Magazine article Variety

Farewell to a Role Model

Magazine article Variety

Farewell to a Role Model

Article excerpt

When I heard that Shirley Temple Black had passed away at the age of 85 last week, I lost it. It was like my entire childhood suddently flooded back to me.

I grew up watching her movies on Saturday morning. I had a Mickey Mouse record player, and I had every album that she made from every movie.

I would gaze at her and memorize her movements, her gestures, her expressions. I'd stand there and watch the movies over and over, and act them out and sing and dance with her.

I had the Shirley Temple dolls and dresses. "The Little Princess" was my favorite of her films. I lost my dad when I was 11, and so that movie about a father and daughter, and her never-ending search to find her father, really just killed me. I can't watch it without sobbing at the end, when she's holding her father's face in her hand and saying, "Daddy, it's me! Daddy, it's me! Don't you remember?"

She was a huge influence on me, and she was my idol. And as the years went by, I'd watch what was happening in her life. It's very difficult to transition from child star to adulthood. There are so many factors that could lead to a disaster. I hear the stories all the time - this one committed suicide, this one has a drug problem. But she was never like that.

She gracefully transitioned out of Hollywood, married her Charlie Black and then started raising a family. She decided to run for Congress, didn't make it, and became a diplomat, which I think is an extraordinary accomplishment for anyone.

We became friends at the end of my term as SAG president. One of my duties was to call the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. In 2006, she was awarded that honor. I had never spoken to her, and I didn't know how I was going to do it. My throat closed. I introduced myself, and she immediately said, "Hi pal."

I told her, I'm calling to tell you that you've been chosen by the Screen Actors Guild to receive this award. The first thing she said to me was, "Why?" And then she really got excited about it, and said to be honored by her fellow performers was a huge thing for her, especially this many years down the road. She got very emotional. We talked about being a woman in the political arena, and I thought that was it, I got to talk to Shirley Temple, and that was fantastic. And then she called again a couple days later, just to chat. …

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