by Isobel Silden
Hollywood can be a rude awakening, if you're a talented performer with years of experience behind you, but not the “right” kind of experience, Hollywood snobbery can really get to you. Audrey Landers found that out - the hard way.
“There were periods when I wasn't doing anything, and I was very unhappy,” Landers admits. “There were transition periods - it was four years between the lime left the soaps and started on 'Dallas.' And I wasn't always greeted with warmth.
“After being somewhat of a celebrity in New York - I had piles of daytime magazine covers - I had to prove myself from square one. I had to start at the very bottom when I came here, doing small roles to earn casting directors' respect. Obviously, they had never watched soaps,” Audrey says, still perturbed by the memory.
“When I came here, I'd had three-and-one-half years on 'Somerset,' and one-and-one-half on 'Secret Storm' - five years of solid experience. I'd been on TV practically every day, and the casting people I was meeting would say, 'Oh, you did all those years of soap opera. Have you done any acting?' Or, 'That's great training,' and that was all. That was the response five or six years ago, But soap operas have shown them. People don't realize what kind of schedule and discipline goes into them,” she says firmly.
Life is different now. Audrey has a job she loves and is in love with a man whose identity she refuses to divulge. “He's very sensitive about my using his name. If things get more serious, I'll tell you. Right now, it's very romantic, wonderful and exciting. He's a New York businessman, whom I met through my family, and we have a bi-coastal romance. I travel almost every weekend on personal appearances and he flies to meet me.”
Although Audrey looks forward to marriage and children she's putting those two items on hold for a while, because, she explains, “I'm fulfilling all of my fantasies.” Landers is content to stay with “Dallas” for as long as it runs since it enables her to work on other projects. She's just cut an album for release in Europe and Japan and has a hit record in Europe titled “Manuel, Good-bye,” which was also released in the U.S. by MCA/Curb records. Along with her sister Judy, Audrey completed a film called “Going for Broke” and co-authored the title song, which Audrey sings. The pair have done concert tours in the South and the East and Audrey's appeared with Bob Hope.
The sisters did a photo layout for Playboy which may be the reason why a national magazine labeled Audrey a “sex symbol.” It's a title she finds flattering. “I know there's another side to me and so it's okay if that's what the public thinks, because after all, that's what my career is about: pleasing my fans.” The spread was “glamorous, sensuous and tastefully done,” says Landers. Although she and Judy were offered an “enormous” amount of money to pose nude, the two chose to do the layout for free, an arrangement which gave them complete artistic control. As a result, says Audrey, “Nothing more showed than what you'd see in a bikini.”
Not one to sit back and relish her accomplishments, Audrey is forging onward. “I want to do some serious films. I want to expand my songwriting and recording. I have all these things started, all these little seeds planted, and I know some of them will take. I dreamed of all this when I was a little girl, and it's all happening,” she says joyously.
Dressed in a multi-colored, coin-dotted white blouse and black miniskirt, her blonde hair tumbling about her shoulders, if anyone exemplifies the power of positive thinking and how well it works, it's Audrey Landers. The house in which we are sitting is an example.
“I looked for this house for three years, a minimum of three days a week, before I found it. And when I saw the 'For Sale' sign, the realtor said I probably wouldn't like it. I said, 'Let's see the inside, it might be great.'”
And it is. In a community where interior decorators are routinely called on to “do” one's home, Audrey and Judy are rarities: they drew up their own designs for everything - furniture, wallpaper, the works - and then had it all made. The results are stunning.
Judy has what must be the pinkest bedroom and bath I've ever seen. Their mother, Barbara Landers,' master bedroom almost defies description. It's larger than most living rooms, with an equally large adjoining bathroom. The sunken bathtub is almost big enough to swim in. There is moir� wallpaper throughout the house, laminated in the bathrooms so shower steam won't harm it. Audrey's bedroom is done in shades of mauve with touches of green. She has an authentic Victorian fainting bench, now recovered to serve as a chaise longue. There is the obligatory kidney-shaped swimming pool in the backyard complete with stone grotto. It is almost a miniature version of the pool at Playboy magnate, Hugh Hefner's, mansion. Altogether, it's a movie star's home: lush, opulent, and comfortable.
We're sitting in the breakfast room next to the spacious kitchen, Flowered wallpaper has been extended to cover the ceiling. It's a pleasant place to drink coffee, and nibble the fresh fruits and imported cheeses Audrey is serving at 11:00a.m. The interview is interrupted by two phone calls in rapid succession. One is from sister Judy in Indianapolis for personal appearances. The next is from her mother, who reports the outcome ofsome business negotiations.
When Audrey says her mother and sister are her best friends, she means it. She and Judy are perhaps the only sisters in show business this close (“except for the Gabors,” she laughs), and surely the only two who live together.
So much is written about sibling competition and the jealousy that exists between sisters it seems inconceivable that two beautiful women could share their lives as do Audrey and Judy.
“There is no rivalry between us,” Audrey says flatly. “We love each other and want the best for each other. We were raised to look out for the other person rather than for yourself. If you're always looking out for the other person, you know somebody's looking out for you. There's no need to be selfish or greedy. You know that you're taken care of.”
Audrey has not seen her father in 15 years and has no idea where he is. Barbara remarried, and her husband, Barry, has been the girls' true and loving parent.
Of her “natural” father, Landers says she doesn't talk about him because he simply hasn't been a part of her life. The void that may have been created by his absence has been filled, Landers asserts, by her stepfather. Living without her biological father hasn't been a negative experience, Audrey comments, because the love and support she gets from her family have taken his place.
Audrey started in show business on the heels of Barbara's career. Landers tagged along on her mother's modeling assignments and at three she did her first commercial: a bubble bath spot with her mother. Barbara left modeling and went into the printing business, but Audrey continued acting in school plays. Her big break came when she was twelve. She wrote a song, made a demonstration tape, and sent it to the “Merv Griffin Show.” They contacted her and she sang her song on the show. “It was very exciting. I was so naive, I wasn't even nervous and I didn't understand the impact of being on TV,” she laughs.
Up until then, Barbara found it difficult getting her daughter an agent, but in Merv's audience that night was an agent, who offered to represent Landers. “My mom told her yes, and she sent me to 'Secret Storm.' It was my very first audition, and I got the job, I had to lie about my age. I was realty 13, 1 told them I was 14, and I had to tell the producer I was 16. That's because the part called for me to have a boyfriend, and I couldn't if I was only 13. 1 kissed my first boy ever on that show, and I don't even remember his name. I just thought he was so old. He was 22. Oh my God, old at 22!” she laughs.
When little sister Judy (there is two years difference between the Lander's ladies: Audrey is the oldest at 24) decided she wanted to get in the business, Barbara gave the okay. Judy made one pilot in New York, and then the girls moved to Los Angeles together. About her sister, Audrey says, “Judy has a very special quality and people recognize it. She's done it all on her own.” Judy was a New York State gymnast champion, but she had to give that up because she hurt her back, an experience Audrey says was “very traumatic for her.”
As a child, Judy attended all of her sister's play rehearsals and knew every word to Audrey's songs. “I think she always wanted to act. But I just think Judy had to get up the courage to say I really want to do this, and she finally did.” Judy's first audition here was for “Whatever Happened to the Class of '65.” ”She was excellent,” Audrey remarks. Then Judy landed “Vega$.” It was supposed to be a guest role, but they wrote her in for a year, as a regular.
Neither girl regrets the move to California. “At the time, mother told me I'd done everything I could in New York. She was smart enough to realize that the action was here. I'd finished my soap opera, I'd graduated from college. It was time to move on.”
Audrey sips coffee, and nibbles cantaloupe as she reflects on her “public,” “I would like to continue doing a series because I love television. I think it has tremendous exposure. You can reach more people through TV, and the audiences get to know you. They relate to you as a person. On a big screen, you're removed. They have to go out and pay to see you. They don't feel the same closeness. I like the intimacy of television. I think it builds stronger fans.
“And I'm very lucky with my fans' reactions. No matter how nasty Afton has been - and she's been pretty nasty at times - my fans always say, 'Oh, you had to do that, you had to sleep with that horrible man just for Cliff Bames' (Ken Kercheval) sake. I feel sorry for you.'”
Audrey rather likes the current change in Afton's personality. “Ciff Barries is the No. 1 loser on the show, and Afton has been trying to make him into a winner. I guess she's the woman behind the man. She has pushed him into being more successful. It looks as if he's going to make it. Afton has become very strong and loving. She's faithful to Cliff. She's a real goody two-shoes. But she's so volatile, she's so changeable, I don't think it's going to last. They can't keep it that way,” she says knowingly, and then seals her lips.
Tune in next week.