There were those who had seriously thought about locking down tickets for the New Friends New Life’s Wings luncheon on Friday, April 11, featuring Sally Field. But they got really busy and put it off. Major oops! By the time they tried to get a place, it was way too late. What a loss!
Because everyone in the Anatole’s Khmer Pavilion gained a new best friend forever in the diminutive, award-winning actress.
With more than 50 years under her waistband, Sally faced a new challenge — the VIP reception, where a legion of fans lined up around the Carpenter Ballroom and out into Atrium I for the patron party and a photo opp.
The big problem was Sally. Every photo opp became a sincere handshake and a beyond “howdy-do encounter.
[Editor’s note: In a time when Botox is facial soup du jour and plastic surgeons are on retainer, Sally is a beaut. Sure, she had gained 25 pounds for the role of Mary Lincoln in Lincoln, but on this day she was slim, trim and truly natural with a line here and there.]
Too soon the chimes gonged and the multitudes headed to the Khmer. Perhaps because of her size, Sally somehow managed to slip through the crowds pretty much unnoticed. Once at her table she explored her goody bag like any guest. She examined each of the Mary Kay hand products quizzically. Someone told her “that stuff really works.” She gave it all a second look.
While Sally was checking MK out, NFNL Board Chair Pat Schenkel arranged to have U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana photographed with Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Assistant Chief Deputy Debbie Foster.
Finally when everyone, including Honorary Co-Chairs Lee Ann White and Michael Fowler, Alan White, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, mother-daughter teams (Annette Simmons with Amy Simmons, Lana Andrews with Natalie McGuire), Robin Bagwell, Jan Osborn, Amara Durham, Nancy Best, Sharon McCutchin, Jimmie Westcott, Creighton Webb, Terry Van Willson, Dr. Hugh McClung, Pete Schenkel, Gail Turner, Laura McClung, was seated, Chief Brown gave the invocation, Luncheon Co-Chairs Pat McEvoy and Angela Nash welcomed all and NFNL Executive Director Katie Pedigo made a “Call to Action.”
After lunch was served, Pat and NFNL Advisory Board Chair Gerald Turner presented “Protect Her Awards” to Sgt. Byron Fassett, Nancy Ann Hunt and U.S. Attorney Saldaña.
Then Gary Cogill and Sally took their places on stage for a chat that focused on her career. It became apparent that Sally touched all the generations in the room. From the 1960’s Flying Nun, 1970’s Sybil and Norma Rae, 1980’s Places in the Heart, Murphy’s Romance and Steel Magnolias, 1990’s Mrs. Doubtfire and Forrest Gump and 21st century’s Lincoln.
During his introduction, Gary attributed only two Emmys to Sally, while she held up three fingers [Sybill in 1977, ER in 2001 and Brothers and Sisters in 2007] trying to silently correct him from her table. But he made up for it by having hunky KTVT sportscaster Babe Laufenberg drafted from the audience to escort her to the stage. To this she quipped, “I don’t ever recall being escorted by ‘babe’.”
Regardless, Gary did an excellent job of covering as many areas of interest as possible within the time restraints:
- The subject of Meryl Streep came up. Sally suggested that each award-winning actress had taken different roads to their places in Hollywood hierarchy. While Meryl had been studying acting at Vassar and the Yale School of Drama, Sally grew up in working-class family and on the little screen at the age of 19. Eventually she studied with Lee Strasberg and became a “method” actor.
- She told how during her early days doing TV sitcoms (Gidget in 1965 and The Flying Nun in 1967), it was indeed difficult for women to make the transition from TV to the big screen. Sure, there had been James Garner, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen, but for a female. . . really tough.
- Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias — Director Herbert Ross gave Julia rough treatment. The ensemble of veteran female actors including Sally, Shirley MacLaine and Dolly Parton warned him to “back off. He would then look at us before he would say anything to her.” According to Sally, “One time Dolly just got him.”
- Tom Hanks —She described working with Tom Hanks as the “wonderfulness of working with Tom Hanks and (director) Robert Zemeckis.” Throughout their working relationship, she had played his love interest (Punchline), as well as his mother (Forrest Gump) ranging from a young mom to an elderly one.
Getting the role of Mary Lincoln — It was the last question because of the length response, but no one regretted it one iota. She told in finite detail how over the years of preparing the movie, director Steven Spielberg had wanted her for the role of Abraham Lincoln’s wife. The original plan was for Liam Neeson to play the role of Lincoln. But the try-out reading missed the mark. Neeson had just lost his wife Natasha Richardson a month before and he was a “walking around zombie. We did the reading and you barely hear him. My heart was dying for him.” But as Sally said, “I ate him alive. But what can I tell you? He, consequently, dropped out of the film.” Time passed and Daniel Day Lewis was brought on board. Sally knew there would be problems. It was an age thing. Abraham Lincoln was 56 and Mary was 47 during the time period of the movie. When the movie was to be produced, Daniel was 55 and Sally was 65. Translation: Sally would have to be playing almost 20 years younger than she actually was. She fought for it saying, “I am Mary.” The first test had Steven apologetically calling Sally two days later and saying it just wasn’t going to work. However, the next morning he called her back saying he had thought about it and sent the tape to Daniel, who said he wanted me to meet her. It was decided she and Steven would meet in New York City “for coffee” with Daniel, who would be flying in from Ireland. Sally was willing to go anywhere to discuss the possibility. Then a call came in asking if Sally wanted to have hair and makeup people? Her response: “For coffee?” They said, “Oh, we didn’t tell you? We’re going to do a test.” According to Sally, “Daniel flew in from Ireland for the day because he felt that Steven needed to see him and I [sic] together on film.” When the test took place, she was seated in a high-back chair and Daniel was across the room among a group of “faceless people”. She sensed that “Daniel was heading toward me. I could sense people going away. And I slowly turned to look and there was my wonderful Mr. Lincoln ambling toward me with his hat and his beard and his totally whole demeanor. I didn’t rise until he was here standing next to me. I stood up and gave him my hand and he kissed it. I said, ‘Mr. Lincoln.’ He said, ‘Mother.’ That’s what they called each other. And I could feel a hush in the group of people . . . and I leaned my head into his chest and whispered “Thank you, thank you.” He kissed the top of my head and said, ‘My honor.’”
It was the perfect way to end a perfect lunch.