over and over to save other kids’ lives. That film by the way, just like The Greatest Story…. has gone all over the world and has been translated into many languages. It has been credited with causing or bringing about the salvation of many many people. Even in Iran there was a Catholic priest who took it as his ministry, Father John, he’s gone now, but he saw to it that the film was translated into Farsi, the Iranian tongue. It played all over the nation for years. Even though it was a strong Christian message, it was also a very strong anti-drug message. In Iran that is ironic, as in Iran and Afghanistan, that part of the world, they grow the poppy, the basic ingredient for the large drug traffic around the world. It plays a big part in that economy. But they don’t want their own people being on drugs. It was an anti-drug film, but it caused many people to look at Jesus and to become Christian too. Other films I’ve made were bigger box office, but those two have had greater significance. I think the Lord will smile at me much more on me than let us say Goodbye Charlie and even Journey to the Center of the Earth which was a huge success.

At the climax of The Cross and the Switchblade film Pat delivers one of the most powerful sermons we have ever seen on film. He could easily have been a preacher. In a sense he is.
It must be added that the science fiction film Journey to the Center of the Earth had its own distinction as it was credited by some analysts, at the time, with saving 20th Century Fox which had money problems.



Ed.: You are also an author, in addition to your autobiography you have written books for young people. Are you going to continue your writing projects?


Pat: I seem to be unable not to write. I’m writing weekly columns for World Net Daily and News Max, two conservative web sites. Every week about mid week I get antsy to write. Not everybody knows about these columns if they don’t visit the conservative web sites.
I’m writing on all the current themes of the day. Some that are pretty deep like the question of evolution and abortion and homosexual rights. The latest running on News Max and on the weekend on World Net Daily is Global Warming: Fact or Fable. Of course race and gender in the political campaign. Both Barack and Hillary have said race and gender are not issues in this campaign and I said, “Who told you that?” They are decidedly issues and should be. They made them bigger issues saying they shouldn’t be considered. The news media has made them issues. That’s the way politics is played. I feel like I have a soap box provided to me. I have already written enough columns on various issues that I bet we could put together a couple more books. Sometimes those books are widely read and popular. I feel like I have things to say and I was planning to be a teacher, I wanted to point young people in the right direction. Like the teachers who had me. I’ve been asked to write the forward for a book by a professor at Pepperdine. I finished the book recently, a big book and it really swept me through it. I’m going to write the forward and the book title is The Joy of Anonymity. As he correctly points out there has not nearly been enough written about what Jesus instructed “to let your good works be done without notice, go into a closet and don’t look for a reward from man. Let your Father reward you openly for what you do in secret.” Our vanity compels us to let people know when we have done something good, that’s understandable. But the joy of random acts of kindness with no expectation of notice is reward enough. It is a deep joy and very close to God’s heart. He writes a lot of stories in his book about people who have quietly and unobtrusively gone about their work influencing the lives of many others. For instance he mentions a guy’s name, I didn’t know, who was a great influence on Martin Luther. This man contributed strongly to the thinking of Martin Luther, who led the Reformation. It wasn’t his (Luther’s) own solo contemplation, it was interaction and discussion with this other man. You think about the guy not known, like a teacher. This is the sort of thing that attracted me to being a teacher. I felt I may not be widely known as a teacher, maybe in the course of my career I will influence in a good direction someone who will become known and do good things, rather than letting your talents be wasted on non-productive and even counter-productive things. I’m going to quote in the introduction a man named John L. Rainy, a Bible teacher at David L. Lipscomb in Nashville who influenced me a great deal.. We used to joke about him, he was a heavy set man, pretty stern, he had a sense of humor. His wife had died and he lived across the street from the campus in a house that looked sort of run down and we heard he collected rain water for use in his house. He only had one light bulb burning in his house at one time. His collars were dirty and frayed. We felt what a penny pincher on himself. But, when he died he left, for that time and for a school teacher, a remarkable amount of money to David L. Lipscomb School to go on teaching students. He didn’t spend anything on himself, but he not only taught us “Students, it’s always right to do right. It’s always wrong to do wrong.” It may sound simple, but we have never forgotten it.

Ed.: That sounds kind of like the novel by Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet In Heaven, that Deanna Lund passed on to us for review. Though a work of fiction it does point out the influence a person may have and not realize it. I suspect you have influenced people who may not have realized it at first and then it hits them, “This is not only me doing this, it is Pat Boone.”

Pat: Yes, in fact I have honored my early desire to be a teacher in some ways that I know about. Some I don’t. By the time I got out of college my career took off so wildly, but I was determined to get my degree and graduated from Columbia University. Up to the day I took my last test I thought I would be teaching. Therefore I needed that degree. Before I graduated I already had a number one best seller Twix Twelve and Twenty. It was a book of advice for teens which went into every high school in America as well as libraries and churches. It sold well over a million hard cover copies. All the money went to start a Christian college outside Philadelphia which is now fully accredited called Northeastern Christian College, (NCC). This was before I got out of college and I said, “Hey, this is what I want to do with my life.” It was beyond anything I imagined. “Now what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” That was one thing. And I serve as chairman of the advisory board at Pepperdine University and have for a dozen years. So I’m involved in education. But people in Japan, where I have had a curious popularity after all these years, I have had teachers tell me they use my music to teach English. What I thought I was going to be as an English teacher. In Japan both Elvis and I were very popular, but they couldn’t understand Elvis. My words were sung and spoken clearly so they would use my records to teach proper pronunciation to Japanese students who were studying English. So here I am by proxy, not teaching English in the United States, but in foreign countries through my music. It was an amazing development.

Ed.: I’d like to cover one more area. When our friend and Advisory Board member, Rhonda Fleming, made this interview possible, she mentioned that your wife Shirley has a fantastic ministry herself. We know you two work as a team. Could you tell us something about that?
Pat: We’ve been married fifty-four years and she has picked up my option for another year so we’ll make it to fifty five at least. We were going steady literally for three years from age sixteen to nineteen in high school and over into college. So we have really been together in love fifty seven years.

In his book Pat frankly admits that his success put a real drain on their marriage and how God saved it first through Shirley’s prayers and then his.

Pat: We have learned through some rocky times and adjustments, we’ve learned that sometimes those peculiar quirks that seemed so cute when you’re dating get to be real irritants when you are living together for years and we’ve had to maneuver to let each other rub the sharp edges off over the years. It’s wonderful because now we have been totally bonded. Shirley does have her own ministry but she’s also been an invaluable aid to me all along and partner in almost everything I’ve done. I’ve said her name should be on my diploma, for example, from Columbia. I would never have been able to graduate with honors with four daughters at age twenty-three and a career in full raging bloom. That’s two mixed metaphors, but anyway Shirley wanted me to achieve my goals and one of those goals was that I did graduate. She didn’t because of our four kids. She started her own ministry called We Win. It started out as Women Empowering Women. You go to the web site and there it is We Win. But now it’s We Empower Women because she wants men to realize it is a partnership. I help her with her’s as her’s is in spurts. She feels she has to take time off and think, and be sort of fallow and let what’s up on the web site and what’s been recorded on DVDs do the job. She had a big seminar last Fall. It was an all day seminar at church and was well attended. It was recorded and videotaped and we are offering that on the web site. Women who have endured and triumphed through some of the toughest situations imaginable, cancer, divorce, children molested and taken by witches (Wicca). That is children whose trusted baby sitters were witches and actually took these little infants to covens and they were, well I don’t have to go into all the gory details. (This has recently been on national news. Ed.) Abused by people they trusted to look after them.

Shirley’s intent is to help women with all kinds of problems, difficulties, questions and have resources and testimonies that can help and guide them through dark times. Shirley has written her own book, One Woman’s Liberation. I tried to help her with her book, she did help me with mine. But then we wrote a book together, The Honeymoon is Over, subtitled But The Marriage Has Just Begun. We wrote that together, each writing separate chapters. We discovered we remembered some of the very same events and periods that we lived through together differently. (chuckle). She’d say, “That’s not the way it was” and I’d say, “Yes, it was.” I’d say, “Here’s how it happened” and I’d write my version and she’d write hers. We realized we just didn’t flat remember some of the events and statements and moments exactly alike so that’s how we decided “You write a chapter, I’ll write a chapter. When we get to the end if we’re still together we’ll put the book out.” I use the example of a butterfly struggling to get out of the cocoon. In an effort to help the butterfly a fellow took a pocket knife and split the cocoon down so the butterfly could get out. To his dismay he saw the butterfly flutter helplessly and then die. The lesson is that the struggle is necessary to have the strength to survive and reach our goals. Without struggle, without obstacles, without opposition we’ll never develop muscles. So we applied that to our marriage, that these difficulties and disagreements and sometimes trying moments in periods in a marriage develop not only wisdom, but a bond.

Pat also has this bond with all his children and they have traveled around as a team breaking attendance records. They also made successful family gospel albums The Pat Boone Family and The Family Who Prays. In his book Pat states, “The sense of decency and family that used to have center stage in American life is fast becoming a footnote of history…Sometimes I look around and say, ‘Where is the America I used to know? It seems like it was here just a minute ago.What happened?Where did it go?’”
Ed.: We certainly appreciate the time you’ve given us, and Rhonda for uniting us.

Pat: She is one absolutely beautiful woman up close and in person as well. In her character and spirit she is one of the sweetest and most beautiful inside and out people we have had the pleasure of knowing.
The only thing that would make my interview more interesting would be the crazy diversity of activities in my life. My wife feels she has married triplets and wishes two of them would go away. I cannot cut out curiosity and the feeling that I want to participate in something that seems worthy whether I am booked up totally or not. Life gets more complex all the time.

For more information about Pat Boone and family visit his website You will also have an opportunity to listen to his music and order some outstanding books and CDs.


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May 06 2008

Interview with Jody Miller

Published by pointnorth under Interviews

Last Summer we had the pleasure of seeing Jody Miller perform and, while familiar with her CDs, were “blown away” to use an expression not heard much in recent years. We knew immediately that this great gospel singer was someone we needed to interview for Point North † Tidings. We called her at her home in Blanchard, Oklahoma.

Ed.: You mentioned in your bio that at age six you were in California, but where were you originally from?

Jody: Well, my family was from here around Blanchard, Oklahoma. I was born in Phoenix. Then Daddy and Mother came back to their home which was Blanchard, Oklahoma. They were raised around here. We went out to California twice. They went the first time when I was born in Phoenix. We went the second time when I was about three.

Ed.: You’ve said your whole family was musical, I gather this was a major influence on you.

Jody: Yes, I think so. My dad was a fiddle player and my mother was a real good blues singer. My siblings, my sisters were singers and were real good. They liked to sing like anyone would when they’re washing dishes or something.

Ed.: You were a Mario Lanza fan and you liked classical music. That is very evident in your singing. Did you have classical training?

Jody: I wanted to, but my dad couldn’t afford it. We just didn’t go there.

Ed.: In your bio you relate classical music to gospel. Would you like to explain that?

Jody: I was asked this morning how long I could hold a note and I told her “pretty long”. One thing I learned about gospel singers is the last note on their songs was very important. They hold it as long as they can. This is true of classical music. I meant that it was pretty formal and needed to be sung correctly. Like The National Anthem. It should be sung correctly. It shouldn’t be jazzed up or done with notes going here and there and the other. It’s why they call it an anthem. It’s supposed to be sung like an anthem. It’s to be sung straight, not jazzy or bluesy or anything like that. Both gospel and classical music need to be sung straight.

Ed.: What were your first stage appearances?

Jody: When I was six years old my mommy and daddy got me into some bars around Oakland, California. They had singing contests. One time we had to sneak out the back because the cops were coming in the front door. The thing is they knew I could sing at a very early age. Powerfully sing. They wanted me to have a chance. They were poor, and the only thing they could think of was how far we could get with a contest, much like American Idol. One time I got to sing at the Oakland Auditorium and I was six years old and I came in second. I sang a Nat King Cole song, Mona Lisa, which was weird. Here I was a little six-year-old girl singing a love song. It would be like a six year old singing Stand By Your Man. It didn’t get me anywhere other than my mother and daddy were proud of me.

Ed.: When did you get into recording?

Jody : I was singing folk music around Oklahoma, after I got out of high school. I had a good job as a secretary and would sing as much as I could, folk songs. I was staying at the YWCA and the library was right down the street in Oklahoma City. I would go on my free time to the library to research the folk songs. You have to have the story, you just can’t sing it and not be able to tell people why the songs came about. They do have good stories and some were written in the 1700’s. I learned about 200 songs complete with stories so I would sing at coffee houses. They were real popular in the early ‘60s all over America. I was pretty hot in that I was singing folk music. After I had been married about six months, my husband and I went to LA to try to get in the record business. I did get in with Capitol Records because I was a folk artist and that music was so hot. My first recordings were at Capitol Records.

.Ed.: You know, I have to comment that there is such a melodious sound in your speaking voice that one can hear the music. A lot like a friend of ours, Connie Haines.

Jody: I am very familiar with her and I have been also compared with Doris Day. It may be just a pop singer personality or something.

Ed.: You also mention that you enjoy working with people with great attitudes. Could you give some examples of that?

Jody: That’s funny, but the first thing I think of is those who didn’t have good attitudes. It would be stronger for me to comment about people who don’t have a good attitude. I think people who don’t have a good attitude have the Devil as a ruler. The Devil of the world is a bad attitude. It upsets everything, puts everything out of kilter. I’ve had to work with two or three people who couldn’t see the glass half full. I just don’t understand, especially in show business, how somebody cannot have hope and have happiness. These are the qualities needed to be in show business. That alone should make anybody deliriously happy. if they can act or sing or whatever.

Ed.: You mention in your bio you had a preference for the great songs of the fifties, but you were classed as “country”.

Jody: Yes. I love pop music. Early pop music, J. P. Morgan, Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Connie Haines and people like that. Standard songs that were beautiful. There was a wonderful producer at Columbia Records who would say every once in a while, “It doesn’t take a hammer to kill a fly”. Exactly what pop music did for me. Those people laid on those notes just beautifully and sang the
lyric like it was supposed to be.

Ed.: How did your Grammy winning Queen of the House come about?

Jody: When I recorded Queen of the House I had been in Europe about two or three months. I came back and they wanted me to record it. I thought it was a jazz number. I wondered why they didn’t given it to Peggy Lee. She was a jazz singer for Capitol Records, but she wrote her own music. I thought she won’t cut that as she didn’t write it. Usually that’s the way it works with writers. I cut it, and I had been doing pop music and it went first on the jazz station in LA. Then it went pop and then it crossed over to country. It was country that gave me the Grammy. I won the Grammy for being a country performer. That thrust me into the country music business. I didn’t care too much for country at that time. It didn’t lay on my ear all that well, though I was brought up hearing country music with my daddy playing the fiddle. My sister listened to Bob Wells records all the time. Bob Wells was a pop guy, he really was, He might have played the fiddle, but he had horns in his orchestra. I didn’t like Jimmy Rogers or Hank Williams because I didn’t like the whining sound. When I was put in country music, I decided to do it my way. Half pop and half country. On both sides of the fence, but we sold some records.

Ed.: In the performance we saw, we loved your rendition of The American Trilogy. People often think of Elvis Presley in regard to this, however we felt you outdid everyone who had ever performed it. I recently played the DVD we made of you singing that number for an independent living center. It was in a Bible class. These were people who know and love gospel. They agreed that your version is the best.

Jody: What happened is the Mickey Newbury, the writer, put it together. He recorded it in the early sixties. I was a big fan of Mickey’s. My husband was a race horse trainer, and we were at a track in Northern New Mexico. I played the Trilogy over and over in a motel room and I learned to sing it very good. With the hit Queen of the House, I would do that number in my act when I made appearances. It wasn’t until I got to Montgomery, Alabama that the house came down. I was doing it before Elvis.

Ed.: What role or credit do you give your religious faith for your career?

Jody: I give my Lord everything, all the credit for me. He knew what I was going to do before I was even born. That settled that. I have a lot of faith, I know He runs my life. He is the one who guides me in my life. I give Him all the credit for everything. In my Christian music I pray about it constantly. It is not where I want it to be. I want my Christian music to be prevalent, but the Lord sees other roles for me. I would like to be more known as a Christian singer.

Ed.: You are in Branson, Missouri two weeks out of each month at a show titled God and Country. Would you describe that?

Jody: The show itself is called The Grand Ladies of Country Music. The theater is called The God and Country Theater, because the people who own the theater are Christians. They love our country and they want to combine their love of country with Christian music. The show I’m with involves Wanda Jackson, Norma Jean, Jean Shepherd, Leona Williams and Ava Barber from the Lawrence Welk Show. There are six of us and we rotate, three of us on stage at one time and we each do our hits. In the second part of the show we do a tribute to the great ladies of country music who had wonderful careers like Kitty Wells and Tammy Wynette. Then we do gospel music and one patriotic song. Our market is people our age. They have 65 theaters in Branson so there is enough music for everybody.

Ed.: Are you working on anything in particular now? Like your dream of a pop album?

Jody: Not anything for an album now, but I have it all ready. I do not have any recording sessions planned. I would sure like to do that. I recently did a Centennial show for one of the towns in Oklahoma. Also, recently, I did an international show for a group of international folks who came in. I do shows like the Western Film Fair when I have the time and I am available for shows that want gospel music.

You may be sure Ye Olde Editor talked about media events we have had in the past and about her as a possible guest, should she be available.. Also, for our readers, there are many CDs available by Jody Miller for purchase. Two in particular may be directly secured from Amazon. Com that we want to mention here. ANTHOLOGY is a combination of pop, country and gospel with many of Jody’s best known numbers. The second one is HIGHER which is gospel. Amazon lists the latter as HIGHER LOVE.

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