Actress Laurene Landon: “For every door that slams shut, have faith in yourself and believe that two more will open. Never give up. Never allow someone to tell you you’re not good enough”

I can only speak for myself. There are two requirements to make it in this industry. Passion and perseverance. So many actors have the passion, but don’t bother going to acting classes, theater or living and breathing the craft. For every door that slams shut, HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF and believe that two more will […]

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I can only speak for myself. There are two requirements to make it in this industry. Passion and perseverance. So many actors have the passion, but don’t bother going to acting classes, theater or living and breathing the craft. For every door that slams shut, HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF and believe that two more will open. Never give up. Never allow someone to tell you you’re not good enough. Move forward. One doesn’t drive a car looking in the rear view mirror. This is where perseverance comes in to play.

As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurene Landon. Actress Laurene Landon has appeared in 38 movies and often portrays tough, no-nonsense action heroines. Outside of acting, Ms. Landon writes scripts and is an award-winning, gold medal lyricist.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Insecurity. The “root” of all bottled blondes. Joking! When I was a kid growing up, my beloved father, Douglas, loved old movies and we watched them together a lot, such as WUTHERING HEIGHTS, RANDOM HARVEST, WHITE HEAT and many Marlon Brando movies; especially STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and ON THE WATERFRONT. I often told my father, “I want to meet my own Marlon Brando someday.” I always wondered what it would be like to be inside that television and become an actress. Insecurity was another factor, as we grew up very poor like most kids and I wanted people to like me. In 1985 I met Marlon’s son, Christian Brando and immediately fell in love. It backfired when I met Marlon for real since I began dating and ultimately living with his son Christian. Marlon viewed acting only as a means to a financial end. He’d much rather get on his short wave radio and talk to people all over the world pretending he was Doctor “Brand.” It was a slippery slope being in the film industry while simultaneously being deeply involved with the Brandos.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Meeting Marlon Brando was one of the many interesting stories of people I met along the journey. The first time I met Marlon was at Thanksgiving when Christian took me up to his house on Mulholland Drive. His immediate family was there and Marlon ate his turkey dinner on his stomach. He passed around lottery scratch off tickets. He asked each of us if we had won. We all said “No!” and Marlon held up his ticket and said he just won a thousand bucks. He asked each of us if we believed him and everyone but me said “No way.” He passed around his ticket and sure enough, he had won! Everyone tried to grab the ticket but he wouldn’t hand it over and kept it. He was very funny and loved playing tricks on people; Mind games to be exact. Marlon loved animals and didn’t like humans in general as he felt they were always trying to use him.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest story is when I met a director/writer, Larry Cohen, who over the forty years that I knew him, became my best and veracious friend.The first time I met Larry, he was filming at John Burroughs High School in the Valley and my agent, Beverly Hecht said he wanted to meet me. I went over to the school and saw him and had a panic attack. He was so incredibly brilliant, funny and handsome. He was in the process of firing the lead actress who was married to George Clooney at the time and told me I could take over the role! I was so terrified that I blurted out — “I can’t star in your movie FULL MOON HIGH because, uh, uh, I have an audition to go to.” Without blinking he said, “Are you a moron!??? I’m offering you the LEAD in this film and you have to go to another AUDITION??!!” Stemming from a long line of cowards, I said “Yes and I have to leave NOW!” I ran to my car and raced home and hid under my dog. My agent Beverly called in a rage and I didn’t call her back for 3 days. She was livid and told me to get back to the set, that Larry Cohen had written in another part, albeit smaller, so I went back and played a minor role. The Lesson? Don’t be ME!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My eulogy. Joking. I have a fabulous horror/psycho-thriller coming out which I star, entitled AGRAMON’S GATE. Agramon is the Demon of Fear. Now, this is something I could related to when I read the script, because Fear is my constant companion to this day. I play the institutionalized, traumatized and psychotic mother of the lead actor, played by a wonderful young talent named Chris Reilly. A truly cutting-edge, avant guard and luminous director, Harley Wallen not only scribed it, but also stars in it too. It is the most challenging role to date. I went places in my reverie that have been under lock and key since the death of my beloved father, Douglas on June 7th, 2000. Another film coming out soon is NATION’S FIRE starring Krista Grotte and Bruce Dern. The eclectic and hilarious actor/director extraordinaire, Sir Thomas J. Churchill directed it. I play Krista’s mother, a wacky tragic alcoholic. (What a stretch for me). In real life, I am in recovery for a long time. When we completed filming, Bruce said in front of the entire cast, crew and studio execs, “Laurene, I have worked with the best of the best and there is only one actress who is better than you — and that would be my daughter. If there’s anything I can ever do for you, please let me know.” How humbling. I was stunned. I am currently filming F.L.O.W. — FABULOUS LADIES OF WRESTLING. It was created by the original G.L.O.W. Girls virtuoso Matt Cimber, who directed me in two features. The first was HUNDRA and the second was YELLOW HAIR, both shot in Almeria, Spain. I love Matt. He believed in me when I was very young. F.L.O.W. even has some of the ORIGINAL G.L.O.W. girls in it, such as Eileen and Cheryl Rusa. I imagine it is going to be like Laugh In or Hee Haw — but then again, I imagine a lot of things.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Yes! When I was starring in the MGM wrestling movie entitled ALL THE MARBLES, I often told the cast and crew how much I adored Peter O’Toole. They would constantly play tricks on me and say he was on the MGM lot, just to make me more maniacal than I was. I HAD to meet him! He never showed up. However, one day at lunch, producer Bill Aldrich informed me that Peter O’Toole was in Robert Aldrich’s trailer! I knocked the lunch table over and bolted to find him. In the process, I fell and bloodied my knee very badly. I kept screaming, “Get me to Peter!” Two guys from the crew carried my limp body to Mr. Aldrich’s trailer. Robert opened the door and said, “Laurene, you just missed him — but he will be back tomorrow.” The next day when Vicki Frederick and I were practicing wrestling in the ring I looked over and THERE was Peter O’Toole watching us with the famous dress designer, Bob Mackie. I went over to him but couldn’t speak, of course. Peter told me how amazing it was to watch Vicki Frederick and myself wrestle and that he was fascinated by our moves and dexterity flying through the air. We dated for a bit when I was in and out of the coma from being with him but he ended up going back to the United Kingdom to film another movie and that was sadly the last contact I had with him. I also had the gift to read with Bette Davis for her last movie, THE WICKED STEPMOTHER, which I was already cast in. She appeared very ill and frail. After I was done reading with her she said out loud, “You are not bad. Actually, you are one hell of an actress. I am very, very impressed!” I ended up playing another part in the film because the producers decided I didn’t look like a “Witch.” They hired Barbara Carrera instead for that role. I could go on and on who I was blessed to have met, but that would require a book, which I have been asked many times to write over the years.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I can only speak for myself. There are two requirements to make it in this industry. Passion and perseverance. So many actors have the passion, but don’t bother going to acting classes, theater or living and breathing the craft. For every door that slams shut, HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF and believe that two more will open. Never give up. Never allow someone to tell you you’re not good enough. Move forward. One doesn’t drive a car looking in the rear view mirror. This is where perseverance comes in to play.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you for asking because I also write screenplays. Some were with my dearly beloved departed friend, Larry Cohen. One that I scribed is entitled DOG PEN. CONS. CANINES. CHAOS! Here is the treatment…

A prison warden becomes an emotional hostage to the demands of incorrigible inmates who blackmail him into giving them custody of man’s best friend: dogs — for the penitentiary — inflaming the ire of the state’s correctional system.

Three-time loser Ramsey Lorde (“R. Lorde”) runs Stone Castle Correctional Facility with the usual — and unusual — suspects. His wanton, vainglorious wife has left him for the prison Chaplain, Lester (“the Molester”). She has also temporarily left him with her thrill-seeking, pedigree French bulldog, Butchie, whom he can’t stand. That’s now left him with a hypertensive crisis. After all, he’s been hiding from himself for years, which is incompatible with the standards of a penal province, and, which has left him to join “The Disowned Self” club. And now, his irascible inmates have left him with a dilemma: they’ve taken Butchie captive. The ransom: a baker’s dozen of dogs.

Desperate to get Butchie back, Ramsey reluctantly recruits a mixed bag of unwanted dogs from wacky animal rights crusader, Rochelle, her audacious son, Leopold, and her gal pal, Allea — a mute. The next morning, Ramsey’s parcel of providential pooches arrives to open arms and loving hearts of Stone Castle’s most hardened felons. As dogs and prisoners are paired, Butchie remains on Ramsey’s “Most Wanted” list, thanks to the innate finesse of inmates and their ability to hoodwink a gullible Ramsey, all the while ameliorating boredom. After all, this, too, is cemented in their DNA.

In the days and weeks that follow, Ramsey doggedly scours the prison from stem to stern in pursuit of Butchie’s whereabouts and her captors. Meanwhile, Rochelle’s once “under-dogs” help rehabilitate inmates by teaching them compassion, unconditional love, and the importance of living in the moment. Gradually, this irrigates Ramsey’s impoverished soul. More importantly, rage and anger fades within the prison community. All seems well, that is, until the debut of the unsanctioned Stone Castle’s “First Annual Dog Show.” The Department of Corrections chieftain, germophobic Jonathan Coopersmith, makes an unannounced visit during the pet’s parade around the prison yard. He berates Ramsey, then orders him to send the prison’s passel of strays packing, and, ultimately, to a certain and unconscionable outcome — death. Rochelle and Allea are emotionally decimated. A dark cloud descends over the prison. Ramsey reluctantly agrees to supervise the return of the prison’s pack to the pound’s death row in the morning. In love with Rochelle but trapped by unworthiness, Ramsey is broken. He’s consumed with self-reproach. His attempts to foster have failed miserably. On the other hand, inmate ringleader Blackjack has become emboldened. He’s been planning an escape for months, taking advantage of the digging prowess of his semi-blind dog, One-Eyed Jack, and a terrier aptly named Shovel. For them, it’s now or never. Together with fellow prisoners Half-N-Half, Letterhead, Potty, Alan, and their beloved four-legged friends, this merry band of brothers journey deep into the caliginous, makeshift mineshaft leading to liberty. Just as they reach the other side, the tunnel collapses on them — with cataclysmic consequences. The convicts are placed in the Administrative Segregation’s “hole” while Ramsey confronts an anxiety-provoking dilemma. He’s finally reached that pivotal moment in life — one that will forever define him. Either he makes a stand for Rochelle, for the dogs, and for the profound effect they’ve had on the penal colony — and, most especially, himself — or, he risks losing everything. And, if Ramsey’s lucky, he’ll be reassigned to a local kindergarten — as a crossing guard. In the endeavor to help win back an emotionally devastated Rochelle, save the dogs, and quite possibly, his job, Ramsey concocts a desperate scheme. With the help of Rochelle, Allea, and technology whiz Letterhead, they break in and enter the pound after hours and liberate the demoralized dogs from their kennels of doom. During the commotion, they encounter Itzi Bitzi, the deranged, 300-pound Animal Control commandant. She’s conned into believing the mission of Ramsey’s Rescue Team; that his authority compels her to release the dogs into his custody. Their victory, however, is short-lived. In the morning, Itzi learns she’s been duped. She corrals a crack team of animal control officers, state troopers, and the overzealous, sanitary Coopersmith. Collectively, they descend upon the prison with cages, nets, ropes, and snares. Their mission: Remove the dogs, restore order, and impeach Ramsey for high crimes, treason, and uncleanliness. With his back against the wall, Ramsey quickly dials up a “Hail Mary” play to save the day — for his dogs, his inmates, and his world. Ramsey becomes a bona fide hostage, and as such, directs the inmates to make his surreptitious demands to the media. News crews’ rush to the scene for first-hand coverage on the chaos, which shows dogs being cornered, rounded up, captured, and caged. Pleas ring out for community support. Crowds enthusiastically respond and line the perimeter chain link fences — rooting for the dogs and inmates. As the insurrection intensifies, Itzi and her team fire tear gas to subdue both dogs and inmates. Tensions rise. The media’s broadcast reaches the attention of Governor Arnold Schwarzsnauzer (who resembles the “Governator”). Meanwhile, Leopold inserts a microphone into Coopersmith’s SUV. His salacious remarks are transmitted to every media outlet, including Schwarzsnauzer’s Blackhawk helicopter, which arrives at the height of the rebellion. After surveying the scene, Schwarzsnauzer is furious with Coopersmith’s insolence towards those who have “no voice and no choice.” The Governator terminates him, promotes Ramsey Lorde, “Citizen Canine,” to fill the vacancy, and encourages everyone to get in touch with his or her own “inner dog.” I am so proud of this script and pray it gets made into a feature someday soon. It’s for those who have no voice, and no choice.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I wish someone told me never, ever go out with my agent on a date for dinner, even if there are five other people included in the mix. I was with one of the top three agencies at the time and my then agent invited me to his sister’s birthday dinner. I stupidly said “Yes.” He got drunk and when he drove me back to my then apartment in Beverly Hills, he tried to push his way in my door. I said “No.” In the meantime, my Lhasa Apso doggy, Sushi Bear peed all over his leg, which didn’t deter him. He kept trying to get into my apartment and said he wanted to make love to me. Again, I said, “NO.” He asked why and my response ruined my career for many, many years. I said, “Number one, you’re my agent and number two, you’re not my type.” I was just being authentic. He was FURIOUS. I didn’t hear from the agency for a month and when I finally spoke to him and asked why I wasn’t being sent out, he said, “You told me I wasn’t your type, remember?” A few years later, many actresses within the agency filed a class action lawsuit against him. I was asked to join the bandwagon, but did not. There was a settlement.
  2. Never, ever let your mother become your manager. I hired my mother to make her part of my life and to help her financially always. She, and another family member stole all my money as I had a joint account with her and was too stupid and young to peruse my bank statements.
  3. Invest in a financial advisor.
  4. Be very careful and wary of photographers who want to take photos of you, even if they have a card. I nearly lost my life twice by meeting them in isolated areas.
  5. Last but most important — trust in the Kingdom of GOD.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Two things. NEVER DISOWN YOURSELF. When people suppress or repress aspects of their personality that are incompatible with the standards of society — you wear a mask. Be true to YOU.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Life is a group project. I wouldn’t be doing what I am blessed to do without family, (except Mom) mentors and friends who tell you the truth. In my case, it was my dearly departed and closest friend, Larry Cohen who gave me a break. He got me my SAG card and believed in me when I was very young and encouraged me to write screenplays after he read one I wrote in three days entitled, ABBERATION. I owe not only my career, but my life to this remarkable genius who aways gave me the fortitude to forge on, despite the trappings of the industry. He was the kindest, most generous and funniest soul I have ever encountered. I shall never recover from this loss, next to my dear Father.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would love to sit down and meet with a movie investor and discuss my feature film, DOG PEN — regarding the countless dogs (and cats) who are in desperate need of a fur-ever home. Millions are put to death every year for the crime of being born. I wrote this movie to show how God’s loving creatures teach us to live and love in the moment. It takes place in a prison setting and is done as a comedy. Dogs do not judge, nor hold a grudge. They love you unconditionally, unlike most human beings. They replenish spiritual hydration. I have a saying. It goes like this:

I have yet to meet a rescue,

That met my hand with rage

Who held a grudge or chose to judge

A human due to age.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so very much for the interview. I am most humbled and grateful to you Yitzi for your kindness. I can be found on Twitter @LaureneLandon, Instagram @Laurene_Landon and Facebook under — guess who — Laurene Landon, but I am maxed out on friends so Instagram and Twitter are the best. I respond to respectful souls. God Bless and my favorite quote from the Bible, for me — the essence of the Bible is Hebrews 11–13; “NOW FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT YET SEEN.”

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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