On the evening of November 10th, the Hollywood Museum was all a-twitter and a-flutter in a launch party to beat all induction inspired ceremonies, commencing with a contented purr and concluding with a gregarious growl!!! The lauded personage in question: Noted actress, advocate, and film icon…Tippi Hedren! Yes, this past Thursdays hence, the former model, actress, animal activist, and now author, graciously unveiled her colorful and long-awaited autobiography: Tippi!
The book, a surefire read, features many an arresting anecdote including the time Hedren attempted to introduce Alfred Hitchcock to Charlie Chaplin; a thing she was totally within her domain in initiating as she is the only actress on the planet to have ever worked with both—count ‘em BOTH—directors!!!, her initial and aspiring vocation as a figure skater, along with her modeling career and the exotic view of the world it afforded her along the way. Her writing also delves into a first hand, remedial account of a dramatic on set accident, the ensuing surgery, and the manner in which she lives with the related reverberations each and every day. She also lets us in on her stint working on the “most dangerous” film ROAR and, most importantly, the resulting passion it instilled in her via her occupation championing the plight of involuntarily domesticated (for lack of a better term) big cats and exotic animals by way of her work with the Shambala Preserve.
Shambala, an ancient Sanskrit word defined as “a meeting place of harmony for all beings whether animal or human” is also the name of a big cat and elephant preserve supported by the Roar Foundation. The Roar Foundation, in turn, is supported by a very determined Hedren who established the non-profit organization in 1983 (though she has been rescuing exotic animals since 1972.) Her introductory words on the selfsame website say it all (and in a manner better than any I could paraphrase):
“The Roar Foundation…exists solely to support The Shambala Preserve. Our mission is to educate the public about the dangers of private ownership of exotic animals. Huge numbers of exotic, dangerous animals are bred and sold in the United States for illegal purposes. Private ownership presents a grave danger to the public and is cruel and unfair to these animals. More stringent legislation is needed to prohibit breeding and selling. We are actively involved in legislating this on federal and state levels.”
In grand tradition of cinematic nostalgia, and Hollywood Museum flair, we were also quite lucky to witness a bonus unveiling of costume pieces worn in The Birds not the least of which was an Edith Head originated dress drawn specifically to Hedren’s measurements, her Golden Globe and a personal gift from none other than Alfred Hitchcock’s wife Alma when it was announced that Ms. Hedren would be portraying the starring role of Melanie Daniels in The Birds!
Aside from book signing galore (I would include the term chicken scratch for cheeky cinematic parallel effect, but I have had the distinct privilege of beholding Ms. Hedren’s penmanship and signature alike and they are each quite fluid and lovely), there was wine drinking, cheese eating, celebrity sightings in droves, and most importantly, copious conversation centered around the author herself!
“I think my [favorite memory of Tippi] is going to visit Shambala.” exclaimed a youthful and ever vibrant Barbara Eden aka Jeannie of I Dream of Jeannie fame. “I’ve known Tippi for many years but I had never been to Shambala and it gave me a whole different perspective of her.”
“She co-hosted a very big premiere with me and Lily Tomlin back a couple years ago about elephants in captivity,” disclosed actress, singer, producer, journalist, goddaughter of Katherine Hepburn, and Child of the 70s star Kat Kramer. “She’s a big animal activist like I am and I’ve actually been fortunate to perform for one of her Shambala benefits a few years ago… She [also] brought Chris Gallucci the elephant man [to speak]. I’m such a supporter of Shambala! I’m very happy about her book too!”
“I have to say that I don’t think I saw The Birds all the way through until I was like about 40-something ‘cause I would fall asleep. I would be under the covers so much from that thing so that’s my memory,” bravely admits The Bay and Days of Our Lives star Patrika Darbo. “That [recollection stands out along with] stories about the tigers tearing up her home… Her daughter was there. There were a lot of things that were dangerous…but she is such an animal advocate and she was protecting them! But finally, when people looked up over the hill and saw her cats looking down on them, it was time to move… She’s an icon! Even though I’m older than time too, she’s still an icon… She is right up there at the top and to see her book come out and to read the little back stories you had no idea were going on is thrilling and I hope everybody gets a copy!”
“Marnie and The Birds—Marnie and The Birds [are standouts in her career]– They were diametrically different characters that she played so it really exhibited her versatility I felt, “confessed a handsome and astute stranger from Vegas who I think is a lounge singer, but whose name I did not get on my tape recorder that I thought I had. “And also the fact that she’s absolutely physically ageless. She looks as beautiful as she always has.”
“I love the wonderful movies that Tippi was in and of course all her years of modeling,” proudly exclaimed fellow model and songbook singer Barbara Van Orden. “But I applaud her tremendously for what she’s doing with the animals: The lions and the tigers. God bless her. She doesn’t have to but she has such a passion for the needs that they have… God bless her because she’s had a wonderful career, very talented lady and there’s so much to admire. I think I admire everything about her!”
“I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about seeing The Birds for the first time when I probably was about 9 years old,” confessed ever-dapper big band singer and Happy Days icon Don Most. “So, it certainly had a big impact on me, and to think that that was her first film! I don’t even think she’d acted before that. So that’s pretty amazing… Then I had the great privilege of visiting her personally up at Shambala… That was very special… We spoke to visitors that came to Shambala… I was trying to get a movie made to have Tippi star in it and I would be directing it. She loved the script but unfortunately in Hollywood, those things are hit or miss and we never got that going. But who knows, maybe we still will!”
“What astounds me most about Tippi is her resilience! … She was attacked by a lion!!! That’s worse than Hitchcock,” quipped an admiring, star of Valley Girl herself, Lee Purcell.
Ah yes, cats both big and small and the prime nemeses of Tweety himself I can only muse…and so poetically fitting after what the poor lady went through in the most famous film in which she starred!–But mostly, and in all seriousness, Ms. Hedren’s heroic goals are dually impressive!
Other attendees (I didn’t get to interview) included: Dawn Wells (aka Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island fame), Carolyn Hennesy (Cougar Town and General Hospital), Erin Murphy (aka Tabitha of Bewitched), Ilene Graff (Mr. Belvedere), Rex Smith (Pirates of Penzance and As the World Turns), Alice Amter (The Big Bang Theory), Ruta Lee (Witness for the Prosecution and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), Romi Dames (Hannah Montana), Geri Jewell (The Facts of Life), Darcy Donovan (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Parks and Recreation), Teresa Ganzel (WALL-E and Toy Story 3), Kate Linder (The Young and the Restless), Margaret O’Brien (Meet Me in St. Louis and Little Women), Jaime Monroy and Tippi’s grandson, Alexander Johnson, and many, many others…
Lastly, and in closing, two of the most colorful commendations of the night had to be from Oz Cast Member Steven Wishnoff and Little House on the Prairie’s favorite and only bad girl (is there any other?) Nellie Oleson aka Alison Arngrim:
Wishnoff commences with a remembrance of the youthful variety: “Well first of all, [concerning] the memory of her in that green woven suit running, being attacked by birds…the sequence where we see the birds actually start to go on to the jungle gym, and her response and reactions to all of that—the phone booth [etc]: I was convinced, as a child, it really happened that way. ‘Course now I know how it happened. I had friends in the movie as kids… Well they’re friends now, I did not know them then. My friend Jeannie Russell was one of the school kids, and she sang the only piece of music that is anywhere in that movie. There is no other music in that movie. It’s not scored, but the kids sing a song that was written for the movie and Jeannie got to sing it… So, that’s my biggest memory of her growing up… Now as an adult of course, I know so much more and [Tippi’s] just incredible, truly. She has crammed several lifetimes into her one and if you look at her daughter and granddaughter–clearly there’s no genetic component to talent is there?!? None, whatsoever. No there’s no sarcasm font, so if this gets written down, I hope you will include the fact that this is all said in italics. There’s absolutely nothing to the rumor of talent being a genetic component. Look at Tippi Hedren, her daughter and grand daughter!
Arngrim embarks on her commentary with a recollection of that of the mature to the timeless: “Oh wow! Well the first most astounding thing that you notice [about Tippi] right away is her skin and her beauty… When you see her you say, ‘She’s HOW OLD?!?’ She’s in her 80s. She announces it! In fact, I was at Shambala and I brought my French friend Herve.–She’s renowned in France, they’re mad for anything Hitchcock.–So my French friends were visiting Los Angeles for Halloween and Herve was like, ‘Please, please I need to meet Tippi!’ So I said, ‘Come to Shambala!’ And [when we got there] she was signing something and someone asked her [a question] and she laughed and said, ‘Well you can’t expect me to remember everything… I’m eighty six for Heaven’s sake!’ And everyone’s heads turned and they said, ‘How old did she just…no!!! She’s kidding!’ She’s so amazing…just like a young, young girl and she’s standing in the middle of Shambala in her T-Shirt and skinny jeans and boots like a teenager and she’s just full of energy… And then her bravery! Many women as they get older they go, ‘Well I can’t fight. I can’t go fight anymore.’ But she’s gone to Washington. She’s gone to the state house–to fight for those lions and tigers, to fight things like caged hunting and fight people breeding animals in their back yard! And a lot of people say, ‘Well that’s a young person’s game!’ But no. She is as ruthless and fights just as hard as ever! She hasn’t ever stopped. And with everything she has to do all day with the lions and the tigers to everything else…[she says] ‘and now I think I’ll put out a book. In my spare time, I think I’ll knit a piano…and write an opera!!!’ Where does she have the time, let alone energy to do all this? I am an enormous, enormous admirer of Tippi Hedren! Like it says in the book, she stood her ground…They didn’t stand their ground in those days…But she said ‘no’! They said, ‘It’ll ruin your career.’ She’s like ‘Bring it! Really. What are you gonna do?’ Amazing. This woman has balls like nobody!”
All in all, a most enterprising night to be reckoned with! The only thing that could have made it any more topical would have been a rousing rendition of Cat Scratch Fever, or a performance by The Birds. But per happenstance and fittingly enough, it is close to thanksgiving and many a bird will be centering our table so we can all get our comeuppance on Thursday next and think fondly of Ms. Hedren and all her amazing work whilst doing so!!!
Tippi Hedren’s further upcoming book signing appearances include:
Monday, Nov 21st, 2016 – 7:00pm – 8:00pm Booksigning/Q&A at VORMANS (695 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91101)
Friday, Dec 2nd, 2016 – 7:00pm – B&N in Dallas/Lincoln Park – 7700 West Northwest Hwy #300, Lincoln Park, Dallas, TX 75225 Saturday, Dec 17th, 2016 3:00 – 5:00 pm – Santa Monica Library Authors Forum Booksigning/Q&A (601 Santa Monica Blvd, SM CA)