Houston’s “Angel”

August 1, 2005 by  
Filed under Edit

The day we visited, Jaclyn Smith was in Houston to make appearances with her new furniture line, Jaclyn Smith Home Collection by Largo International, at Fingers Furniture. She was also busy making a doctor’s appointment for a regular checkup for her mother, Margaret Ellen, who lives here; checking to be sure her son and daughter would get in from California in time to accompany her to Washington, D.C., where the Susan G. Komen Foundation was honoring her; and making decisions on upholstery swatches. Truth be told, this was not an unusual day – Jaclyn Smith is always busy.

I’ve known Jaclyn for a long time. Actually, we met when we did the play, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” together at the defunct Theatre Inc. And, people always ask, “Is she really that beautiful?” Or, “Is she really that sweet?” People, please: A resounding “yes” to both questions. This is a woman who has been named one of the most beautiful people in the world by Harper’s Bazaar, Us Weekly, TV Guide and People magazine (on two separate occasions). In addition, her philanthropic efforts are recognized and respected.

When Jaclyn left Houston for New York, her dream was to become a famous ballerina. But, it wasn’t long before a photographer spotted that face, and – voila – Jaclyn became the Breck shampoo model. Soon Hollywood beckoned, and acting assignments in such productions as “The Rookies,” “McCloud” and “Switch” came quickly. It was in 1976 that her wings spread, and she took flight as one of “Charlie’s Angels.” Jaclyn was, in fact, the only angel that stuck with the monster hit for the full run of the production.

Through the years, Jaclyn starred in so many well-received mini-series that she has often been called “The Queen of the Miniseries.” She received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of the first lady in “Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy,” which was one of the highest-rated made-for-TV films of all time. Having starred in more than 50 productions, such as “Rage of Angels,” “George Washington,” “Windmills of the Gods,” “The Bourne Identity” and her personal favorite, “Florence Nightingale,” Jaclyn received a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989. More recently, Jaclyn had a recurring role as District Attorney Vanessa Cavanaugh on the CBS drama, “The District,” and has made appearances on episodes of “Hope and Faith.”

In 1985, Jaclyn helped to pioneer the concept of a celebrity having his or her own brand, rather than just endorsing others. With her high visibility and recognition factored in as a great benefit, she joined Kmart to introduce her own Jaclyn Smith Collection, consisting of clothing and accessories. Today, celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Gwen Stefani, the Olsen twins, Donald Trump and Jessica Simpson have apparel lines. Twenty years have passed, and Women’s Wear Daily reported that Jaclyn’s line had the highest consumer awareness of any private label apparel brand in the country.

“Wow,” Jaclyn says, “We’ve been with Kmart 20 years, and, now, we’re No. 3 in mass-produced apparel, behind only Liz Claiborne and the Gap. They tell me that 100 million people have purchased my clothes or accessories. I’m so fortunate.”

A couple of years ago, I asked Jaclyn to participate in the Celebration of Hearts I was creating for the lobby of the new Texas Heart Institute. Her “yes” came immediately, and her finished creation came soon thereafter. The concept of the heart museum was to have people send me a heart that was representative of themselves in some way. Jaclyn chose to interweave exquisite fabrics (silks, velvets, damask, organza) into a tapestry heart that was beautifully mounted and framed. If you’re in the medical center, stop in – it’s right by the entrance. “I’ve had a passion for decorating all my life,” Jaclyn says as she laughs out loud. “My mother used to say she didn’t know anybody else who re-decorated their room as many times as I did. I think it started when I was about 10, or when I saw “Gone With the Wind.” I mean, just look at those velvet drapes, that staircase, the moldings, the fabrics, the canopy bed.

“We laughed about how I would study all the magazines, get excited about fringe, wall colors, art, accessories and Aubusson rugs before I knew what they were,” she adds. “I’ve collected antiques all my life. I’ve re-done every house I’ve lived in – changed roof lines, moved all the windows, re-structured all the architectural features. Through all my travels, my love – again, passion – has been to photograph interesting architecture, hardware, hardwoods, doors, wall treatments, everything pertaining to décor and design.”

She continues, “When Glenn Wakefield of Largo International, came to me with the notion of designing a furniture line, the prospect came at the perfect moment in my life. My children are in college. Largo is in Houston, where I am often because of my husband’s work and my mother lives here. I wanted to be sure that I would be involved in the designs, the concept of the ads, who goes to market, the whole shebang. If I were to be involved, I insisted on being an integral part of the program, just like I was when the Jaclyn Smith Collection of apparel was launched. What a great challenge and education it has been!”

Jaclyn Smith Home features traditional furniture, inspired from her own collections, wall coverings and home accents. The designs are from Largo International, Hickory Hill Furniture, King Koil and Kingsway Fabrics. A licensing agreement with Art and Frame Direct produces her exclusive line of décor accessories to complement her home furnishings.

“My dream is to become a whole home resource, where a person can get all their decorating needs at affordable prices – like, one-stop shopping,” she admits. “They can buy their furniture, mattress, bedding, rugs, lamps and accessories. And, of course, most people don’t get what they need all at one time. It’s a process, but this way they don’t take any chances, and they won’t need an interior designer. Everything is already coordinated, and they can buy a piece at a time. It makes life easier for everybody.”

Jaclyn’s husband, Dr. Bradley Allen, a pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon, has been practicing at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital for about a year. “We met in L.A. when he did surgery on my dad at UCLA Hospital,” she says. “Then Brad moved to Chicago, and we continued a relationship long distance for several years. Now, we’ve been married eight years.”

Her children are Gaston Anthony Richmond, who attends USC, and Spencer Margaret Richmond, who attends NYU. Their father is Jaclyn’s ex-husband, filmmaker Anthony Richmond.

Regarding her current acting career, she recently starred in the Hallmark production of “Ordinary Miracles” that premiered in May. “I’m so lucky that I continue to get scripts,” Jaclyn says. “A producer I’ve worked with in the past sent me a script from an Agatha Christie book that looks interesting, but with the furniture, I’m overwhelmed. You know how a movie can take you away from home for a month or much longer. Right now, I really want to concentrate on my family and this new venture.”

Yes, Gaston and Spencer Margaret arrived in time to accompany Jaclyn to Washington to see their mother accept the 2005 National Honorary Celebrity Survivor Award from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. In conjunction with the Komen National Race for the Cure, she was honored for her work in promoting awareness of breast cancer.

“One day I’m having my regular mammogram, and the doctor says, ‘Wait, I think we better check this lump,'” she reveals. “Whereas I said, ‘No, no, no, I’m packed to go to New York tomorrow.’ Whereupon he responded, ‘No, no, no, we’re going to check this lump.'”

“Well, yes, it turned out to be cancer, but, with surgery and radiation, I’m just fine,” she adds. “I tell everyone that will listen: Do your self-examination! Get your check-up! Don’t neglect yourself!”

Jaclyn is also involved with the American Heart Association and currently is planning to be involved in a fund-raising event for Memorial Hermann Hospital, where her husband practices. She is the permanent chairman for Ability First, an organization in Southern California that helps children with physical and developmental disabilities realize their full potential.

Concerning her beauty routine, she believes in “living clean – or as clean as possible,” as she puts it. “I believe in trying to eat low-fat, organic fruits and vegetables and trying to stay away from foods with preservatives and antibiotic. And, of course, I believe in exercise. I like Pilates, yoga and working out in the gym.” She doesn’t smoke or drink. I asked about the beauty book she wrote some years ago, and she said she would love to do another one, when time permits.

“?I think I live in a spiritual place,” she concludes. “I believe light attracts light. And, I’ve always told my kids: ‘Go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is. Go toward fear, ’cause if you don’t, it’ll bite you in the back! Do something you’re afraid to do every day! Go beyond yourself – live beyond yourself!’ I always have, and I’ve had a fabulous life. I love my work, but it is my family – my husband, my children and my mother – that is my top priority. It is my family that makes me happy and keeps me centered. I’m so fortunate, and I’m so very grateful every day.” H

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