Live life from the inside out, don’t look at the scorecard. As Sydney Pollack wrote me in his own hand: “Keep pushing”. This business is a life-long journey, with no guarantees whatsoever.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Clay. Pamela is a singer-actress-writer and world-traveled Army brat who is fluent in French. Her first one-woman show was at JFK Center, first film role opposite Tommy Lee Jones, and first solo show in NY at Feinstein’s 54 Below . Currently residing in the Hollywood Hills, Pamela will appear in her acclaimed self-penned one-woman show “Forever Piaf!” at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in Studio City, California October 16, 2019.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
You are so welcome, it’s my great pleasure! I feel this career path to be my destiny. My mother found me cooing in the cradle before I could speak, and my first show was age five!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
On my very first film role, in which I played a nightclub singer “with a part-time job on the side!”, I was cast opposite Tommy Lee Jones, who apparently had not smiled since before I came onto the set. We had to spend a lot of time together as they were setting up shots, and by the end of our time together, it seemed that his mood had definitely shifted for the better, so much so that I found crew members who’d been working with him for weeks approached me, asking what I had done to make him smile. What did I do? I’m a good listener and keep an open mind and heart.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Gosh, it’s not really funny, but it sure was a big lesson for me! When I was a Freshman in college, I was cast in the starring role in all-original musical “Sun, Son” (which went on to win a BMI award), and I was late to rehearsal more than once. The director pulled me aside and told me if I was late again, he would replace me. Needless to say, I learned that being on time is crucial!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m excited about my self-penned upcoming one-woman show “Forever Piaf!” on Wednesday, October 16th at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in Studio City, CA in which I will I will be “taken over” by the late great French chanteuse, Edith Piaf, and will perform a concert “as Piaf”, singing in French and sharing poignant true-life tales in an authentic French accent.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Some of the most interesting people I have interacted with besides Tommy Lee Jones include the late great Sanford Meisner and Lou Rawls (who told me I’ve got one of the greatest voices he’d ever heard!), and well-known stars such as Mandy Patinkin, Nanette Fabray, William Christopher (MASH), Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, Jane Seymour, Mel Brooks, Ed Asner and more. When I worked with Ed Asner on independent feature CITIZENS UNITED, he played a corrupt billionaire CEO and I his wife. In one crucial “showdown scene”, they kept the cameras rolling as we improvised beyond the end of the scripted dialogue, and I was elated to find our improvisation was included in the final film. It was so much fun and deeply gratifying to “go to toe to toe in the moment” with such a well-known heavyweight, “holding my own” and all in a very ladylike manner, and then to realize it was “captured forevermore” (and I think better than was the scripted dialogue!).
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Love your life
- Practice the golden rule, and do whatever your hand finds to do with love!
- Keep faith in your dreams, and increase it daily
- Live life from the inside out, don’t look at the scorecard. As Sydney Pollack wrote me in his own hand: “Keep pushing”. This business is a life-long journey, with no guarantees whatsoever.
- Love your journey, and trust the destination will take care of itself.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would help people to have access to good water and to learn to grow their own food.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone had told me that talent is not enough. I’ve been blessed to have been born with talent, and to also have had that talent encouraged and shaped by such greats as Sanford Meisner. What I’ve had to learn is that this is a business and I’m a product. Talent is to be expected. Good business skills must be learned and implemented.
- I wish someone had told me to write my own show earlier. I finally wrote my own one-woman show about the life of late great French chanteuse Edith Piaf, and it has been highly acclaimed and deeply gratifying, as well as financially lucrative.
- I wish someone had taught me how important it is to learn confidence. Although I’m lucky to have been born talented, building my inner self-confidence is a work in progress.
- I wish someone had told me that “being perfect” isn’t possible. What is possible is to be “the best me”.
- I wish someone had told me that in spite of whatever I may plan, life unfolds “as it should”.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is from the preface of the 1939 play “In The Time of Your Life” by William Saroyan: “In the time of your life, live — so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or any life that your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away, Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue into whatever heart it may have been driven by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart….In the time of your life, live…so that in that wondrous time you shall add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”
I first read this when I was about sixteen years old, and typed it up on a small piece of paper I’ve kept with me ever since. For me it is a life credo to which I daily aspire. In other words, what really matters is what is inside of us, and what “we bring to the party”, and the best thing to always have enough of, for everyone and everything, is love.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There have been so many people who have helped me in my career. I was in the lucky group of “guinea pigs”, one of fifteen fortunate actors who were selected from thousands to be the first to study with Sanford Meisner on the island of Bequia in the Caribbean. He told me that most actors are “personalities”, whereas I may very well be in that 1% of actors who are true character actors, and that I’m able to hold my own with any actor anywhere. He also told me that his criteria for his selection process was whether that actor could be trusted or not, as he believed “acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances”. In other words, if you can’t be truthful in your life, how can you hope to be truthful in your acting?
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Oh gosh, so many to choose from! I’d love to have a private breakfast or lunch with the extraordinary Baz Luhrman. My dream would be that he would appreciate my talent, and then create the perfect vehicle for its expression.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
FaceBook pages include:
https://www.facebook.com/pamela.clay.bermudez (personal page)
https://www.facebook.com/Catahoula-193960727297779/ (my all-original New Orleans-flavored rock band)
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!
Thank you so very much for asking me!