Category Archives: The Beck/Smith Vault

Flashbacks to Memorable Moments and Statements of the Stars reported on By Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith


Burton & Taylor

Burton & Taylor

RIP Elizabeth Taylor, the last great Hollywood film goddess…As the world says farewell to the actress-philanthropist, who died today at age 79, we also say goodbye to a kind of glamor that simply does not exist today.  Here is a glimpse of Elizabeth Taylor’s world when she was at her very peak, and Marilyn Beck shared an adventure.

November 11, 1963

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Find Paradise On ‘Night of the Iguana’ Shoot

By Marilyn Beck

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO — Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton have discovered paradise – and they freely admit it.

In this tiny, tropical village they have found their heaven on earth, where they can openly display their love for each other, freer than they have ever been from notoriety and criticism.

In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Burton explained that he and his Elizabeth are now in process of buying a home in Puerto Vallarta, that they have found contentment here that has  thus far eluded them in the other places they have traveled.

“Half the people here,” he explained, “have never heard of Elizabeth. The other half might have heard of her, but couldn’t care less about her behavior.  The natives allow us to live our lives, to act ourselves.”

He grinned disarmingly, as if unaware his statements were newsworthy, and explained, “Elizabeth and I have already put in an offer on one home.  It was on the market for $40,000.  Unfortunately, when the owner discovered we were the bidders he jacked  up his price to $60,000 and we backed out.  I am sure of this, however,  If we keep looking we will find another home here that pleases us.  “This much we’ve decided:  we do want to live in Puerto Vallarta.  It’s paradise.”

It is understandable that both he and Miss Taylor should have fallen so in love with this tropical village.  For here they have been able to act much like honeymooners blissfully in love.

Local cab drivers point out to tourists “Casa Kimberley,” the luxurious villa nestled high on a rocky hillside where the famous couple live together

Each morning a candy-striped jeep, boldly inscribed on its side with the words “Casa Kimberley” calls for Burton at the entranceway of the house.   The actor jumps in beside the driver and, as the jeep makes its perilous way down the cobblestone streets, narrowly avoiding pigs, burros, and half-naked children, Burton will turn to wave a last goodbye to Elizabeth, standing smiling down at him from the balcony of their home.

Around noon, the jeep will return for Miss Taylor and drive her to the beach where she will board their boat, “The Taffy,” to make the 6-7 [corrected] mile trip down coast to Mismaloya, the location site of Burton’s film, “Night of the Iguana.”

After spending the afternoon with him, on the set, they will board the boat together shortly before dusk to return to Casa Kimberley.

During the evenings, the couple will dine alone at home or will join friends in one of the six restaurant-bars in town.

Even to one spending just a few days in Puerto Vallarta, it becomes obvious that the charm of this tropical land has had its magical effect on Liz and Burton.  Where they tried deliberately not to be seen in public in both Rome and London, here in Mexico they make almost a show out of publicly acting like a couple in love.  Their attitude seems to say:  “We adore each other and are proud of it.  We want the whole world to know how we feel.”  There is not a soul in Puerto Vallarta who could remain oblivious to that fact.

I first became a witness to their love while standing on my hotel balcony one evening, mesmerized by the glories that nature was unfolding before me.  The heavens seemed to be on fire.  The sky, grey with the promise of night, had been touched by unseen fingers of fire and turned shades of gilded red and gold.  The sun, resting briefly atop a low hanging cloud before its final descent, spilled a trail of liquid amber along the tropical waters, then slid silently into the sea.

It was twilight in Puerto Vallarta, one of the most thrilling spectacles offered anywhere in the world.  The coconut trees lining the shore were now bathed in partial darkness and swayed to the rhythm of the surf as a mild tropical breeze arose.

Unexpectedly, from the horizon, a ship approached, killed its motors about a hundred feet from shore, and drifted silently, lifted gently and unprotestingly by the gentle push of the waves.  The ship was the “Taffy” and from its cabin Elizabeth Taylor emerged, climbed to the bow where she poised for a moment, then disappeared into the sea, cutting the water with an expert and graceful dive.  A moment later she surfaced and waved to Burton who stood at the stern of the craft.  He called, “I’ll see you on shore, luv,” and made a motion to the native captain to resume the progress of the boat.

It seemed but moments later when the actress’ powerful stroke had carried her to the beach.  There, like a child confident she is safe from unseen eyes, she  pranced upon the sand, shaking her head to free the sea water held captive in her hair.  She stood for a moment, her arms outstretched in a gesture of abandoned happiness, then skipped back into the surf, laughing with delight as the waves playfully slapped at her legs.

“Elizabeth,” Burton’s voice broke the stillness as he came trotting down the beach to meet her.  They embraced, clung to each other for a moment, then walked arm in arm to an awaiting jeep.  They were going home.

“Elizabeth is very happy here,” Burton confessed to me the following day.  “We both feel we’ve found heaven.”

He proceeded to explain why.  “Here in Puerto Vallarta we can be ourselves.  Last Sunday, for instance, we decided to take the boat and spend the day with Lisa on a deserted beach along the coast.  At least we thought it was deserted.  After dropping our gear on the sand and spreading out our towels, we looked up and noticed several families of natives watching us from halfway up the mountain.  I waved and they immediately began to approach, friendly and unafraid.  They paid almost no attention to Elizabeth and myself.  It was apparent that they didn’t have the vaguest notion who we were.  But Lisa, they fell in love with her.  Even with my limited knowledge of Spanish, I could understand that they were telling us how beautiful she was, saying that she looked, with her deep copper tan, like a Mexican Niña.

When lunchtime came, I asked our visitors if they’d  care to share our sandwiches.  They were delighted, even happier to sample our tequila.  Then it was time for them to treat us.  They invited us up to their hut, to share their tortillas and beans – and their local brew.  Elizabeth and I sat on the dirt floor of the thatched hut, sharing the simple food that the women prepared for us over an open fire.  And, while Elizabeth and I basked in those golden moments of anonymity, Lisa enjoyed herself playing tag in the jungle outside the hut with our host’s children.”

For over two hours Burton talked of the life he and Elizabeth have found in Mexico.  Never did he say “I”.  His statements always began with “we.”  Charming and suave and very much a man of the world, he none-the-less gave the impression of a person as overwhelmingly in love as a teenager smitten with his first affair of the heart.

Sitting with him in the thatched roofed bar at Mismaloya, little more than a clearing out of a lush forest overgrown with wild banana and coconut trees, he pointed in the direction of the Taffy, at anchor in the breakwater.  “You know, of course,” he offered, “that Elizabeth named the boat after me.  Remember the rhyme, ‘Taffy was a Welshman.  Taffy was a thief? …'”  His blue eyes shone with pride and he seemed all at once like a boastful small boy, proud of his mischievous behavior.

This impression remained as Burton continued to speak.  Charming, a marvelous story teller, he seemed bent on disclosing the intimate little details of his affair with Elizabeth Taylor.  “She is my woman,” his attitude proclaimed.

Yet, though Elizabeth Taylor might be a woman in love, a woman who is now acting like an ecstatic bride, she proved a few hours later that, like women everywhere, she has her moments of annoyance with her man, when anger and possessiveness can erase all other feelings.

On that particular day, because only a half days shooting was scheduled, she had decided not to make the trip to Mismaloya.  Instead, she waited for Burton at “Casa Kimberly, expecting him to arrive home by two o’clock in the afternoon.

He, however, chose that day to rebel.  A terribly gregarious person who seems complete only when he is surrounded by people, he sat talking with me for several hours, though he knew Elizabeth was waiting at home.  Then, urged y his secretary who warned in whispers, “Miss Taylor will be upset,” he reluctantly arose and offered me a ride back to the mainland on his boat.  We had begun to leave the bar when he spied Director John Huston and Ava Gardner at a corner table and made his way over, “Just to say hello.”  It was more than an hour later when the frantic secretary finally persuaded him to board the boat and it was past 6 p.m. when we finally docked at Puerto Vallarta.  Elizabeth’s houseboy, sent down to the water’s edge to try to locate Burton, rushed up to him and explained nervously in Spanish that Miss Taylor was very upset, had sent him to the beach three times earlier that afternoon to find him.

If Burton was worried over Elizabeth’s apparent wrath he gave no indication, just smiled, bestowed a kiss upon my cheek as he bid me farewell and said  he’d probably see me later in town.

As it turned out, we did see each other again.  That evening he and Elizabeth appeared together at the Hotel Rio, in the center of town.  Whatever disagreement they may have had over Burton’s tardiness obviously resulted  in no more than a lover’s quarrel for she sat beside him now, her face glowing with adoration as they sipped their cocktails and made love with their eyes.  When they left a short time later, it was arm and arm, walking to the jeep that would take them down the cobblestone streets to their home.

Neither Richard Burton nor Elizabeth Taylor will discuss the possibility of their securing divorces from their present mates, yet there in Mexico such complications seem something that bothers them little.  They are honeymooning.  They have found their Shangri-la and if there is an Eddie Fisher and a Sybil Burton giving statements to the press in the United States – well, such things belong to another world, cannot penetrate the blissful state that has enveloped them.

Honeymooners are not uncommon in Puerto Vallarta.  Its beauty and picturesque setting make it a lover’s paradise.  Perhaps this is why the local citizens seem to be able to take Liz and Burton’s actions in stride.  They point with pride to ‘Liz’s house, the Casa Kimberley.’  They comment on Lisa’s beauty.  Yet they seem highly unconcerned with the notoriety that has surrounded Liz and Burton in other parts of the globe.

In a blue negligee she stands, waving to her lover as he leaves for a day’s work.  In the neighborhood grocery shop she will wander, seeking some delicacy to delight her man when he returns home at night.  In a picturesque cantina she sits, her eyes never leaving the face of the man with whom she is sharing paradise.  Her hand reaches out to find his and she smiles, her violet eyes alight with rapture.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton have found their heaven on earth.  It’s possible that they feel they can cling to it forever here in this Eden-like village.  They will buy a home high in the hills overlooking the sea where few will see and no one will are about their behavior.  And if they must return to civilization – to a curious press, to demands from estranged mates, to a society shocked that they won’t conform to acceptable behavior — their return will only be a temporary one.  And they will be able to tolerate it, knowing that they will return to the heaven they have found on earth where they can openly acknowledge their love.  And where no one will judge them.

Madonna the Donut Girl? A Labor Day Look at Stars’ Pre-Fame Jobs

Madonna photo by David Shankbone

By Emily-Fortune Feimster

They may be making the big bucks now — but it wasn’t that long ago that these super stars were at the bottom of the barrel.

P.  Diddy, one of the most well-known money makers of his time, started his career working for free. That’s right!  He was an intern for the now-defunct Uptown Records and did everything from washing cars to fetching coffee. This bad boy worked his way up to being a dancer in Father MC’s video “Treat Them Like They Want to be Treated” while attending the prestigious Howard University, majoring in Business.  He now owns his own record label and is worth over $300 million.   Guess working for free really pays off!

The Material Girl Madonna worked at a Dunkin Donuts in New York City’s Times Square before becoming an international pop icon.  Donuts anyone? Having a whopping IQ of 140, Madonna also won a scholarship to the University of Michigan for excellent grades and studied modern dance and drama for 3 semesters.

Singer Elvis Costello was another closet smarty pants and wears his trademark glasses because in a former incarnation he strained his eyes working as a computer programmer.

But no lowly beginner is as surprising as Tom Cruise, who at the age of 14 attended a Franciscan seminary for one year  while thinking of becoming a priest.  Katie Holmes must be glad that didn’t work out.   In high school, he also had a brief stint as a paper boy for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Funny lady Ellen DeGeneres had a variety of jobs as a house painter, an oyster shucker in New Orleans, a vacuum cleaner saleswoman, and a paralegal.

Whoopi Goldberg also worked hard for the money. Before her stardom, she applied makeup to corpses in a funeral parlor, and worked as a bricklayer and a bank teller.

Suave secret agent 007 Sean Connery can relate — having earned a living polishing coffins.  Kind of creepy!

Danny DeVito preferred to work with the living and was a qualified hairdresser (or stylist as they like to say).  He was trained at the Wilfred Academy of Hair and Beauty in NYC before snagging a role in “Taxi.”

Mariah Carey tried her hand at beauty school but didn’t make the cut and dropped out after only one day on the job.  She claims to have held several waitressing jobs and said she got fired from them all. Is anyone surprised? I didn’t think so.

Another actor claiming to have been let go is former “Cheers” star Woody Harrelson who said he had 17 odd jobs in one year and was fired from all of them.  Maybe legalizing pot is not as good of an idea as he thought?

Hottie tottie Brad Pitt has no doubt had his fair share of odd jobs — his most infamous being a limousine driver in which he chauffeured strippers between bachelor parties, but only when he wasn’t delivering refrigerators.  He also dressed up as a chicken on the street corner to advertise for the fast food chain “El Pollo Loco.”

His former wife Jennifer Aniston worked as a waitress in New York but that’s not as exciting.

“Titanic” megastar Kate Winslet used to work in a north London deli.

Ok, that’s not exciting either, but off-the-wall Rob Schneider washed dishes in an ice cream parlor before making it onto “Saturday Night Live.”

And get this — before getting his own TV show, comedian Jerry Seinfeld sold light bulbs over the telephone. Kind of crazy, huh?

That’s not all.   Esteemed actress Helen Mirren worked at an amusement park in Southend as a “blagger” – employed to attract punters to the rides — and Sylvester Stallone earned his rent by tending the lion cages at the Central Park Zoo.

Calista Flockhart and Lucy Liu made some extra dough by getting physical as aerobics instructors while director Steven Spielberg earned some money whitewashing fruit trees.

Hawaii native Bette Midler is all too familiar with fruit as well having once worked at a pineapple processing plant.

So don’t feel bad about your day job.  You never know where life will lead you!

How ‘Good Angelina’ Stacks Up Against ‘Bad Angelina’

(In her July 23-opening “Salt,”  Angelina Jolie’s spy character may be good, but may be bad.  In real life, Jolie mastered this duality long ago, as evidenced by the following…)

Originally Published July 2005

Separated at Birth?
Good Angelina vs. Bad Angelina
by Steve Ryfle

Angelina Jolie is a hard one to figure out. Is she a freewheeling free spirit, a hyper-tattooed, oversexed, uninhibited superstar who wears her peccadilloes in plain sight, or a single mother and activist who devotes her free time to the plight of refugees in war-torn countries? Is she a shameless femme fatale, who would swipe an A-list husband away from a fellow actress, or a devoted parent raising her two kids?

The truth is there are two Angelinas, Good Angelina and Bad Angelina. Both were born in 1975, both are Jon Voight’s daughter, and both are big-time tabloid fodder. But while Bad Angelina is giving candid interviews about her sex life, Good Angelina is representin’ for the United Nations around the globe. Will Good eventually triumph over Bad, or will these two contradictory celebrity halves learn to coexist? Here’s how the yin and yang of Jolie measure up.

Good Angelina Bad Angelina
First sightings: Made her movie debut at age five in “Looking to Get Out,” which starred her father. Got serious about acting in her teens, studying with Lee Strasberg, then came her grown-up debut: a supporting role as a robot in “Cyborg II: Glass Shadows” (1993). In 1997, won a Golden Globe for portraying Gov. George Wallace’s wife in a TV flick. First sightings: Maybe it was the tough chick she played in “Hackers,” wearing a little tank top and no bra. Or maybe the druggie, AIDS-stricken model Gia Cavangi in “Gia.” Or the sexy psycho in “Girl, Interrupted.” Whichever it was, we knew this chick was out there.
Defining moment: In August 2005, was awarded honorary Cambodian citizenship for her humanitarian work, including a $3.2 million donation to help save an endangered forest. Her travels to poverty-stricken lands have also earned praise from the likes of Colin Powell. Defining moment: Her three-year (2000-03) marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, 20 years her senior, was a pairing of oddballs. The couple’s peccadilloes (he liked to wear her underwear to the gym, she liked to give explicit interviews about their sexual escapades –and that’s just for starters) were legendary.
Family life: Her 4-year-old son Maddox was adopted from Cambodia, and infant daughter Zahara was recently adopted from Ethiopia. Zahara’s mother, an 18-year-old African woman, has publicly thanked Jolie for giving her kid a better life. Family life: Long-running feud with her “Midnight Cowboy” dad. Is close–way close–with brother Jamie Haven Voight (so close, they’ve had to refute incest rumors). First husband was bad-boy British actor Jonny Lee Miller of “Trainspotting” fame.
Homemaker: She’s chucked the Hollywood scene for a home outside London, where a typical evening revolves around feeding her kids and putting them to bed. Homewrecker: In recent years, she says those quiet evenings at home with the kids were often preceded by lots of casual sex in hotel rooms. Now shacking with Brad Pitt, her “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” co-star and soon-to-be-ex-Mr. Jennifer Aniston.
Mad money: Just the third actress admitted to the $20 million club (following Julia and Cameron) when she starred in the hitman-and-hitwife comedy “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Bad money: Won an Oscar for “Girl, Interrupted,” although many people thought the trophy should’ve gone to Winona Ryder.
Thinkwell: She’s studying Buddhism and hopes to learn Khmer, the Cambodian language. Among the books she’s professed to reading recently are “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” by uber-philosopher Ayn Rand. Inkwell: She’s got at least 10 tattoos, probably a lot more. They reportedly include: a Chinese dragon, tribal designs, the Japanese symbol for “death,” a window, a Tennessee Williams quote, and a Latin proverb (“What nourishes me also destroys me”). She has removed a tat of Billy Bob’s name, tho.
Sensational: She struck out on her own at age 16, and worked as a professional model in London, New York, and Los Angeles, doing fashion stuff and appearing in music videos for Meat Loaf, Lenny Kravitz, the Lemonheads and the Rolling Stones. Skin-sational: Unlike some other A-list actresses, she’s unafraid to bare it all. Gets nasty with Ethan Hawke in “Taking Lives” and Antonio Banderas in “Original Sin.”
Food facts: While shooting the first “Lara Croft” movie in 2000, she cleaned up her diet. Instead of coffee and a smoke for breakfast, she started eating (heavens!) eggs. She cut back on the booze, dumped cow’s milk for soy milk, and for dindins she switched to steamed fish and veggies. Blood pacts: She and Billy Bob showed their mutual affection by writing messages in blood on the walls over their bed, and wearing vials of each other’s blood around their necks. And for her first wedding to the “Trainspotting” guy, she wore a shirt emblazoned with the groom’s name, written in–you guessed it–her own blood.
Quotable: “My role as goodwill ambassador has made my work as a film star relatively dull. I can’t find anything that interests me enough to go back to work. I’m simply not excited about anything. I’m not excited about going to a film set.” Miss Creepy: She collects knives and wanted to be a mortician when she was a kid, but says, “I am probably the least morbid person one can meet. If I think more about death than some other people, it is probably because I love life more than they do.”

THE BECK/SMITH VAULT: Diana Ross In the Driver’s Seat

Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, 1981 American Music Awards

Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, 1981 American Music Awards

…Her choices for guest stars began with long-time buddy Michael Jackson.  “To me, he’s like a child of mine. ..”

February 25, 1981

Diana Ross In the Driver’s Seat

By Stacy Jenel Smith

HOLLYWOOD – As the song says, “I’m Comin’ Out.”

For the first time in her professional life, Diana Ross is sitting in the driver’s seat – and she makes it clear, “I really like that position.”

Her hotel bungalow has the look of a command post: table tops littered with coffee cups, stacks of papers and slides taken at her recent Los Angeles Forum concert, recording and video equipment, a projector and screen dominate the living room.

After a late night of watching the editing of her CBS March 2 “Diana” special – the first of her TV outings that Diana has produced herself – she walks through the morning light into the room looking wide awake and full of bubbling energy, smartly attired in an electric purple blouse and jacket with black pants tucked into studded black suede boots.

Asked about her new executive producer title, she looks toward the ceiling with a wide grin and chuckles, “Ohhh yes.  A – it’s real exciting.

“It just means I’m the one who make the decisions, that I’m responsible for whatever happens.  I feel like I’m learning a lot about TV this way.  It’s an important position.  For the last 15 years, I haven’t been in that position.  I haven’t taken the responsibility.  I felt there was a reason for this – that I’m starting to be more responsible.

“I think if you’re going to hand over control of something to someone else, you should be willing to hand it over completely.  If you’re going to complain about how they’re handling it, maybe you should be doing it yourself.”

As for Diana, “I’m taking my life and handling it.”

For the last 15 years, the singing superstar’s name has seemed inextricably linked with those of the Motown record company and of its founder – her “Henry Higgins” – Berry Gordy.  From the days when she and her fellow Supremes became the No. 2 record-selling group of the ’60s (behind The Beatles), through her first solo successes, her acclaimed acting debut in “Lady Sings the Blues,” her marriage to and divorce from Bob Silberstein, Diana has been protected, cared for and – to an ever decreasing degree – had her decisions made by Gordy’s Motown.

Now, “I’m not under contract with anyone,” she says.  And as to whether she’s re-sign with the company, she shrugs and smiles.  A beat passes.  “I don’t know.”

Diana spent her Christmas vacation working on preparations for her special.  “I went to Aspen with the kids (daughters Rhonda, 9, Tracee, 8, and Chudney, 5).  While they were skiing, I was staying in making  a lot of notes and calls.  You see, this time I had to worry about making the business deals too.”

Her new managerial outlook extended into the production of the show.  “When we were going overtime, a part of me was thinking in terms of, ‘How much is this costing?’  The executive producer was thinking in numbers.  The other part of me was thinking, ‘Isn’t it wonderful to be in a position where I can help employ all these people?’

“I took a lot of time deciding on the people I wanted to work with,” she continues, quickly ebulliently.  “See that stack of tapes over there?  I watched them all to help me decide.  I called a lot of people to ask who they thought a good director would be and Steve Binder’s name came up a lot.  He sent me a tape with some of his things and in the middle of it I saw this FACE and these TEETH coming at me.  I said, ‘Hey!  Those are my teeth!’  I hadn’t realized it, but we’d worked together years ago on the ‘Tammy’ show.  He put that on the tape to see if I’d remember.  Do you remember that show?  It was the start of rock ‘n’ roll.  The Beach Boys were on, the Rolling Stones when Mick Jagger was just starting his…(she does a silent imitation of Jagger jiggle)…thing.”

Her choices for guest stars began with long-time buddy Michael Jackson.  “To me, he’s like a child of mine.  I feel the same way about Stevie Wonder.  As soon as I found out about the special I asked Michael if he’d be on and he said yes.  He just sent me six platinum records of his, with a note that says, ‘To my inspiration.’

“I’d like the young kids in the TV audience to understand that we really do have a close relationship.  The young kids don’t know how I started them (The Jackson 5) in the business, brought them out here and that they lived with me for awhile.

“Michael and Quincy (Jones, who’s also featured on the special) and I did ‘The Wiz’ together.  Quincy also produced Michael’s latest album which is such a success.  We’re trying to figure out how Michael, Quincy and I could do an album together.  I think that’s a very good idea.  I want to push that one through.”

She’d also like to push through a film project.  “I’d love to do a movie right away.  I have three or four things in the air, but have no idea at all what I’ll be doing next.  I feel I can take the time to pick and choose something I really care about, because I have my career of recording, concerts and TV, but I’d like to do a movie soon.  ‘Tough Customers’ (in which she’d play the girlfriend of gangster Dutch Schultz) is in the works and the idea of my doing a movie about Josephine Baker is still very much alive. But you can’t just zap out a movie like in the old days.  It costs too much.”

Discussing plans of a more personal sort, Diana laughs at reports of her marriage plans to KISS singer Gene Simmons.  “No, no.  It’s not that kind of relationship between Gene and I.  He’s a very special person, but – no.

“I realized about five years ago,” she adds, “that you have to give up a lot in order to be in this business.  One of the things is privacy.  You find yourself fighting that, but it’s something people expect – to know what’s happening in your life.  I don’t mind talking about myself.  I have nothing to hide.  It’s when people will take something that’s very important and treat it without regard for its importance that I mind.  I think it’s the responsibility of the press and others to consider how important what they’re writing about really is.”

She’s thinking of her children especially, she says.  “You see so many stories about performers’ children getting so messed up by being exposed to the press, to the world.  I try to shield mine from that.  It was easier when they were younger.  Now that they’re getting bigger, they can see what’s going on – see me on TV, see the people I work with , see what it all means.  I’ve decided to send them to boarding school when they’re a little older, where they’ll have lives apart from all this.

“We have a lot of honesty – no lies.  Now and then they’ll ask me, ‘Mommy, why can’t you stay home?’  And I tell them, ‘Because I don’t want to stay home.  I love what I do and I’m not going to feel guilty about it.’

“I do know my girls will all probably go into show business.  That’s O.K.  I think it’s the best game in town.  I mean, what would I have done if I hadn’t gone into show business?”

She starts enumerating the possibilities, counting on her fingers as she goes.  “Well, I took design, so I might have designed clothes.  I went to beauty school, so I might have done your hair.  I bussed dishes for awhile.  Did you know that?  Back in Detroit I was a bus girl.  We wore little green and white dresses and nets on our hair and we couldn’t lean against the wall.”  The room chimes with her laughter at the recollection.

She continues, more seriously, that her childhood didn’t offer much exposure to showbiz, with the exception of music.  “My mother did have a job in a theater – cleaning,” she smiles.  “I remember listening to radio shows.  I was five or six when we got our first TV.  I know when TV started, the rich people got it first and it came to the ghetto a while later.”  She smiles and leans back.  “The only star I knew of to look up to was Lena Horne, and I didn’t look up to her as a movie star.  I knew her as a singing star.”

Now, countless little girls are looking up to Diana Ross, who seems to have done it all.  What’s left to conquer?

“Oh, God!  What’s so amazing is – that’s life out there!  There’s so much more for me to learn.  I’m always learning new things through my kids.  I feel my move to New York has taught me so much.  I discovered so much.  I met doctors, lawyers.  I now have girlfriends who are NOT involved with show business.

“I don’t want to get into making comparisons between New York and Los Angeles.  I love California and I’d never give it up.  But I’d gone through my divorce and I wanted to be in a place where I could be busy all the time and I moved.  I go to the theater now, and I take the kids to museums and galleries.  I met a guy who knows all about modern art.  I didn’t know anything about modern art.  I’ve known people who bought it as an investment, that’s all.  But now I’ve found out about it.”

She nods emphatically that the divorce and the move have “opened me up.”  And that they’re partly responsible for her new feelings of responsibility.

“If something’s successful, then it’s wonderful.  If not, well … Do you know the poem, ‘If’?  I always like to remember a line from that: ‘If you can treat those two imposters, success and failure, the same …’  I do the best I can, and whatever happens, try to treat it the same.  This business can sweep you away.  Look at this.”  She holds up a slide of the masses of people engulfing the Forum, with herself in the center of it all bathed in the spotlight.

“But what helps me to keep it in perspective is the fact I left that and went home to bed alone.”

THE BECK/SMITH VAULT: Patrick Swayze Feels Near-Death Experience Changed Life

Patrick Sqayze in "Letters From a Killer"

Patrick Swayze in "Letters from a Killer"


Patrick Swayze Feels Near-Death Experience Makes  Him Live Life to the Full

By Stacy Jenel Smith

Hollywood-“This has turned into one of the most wonderful periods of my life. I feel like Mary Poppins, singing to the birds and trees, lucky to by alive,” says Patrick Swayze. He feels he’s a changed man after his brush with death last May, when he was thrown off a galloping bareback horse into an oak tree during filming of “Letters from a Killer.”

Swayze credits a lifetime of dancing and gymnastics with saving him. “It would have killed me, I would have gone head first into this oak tree, if instinct hadn’t kicked in and I hadn’t grabbed two handfuls of that horse’s mane and been able to flip my body so I’d break my legs on the tree instead of crushing my skull,” says the actor. He suffered breaks in both legs (a broken femur and fibula, plus four detached tendons in his shoulder, in the accident.

Swayze, who gets his star on Hollywood Boulevard on his birthday, Aug. 18 – days before the 10th anniversary re-release of “Dirty Dancing” – reveals he’s now set for a Sept. 3 return to “Letters from a Killer.”

The script’s been rewritten to include a scene that makes his injury part of the storyline. He also acknowledges that he must not perform any more of his own stunts in the picture; that’s part of the agreement made in order to get the film’s insurance company to let him go back to work.

Meanwhile, “I lucked out that the bones broke clean, they’re going to heal perfectly, and they were able to reattach all the tendons in my shoulder. … Doctors have been blown away by my progress,” adds Swayze, who is already walking without even a cane.

Swayze also says he’s overcome a recurring nightmare in which he gets killed in the accident -by viewing the footage of it. (He still loves horses and considers the fall his own fault, not the animal’s.)

Now, “One of the things I’ve come away from this experience with is an unwillingness to put off the things that are important to me. We’re only here so long. Let’s get on with it!” he says. Swayze’s been working in supercharged fashion to make some long-awaited dreams reality. Among other things, he says he now has financing for the dance movie he and wife Lisa Niemi have been wanting to make for years.