Remember the 1980s talent show Star Search? Even as a precursor to luminary lures in their own right such as American Idol, and The Voice, Ed McMahon may very well have been able to Emcee them, but sadly would never have had the privilege to have been a contender. And why not? That man had enough moxie for multitudes of men the mother earth over! Now, put that thought on hold a few years, knock Simon Cowell, and Adam Levine off to the side, turn your chairs perpetually forward, (just like the clock) switch the channel from televised to Live and you’ve got The Pink Lady and Barbara van Orden’s Senior Star Search!
Slated to take place on Sunday, July 12th 3 pm, at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood’s beautiful Barnsdall Park, Senior Star Search will feature all manner of performers ages 55 on up, in one of the first such talent competition of its kind to appear on the L.A. Stage! And with over 55 million folks (more than ever in global history) over the age of 55 currently living in the United States, such a showcase is highly overdue!
“How wonderful, ‘Senior Power’- We have a dream! I think this is a fabulous endeavor,” declares Debbie Reynolds!
“What a wonderful idea!” agrees Kirk Douglas.
“Growing up in the Church of Christian Science, age was never an important factor to me… However, apparently it is to the rest of the world. It’s nice to know there are others in this world like Pink and Barbara who encourage us to celebrate the contributions that seniors bring to society,” exclaims the original Diamond Girl Carol Channing!
And really, when one considers all the senior talent progressively out there who can blame her!
Tony Bennett (88) is still going strong performing, and melding worlds, with none other than one of today’s most noted teen idols: Lady Gaga. Angela Lansbury (89) still takes the stage to 8 shows a week in the American Theatre up to and including a most recent production of Blithe Spirit at the Ahmanson. Classic Hollywood Movie actress Margaret O’Brien peddles a line of jewelry with her partner, Janet Winshell, the theme of which is “Jewelry for Ageless Women” as Ms. O’Brien’s parallel statement decrees “We’re going to be doing jewelry for ageless women, because women don’t age anymore!” Moreover when you’ve got noted TV actresses such as Cloris Leachman (89), Florence Henderson (81), and Valerie Harper (75) stealing the show on such televised talent showcases at Dancing with the Stars, and Doris Berinstein’s musical Gotta Dance, featuring performers 55-and-older in their own right on its way to Broadway, to speak nothing of Betty White (93) starring in one of the most wildly hilarious sitcoms currently on the air, you know there’s a market for it in the extravaganza that is Senior Star Search!
“One of the auditioners called me. She’s 89 and she said, ‘Do you have a big stage for us to audition?’ I said, ‘Yes we’re at the Barnsdall.’ She said, ‘Because I cartwheel myself on to the stage, and then I stand on my head and sing a song!’ I’m going, ‘Oh my God!’ I was hysterical, absolutely hysterical!” exclaims Jackie Goldberg aka Los Angeles’ noted Pink Lady.
I sat down with The Pink Lady and Van Orden over Caesar Salads and Calamari at Hollywood and Vine’s scrumptious Delphine Restaurant shortly before the May 23/24 auditions, prior to the big July 12thgala to discuss the upcoming spectacle, its origins and its life-changing and even life-saving effects:
Pink Lady: Barbara and I met a couple of years ago.
Barbara Van Orden: Yes, at one of my shows.
PL: … and I said “You know what? I think we could get along phenomenally in an idea.” And my idea was Senior Star Search… There’s talent out there and let me tell you, since [the casting call] went out, we’ve had close to 200 people wanting to audition: Those who have been on Broadway, in Hollywood, and who, because of age, aren’t working but are still talented, and then people who have always wanted to do it. Maybe they sang in church or a cabaret, but they could never get to be a pro because perhaps they were married, perhaps they had children, or they had to work.
BVO: Or the venue dried out or the nightclubs went [under].
LA Beat: I remember you were talking about the Playboy Jazz Club and the Catskills going by the wayside years ago.
PL: So this is what we’re doing it for, to bring these people back and my motto is, “To show the world that we are still vital, productive, creative, energetic, and above all entertaining!”
BVO: And a lot of us who are older than 55, we’re not dead! We’re full of life. People are living longer… Tell her the story about the woman who said it saved her life.
PL: I’d been getting emails from people who wanted to audition and I got two: One from a gentleman who was young, 57/59 and he said, “I’ve been a singer. I love to sing. I had cancer, it’s now in remission. When I saw your ad I said, ‘You know what? I’m still alive and I want to be able to get out there and sing my song, again!’” So he’s coming out. Then there’s another woman, Elizabeth, 62 or 64. She said, “No one wants me, and I was contemplating ending my life, and when I saw your ad, I started to cry. Because then I realized– you know what? –I’m going to live! Because I’m going to show the world that I’m still going to do what I want to do!”
BVO: And look at the short lives for women [at least in older Hollywood]. Guys have a longer life, but women only had what–5 to 8 years if they were lucky–unless you were a Lucille Ball, which is unusual, or a Betty White. ‘Cause she keeps going! Look at that show that ran for awhile, it was really ahead of its time, although it was successful: Golden Girls. There was a market for it. And that’s then and people live nearly longer now!
PL: The point is, “It ain’t over until it’s over!”… So this is where we are. Also, it just goes to show you, Barbara’s always been a star, I haven’t. I reinvented myself at the age of 72 which is 10 ½ years ago. I’m 82 and-a-half years young!
LA Beat: Oh my God, yes you are so youthful. Wow! That’s so cool.
BVO: You know I had to reinvent myself too because things dried up along the way, so I reinvented myself six times.
LA Beat: Yes, like after you moved to L.A. you were working at the agency and then you had the accident and, then you had your production company at Universal. What were some of your others?
BVO: Well, I started off as a model, then a singer, then I went [and worked for personal manager] Arnold Sank, then I had my own production company at Universal Studios, then I went back to performing, and now I’m doing productions, and I have two books out so you’ve gotta keep moving. A moving target’s hard to hit! …‘Cause seniors? Where do they go right now? They go to a senior living thing, they get old and they die. This is something that…gives them something to look forward to in life. Really if you have an 89 year old woman who can do a cartwheel……and still audition on her head… I couldn’t do a cartwheel even as a kid let alone 89!
“I’m still mastering walking,” Van Orden’s husband Elton chimes in!
PL: So one of those people that was in [one of my past shows] The Beat Goes On, is 68, and does these splits! …And every night when she did it, the audience got up and applauded. And she did it six performances a week for three-and-a-half months!
BVO: That’s a lot of splits!
LA Beat: So you’ve put on these types of shows before then…
PL: Yes, where this all began was Senior Star Power Production Company. Being an actress, I saw what happened out there when you are of a [certain] age… So I had an idea. I do a talk called, “Get up, Get Out and Get a Life.” That’s for people who think it’s over. I mean, I know people who are 40 that think it’s over…so I said, “You know what? I’m going to do a stage show with people that are 60-years-young and over,” and we did it. [It was] called Rockin’ With the Ages and the last one [we did in Hollywood in 2012] was called, The Beat Goes On. So I’ve had five productions in Hollywood with people that are talented, phenomenal and 60, 70, and 80 years young!
LA Beat: So tell me about your history Pink Lady. How did this all start from the very beginning?
PL: I grew up in a little place called Melrose Massachusetts, right outside of Boston. I married at 18 years young, had three children like bam, bam, bam–‘cause that’s what you did in those days. And 8 years into the marriage…my husband died. He was 32. And I was left with three children. [I had] a wonderful mother and dad and…they helped me when I went to work to support myself with three kids. [Back] then, there was a handsome actor named Robert Mitchum. I met a Navy Captain who was the exact image. 6 foot 1 and ¾ and we married and then that lasted just a little while ‘cause he got ill.
LA Beat: How old were you when you married him?
PL: 24. And then when that was over, then I met a gentleman who had two children and I had three, and we brought all five together.
LA Beat: Oh almost like the Brady Bunch!
PL: This was called The Goldberg Bunch and he was in the garment business, and he brought me in as a sales rep for women’s wear and I went all over the country selling. So my audience was all my buyers, and the applause was when they gave me an order! So, I was already prepared. I was already out there. And I always liked theatre. When he passed away, I was 72, and he was 83.
LA Beat: …and you were married to him for quite some time…
PL: 39 years. So I said to myself, “You know what? There’s a life out there and I’m gonna grab it!” And I did. I became a motivational speaker with, ‘Get up, Get Out, Get a Life.’ Then I won the Miss Senior California Pageant, and I won a Miss Senior LA County, got an agent, got taft hartley’d into The Screen Actors’ Guild, and got five national commercials. In fact if you look up the Loc Tite commercial. It was in this year’s 2015 Super Bowl, I’m in it. Loc Tite is a glue company.
BVO: Tell her how you got the name Pink.
PL: When I married my last husband, he was one of the best sales reps in the country in the California Market. Do you know where that is? It’s downtown in the garment district, 110 East 9th Street. I think we were married about a year [at this point] and I was walking down the hall one day—[all the while] wearing pink—and someone yelled, “Hey, Pink Lady!” I said, “Come here!” He was a marketing genius. He said, “You are now The Pink Lady!” Within three weeks, we had a [large] show room, and then three weeks later a big sign on the door, “Walter P. Goldberg and Associates” with a big pink star: “Starring The Pink Lady!”
LA Beat: Whoa. This is your husband’s business? That’s great! I can see why you married him!
PL: And…from that day on, which is now over 52 years, I was The Pink Lady!
BVO: Her house is pink. The toilet paper’s pink. The rug’s pink. Even the vacuum cleaner is pink. The coffee maker…everything is pink!
PL: But my thing is, everyone has an attitude, ‘cause they all say to me, “My God Pinky that’s some energy!” You have an attitude, Elton has an attitude, Barb has one… But mine was born in 1936. It was a cold, and rainy day in Boston. I was four years old and my mother was standing at a bus stop eight months pregnant with my sister, and we were going to visit my dad in Boston General ‘cause he was ill. [The bus pulls up] and the bus driver leans out and he says, “I’m so sorry,” ‘cause he sees my mother’s condition, “there are no seats on this bus.” Pouring rain. Full. “You’re going to have to wait for the next bus.” Now I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast. But I remember throwing my mother’s hand down, jumping on to the little footage of the bus, putting my hands on my hips and saying, “Excuse me, don’t you think there are gentlemen on this bus who will let a lady sit down?”—Four years old. My attitude was born that day! Three men got up and no one has ever rained on my parade since!
And on that note, one can see how these two ladies have commenced and will continue to facilitate society’s ceaselessly shifting attitudes in its standard stereotypes of seniors!
BVO: [Until recently] there’s really nothing out there for seniors. What are we supposed to do? Do what? Knit sweaters? I don’t think of myself as old. I don’t. I just think of myself as busy!
And really the gap betwixt the generations is already admittedly closing as Pink Lady will throw down one last confession, for entertainment value and emphasis!
“There was a little boy, came to And The Beat Goes On and we asked him, “How did you like our show?” And he went “Oh my God, it was better than Spiderman! I didn’t think people that age were still alive!” I mean, he was, like, blown away!
“It doesn’t matter the age,” she will conclude. “People love it! Especially the younger generation, the people that are in their 30s and 40s ‘cause they thought it’s over when you reach 50. We’re showing them that at 80 and 90 it’s not over!”
Senior Star Search will be performed at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, in Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90027 this coming Sunday from 3 pm to 5 pm. Doors open at 2:30. Price of admission is $22.50 and includes dessert. (Groups of 10 or more, $20.00)
Judges will include, Director/Choreographer Michael Kelly, renowned director David Galligan, and Academy Award winning Actor, George Chakiris!
For tickets and information, please call: 818-400-2701
For more information on Senior Star Search, please visit:
To find out more about Pink Lady, please visit:
And for information in Barbara Van Orden, simply go to: