This afternoon I enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of seeing Shirley MacLaine in person for her onstage life review and chat. The setting was simple—a comfortable, cushioned chair on a rug with a side table. A screen hung behind the chair to take us down a pictorial memory lane with the 79-year-old actress, movie star, political activist, author, and metaphysician.
What a life she has led. Born in Virginia to loving parents, growing up with brother Warren Beatty, she danced her way quickly to Broadway. Her life soon copied a 42nd Street plot where the understudy becomes the star. Hollywood grabbed her. Alfred Hitchcock starred 19-year-old Shirley in
The Trouble with Harry and her film career is still going strong sixty years later.
There were the expected photos of Sammy, Dean, Frank, Jerry, and Liza from the Rat Pack, glitzy years. Shirley MacLaine has pursued so much more than celebrity. She had hopes and dreams for the direction of the country. She gave two years of her life to the George McGovern presidential campaign. But, America went down the road to Watergate, instead. She took a team of American women behind the bamboo curtain of what we still called Red China back then.
Probably, the longest lasting legacy MacLaine will leave behind will be her exploration of metaphysical and paranormal realms. Personally, I remember being fascinated by Don’t Fall off the Mountain in college. Later, while living in the Bible Belt, I secretly read Out on a Limb, which featured her spiritual awakening in Peru. Her public embracing of reincarnation made her the butt of late night talk show jokes, but Shirley continued her course, undaunted.
Today, as audience members lined up to ask her questions, it became clear they were more interested about her ideas on spirituality than her memories of Sinatra. Ultimately, she came across as a very smart lady. Being a famous actress has been her allowed her to globe trot and exchange ideas with many of the greatest minds of our time. She is curious, thoughtful, and always learning. For years she has recorded interviews with scientists, spiritual leaders, military experts and health advisors for her website ShirleyMacLaine.com . A wealth of information is available on her site.
Talent, brains, grace and wisdom, Shirley MacLaine is the whole package and certainly an inspiration to keep growing, laughing and loving.