A conversation with Linda Gray
August 27, 2015
Interviewed by Josh Eilberg and Melanie Joy for Ultimate Dallas
Transcription and introduction by Melanie Joy
I’ve worked with Ultimate Dallas for a couple of years now transcribing interviews with the stars. When you hear the same questions about “Dallas” being asked by people for years and years, you want to add a little variety. I’ve wanted to do an interview with Linda Gray in a different format for quite a while now. A few days ago, I got the chance. I wanted to make it more like a conversation—as if I was sitting across from her at a table and we were casually chatting over coffee.
I’m not a professional journalist or blogger by any means. I’m just an average American woman with a job and a few hobbies.
Fortunately, Linda is also an average American woman with a job and a few hobbies as well—she’s just in an entirely different occupation. Her memoirs, titled “The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction” is due to be released on September 8th. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy to sink my teeth into. I had it read from cover-to-cover in three hours. I’ve always been a fast reader, but that should tell you something about how good it was.
Linda Gray isn’t just an actress who played on a famous TV show. She’s a mother and a grandmother. She spent 20 years being a wife. When I say she’s been through it all like the rest of us, I’m not lying. She really has. I couldn’t wait to talk to her about her book, and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it. Enjoy!!
MELANIE: First of all, Linda, you are amazing, your book is amazing. I recommend that everybody needs to have a copy because you really do have something for everybody in your book.
LINDA: You read the book?
MELANIE: Yes, we both did.
LINDA: Yay! You both read it? I’m just very excited because it was just Jeffrey and I who had read it. Now to hear that somebody actually read it—it just makes my heart happy. And that you liked it!
MELANIE: It’s phenomenal! I’m not just saying that.
JOSH: Okay Melanie, go ahead.
MELANIE: Oh gosh, where do I start? I mean, it’s just phenomenal. Everything you’ve been through in your life is so relatable to the average jills and joes of the world. What you went through with your sister—I lost my grandmother to breast cancer. Your relationship with Kehly when she was a teenager—just like me and my mom! All these big things.
JOSH: Most biographies seem to go chronologically. You came up with a very interesting format where each chapter was like a life lesson. I know you’re speaking mostly to women, but it really just pertains to the human population in general.
LINDA: Thank you! Well, when I started, I thought that it was an honor to be invited to write your memoirs, and then I thought “what am I going to write about? I don’t have the Hollywood kiss-and-tell stories so who’s going to want to read my story? I just started writing because I thought I’ve had an interesting road like all of us have had. Everybody. Like you, Melanie, with your grandmother and your mother. I think teenage girls and their mothers are like nightmares.
MELANIE: There was a phone call about three years ago when I called my mom and told her that I was sorry for the way I acted as a teenager and that she and my dad were right about everything.
LINDA: You know, I bless you because a lot of girls still will just defend themselves, you know “well, I didn’t do that and I wasn’t that big of a problem. But they all were and when teenagers hit that hormonal craziness and then the mothers sometimes are going through menopause it’s like “oh my God….God messed up a little bit with the timing, like how did this happen? Mom’s going through menopause, you’re going through the teenage horrible things, and it’s not pretty. But, everybody has been through it. We’ve been through tragedies, deaths, divorces, raising kids, and doing all this stuff on so many levels. I didn’t want it to be chronological. I didn’t want it to be just one big tragedy and sadness after the other. Life isn’t like that. We’re all complicated and we all have stories. If I read your story, I’d be fascinated. If I read Josh’s story, I’d be fascinated. We all have a story, everybody has one. If the human population would take a breath from their own little ego running around and see that we’ve all got a story. You lost your dog, your grandma, your best friend, but you’re on the planet so how are we going to get through this stuff? I chose to sort of sum up every chapter by having an uplifting at the end. I felt that at my age, I’d been through it all and in hindsight I can look back and these are the wisdom notes that I feel were important to share—the things that happen when you get to be my age. You look and you go “you know what? You were a teenager. We all go through that. Grandmothers do die. We’ve all been there.” You realize that if you drop judgment and criticism and all this nonsense that we do that life is so much sweeter and lighter. You don’t carry around these burdens like this big heavy backpack filled with rocks. You just are lighter in life. That’s the stuff I wanted to share.
MELANIE: It radiates through you. I was telling Josh about this before you joined the call. I went to an event you came to in Charlotte, North Carolina last year. During one of the intermissions, a lady approached me in the lobby and struck up a conversation with me. She said “I was so excited to meet Linda Gray. I think she’s absolutely fascinating and so real in person.” I said “I know! She’s just got that quality. I don’t know how to describe it, just charismatic and positive.” She said “You know, I can definitely tell that Linda is good with the Lord. Very spiritual.” And I said “Yes, I think so.” It just shines right through you. I’m not trying to be all flattering, but it does, you’re one of those people.
LINDA: I so appreciate what you’ve said. I think when you’ve accepted that spirituality is part of you—I’m talking about me personally—that’s part of me; part of who I am. In the book when I said that when my feet touch the ground in the morning I say “thank you” and my gratitude walk, I think of all of those little things that seem so small. They develop and they grow and that’s part of who you are. It’s ingrained in you. It gets to be on a cellular level. You don’t think about and say “oh, I’m a religious person” or “I’m a spiritual person.” You just are. It isn’t like “oh, I’m a Buddhist and these guys are wrong because….” It isn’t that. It’s higher than that. It’s bigger than that. If you just look at life, you realize that it has been given to us—all of us. How did that happen? How did we all get here? How did the fingernails and the eyelashes know where to go? It’s like there’s some magical mystical universal force. Whatever anybody calls it—God, the universe, the creator, whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. I just absolutely stop for a moment and say “thank you. I’m here.” That’s why I think it’s essential for people to say “thank you, I’m on the planet. Now what am I going to do? What do you want me to do?” I feel that it would be—again, I’m using that word—a sweeter world if we just took that moment to say “thanks”. I know it maybe sounds corny but I don’t care anymore.
MELANIE: It doesn’t sound corny at all. Even mentioning my grandmothers earlier—growing up, I was in a world kind of like a cross between and pessimism and kind of like what you grew up in—you know, “well, we just won’t talk about it; it doesn’t exist if we don’t talk about it.” It was kind of a weird balance. I grew up on a property where both of my grandmothers lived next door—one on each side. Josh has been to my parents’ house. Can you imagine growing up with that?
LINDA: Part of it, you know, because I travel so much in developing countries, all the grandmas, the aunts, everybody is there in the community. They all hang out. The thing that was fascinating to me was that that’s a fabulous way to grow up. You didn’t need babysitters.
MELANIE: Not at all. I never went to daycare! I think talking to you is a refreshing change for me and I want to just hang on to every word because all I heard growing up was “oh, it’ll never get any better, woe is me.” And then here you come—this lady who is about the same age but takes care of herself and is just so positive. It’s like “wow, what have I been missing out on?” I’m trying to steer my parents into thinking that way like “okay, it’s not going to be so bad”. I just feel as a woman, as a fan, as somebody who has read your book I’m just going to tell everybody that they need to read it. It’s inspiring, honestly. I know I’m gushing here but it’s true.
LINDA: Oh no no, you’re not gushing. You’re making me just feel so wonderful. Honestly, I just appreciate you because—again, not many people have read the book. When I turned it over, I said “okay, here you go, I hope somebody reads it and likes it. You never know! And then to hear your lovely comments really means so much to me and I can’t thank you enough.
MELANIE: Absolutely! I also thought that you’re very open about a lot of things—aging, sexuality, the fact the women are way too hard on themselves. You’ve been in the Hollywood spotlight. Everybody’s fashion-conscious, label-conscious, everybody cares what size you are. It’s hard growing up as a girl being subjected to all that. I can’t imagine going through all of that in the spotlight. I commend you for that. What I think a lot of girls don’t realize is that you have to pay for those designer brands yourself. That’s when you start shopping the clearance rack.
LINDA: You shift your focus because you realize that it’s you they want to talk to. It’s not your clothes. It’s not about all of that stuff. The interesting thing is that I have a lot of very rich friends. They think nothing of buying all of that stuff. I have no problem saying “it’s not for me.” When I can afford something, I can do it. When I can’t afford it, I don’t do it. It’s just being comfortable in your own skin that allows you to not get sucked in to the things you can’t afford. I just don’t go shopping, period, end of story. See, I have a different focus now. As you get older, you don’t care about stuff like that. I mean, I always want to look nice but it’s not all about that designer stuff. It’s about other stuff to me.
MELANIE: I wish more people thought that way. It’s like how I went into Marshall’s one day and I saw some shoes by this designer—I shouldn’t say who it was—but I was like “my gosh, they’re making some really ugly things nowadays. Why?! I would not wear those. Why are they $50? Yuck!”
LINDA: (laughing) Exactly!
MELANIE: At the same time I have friends who would say “Oh, I have to have those!”
LINDA: Right, because it’s so-and-so’s label. Ehhhh. No, no, no. It’s really silly and it messes you up because you spend $50 on some ugly thing that’s awful.
MELANIE: And then it breaks or the cat chews it.
LINDA: Yes! Exactly!
MELANIE: Another thing I really wanted to touch on before I let Josh take back over is that you’ve been doing the clean, healthy living thing for the past several decades before it really caught on. I think that’s amazing. All of that information is at our fingertips now and you actually had to go to the library and research. It’s hard when you’ve grown up on processed food and then all of a sudden you’re like “wow, this is all junk and really need to start eating better.” You give some great advice on how to do that and how to “mellow out”. I thought you made a good point about how we can prevent so many diseases by simply changing what you eat and how much you exercise. Even though there’s so much readily available information about how to stop some of these conditions (like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes), why do you think these things are still so prevalent in 2015? Are we just accustomed to convenience?
LINDA: Well, I think technology is miraculous. I mess up a lot of times and I get mad and I yell at it but most of the time I think it’s fantastic. The information out there—you can find out anything. I feel that now with the technology, it has allowed people to go “wow, I can find out about this stuff!” A lot of times—and I have to say this as well—you get absolutely tripped up by the fact that you know what to do and people aren’t doing. It’s like “why is obesity so huge in our country?” It’s prevalent everywhere. If people would take a look—like in England, they’re obsessed with skincare. They’re always asking me “well, have you done botox?” and “what else do you do?” I said “no, you’ve got it all wrong. You have to turn your body inside out.” I’m like a little curiosity creature. I like to delve into it and find out what it is. I found this doctor in Los Angeles and he works with hormones. We all have hormones and most of the time they’re out of balance. My whole thing is that you don’t start on the outside. You don’t put $9,000 worth of product on your skin. You go inside out. Find out what that spleen is doing, what the adrenals are doing, what they’re doing to mess up your skin. Go get a blood test to find out what food allergies you have. People are now just getting like “Ohh!” Instead of putting the $3,000 cream on your face, go find out what’s causing the skin problem or how come you’re not dewy and young-looking anymore. It’s nonsense. You’ve got to figure out first what’s inside. Then if people know, they get a teeny bit into “well, if I gave up that piece of cake at 4:00 in the afternoon with a cup of coffee, then maybe this might be something and why don’t I try it?” People aren’t there yet. They’ve got the information but they haven’t quite turned the corner to finding out exactly what to do. That’s what I get crazy about. It’s like “okay, just keep going, you’re doing great. Everybody’s doing great.” Just keep going and find out how to get through this.
JOSH: Wrapping up on the book, when can we expect the audio version?
LINDA: I think it should come out pretty close to the book itself. I haven’t gotten the actual release date yet. It doesn’t take as long to make as the actual book. That was great fun and I’ve never done that before in my life. They had invited me to read it and they said “we can also hire a professional to read it.” I said “Are you kidding me? I’m sorry, but nobody is reading this book but me!” They said “well, you’ve never done it before.” I said “I know, I’ve never done a lot of things before, but this is mine and I’m reading it.” I had the best time and worked with the nicest people. I think it’s going to be a ten hour book—if people just want to jump in their car and have a nice little road trip or something.
JOSH: Do you plan on doing a book tour?
LINDA: Yes, it’s kind of lumpish. We’ve got a lot in L.A. In mid-September I’m going up to the dot com people and giving the keynote speech up there. At the end of September I go to Chicago. In October I’m going to Austin for the book fair.
JOSH: You’ve been keeping busy acting with “Winterthorne” and “Significant Mother”.
LINDA: Oh, you’ve got to see that! I’m the funniest grandmother with the weirdest clothes and the weirdest hairdos. You’re just going to love it.
JOSH: “Wally’s Will” and “A Perfect Match”—how did you go about picking some of these new projects?
LINDA: It wasn’t about picking—I was cast in them. I was asked. Have you seen the trailer for “Wally’s Will”?
MELANIE: We saw pictures of you in the makeup and I was like “wait a minute. They had to put her in makeup to make her look older. Wow.”
LINDA: Yup! I had the wig and the makeup and it was not pretty. I didn’t even look in the mirror. I was just like “okay, shoot it. Get me out of this thing!”
JOSH: Are there any roles or people you want to work with on some type of bucket list for you at this point?
MELANIE: I just told Josh a little while ago that I think you would be amazing on “American Horror Story”.
MELANIE: Well, let me rephrase that. Doing something like what Jessica Lange does.
LINDA: This is horrible to say, but I’ve never seen it. I’ll put it on my list! You know what’s happening now is that there are so many good quality people coming into television with interesting concepts. It’s just fabulous now. To me, it always has been, but I feel it’s gotten up to another level.
JOSH: There’s comparisons with “Dallas” and “Blood and Oil” which is coming on in September. People are obviously still tweeting and targeting different places. Do you have anything to say to the fans that are still holding on to hope that someday, somewhere, in some form, there might be something with “Dallas” again? I know you mentioned at one point that you still think the property is viable. Would it surprise you if in the next little while someone wanted to do something like they did with “24” and just do a wrap-up season or a movie?
LINDA: Well, frankly what I feel was not done properly was the fact that they left everybody up in the air, hanging, wondering what was going on. I thought it was disrespectful to us, to the history of “Dallas” itself, and to the fans especially. I felt that we were treated badly. I felt that what they should’ve done was give us one more season and just say that it was the last season, that we’re wrapping everything up in a pretty little package with a ribbon on it. But they didn’t and that’s why I got mad. I thought it was inappropriate and disrespectful and I didn’t like it, but intellectually I understood. There was a change of command and they wanted to bring in their shows and get rid of the old shows. I understand that. But in my estimation, there needed to be someone at the top who said “just a second. Hold one a minute. Give them one more wrap-up season and then get rid of it.” But that didn’t happen. We could talk about this for hours but it didn’t happen and we just need to move on. That’s how strongly I feel about that. We just need to move on.
MELANIE: You just answered another question that a friend of mine asked me once. She and I were at an event with you several years ago and she turned to me and said “Do you think Linda ever gets mad about anything? Seriously?” Then I read your book and just heard you mention the way this last run of “Dallas” ended and there’s the answer. Yes, she does get mad.
LINDA: Yes, we all get mad.
JOSH: Well, there’s still the #SaveDallas fanbase out there with their tweet-a-thons.
LINDA: I know. Bless them. I’m so grateful. But you do come to a point where it’s out of our control and you just have to stop beating this thing and say “okay, this is what happened and we’re moving on. We’re not happy about it but hopefully something will change.” I don’t know how they’d get everybody back.
JOSH: I think fans waited 21 years and that feels like “well, never say never.”
MELANIE: I never saw that one coming. I don’t think anyone did.
JOSH: Any advice for the fans as we wrap up? Messages?
MELANIE: Advice, Josh? Advice?!
JOSH: Well, I always give you the last word.
LINDA: My advice is that I think everybody should read the book.
MELANIE: I agree.
LINDA: Thank you. (laughs) I think everyone should take a little quiet time and put down their devices—whatever they are—and go outside and take a little inventory on how they want they want their life to be. A lot of people blame—“well, my mother did this, and my father did that”—drop all that nonsense. What kind of life can you make? You can’t wait to win the lottery or become a millionaire. You’ve been given a life. Live it to the fullest. Do the best you can. Don’t be hard on yourself. Take a deep breath, and say thank you.
You can purchase Linda’s book at the following web address http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-Road-to-Happiness-Is-Always-Under-Construction/Linda-Gray/9781941393093
WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK SIGNED BY LINDA GRAY – VISIT https://www.facebook.com/dallastv
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