80 IS GREAT-Y!
This will be a different kind of Travel column.
First, I am writing it alone without Jackie.
Second, I will not be introducing you to some wondrous city or lavish hotel or sumptuous meal.
Instead, we will Travel through the life of my extraordinary wife, Jackie Joseph-Lawrence, who will be 80 tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013.
I have known Jackie since our Los Angeles City College days in the ‘50s. We met (neither of us remembers how, when, or where; I think we were too attracted to each other to bother about the details). We dated until she transferred to UCLA and I went to NYC to conquer Broadway (which never quite happened). Our paths crossed often during the ‘60s when she guest-starred on many of the TV shows I supervised for Procter & Gamble Productions. We re-united a year after my wife, Estelle, died. In 1999, alone and hating it, I called Jackie from Paris; her number was unlisted.
Thanks to her Talk column in The Tolucan, I found her again. We dated. The college days puppy love became a full-grown Great Dane, now big, strong, and here to stay. We learned about each other. All my faults were exposed; all her attributes were revealed. By the time we married, Dec. 2, 2003, I had learned the girl I had wed was a living, breathing miracle. She was born to a mother who had just lost her husband and who was too young to know how to take care of a little girl by herself. Jackie was left alone to fend for herself too often. Only the kindness of her aunt and her schoolmates, still her close friends, helped her survive. Along with her own sweet spirit and “little orphan Annie” determination. Did she blame her mother for being unable to provide the love and nourishment she deserved? Let’s put it this way; in all the hours, days, weeks, and years I have known her, Jackie has never uttered an unkind word about any one or any thing. Years later, when her mother was very ill, Jackie took tender care of her for the rest of her life.
My wife wears a perpetual smile; she finds the good in even the bad. Her glass is not just half full; it is overflowing. Not with the milk of human kindness, but with the rich double cream. Every person she has ever worked with – in TV, movies, theater – remembers her with great friendly fondness. She contributes her time, energy, and money to a world of worthy causes. She was one of the founders of Actors & Others For Animals; chairs the Senior Committee of SAG-AFTRA; and contributes to a long list of charities including Foundation Fighting Blindness. Jackie has traveled the country with the wives of other celebrities whose marriages also led to divorce. Their mission: to help non-show biz divorced ladies find a way to cope.
I have seen Jackie dance impromptu in our living room to the music from the TV, heard her talk to the flowers in her garden, congratulating them on their beauty. She has never met an animal she didn’t love. Or a worthy cause she hasn’t supported.
Jackie Joseph is not a star. Her name was never above the title. You could not go to the bank based on her presence in the cast. You can not read about her in the murky pages of People magazine or see her latest sensational exploits on “Entertainment Tonight.” Jackie simply learned her role, showed up on time, and delivered like the pro she is in the jobs she adored. Whether it was an unforgettable characterization in The Little Shop of Horrors or The Andy Griffith Show, which endeared her to generations of fans, or a co-starring role on The Doris Day Show, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Love American Style, Designing Women, and countless other series and musical variety shows.
She appeared in movies like The Gremlins and Police Academy and The Cheyenne Social Club, sang and danced on Broadway and while touring the world with “The Billy Barnes Review,” was a magician’s assistant, the back-up for Donald O’Conner in Vegas, host of her own ABC TV show, a singer/dancer in the theatre in a parade of musicals….
Whatever she did, no matter how small or how big, she brought to the job a sense of wonder and delight which pleased producers and fellow actors and gratified audiences. Not a star – just a bright shining light whenever she appeared.
No, Jackie Joseph, my wife, is not a star. She is, as you know, a galaxy!
Happy Birthday, my darling, and many, many more to come.