Unlike Afton, the character she has played on Dallas for the last four seasons, Audrey Landers would never hang around waiting for an ineffective man like Cliff Barnes to get his act together. The demands of juggling dual careers as an actress and singer-songwriter make life far too hectic for that.
On the day we spoke to her, for instance, she had gotten back to Los Angeles at 5:30 in the morning, after two days of personal appearances in the South. By late afternoon, she had conferred with her mother—who managers her career—and her agents, and was organizing the details of the nightclub act she and her sister, Judy were rehearsing, and of the American release of her record, “Goodbye, Manuel.” “It can get crazy,” she admits, sitting down in her cheerful kitchen for the first time in the day, “but I wouldn't have it any other way.”
Even when she was growing up, she explains, she was not content to do just one thing. A good student by nature, she excelled in high school and college, where she graduated in pre-med at the age of 20, while acting full-time on network soap operas such as Somerset.
While many people have trouble maintaining one interest, Landers has always welcomed the challenge of several. “The day has 24 hours in it, so there really is time to accomplish more than we normally expect of ourselves. And we only use about ten percent of our brain power, so we clearly are nowhere near achieving our potential. Because of these factors, I have never been afraid of my workload. The secret, I have learned, is to organize your time properly. When you work, work very hard and concentrate on nothing else. And when you play, think only of yourself and how you like to relax.”
Her current schedule is intense enough to test the limits of that philosophy. Her character, Afton, is increasingly popular on Dallas, and appears every week. So, several days a week she is at the studio by 5:30 A.M. If all goes well, she will be finished by the early afternoon, although there are those nightmare days when the filming lasts into the evening hours. When she leaves the set, she tries to run a few miles with her dog, and then eat a light dinner. From there, it is off to dancing or music rehearsals, or up to her room to write music. Since she tries to get eight hours of sleep a night, she is usually in bed by 9:30 or 10 o'clock.
Her interest in singing and performing should be of no surprise to anyone who has followed her career, for in each of the roles she has played, her character has usually picked up a guitar and sang. She has been singing and composing for as long as she has been acting, and considers it an equally important aspect of her career. Audrey is thus understandably excited about the nightclub act she and Judy are about to premiere at the Sands Hotel in Atlantic City, and about the success of “Good-bye Manuel.” It has become an international hit and already has gone gold in France. The album has also gone gold, and the follow-up single is inching its way up the charts.
“We released the record abroad,” she says, “for a specific reason. In America, there is a stigma against actresses who sing. I wanted to prove that I was not a fluke and that this wasn't a quick way to capitalize on my role in Dallas. One way to avoid this, I thought, was to have the record be a success before it came to America.”
She recorded the album at Giorgio Moroder's famous studio in Munich. “It was exciting because I had never been to Europe before. Dallas is very popular over there, and I was treated very nicely.”
As soon as the record came out in Germany, she returned there to promote it. “When I arrived that second time, there were a thousand fans waiting for me at the airport. Then, when it became so successful, I had to go back a third time. By then, people were camped out by my hotel and had waited hours just for a glimpse of me. It was fabulous—they had to sneak me in and out of the kitchen and through the back corridors and stairways. I felt just like the Rolling Stones.”
When she returned to the hotel later that night, the fans were still there. “I felt terrible that they had spent all this time waiting for just a glimpse of me,” she says. “So even though it was three in the morning, I went down to the lobby and signed autographs and talked to them for two and a half hours.”
That concern for her fans is typical of her willingness to meet them, and helps explain why she leaves Los Angeles every Friday night for a week-end of personal appearances. “I enjoy these,” she says, “because I get to go all over the country meeting the people who like me. Sincerity is important to me and by keeping in touch with my fans, I can stay close to the reality. It is hard work, but talking to them helps me measure my success. When you are on the stage, you get applause and can feel their response. In television, you don't get that unless you go out and actually discover how the people feel about what you are doing.”
Even though she enjoys all the various aspects of her career, her schedule can be exhausting. “Perhaps the most difficult part,” she says, “is the early calls. Once 1 am up, I don't mind because I love driving to the studio and getting there just as the sun comes up. It is very invigorating to know that you have the entire day ahead.
But,” she continues, “getting out of bed at 4:30 AM. is never fun. Because I don't like being rushed in the morning, I have learned to make it easier on myself by getting up 30 minutes before I have to and then, regardless of how busy I will be during the day or how much of a hurry I am in to leave, to do five to seven minutes of stretching. These stretches are not strenuous, but they help wake me up and feel good. Then I take a relaxing shower and, by the time I am dry, am awake and eager to start the day.”
Regardless of how late she gets home, she spends another five to seven minutes in the evening stretching and doing sit-ups, women's push-ups, some leg lifts, donkey kicks, and bench presses on her new Universal home gym. On the occasional days when she has the time, she also puts an aerobics tape on her big-screen television. And she jogs those two miles with her dog as often as possible. But even with this program and her dance rehearsals, she does not have the time to exercise as much as she would like to. Still, these 20 minutes of stretches and exercises a day keep her fit and trim.
Her beauty routine is equally streamlined. “There is a certain look for television that takes time and requires heavier makeup than is necessary for 'real life,'” she explains. “Also, I have long, curly blonde hair that is a little wild for the image that I am currently projecting. So if I don't have time to groom it to fit the look, or if I am running late and it is wet, I keep it under wraps by wearing a hat.
“I also feel that it is a mistake to rely too much on makeup, and think that it is important to look good with a minimum of care. By looking after myself, all I need to face the world is a clean face and a little blush, mascara, and lip gloss. I am too busy to spend any more time than that looking presentable.”
Because her work is so time consuming, she also feels it important to manage the emotional demands of her life carefully. “As I said before, when I work, I work and when I play, I spend time doing activities that make me feel good about myself. I love being able to take hikes or run in the hills around my house, because it gives me a chance to appreciate my surroundings, which has a therapeutic effect on me. I also love movies and dancing, but would rather spend my free time sitting at home or cooking for company, because I get to do that so rarely.”
To help make sure that none of that time is wasted, Landers has also learned to keep a notepad and pencil next to her bed. “That way, before I fall asleep, I can write down everything that I have to do the next day as it crosses my mind. When I wake up, I look at it and immediately know what I have to face that day. I also keep a diary, and have for ten years. I have come to think of it as my little psychiatrist, because I can confide in it and use it as a measure of my emotional growth. I keep it in a safe under lock and key and, although it may sound silly, use it to help sort out my goals and organize my feelings.”
She receives so many offers, most of which she has to turn down, that Landers is especially grateful for her mother's advice in deciding what to accept. “I have to choose my commitments very carefully,” she says, “because there is so little time. I would like to accept almost every charity benefit because the causes are almost always worthwhile and the events exciting. But I physically can't do everything and have to learn how to say no.”
Although she is getting better at that, she admits to occasionally overstressing herself. “Because I am organized and strong,” she says, “I usually only impossibly over schedule myself once or twice a year. Last week was one of those times. I found myself with commitments in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Paris—all in one week. In the middle of a business discussion with my mother and sister, I started to cry and complain that I didn't know how I could do all of that. Since I don't like to cry, I took a walk for 20 minutes and came back with a clearer mind. I apologized for being overwhelmed and then figured out how to do everything that was expected of me.”
That 20 minute walk, she says, was all she needed to remember that she could do it. “If you depend on drugs or other unnatural substances to get you through a situation, you will burn out. But as long as you remind yourself that you have done this before and will do it again, and that you will soon be able to reinstate a balance between your work and personal pleasure, I don't feel that the work will get to you.
“More than anything else, that walk made me realize how tired I was. Then, as I have on similar occasions, I thought about how lucky I am to have my health, my family, and the opportunities that I have worked so long to enjoy. Being overtired, I decided, is a minor sacrifice to make for something that is so rewarding and important to me. When I came back into the room, I had a much clearer handle on how I would get through the week with an organized and positive attitude. As so often is the case, that was all it took to make the difference between panicking and getting the job done in an enjoyable way.”