by Janet I Martineau
Actress Morgan Fairchild, the porcelain blonde cast as a vile vixen in such television soaps as “Search for Tomorrow,” “Dallas,” “Flamingo Road” and “Falcon Crest,” was in her Texas childhood a “weird nerd science kid.”
Still is, at age 62. She has, over her adult years, appeared on “Nightline” and “Face the Nation” and spoken before the U.S. Congress and other groups about foreign policy, environmental concerns, global warming, virus outbreaks and the military.
|Morgan Fairchild, left, and her sister|
She told her Horizons Town Talk audience on Monday at the Horizons Conference Center that she was the first American celebrity to give a voice to AIDS/HIV as it became known; the first to legislate for more research money; the first to welcome in open arms AIDS-infected people when the rest of the world was afraid to touch them -- the last of which, she said, cost her friends because she visited AIDS hospice facilities and they were afraid she would transmit it to them.
“I cleared the way for other celebrities to come out and speak about AIDS. It takes one person with guts to make it safe for everyone else; to help ease the stigma. The lives I changed, saved, helped doing that is more important than my acting career.”
Her talk in Saginaw may have surprised many. Yes she mentioned her acting career with its long list of television and movie roles, but its was more a pep talk about learning to live happier lives.
Quoting Thoreau’s famed “lives of quiet desperation,” Fairchild used her hour speech to offer advice on how to deal with pessimistic thoughts and fears; how to write a better script with a happier ending by embracing fears, acknowledging them and moving on.
Thoreau, she said, also wrote that “each child begins the world anew.” To that she added, “And each of us has that capability every day we get up -- to shape the world for the better.”
Among her advice in brief: “Force yourself to be bold.” “Don’t let other people define your life with low expectations.” “You can always walk out on reality and create your own reality. I did.” “Putting yourself on the line is important -- but you also need know when to fight and when to accept.” “Learn to say no -- especially women.” “Be kind to each other ... some of what passes for humor today I find horrifying.” “There is no one in the world whose opinion is more important than your own.”
And perhaps most important of all, Fairchild stressed, “Don’t be jealous and envious of what someone else has or how they look or what they do. Appreciate the gifts God gave you. We don’t get to choose the gifts. Being jealous and angry stands in the way of each of us realizing our own gift.”
Fairchild often used her own life to illustrate those ideas on how to create your own happiness.
When she was in elementary school she was so shy she could not even read an oral book report in her class. So her mom enrolled her in an after-hours drama class. Her sister loved the class; Fairchild threw up. But when at the end she was cast in a play, cast as adult, she was hooked.
Divorced at age 22, with no degree, she left Texas for New York City and worked dinner theater roles. Her sister, meanwhile, enrolled in Juilliard.
Fairchild could not even land an agent (usually an absolute must for actors)....being told she was too elegant, too porcelain. She went to audition after audition after audition on her own and was rejected “but if I didn’t go, then I said no for them. I have a backbone of steel behind this blonde hair and blue eyes.”
And then, finally, a director hired her the day of an audition to play an evil sorority queen in the 1979 TV movie “The Initiation of Sarah.” She told him she would rather play another softer role and was told, “A good bitch is hard to find (cast). If the bad guy does not work then this movie does not work.”
The film scored high ratings “and set me on the road to witchdom.” She has, or course, played many non-bitch roles as well. Even got into tongue-in-cheek comedy parts -- an Emmy-nominated guest role on “Murphy Brown” and guesting also on “Roseanne,” “Cybil” and “Friends.”
As for her example of saying no, she says she said no to the Hollywood culture of sleeping around, drugs and parties long into the night.
Asked by an audience member what became of her sister who went to Juilliard to study acting. “She went to L.A. for while but found it too difficult to get acting work. So she teaches acting in Dallas -- to attorneys, sales people, children. She’s a great motivator. She loves what she is doing.”
Oh, and her name, Morgan Fairchild.
She was born Patsy McClenny but as a part of creating her own reality became Morgan Fairchild -- thanks to friends.
One had seen a 1966 movie called “Morgan,” about a man who lived in his fantasies, and told her “This is movie is you.”
And a second friend said, “You are a fair child.”
“I liked the sound of the two of them together. And by the way, Morgan is a guy’s name....so any girl today named Morgan is named after me.”