Balance Winter 2005


One of the nerve-wracking aspects of being a celebrity interviewer has to do with expectations. What if you meet a favorite star or icon and he or she disappoints? By looking or acting differently than you hold them in your mind, your illusions of the past are shattered–oh not again!–along with your happily-ever-after starry-eyed fantasies. Maybe their assistants are rude. Or the star blows you off. Or perhaps they strive to be nice, but can’t help but give short, flat answers in the voice you grew up loving but now can barely stay awake for as they bore even themselves by looking back on a past they’ve been asked to analyze a thousand times.

Okay, even though the above scenario is rare, it’s still a possibility and one I found myself worrying about before talking to my namesake, Linda Evans. I mean, I hadn’t heard anything about her in a long time and wondered why, assuming that the answer might not be a good one. As a huge Dynasty fan in college, who lived in an uppity 80s sorority and actually attended several campus Dynasty parties, I didn’t want to learn even one negative thing about my favorite shoulder-pad wearing 80s role model. I guess you could say that I took the life of Krystle Carrington far too seriously, even though it was an imaginary one. Linda Evans, the one pretending to be Krystle back then, fiercely loyal to her equally perfect TV husband, Blake Carrington, played by John Forsythe (all of whom can still be seen hourly in syndication around the world), was rumored to be exceptionally kind as well, and I couldn’t stomach uncovering any evidence to the contrary. Or, God forbid I was to hear that Hollywood had chewed her up and spit her out, as it has done to so many. If, when interviewing Linda I uncovered a shell of the woman the world once loved enough to give five People’s Choice Awards ( for favorite female performer for Dynasty ), a Golden Globe award (for best actress in a dramatic television series ), and the coveted spot four years running on Harper’s Bazaar magazine’s “Ten Most Beautiful Women” list, I knew I’d be tempted to hang up my interviewing hat forever, and frankly, I wanted to avoid that temptation altogether.

Thankfully, I’m breathing easy! At sixty-one years old–an age I’ve feared on my far off but hopefully inevitable horizon, as neither my mother nor my maternal grandmother ever lived to see it–Linda says she’s happier than at any other time in her life. Phew. After hearing about the workings of her peacefully balanced days, I believe her totally. And, lucky for me, the delight she feels for her everyday experiences couldn’t help but rub off. After our first interview I walked away knowing that I had just been given an emotional B12 shot, somehow making me less fearful of getting older. After our second, I was actually excited by the thought. I’m not entirely sure how, but with Linda’s contagious enthusiasm, she blew apart my preconceived notions of the forties, fifties, and sixties. I’m now determined to follow her around and take notes (if she’ll have me), and expect that when Ms. Evans hits her seventies and beyond, her inspiration will continue to motivate and light the way.

All that Glitters
Linda and I started off our discussion talking about beauty, youth, and living in Hollywood…   “People think that because you’re a star and the world loves you and you’re rich, that you’ve got it made,” she began. “One of the nicest things that could have happened to me was to have been able to experience all of those trappings firsthand and see how empty they are–to see the void in what everyone thinks is so wonderful. I got to feel the beauty of it, the excitement of it, and every time I won an award, people would watch the show in bigger numbers and the ratings would go up and we’d get picked up for another year. The cast would say, ‘Isn’t this beautiful?’ It was, to a point. Until I saw the illusory nature of success.

“It’s so easy to say, ‘If I could only have such and such, then everything would be wonderful,’ or, ‘If I could only be so and so, my life would be perfect .’   It’s human nature to think that something outside of us will make everything okay, but I’m here to tell you that if you’re like most people and think you can be thin enough or beautiful enough or rich enough or successful enough to make your life perfect, you’re headed for disillusionment. As one of the people who everyone thought had it all , I know from experience that I didn’t. It’s just not possible.

“Women in general are far too insecure, and in Hollywood it’s worse because that town is totally into youth. Part of the vulnerability that people living there feel is that youth is everywhere . One of the things I love to speak about to women’s groups is to let them know how insecure we all are. No matter who you are. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even met one totally secure woman.

“Overcoming insecurity is just part of the female opportunity. It’s sad that in this day and age, in this technologically advanced century, women have never, ever been more powerful or had more opportunities, but most women don’t even know it’s a big deal. We just take our freedoms and our power for granted, focusing on our problems, on what we don’t yet have. Americans are especially fortunate. We are the tiniest minority of opportunity for greatness that exists right now, and to think that we spend our time worrying about being thin, young, and beautiful is crazy! We destroy so many of the great opportunities we have before us by wasting our time in this way.”

Wow. I’m suddenly feeling as if I need to cancel my hair-tinting appointment and thrust my work on behalf of the environment into overdrive. Knowing that Linda is a passionate environmental activist, I ask if her work today of fighting for “Mother Earth” is one of those “great opportunities” she’s talking about .

Earth Mama
“Absolutely!” she says. “I have always been very concerned about environmental issues, but ironically, it wasn’t until George Bush Senior came into office that I really saw the power we have as people to make a difference. I say ironic because I’m a Democrat. But, our planet doesn’t care about politics. She needs help from people of all political affiliations.

“Back then the Republicans started a program called ‘Take Pride in America,’ and they asked me to become involved. I just wanted to help and we ended up having a huge impact, inspiring people in America to take pride and go out and work on cleaning up the land and water. We ended up becoming so huge in the years we did it that we saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Once a year we would all meet at the White House, and lots of kids were involved. The President was there to thank them personally and the program just kept growing and spreading. Families were going out on weekends and cleaning up the lakes and streams and forests and grass lands. Wherever a problem was identified, the public would step up and help. It was so powerful I can’t even tell you.

“When Clinton was sworn into office, everybody involved was so excited because we knew he was going to be an environmental president, which in many ways he was, opening up a lot of protected spaces and instituting tougher environmental laws. But, I didn’t hear anything from the administration and figured they were just getting adjusted to office, and that they had a lot of things to take care of. I went to see them and said, ‘Excuse me what are you doing about this program?’ ‘Oh,’ they answered, ‘Well, we have cancelled that because it was a Republican program.’ I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘Did you see the numbers?’ I asked. ‘Did you hear about what we were able to accomplish in all fifty states with hundreds of thousands of volunteer citizens?’ ‘No, no, no,’ they answered, ‘We have our own programs and we have our own ideas, and we’ll get back to you.’ They never called me again. It just died, which was tragic to me. I was completely stunned. It was very disheartening to see how politics works.”

I can imagine, I told her, finding my left-of-center brain unable to easily digest that information. But I stumbled forward, asking, “I’ve heard that you’ve continued that passion for activism into your present life. Is that true?” “Yes. I’m very involved, both on a local and a national level. You know, when you live in a small town, as I do now [in Washington state], you can’t help but become involved. When I first moved here, we were having a huge fight against sludge. They wanted to dump sludge into our undeveloped acreage, telling us that it was great to help make things grow. We said, ‘Well, if that’s so true, then take it back to the city and put it in the parks.’ Of course, it would have ended up in a river that goes right by my house. It took us a year-and-a-half, fighting and marching on the state capital and getting the governor involved, but we did it. We stopped them. You know, I have fought more in the country than I ever did in the city. So much for living a quiet life in rural America! But there’s something about a community getting together and going against those who have the money and the power. You become one together and there’s a beauty and nobility in the old-fashioned principle of standing up for what’s right. I like that very much. In fact, we’re about to have another fight on our hands. I was at a meeting last night discussing how to keep NASCAR out of our small town. It’s a hassle for sure, but wonderful, too, seeing everyone joining together to save life as we know and love it.”

Country Livin’
Tell me about your life in the country, I said. How did you end up there, and what does it look like? Dynasty was almost over and I finally had enough money to say, ‘Okay, now that I’m okay for the rest of my life, it will do me good to get away from this superficial world.’ I went to an ancient school of wisdom, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, and a lot of the peace that I now have in my life, I got from the knowledge I learned there. I wanted to have a life while I still was young enough to have a life. The dream of finding the man of my dreams was still there for me, too, which isn’t how it’s worked out. At least not so far. But, that’s okay with me.

I don’t have a typical day and that’s probably why I’m having so much fun. I have no obligation to do anything but what I want, which is a variety of things. The last few years I built a house, moving out to seventy acres with a forest and a river running through it. I custom built my home on five acres and put in gardens and trees and oh, it’s been crazy. It’s so all encompassing, building a house. I had never built one from scratch before–never before have I had a huge garden that could feed the entire town, or a greenhouse for my orchids. Or, solar panels or my own well! It has everything I need, and it’s such a sweet thing living out in the middle of nature, with a million birds and my two little kitties who just sit and watch them, mesmerized. I am very happy here. It’s hard to get me to leave.

Taking Safeguards
But, I know that you do leave, both for speaking engagements and to fight for the environment. Can you tell me about your current favorite cause?

“Of course, but it’s not a popular topic. I’m very against the proliferation of cell towers and cell phone usage, primarily with children and teenagers, where the blood/brain barrier is especially fragile. I’m working to inform people that the FDA has never checked the potentially cancerous effects of cell phones and cell towers. Cancer rates, including brain cancer, are going through the roof since everyone’s been using cell phones, and the only testing that’s being done is financed through the cell phone companies, who pay their scientists to tell us whether they’re are safe or not.

I don’t even use a cell phone; that’s how upset I am. I’m one of those people who gets out of her car in the rain to use a pay phone and puts in quarters like the dark ages.

“Look, I know that cell phones are incredibly convenient, but I just think that until we know more, they should only be used for emergencies or to check up on someone when you’re concerned about them. I think it’s important that we don’t overuse them. People get into habits, and sometimes it’s just as easy to use a land line as a cell phone, but because you’re at someone else’s house, for example, you don’t bother. My advice is to be more careful until we have a better idea what’s going on and how to protect ourselves.

But, there are several things you can do, I said. Like holding the phone further away and using speaker phone; turning it on only when you need it; and even wearing a Q-Link pendant, as I do, which helps prevent electromagnetic radiation from getting into the body. Have you heard of other ideas?

“I haven’t heard of the Q-Link, but I’d love to learn more. As for me, I recently tried a Philip Stein Teslar watch that was given to me, and is also supposed to have protective qualities. It did make me feel more energetic. You know, this discussion reminds me of smoking. At one time not too long ago, the government and the smoking industry said that smoking was safe. We all know how that one’s turned out.”

Happy at Last
Have you always been this self-assured, I wanted to know … She laughed in a “You’ve got to be kidding!” sort of way. “When I divorced John Derek, I wanted to be powerful on my own,” she said. “I didn’t want to rely on a man. I wanted to make my own money and take care of myself, but I still wanted to be in love. But, a funny thing happens when you’re doing all that work; you’re not exactly able to meet anyone, much less carry on a relationship. When you get up at four in the morning and come home at nine at night, and you work on weekends and spend all of your extra time doing publicity and events, you’re not very available. So I had to ask myself how much money did I have to have in order to be happy? I decided that I had enough to find out what the emptiness in me was all about. I wanted to understand more about life, because I was at the top of the heap, so to speak, and still unfulfilled. Turns out that the longing I was feeling wasn’t just for a guy. I was looking for myself without the chaos, and I realized that I was giving myself away for approval to be loved and adored and accepted. So, no, I was not always secure. It’s so ironic that if I had just accepted myself and loved myself, it wouldn’t really have mattered what other people thought, what the world thought.

“We all have to go through our stages, and I don’t regret any of them. As much as I believe that money and fame aren’t the cause of happiness, the truth is that I’m living a beautiful life based in part from the security those successes allowed me. But, I prefer living a more balanced life, where I can be of service. It’s the most interesting thing to be sixty-one now and the most content I’ve ever been. I’ve accepted my age and my insecurities, and learned that feeling empty is an opportunity to go within and also to give back. I never would have believed that I’d be this happy at this age when I was a fourteen, with a picture of John Derek over my bed. I was totally in love with him, and then my God, I ended up marrying him! He was, to me, everything that a man could possibly be. My fairy tale had come true. The prince had come and put the slipper on my foot. And of course, when that ended, I wanted to die because I thought it would be easier to die than to be in pain without him.”

I’m not sure I remember the gossip, I say. Didn’t he leave you for Bo Derek ?

“He sure did, and I trained Bo to be in the movie they were doing together! Bo and I are friends now and he’s dead, so the story isn’t even important except for the point that I wanted to die. Trouble was, I was in such good health that it was never going to happen. I kept hoping that John would come back. Then, one day I thought, ‘Why am I dying for this man that after nine years of marriage doesn’t even care about me?’ I made a decision that I was going to live, and then my whole life turned around instantly. Within a week I started eating. I started getting job offers to go back to work, because I basically retired after he and I got together, scaling down and even quitting my role on “Big Valley” because he didn’t want me to work, except to do projects with him, which weren’t very successful. We had no money, so it was difficult for us. But, everything, including Dynasty, came after I changed my mind. Opportunities came and doors opened immediately. I love encouraging women to know that when we take our mind off of men, putting it back on us, that’s when miracles happen.”

So it was your intention to shift your life that made the difference? I asked.

“Exactly! The minute I did that, my life opened up again. And, I might add, when Yanni and I broke up years later, even though we were also together for nine years and I loved him dearly, this time around I did not feel like dying. I intended to trust life, even with regard to my love life. Intention is everything.”

See what I mean about the B12 shot? In all honesty, Linda was different than the image I had held all these years in my mind. She was better–all of the things I had loved about her television characters, with more chutzpa than those young, naïve beauties ever had. So, my happily-ever-after starry-eyed fantasies remain. Linda’s assistant, Kim Hanley, I might add, was not only not rude, but bent over backwards to help out, reminding me that goodness comes from the top down (or doesn’t). In closing, even if Linda has answered my type of questions a thousand times, she didn’t show any signs of boredom. Come to think of it, neither did I.

This was one situation where no acting was required.

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