Viewers will learn that there's more to actress and author Fran Drescher than her nasal Queens accent when you see Intimate Portrait: Fran Drescher. The film documents Drescher's rise to stardom with roles in Saturday Night Fever and This is Spinal Tap, and discusses the creation of The Nanny, the television series that she and husband Peter Marc Jacobson produced. Her parents, manager, high school drama teacher, and good friend Dan Aykroyd, praise her as an ambitious woman who followed her dreams and came out on top. A poignant moment in the film is Drescher's candid account of being raped at gunpoint in 1985--the horrific experience that sent her to live with Aykroyd and his wife, Donna Dixon, who narrates this Intimate Portrait tribute. Read more about the comedienne's life in her 1996 autobiography, Enter Whining.Read More
One hour television documentary about the life and career of singer Natalie Cole which originally aired on Lifetime Television in 1998 as part of its "Intimate Portrait" series. Includes interviews with Natale Cole, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Phil Ramone, David Foster, Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross, Maria Cole, Dan Cleary and narrated by Patrick Stewart.Read More
Betty White: The Queen of Television
From ""The Mary Tyler Moore Show"" to ""Golden Girls,"" Betty White is a staple of American comedy. She's charmed television, film and radio audiences for nearly five decades.Here's a close-up look at a comedic talent.
Although Betty White has often been dubbed ""Queen of Television,"" this American icon was first radio royalty. Starting at just 16, White attended acting school (she skipped college to pursue her showbiz dream) and appeared on high-profile radio shows such as ""Blondie,"" ""The Great Gildersleeve"" and ""This Is Your FBI."" Eventually, she landed her own radio show, aptly titled ""The Betty White Show.""
But it wasn't until 1953, at the age of 29, that White made the leap to the medium for which we know her best: television. She starred in and produced the hit show ""Life With Elizabeth,"" a sitcom that earned her the first of six Emmy Awards. That success led White to make her first of numerous game show appearances as the fill-in host for the icoRead More
Rue McClanahan: A Truly Golden Career
To the world, Rue McClanahan will forever be Southern sex kitten Blanche. But more than that, McClanahan is a wife, an activist and a survivor.
It was dance, not acting, that first lured Rue McClanahan into the spotlight. Born into a Midwestern blue-collar family (her father was a construction contractor and her mother, a homemaker), her parents wanted their children to experience the arts, so the young McClanahan got plenty of private dance lessons. Eventually, she taught ballet herself. But as a freshman at the University of Tulsa, the 18-year-old found a new love: acting.
She immersed herself in all things theatrical during college, but was torn when a full scholarship to a prestigious dance company in Colorado came her way. Eventually, she turned it down, and graduated with highest honors and a double major in theatre arts and German. But Tulsa couldn't hold her. Her sights were set on New York.
Initially, McClanahan kept busy acting in not-quRead More
Estelle Getty: Mother to Many
Actress Estelle Getty gained fame by playing Sophia Petrillo on ""The Golden Girls."" The feisty daughter of Jewish immigrants and a theater lover from birth, she has played mom to many Hollywood actors â€” and to two real-life sons.
Getty was bit by the show-business bug at a tender young age. The daughter of Jewish immigrants who settled in Manhattan, Getty saw her first vaudeville act at the age of four and was hooked. As a teenager, she auditioned for every play that came along. When she started working as a secretary, she would only take jobs with employers who would let her leave early so she could moonlight at theaters.
After tying the knot with Arthur Gettleman (a man not intimidated by her quick wit), Getty settled down in Queens. She quickly became part of a tight-knit group of left-leaning activists, many of whom were blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Getty's two sons, Carl and Barry, later followed their mother's activist lead by protesting theRead More
Brandy: Fairy-tale Princess
Brandy Norwood has become the belle of her own ball, gaining fame as a chart-topping singer and the star of the sitcom ""Moesha,"" and finding her own Prince Charming.
As a little girl growing up in Mississippi, Brandy dreamed of stardom. By the time she was four years old, she had begun singing in her father's church choir. Encouraged by Brandy's undeniable talents, her dad began schooling her in a variety of musical styles and taking her to see concerts. She particularly enjoyed seeing Whitney Houston, whom she admired as a role model. When Brandy's father got a job in California, he began taking her and her brother, Ray J., on auditions. Ray got some parts, but Brandy didn't. At age 13, Brandy enrolled in Hollywood High School's performing arts program. She finally got her big break in the fall of 1993 when Atlantic Records â€” where she had unsuccessfully auditioned to be part of a girl band â€” offered her a recording contract. Her first album, the self-titlRead More
Barbara Eden: TV's Genie
She was talented and lucky enough to land the lead role on the hit TV show ""I Dream of Jeannie,"" but in her personal life, Barbara Eden's wishes did not always come true.
As a child, Eden was painfully shy, due in part to a vision problem that forced her to wear an eye patch. Luckily, the girl's adoring mother drew her out of her shell by encouraging her to sing while they washed dishes together. After graduating from high school in 1949, Eden began to study music at a San Francisco college, but when she discovered the joy of acting classes, she found her true calling. In the early '50s, Eden relocated to Los Angeles to try her luck as an actress. After some lean days, Eden landed a recurring part on ""The Johnny Carson Show"" and then the classic comedy ""I Love Lucy."" Lucille Ball encouraged her to develop her natural comedic talents.
In the mid-1950s, Twentieth Century Fox signed Eden to a studio contract, and she appeared in a string of movies opposite such hRead More
Sharon Osbourne: Heavy-Metal Matriarch
London-born Sharon Osbourne (nÃ©e Arden) was the apple of her father's eye. Dad was a music manager who worked with rock icons such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry. At age 15, Osbourne quit school to work full-time for her father as a receptionist. At 23, the ambitious young woman packed her bags for Los Angeles to open another branch of dad's business. One of her first tasks was to collect money from recently fired metal sensation Ozzy Osbourne. When Osbourne found the rock star, he was strung out on alcohol and drugs and knocking on death's door. Sympathetic to his suffering because of her own struggles with alcohol, Osbourne decided to help Ozzy get back on his feet by managing his career.
In 1980, Ozzy released his first solo album, which went platinum. Despite being married, the newly crowned ""Prince of Darkness"" fell in love with his manager, who had turned his flailing career right side up. In 1981, Ozzy divorced his wife; the following yRead More
Elizabeth Taylor: Grand Dame of Hollywood
Elizabeth Taylor was born in London, but her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was young. Taylor's mother, a sometime stage actress, realized that her daughter's luminous face and smoldering violet eyes were just right for Hollywood and began taking the girl to auditions. At the age of nine, Taylor was cast in the film ""There's One Born Every Minute."" Three years later, she appeared in the 1944 movie ""National Velvet"" and became an international star overnight.
Barely an adolescent and already a screen icon, the radiant Taylor had the world's most eligible bachelors at her feet. She married her first husband, hotel heir Nicky Hilton, in 1950, but within a year his violent drinking put an end to the marriage. In 1951, Taylor married actor Michael Wilding, with whom she had two sons. Five years later, she divorced Wilding and married producer Mike Todd, a man twice her age. The couple welcomed the birth of daughter Liza, but their happineRead More
Jennifer Lopez: Do-It-All Diva
Jennifer Lynn Lopez, aka J.Lo, was born into a loving Puerto Rican family in the Bronx, New York. Her mother, a kindergarten teacher, passed on her love of musicals to her three daughters, who used to create productions of their own. The performing bug hit the middle Lopez daughter hard, so much so that the young J.Lo left Baruch College during her first year to pursue her passion full-time. It didn't take long for her auditioning to prove fruitful. In 1990, Lopez earned a spot as a Fly Girl, a dancer on the hit sketch comedy show ""In Living Color."" She packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles.
After two years as a Fly Girl, Lopez yearned for more. She left the show and became a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. She also scored minor roles in TV pilots. But her big break came in 1995, with a role in the movie ""Mi Familia,"" which was about an immigrant Mexican family. Lopez's well-received performance led to steady acting work. The novice then snagged theRead More
Diane Lane: A Star Is Reborn
It was Diane Lane's destiny to crave the spotlight: Her mother was an aspiring nightclub performer, and her father was an acting coach. These starry-eyed parents had dreams of Hollywood fame for their little girl, and at the age of six she was cast in an off-off-Broadway play about ancient Greek mythology. From then on, Lane spent summers traveling without her parents to appear in regional theater productions. At one show, the prepubescent thespian dazzled a Hollywood director, who cast her in 1979's ""A Little Romance,"" opposite the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier. At 14, she graced the cover of Time for a story on young breakout performers. Lane had a lot to live up to, and she certainly tried, working nonstop in movie after movie. Unfortunately, her films floundered at the box office â€” even the much-hyped ""The Cotton Club"" (1984) with heartthrob Richard Gere. After six years in show business and 13 films under her belt, the 18-year-old Lane decided to quiRead More
Suzanne Pleshette: Bold Broad
When Suzanne Pleshette first entered into the world, doctors were forced to take extraordinary steps to save her. Born without a heartbeat, she was given an adrenaline shot to get it started. That spark ignited the little girl who grew up to be a frank, feisty woman who led a glamorous life. Pleshette, the daughter of a ballerina and the head of a fabled New York theater, was destined for a life in entertainment. She enrolled in the ""Fame"" High School of the Performing Arts and went on to study at the legendary Neighborhood Playhouse. The aspiring actress soon began getting parts in plays, and soon won the role of a lifetime, replacing Ann Bancroft in the Broadway production of ""The Miracle Worker."" Pleshette fell for heartthrob Troy Donahue and the couple married in 1964, but the actor's alcoholism led to the dissolution of the marriage just nine months later. The sultry star soon took up with the very married David Janssen of TV's ""The Fugitive,"" but whRead More
Mariah Carey: Pop Princess
Mariah Carey grew up in Long Island, New York. Her mother was an opera singer who fostered her daughter's natural singing talent. By eighth grade, Carey was writing her own songs; by age 13, she was performing radio jingles. After graduation, Carey headed to Manhattan to follow her show-business dreams. Before long, she was singing backup for Brenda Kiss Star. The seasoned singer took Carey under her wing and introduced her to record executive Tommy Mottola, who quickly began grooming the teenager for superstardom.
In July 1990, Carey released her first album, ""Vision of Love."" The album produced four number one hits and garnered two Grammy Awards: one for Best New Artist and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. But the 20-year-old didn't sit back and bask in the glory; she immediately returned to the studio and released ""Emotions"" in September 1991. A recording of her MTV Unplugged concert followed. As Carey's career continued to blossom, so did hRead More
In April 1968, Beach Boy Brian Wilson and his wife, Marilyn Rovell, a singer from the 1960s band The Honeys, welcomed their first child, Carnie, into the world. The eldest Wilson child grew up harmonizing with her family; she made her stage debut at the tender age of five at a Beach Boys concert. She joined the band in singing ""Help Me, Rhonda."" Unfortunately, Wilson's father suffered from a serious drug addiction, and his habits broke up her parents' marriage in 1979. Wilson turned to eating for comfort. In her teenage years, she took a stab at acting, but her excess weight kept her from getting work.
In 1986, after graduating from high school, Wilson returned to her musical roots and formed the band Wilson Phillips with her sister, Wendy, and Chynna Phillips, daughter of Michelle and John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas. After a few years of plugging away, the trio landed a recording contract in 1989. The band's 1990 debut album spawned three number one singles, including the smaRead More
Erin Brockovich was born Erin Pattee in 1960 in Lawrence, Kansas, the youngest of four children. A traumatic molestation experience and struggles with dyslexia led to feelings of low self-esteem as a young girl. It wasn't until Brockovich reached high school that the gangly teen began to hit her stride. By 1979, she was attending the Miss Wades School of Fashion Merchandising in Dallas. She then moved with some girlfriends to California, where she met and married housepainter Sean Brown. The newlyweds moved to Nevada together.
By the mid-1980s, Brockovich had two children and a strained marriage. After she divorced Brown in 1987, the suddenly single mom took a secretarial job. The vivacious 27-year-old eventually fell in love with her boss, broker Steven Brockovich. The two married in 1989, but their relationship quickly fizzled. Brockovich filed for divorce, and soon afterward she learned that she was pregnant with her third child.
After moving her brood to CaliforniaRead More
Bea Arthur: Brassy & Golden
Bea Arthur was born on May 13,1923, in New York City. The awkwardly tall and shy girl often hid behind her wicked sense of humor. Although she longed to be a blond starlet, because of her height she was usually cast as a boy in school plays. After graduating from high school, Arthur enrolled in drama school, where she discovered that being 5'9'' and having a deep voice were assets in classical theater. Unfortunately, Broadway wasn't biting, so the ambitious actress decided to switch gears and try comedy. In 1953, she was cast as Lucy Brown in ""The Threepenny Opera,"" the first of her well-received funny-woman roles. That same year, Arthur married theater director Gene Saks. The hardworking couple started a family â€” Matthew was born in 1961 and Daniel in 1964 â€” but Arthur soon returned to Broadway to play second banana Vera Charles in the Broadway musical ""Mame,"" which was directed by her husband. Arthur's stellar singing and comic timing earned her a Tony AwRead More
Naomi Judd was born Diana Judd in 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky. One of four children, she enjoyed happy times as a young girl. But that changed in 1963, when Judd, then 17, got pregnant and dropped out of high school. She was also helping her parents care for her brother Brian, who had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Daughter Wynnona was born in May 1964. Judd relished her new role as a mother, but her happiness soon turned to mourning the next year, when her brother passed away. Soon afterward, the young mother married a former boyfriend and moved to Los Angeles with him. In 1968, she gave birth to her second daughter, Ashley (the future movie star), but Judd's marriage soon soured. After the divorce, the single mom went on welfare to make ends meet and then took her two daughters back to Kentucky, where she enrolled in nursing school and decided to take on a new name: Naomi. Judd often relaxed in those stressful times by singing with Wynnona.
By 1979, singing haRead More
Isabel Sanford: Movin' On Up
Born in 1917 in Harlem, New York, Isabel (born Eloise Gwendolyn) Sanford was the youngest of seven children and the only one to live past infancy. As a child, Sanford found respite from her poverty-stricken life by making people laugh. As a teen, she won rave reviews at an amateur night at the Apollo, but her performing dreams were put on hold when her mother fell ill. Although Sanford wanted to be an actress, she was forced to take over her mom's job as a cleaning lady. Sanford married housepainter William ""Sonny"" Richmond during this tough time, and shortly after tying the knot, they brought daughter Pamela into the world. Between the births of her next two children, Sanford finally made her stage debut, in the 1946 production of ""On Striver's Row"" at the renown American Negro Theater.
In 1960, Sanford decided to leave her unhappy marriage and take her three children to Los Angeles. The single mother was barely off the bus before legendary actress TallulRead More
In a special episode of Intimate Portrait, Lifetime shares the stories of famous women who found love or survived heartbreak despite a life in the spotlight, including Pam Dauber's decision to leave Hollywood to make her husband Mark Harmon and children a priority, Amy Grant's acceptance of the growing distance in her marriage to Vince Gill, Lisa Rinna's finding the love of her life from the worst first kiss with Harry Hamlin, and others.Read More
Eve Ensler's young life in an affluent Upper East Side household seemed like a fairy tale to the outside world. However, Ensler's close relationship with her dad, the president of a high-profile company, and her entire life were forever changed when he sexually molested her. Afraid and insecure, Ensler had trouble making friends in school. The tormented teen retreated into a private world and began keeping a journal. While attending Vermont's artistic Middlebury College, she began to discover her own voice. Ensler became a student leader and found a supportive group of buddies. ""That time in my lifeâ€¦gave me a sense that I might be able to do somethingâ€¦of value,"" says Ensler.
After graduation, Ensler headed to New York City, where she spent much of the next decade working as a waitress and turned to alcohol to deal with feelings of low self-esteem. She befriended bartender Richard McDermott, who helped her get sober and turn her life around. The couple married, and Ensler adopted her huRead More
Josie Bissett: Model Mommy
Josie Bissett, nÃ©¥ Joelynn Heutmaker, grew up in a close-knit household in a suburb of Seattle. Fun and outgoing, she began modeling in high school, with her family's full support. It wasn't long before Bissett was appearing in catalogs and teen magazines, and at age 18 she moved to Los Angeles to further her career. After a year of struggling while taking acting classes, Bissett landed a few roles in commercials and music videos. In 1990, she landed a guest part on ""Doogie Howser, M.D."" and a small role in the biopic flick ""The Doors,"" directed by Oliver Stone.
At one fateful audition, Bissett met a handsome aspiring actor named Rob Estes. The pair fell for each other fast, and they exchanged vows on May 1, 1992, just days before each launched into breakthrough roles. Bissett starred on the Aaron Spelling soap ""Melrose Place,"" and Estes was a part of the Miami cop show ""Silk Stalkings."" Bissett's character, Jane Mancini, was the nice, normal girl caught upRead More
Susan Lucci: Soap Queen
Susan Victoria Lucci was born in Long Island, New York. Her father imparted to her a strong work ethic, while her mother nurtured the young girl's imaginative side. In school, Lucci was an honors student, a cheerleader and a member of the drama club. The teen blossomed into a confident beauty, and after graduation, she headed for Marymount College to study musical theater. One summer, while working at a hotel, the co-ed met Austrian chef Helmut Huber. Lucci then headed to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, and in 1969, she married Huber. When the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon, Lucci had a message waiting for her: The producers of a new soap opera called ""All My Children"" wanted her to audition for them.
On January 5, 1970, Lucci made her debut on ""All My Children"" as Erica Kane, a rebellious teen looking for love in all the wrong places. Over more than three decades, this character's multiple trips down the aisle, evil schemes aRead More
Chaka Khan: Shining Star
Before she became Chaka Khan, she was Evette Stevens. Born in Illinois in 1953, she grew up in a household filled with music. When the Black Power movement gained steam in the 1960s, the then 13-year-old singer joined a band called Shades of Black. During this time, a shaman christened her Chaka after the great warrior Chaka Zulu. By age 16, she had left school, joined the Black Panthers and moved to a commune. She also teamed up with Rufus, an up-and-coming R&B band. Thanks to her deep, powerful voice, the group scored a record deal. In June 1970, the singer married Chicago musician Hassan Khan, with whom she had a daughter, Milini. However, the marriage hit rock bottom in 1973.
Musically, Chaka Khan was collecting successes. During the recording of Rufus' second album, her idol, Stevie Wonder, showed up at the studio with a song for her. ""Tell Me Something Good"" became the band's first hit. In 1974, Rufus earned its first Grammy Award. But life on tour was hRead More
Shania Twain: Country Survivor
Shania Twain (born Eileen Regina Edwards) was born in Windsor, Ontario, on August 28, 1965. When she was young, her parents divorced and Twain lived with her mom and two sisters. The kids were eventually adopted by their mom's new husband. The family struggled with poverty, and Twain's mother suffered from bouts of deep depression. Twain turned to singing to find happiness amid her harsh reality. In 1974, at the age of nine, she was already performing in honky-tonk clubs to help pay the family's bills. At age 12, Twain appeared on a local country show, and later she fronted a cover band, called Long Shot. In 1983, the teenager began singing full time after graduating from high school. However, her career came to a terrible halt when her parents were killed in a car crash in 1987.
Devastated, the 22-year-old Twain took on the task of raising her sisters and two half-brothers; she supported them with a singing gig at a tourist resort. By 1992, her siblingsRead More
Gladys Knight: Soul Survivor
Gladys Maria Knight was born on May 28, 1944, in Atlanta. While her father juggled three jobs to support the family, her mother was busy nurturing the young girl's natural singing talent. When she was seven years old, Knight won the popular Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour contest. In 1952, she and her two siblings and two cousins began performing at local supper clubs and churches. In 1960, they officially became known as Gladys Knight and the Pips. After a few personnel changes, the quintet recorded the top R & B hit ""Every Beat of My Heart.""
At age 16, the aspiring singer discovered she was pregnant and married saxophone player Jimmy Newman. Unfortunately, Knight miscarried. Anxious to be a mom, Knight became pregnant again and gave birth to Jimmy Jr. in 1962 and to daughter Kenya two years later. Because of financial pressures, the young mother returned to performing with the Pips, and the group began putting out bigger hits, including ""I Heard It ThrougRead More
Cloris Leachman: Accomplished Chameleon
Born in 1926, Cloris Leachman grew up in a small town near Des Moines. As a child, she loved to act and play the piano. At age 11, she landed a job on a local children's radio show. By 17, Leachman had joined the Kendall Community Playhouse; a year later the aspiring actress headed to Northwestern University on a drama scholarship. At 20, Leachman entered a local beauty pageant on a lark and made it all the way to the Miss America finals.
Leachman lost the beauty contest, but not her love of the spotlight. She headed for New York City and was recruited for the prestigious Actors Studio. Determined not to be typecast as a beauty queen, she tackled a smorgasbord of parts. In 1952, the starlet fell for aspiring director George Englund; the couple married in 1953 after Leachman discovered she was pregnant. Although Englund would have several affairs, the couple stayed together for many years and had four more children. Ignoring the traditional 1950sRead More
Vicki Lawrence: Mama's Got a Brand-new Bag
Vicki Lawrence was born on March 26, 1949, in Inglewood, California. Although Lawrence was an extremely introverted girl, her mother, who had once dreamed of becoming a professional singer, encouraged her daughter to pursue the limelight. So a teenage Lawrence entered a Miss Fireball talent contest. A reporter covering the event compared her to Carol Burnett. Lawrence later sent Burnett a fan letter with the article, and, to her surprise, the legendary performer looked her up. At age 18, Lawrence was plucked out of high school in order to join ""The Carol Burnett Show."" For years, she had only a minimal role on the show because she was too intimidated to talk. But otherwise, Lawrence's life was blossoming; in 1972, she married singer-songwriter Bobby Russell. A year later she recorded his song ""The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."" The tune went on to become a number one hit on the Billboard charts. In 1974, Lawrence, then 25, finally fouRead More
Tracey Gold: No More Growing Pains
Tracey Gold was born in New York City and was raised by her mom, an ad executive, and her stepfather, an actor. As a child, Gold tagged along to one of her stepfather's auditions for a Pepsi commercial and, much to his surprise, the little girl was cast instead. By age six, Gold was regularly appearing in print ads, TV shows and movies. Entering adolescence while in the spotlight wasn't easy for the young actress; by the time she was 12, Gold began obsessing over her weight and eventually succumbed to the early stages of anorexia.
In 1984, the 16-year-old Gold landed her big break: a role on the TV sitcom ""Growing Pains,"" about a quirky family raised by a stay-at-home dad and a working mom. The show's popularity skyrocketed, but Gold's personal life was about to plummet. After several seasons of shooting the hit series, Gold, then 19 years old, began to put on weight; fat jokes subsequently began appearing in the scripts. When producers asked her toRead More
Penny Marshall: Directing Diva
Penny Marshall was born in the Bronx, New York. Her mother, a dance teacher, taught her to tap and recruited the youngster into a dance troupe that performed on TV. But Marshall's mother also constantly criticized the young girl about her unglamorous appearance, contributing to her decision to move far afield after high school, to the University of New Mexico. In her junior year at college, Marshall got pregnant by her boyfriend, Mickey Henry; she dropped out of school and the two got married. Their daughter, Tracy, was born in July 1964. Unfortunately, the young couple's marriage crumbled just two years later.
Soon after, Marshall tried her hand at acting as part of the Albuquerque Light Opera. In 1967, at the age of 24, she headed to Los Angeles to visit her brother, Gary, a comedy writer. With his encouragement, she enrolled in an acting class. Although she had trouble landing parts, Marshall did get lucky in love: She married rising star Rob Reiner iRead More
Alyssa Milano: Child-Star Survivor
Alyssa Milano was born on December 19, 1972, in Brooklyn. She was bitten by the acting bug at the early age of seven, after seeing a Broadway production of ""Annie."" When she accompanied a family friend to an audition for the touring company of ""Annie"" shortly thereafter, she landed the role instead of her friend. Other plays soon followed, as did her first film role in the 1984 movie ""Old Enough.""
That same year, 12-year-old Milano auditioned to play actor Tony Danza's daughter, tomboy Samantha ""Sam"" Micelli, on a new sitcom called ""Who's the Boss?"" Audiences immediately took to the show and to Milano; before long, her work on TV and in film became popular overseas. She tried her hand at music, landing a five-album deal in Japan, where her 1989 debut record reached platinum.
In 1992, ""Who's the Boss?"" went off the air, and Milano faced the daunting task of transitioning from child star to adult actress. At first she found it difficult to get good rolRead More
Linda Lavin: Hardworking Woman
Linda Lavin was born on October 15, 1937, in Portland, Maine. She took to singing almost from birth, but her love of music couldn't mask the insecurity she felt as a child. Fortunately, she found confidence during her teenage years, when she began performing in community theater. After high school, Lavin headed to the prestigious College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, to study acting.
In 1959, she followed her dreams to New York City, and it wasn't long before she scored a part in the Broadway play ""Family Affair."" She continued working on Broadway and in 1969, she earned her first Tony Award nomination for Neil Simon's ""The Last of the Red Hot Lovers."" She blossomed personally, too, finding love with fellow actor Ron Leibman. The couple married in 1968 and eventually moved to Los Angeles. There, Lavin was repeatedly told she didn't have the ""leading lady look""; bigger acting roles â€” especially on TV â€” were scarce.
But Lavin's dry spell dRead More
Florence Henderson: America's Favorite Mom
Florence Henderson was born on February 14, 1934, in Dale, Indiana, the youngest of 10 children. The family was nearly destitute during the Great Depression, but Henderson managed to keep her relatives' spirits up and even sang at the local grocery in exchange for food. When she was 12, her mother left home. The young Henderson escaped from some of her emotional turmoil with a sponsorship to St. Francis Academy, a private school in Kentucky, where she blossomed as a performer.
After graduation, the aspiring actress headed for the Big Apple to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on a scholarship. In 1952, the 18-year-old nabbed the lead in the national production of ""Oklahoma."" Two years later she landed the musical ""Fanny"" on Broadway. She also captured the heart of young casting director Ira Bernstein. They married in 1956 and welcomed daughter Barbara less than a year later. In 1959, Henderson segued to television as a Today Girl oRead More
Laura Bush: National Role Model
Laura Bush (nÃ©e Welch) was born in Midland, Texas. Her charismatic father was a successful entrepreneur and homebuilder; her mother possessed a passion for reading that she passed on to her only child. By second grade, the young girl had already chosen her future calling â€” to be a teacher â€” and she followed through on that decision when she attended Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, to study elementary education.
In 1968, the college grad began teaching second grade throughout Texas. She wanted to make her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, so she asked to be placed at schools in impoverished areas. After five years at the blackboard, she earned a master's degree at the University of Texas and became a librarian.
In 1977, the young professional attended a barbecue hosted by close friends. There she met George W. Bush, a congressional hopeful at the time. The connection was immediate; just three months later, the two were married. After tRead More
Constance Marie: Barrier Breaker
Constance Marie was born on September 9, 1965, in East Los Angeles. Her family struggled financially and moved frequently before settling in West Hollywood. Her parents divorced when she was just five years old, causing her to suffer from low self-esteem and abandonment issues. Growing up as a young Latina in a predominantly white neighborhood only heightened her emotional problems.
In high school, Constance Marie enrolled in drama class but floundered onstage because of her shyness. She came out of her shell, however, when she began dancing in the underground club scene. Unfortunately, it also led her down a path of drinking and drug experimentation. Shortly after she graduated from high school, her all-star moves caught the eye of singer-choreographer Toni Basil, who helped Constance Marie to become one of the dancers on a David Bowie concert tour. Soon she found herself dancing in music videos, commercials and the 1988 feature film ""Salsa."" At 23, sRead More
Peggy Fleming was born on July 27, 1948, in San Jose, California. She showed promise as an athlete from an early age, but it wasn't until a family trip to a skating rink in 1957 that Fleming found her passion: ice skating.
With her family's help, Fleming began training and competing at age 11. Her mother was especially involved and helped Fleming choose her coach and costumes. Tragedy struck when she was 12: Her coach and several ice skating champions died in a plane crash. Although the loss was devastating, in many ways, it opened the door for her as a competitor, and in 1964 she won at the U.S. Nationals. Fleming was only 15 at the time. Determined to remain at the top, she hired a new coach who helped her develop her legendary skating style. She also found love with college student and fellow skater Greg Jenkins.
In the late '60s, Fleming won numerous ice skating titles â€” her career was soaring. Amid the glory, however, she suffered a terrible loss when her father passed away at theRead More
Sheryl Crow In Tune With Herself
Sheryl Crow was born on February 11, 1962, in Kennett, Missouri. While growing up she took to activities such as working on her school yearbook, being a drum major and acting, but music was always at the forefront â€” something Crow attributes to her parents, musicians who were active in a swing band. At age 18, Crow enrolled at the University of Missouri to become a music teacher; she began performing in a cover band on the side.
After graduating from college, Crow taught music in St. Louis. It was then that she was hired to sing a national commercial for McDonald's, which invigorated her rock-star dreams. She headed to Los Angeles and quickly found studio work; her big break came in 1988, when she crashed an audition held by Michael Jackson. Soon she was singing backup for Jackson on his overseas tour.
Eighteen months later, Crow returned to Los Angeles, where her career floundered â€” and her depression was mounting. She tried to keep herself motivateRead More
Rosie O'Donnell: Can-Do Woman
Rosie O'Donnell was born on March 21, 1962, in Long Island, New York, one of five siblings. When she was only 11 years old, O'Donnell lost her mother to breast cancer. The outspoken youth found comfort by spending time with other family members and performing at school.
After graduating from high school, O'Donnell chose stand-up comedy over college, and her performances were a hit on ""Star Search."" After a short-lived role on TV's ""Gimme a Break,"" the performer landed other TV and film gigs. Her breakthrough project was the 1992 hit film ""A League of Their Own."" O'Donnell soon tackled new challenges, including motherhood and a successful run as a talk-show host; she adopted her son Parker in 1995 and launched ""The Rosie O'Donnell Show"" in 1996. In 1997, O'Donnell's program won its first Emmy Award and the star adopted her daughter Chelsea.
In 1998, O'Donnell's brother introduced her to TV executive Kelli Carpenter; the two women connected immediately. A yRead More
Dana Delany: Bold Beauty
New York Cityâ€“born Dana Delany inherited her father's passion for movies at an early age, and as a child she acted at home and in school shows. But the spunky preteen struggled emotionally during her parents' drawn-out divorce. At age 16, she decided to leave home to attend school, and she was one of a handful of women accepted into the first coed class at the prestigious Phillips Andover Academy. After graduating in 1974, the aspiring actress earned a drama degree from Wesleyan University.
After graduating, she moved back to New York and landed an agent and commercial gigs. In 1980, Delany faked an Irish accent to land her first big role, in the Broadway show ""The Life."" In 1981, she was cast on the popular soap ""As the World Turns,"" but she left after only a year. After a romance with actor Treat Williams ended, Delany packed her bags and headed for Los Angeles, where she landed a career-making stint on the blockbuster show ""Magnum P.I."" In 1988, she followeRead More
Mo'Nique: Full-Figured, Funny and Fabulous
Mo'Nique Imes was born on December 11, 1967, in Baltimore. As a child, she didn't let her large physique get in the way of being the most outrageous or outgoing. In fact, in school she was voted Most Popular and Best Dressed.
At age 17, Mo'Nique began working as a plus-size model and took to the limelight immediately. And when she got married at 20, tying the knot didn't dampen her appetite for fame. She got her wish after her brother dared her to hop onstage at a comedy club one night. The result? Mo'Nique brought down the house, and just one year later, she was performing at ""Showtime at the Apollo.""
However, Mo'Nique's home life wasn't going as smoothly. Her spouse turned violent, so she fled to Atlanta with their son Shalon. There, she did the comedy circuit rounds for several years. But in 1997, her luck drastically changed: She fell in love and remarried, and also landed a guest role on the sitcom ""Moesha."" Mo'Nique's over-the-top quipsRead More
Amy Brenneman: Queen of the Courtroom
Amy Frederica Brenneman was born on June 22, 1964, in New London, Connecticut. Her parents, both Harvard Law School graduates, were active in the legal field; by the time Brenneman was three years old, her mother had become a judge. While her parents worked, Brenneman kept busy by getting involved with her local children's theater group, which she performed with until she was a teenager. Then she attended college at her parents' alma mater, where she studied comparative religion and continued to act.
In 1986, Brenneman graduated from Harvard and continued to act in her college theater group, the Cornerstone Theater Company. She spent the next five years putting on plays in small towns across the country. In 1991, 26-year-old Brenneman moved to New York City, where she soon landed commercial gigs and sitcom work. Her big break came as a tough rookie on the cop drama ""NYPD Blue."" Brenneman's debut on the show caused some controversy because of her RRead More
Sarah McLachlan: Feminist Music Maven
Sarah McLachlan was born on January 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her love of singing was apparent early on: By age four, she was performing at her mother's tea parties, and by age eight she was enrolled at the Nova Scotia Royal Conservatory of Music. During McLachlan's awkward teen years, music proved to be a refuge, and she decided to further her passion by attending college at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. After just two years there, she was recruited by Nettwerk Records.
The 18-year-old struggled to write lyrics for her debut album; writer's block would be a challenge throughout her career. Her first CD, ""Touch,"" and its 1991 follow-up, ""Solace,"" found a small hard-core fan base, but it was her third album, ""Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,"" that went platinum and launched her into superstardom. Amid her growing fame, McLachlan fell for Ashwin Wood, her drummer. In 1997, the couple eloped. Later that year, she released the chart-busRead More
Nancy McKeon got a very early start in show business (she was a child model for years before she played Jo on ""The Facts of Life""), but has endured as a talented actress with a knack for portraying flawed women battling their personal demons. One of the stars of Lifetime's new cop show with a heart, ""The Division,"" McKeon is also a gifted writer, producer, director and, most importantly, friend.
At the ripe old age of three, she was signed with a modeling agency. The precocious little girl and her mother would shuttle from the family's suburban home in Queens to glitzy Manhattan, so that she could strike adorable poses for the Sears catalog and The New York Times. As McKeon grew, so did her resume. By age 10, she had appeared in dozens of commercials and a TV soap. But she owes her big break to her beloved big brother, Philip.
In 1977, Philip McKeon, then 12, was cast as Linda Lavin's son on the TV sitcom ""Alice."" The big-time gig meant the entire McKeon clan had to uproot itself and mRead More
LeAnn Rimes: Country's Youngest Megastar
LeAnn Rimes was born on August 28, 1982, in Flowood, Mississippi. Rimes' father, a part-time musician, passed on his love of singing to his daughter, who was regularly winning singing contests by age five. By the time she was eight, she was belting out the national anthem at professional sporting events such as Dallas Cowboys football games. This led to her being discovered by Bill Mack, a well-known Dallas DJ and songwriter. Mack asked Rimes to try out his song ""Blue,"" which he initially wrote for the legendary Patsy Cline, and the results wowed Mack and all who heard it. ""Blue"" soon became the young artist's signature tune and helped her land a contract with Curb Records in 1994. Rimes' first big album release, also titled ""Blue,"" earned her stardom â€” and two Grammy Awards.
At 14, Rimes had an even bigger follow-up, ""How Do I Live?"" which became the longest-running single in Billboard chart history. But then two years of constant performing,Read More
Ashanti: An Unstoppable Force
Ashanti was born on October 13, 1980, in Glen Cove, New York. She inherited a zest for music from her mother, a former dance teacher, and her father, a former singer. Growing up, she took dance lessons and joined the church choir; by the time she hit puberty, her mom was sending out demo tapes of her daughter's vocal talents, which led to a record deal with Jive Records in 1994. Unfortunately, this relationship soured when Jive tried to make the soulful singing teen into a run-of-the-mill pop star.
Ashanti regrouped by throwing herself into schoolwork and running on her school's track team, which earned her an athletic scholarship to Princeton. But she put college pursuits aside when Epic Records came calling with a contract in 1998. However, the label's management changes quickly left Ashanti out in the cold. Undaunted, she continued to croon at local New York clubs and began hanging out at the Murder Inc. recording studio, hoping for another big break.Read More
Bonnie Hunt: Never Say Quit
Bonnie Hunt was born on September 22, 1964, in Chicago. One of seven children, Hunt loved hamming it up by telling funny stories and putting on plays with her siblings. In high school, she found a far different passion â€” medicine â€” while working as a nurse's aide, which led her to pursue a career as a nurse. But she satisfied her craving for the spotlight by doing stand-up in comedy clubs at night.
Hunt was soon recruited into the well-known Second City comedy troupe. Her personal life was blossoming, too, and in July 1988, she married investment banker John Murphy. Shortly after, Hunt took a leap of faith and headed to California with stardom on the brain. Her first big break happened quickly in 1990, with the TV show ""Grand."" Unfortunately, the show was short-lived, the first of four failed sitcoms for the actress, including two that she created.
Hunt had better luck on the big screen, with roles in ""Jerry Maguire"" and ""The Green Mile,"" as well as a stintRead More
Stockard Channing: Totally Transformed
Stockard Channing was born on February 13, 1944, in New York City, to an extremely affluent family. Her prim-and-proper upbringing included years at boarding school, and she attended the prestigious Radcliffe College. At age 19, the freshman married Harvard graduate student Walter Channing. Through her husband, she met the director of the Harvard production of ""Three Penny Opera,"" who cast Channing, an acting novice, in a leading role. That was how Channing caught the theater bug.
In 1967, she and Walter divorced. A few years later, she headed for Broadway. A 1971 chorus part in ""Two Gentlemen of Verona"" led to TV roles and a part in the feature film ""The Fortune,"" co-starring Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson. Unfortunately, the movie and Channing's follow-ups fizzled at the box office. Her five-year career slump finally ended when the thirtysomething portrayed 17-year-old bad girl Rizzo in the movie musical ""Grease,"" which became a cinema classiRead More
Donna Summer: Disco Diva
Donna Summer was born in Boston on December 31, 1948. Her family lived in a dangerous part of the city; when she was a young girl, Summer was shot by a stray bullet that scarred her both physically and emotionally.
At eight years old, she turned to music and the church choir to build up her self-esteem. By her teen years she was fronting the local band The Crow. In 1968, an RCA executive offered her group a record deal, but she left the band to perform the lead role in the German production of ""Hair."" Other musicals followed, and so did a marriage to her co-star, Helmut Sommer, in 1972. In 1974, she gave birth to daughter Mimi.
The marriage was short-lived, and the suddenly single mom turned to singing studio backup vocals to pay the bills. In 1975, her collaboration on the hit disco song ""Love to Love You Baby"" transformed the shy woman into a sex symbol and international icon. But the grueling pace of touring left Summer despondent and suicidal. After beingRead More
Leah Remini: Queens Bee
Leah Remini was born on June 15, 1970, in Brooklyn. As a child, she and her sister would put on shows for her family. Even though her first official audition, a tryout for the Broadway musical ""Annie,"" didn't go swimmingly, it only further fueled her acting dreams.
Following her mother's second divorce, Remini's family moved to Hollywood. The tough New York teen struggled to fit in at her new school. Despite her mother's protests, the 14-year-old dropped out and spent the next three years working dead-end jobs and auditioning. In 1989, she got her big break when she was cast as a streetwise model on the show ""Living Dolls."" Unfortunately, the series lasted less than one season. A determined Remini went on to land recurring roles on ""Saved by the Bell"" and other TV series. Her tenaciousness finally paid off when, at age 28, she nabbed the part of the secretary wife of a truck driver on the show ""King of Queens,"" which debuted in 1998. Her chemistry with co-starRead More
Molly Shannon: Queen Of Quirky
Molly Shannon was born on September 16, 1964, in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Her happy youth was marred by tragedy when her mother, sister and cousin were killed in a car accident in 1969. The constant support of Shannon's free-spirited father helped her to cope, as did a budding passion and talent for comedy and performing.
Her knack for improv comedy led Shannon to study acting at New York University, and she moved to Hollywood after graduating. There, she waited tables and auditioned for nearly 10 years, with little success. Determined, the aspiring actress decided to be more proactive and created her own venue with Rob Muir, a fellow improv actor; it was called ""The Rob and Molly Show."" Her initiative paid off when a talent scout from ""Saturday Night Live"" caught the program and recruited Shannon for the legendary sketch comedy show.
Her portrayal of zany characters quickly made Shannon a hit on SNL. Particularly popular was her armpit-sniffing, sexually cRead More
Missy Elliott: Song of Strength
Missy Elliott was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on July 1, 1971. Her childhood was traumatic: Her father violently abused her mother, and for several years, Elliott was sexually molested by a cousin. She found comfort in writing and singing music. Thankfully, when she was 13, she and her mother left her father. Though they barely scraped by financially, Elliott continued to find joy in creating music, even winning numerous local talent contents.
As a young adult, Elliott formed the girl band Sista and landed an Elektra Records deal. When the group's album was permanently shelved, the determined artist gained her big breaks elsewhere, with work on Aaliyah's ""One in a Million"" and Gina Thompson's ""This Thing You Do."" She soon launched her own label, Gold Mind, and went on to write, produce and perform on her breakthrough 1997 album ""Supa Dupa Fly"" and in the accompanying groundbreaking videos. Just a few years later she earned a Grammy Award for the songRead More
Dionne Warwick: Speaking Volumes
Dionne Warwick was born on December 12, 1941, in East Orange, New Jersey. Her household was filled with music, and as a girl, she joined her church choir. By the time she entered her teens, Warwick was appearing on TV as part of another gospel choir. Before long, she was performing as a backup singer for the likes of Dinah Washington and Ray Charles.
In 1962, the 21-year-old began churning out international hits, such as ""Don't Make Me Over,"" by pairing up with powerhouse songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In 1963, she fell in love with drummer-turned-actor Bill Elliot; the volatile pair married and divorced twice over a 12-year period. While the singer's personal life was shaky professionally, the chart-busters she wrote with Bacharach and David kept coming, as did her first Grammy Award, for ""Do You Know the Way to San Jose?"" in 1968. Warwick made her screen debut in 1969 opposite Ozzie Davis in ""Slaves."" After filming wrapped, she gave birthRead More