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Charlie’s Angels star acting her age with optimism
Cheryl Ladd: Actress
BY PETER BOWES | DECEMBER 15, 2020 | 16:32 PT
Optimism, during this tumultuous year, has been in short supply. But as 2021 beckons, there is a real sense of hope that happier, healthier times are ahead. Cheryl Ladd, best known for her role in the 1970s detective series, Charlie’s Angels, is also emerging from a rollercoaster of a year. As well as dealing with the emotional challenges presented by Covid-19, for the first time in her life, the actress says she started to feel old. But it was the challenge of failing eyesight that motivated her to take on a new mission, encouraging others, with optimism and gratitude, to embrace the aging process. In this LLAMA podcast interview with Peter Bowes, the 69-year old explains why wellness matters; how she has overcome cataracts with new technology; her reluctance to retire and future aspirations in Hollywood.
Recorded: September 17th, 2020 | Read a transcript
Topics covered in this interview include:
- The rocket ship that was Charlie’s Angels and a 44-year career
- Mastering the process of growing old with optimism
- Dark times through isolation during the pandemic
- The healing power of a hug
- Appreciating what we have and expressing gratitude
- I’m 69-years old. How did this happen?
- Changing sleep patterns as we age.
- Appreciating what we have and expressing gratitude
- Dealing with eye cataracts and a fear of driving at night
- What is there to love about life and keep living for?
- Retirement or not?
- Being old and female in Hollywood.
- This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new product that helps fill in the financial gaps that are often created once you’ve mastered aging and achieved an exceptionally long life. Small monthly payments to AgeUp stack over time to create a secure income stream for your 90s and beyond. Contributions to AgeUp are shielded from market swings, and once payouts begin at age 91 or above, they’re guaranteed to last for life. AgeUp is backed by MassMutual and sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency. You can find out more at Age-Up.com
Cheryl Ladd: [00:00:03 ] To me, hugging is healing and genuine affection with people is so healing, and we have that with each other and to not be able to do that for all these months, it is distressing and it is tough to get through.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:20] Hello again, a very warm welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. I’m Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:31] “This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new financial product that provides guaranteed supplemental income for people who worry about the financial impact of longevity. To find out more, visit Age-Up.com.
[00:00:48] I think it’s fair to say that the events of this year have challenged the resolve of even the most committed of us to keep with the program, to use an expression. And by that I mean covid-19 coronavirus has turned all of our lives upside down in ways that we could never have imagined. And it’s been tough at times to focus on healthy living, because, to put it bluntly, the gloom and doom surrounding the virus has been so demotivating. Well, today we’re going to talk to someone who has made it her mission at the age of 69 to motivate others to survive these difficult times with optimism and also to take control of the aging process. You might remember her as one of Charlie’s Angels. The actress Cheryl Ladd was one of the stars of the 1970s detective series. She took over from Farrah Fawcett Majors when she left the show in 1977. Cheryl, welcome to the Live Long and Master aging podcast.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:01:45] Thank you, thank you for having me.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:47] It’s wonderful to talk to you. Unbelievably, isn’t it? 40 years since that show ended, this podcast talks a lot about the passage of time when the aging process just putting four decades into perspective into our lives is quite a challenge, isn’t it?
Cheryl Ladd: [00:02:03] Yeah, it’s a lot of water under the bridge now, that’s for sure.
Peter Bowes: [00:02:08] But it was a big part of your life, wasn’t it?
Cheryl Ladd: [00:01:10] Huge part, it was a rocket ship, I mean, it gave me a 44 year career having done that show and I’ve gotten to do a lot of films and television and lots and lots of wonderful things. I got to do Broadway. I was in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway. And yeah, it’s just so much of it stems from the success of that television show.
Peter Bowes: [00:02:31] And what’s interesting to me and the reason we’re talking to you today is the work that you’re doing right now and this mission that you say that you have to help people to navigate the difficult times that we’re going through now. But more generally, to perhaps I call the podcast Master Aging, to Master that process of of growing old.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:02:52] Well, it’s so important because I first of all, for most of my life, I’ve been an optimist, a total optimist, even in the roughest times I found my way through and tried to stay optimistic and tried not to feel like I had to control everything in my world and let things be, you know, as they say, those wonderful writers wrote, let it be. And it’s not that easy to do all the time, but it’s a great way to at least approach some things. And I just had an experience this year in my in my life about not feeling terribly optimistic, not just because of coronavirus, but because my eyesight was really deteriorating and it was becoming really problematic. And as I’ve always you know, I’ve been a go, go, go do do do. I was never nothing was really in my way for a long time. And then any any issue that I had, I had it taking care of. I you know, I took care of my diet, my exercise. I’ve kept this up my whole life and it has paid off and in spades. But this was something I couldn’t handle myself and my eyesight was deteriorating. I went to the doctor and he very cheerfully said, Oh, Cheryl, you have cataracts. I thought, why are you smiling? Aren’t cataracts old people, things that old people have? My grandparents had cataracts. He said cataracts can happen to anyone. It can start in your 40s or it can start in the 90s. But if we live long enough, we’re all going to have cataracts. So the wonderful thing about living in this day and age, though, is that we have options. And one of the great options I had was a tri focal lens called a PanOptix lens. And it was I was able to get that lens. And I promise you, first of all, I thought, oh, eye surgery, I’m not going to do this. But when I understood what the process was, it took it literally ten minutes and the recovery was very easy. But the surprising thing was that I felt like I was going from Kansas, like the movie from Kansas into Oz when someone turned the lights on in the world for me, I had no idea that my eyesight was so bad, except for the fact that I got afraid to drive at night. And that’s not my personality. I’m a go go do do person and I’ve always been that way, but I was really not comfortable driving at night and I thought, oh, is this going to be my life now? It was I just really couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was depressing.
Peter Bowes: [00:05:30] Well, I want to delve a little deeper into that experience with your eyesight, but you mentioned just now and just set a thought going in my mind that you are an optimist and I talk to a lot of scientists for this podcast and optimism is often defined as one of those personal attributes that will actually help us grow older better than it is, to some extent, your mindset about how you approach life.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:05:54] Think that’s definitely true, I mean, I had a mother that was, you know, Susie Sunshine. I mean, she wasn’t silly optimistic, but she was always, oh, honey, you can do it. Don’t say you can’t unless you try. And always she started with very little. You know, I was born soon after the war. I was born in 1951. And I was the second child of my parents. And my mother was constantly optimistic. And I think that gene passed on to me. But also the representation of who she was and the joy she brought to everyone in her world really affected me. And I thought, I want to be like that. I want that in my life. I want to help people. I want to be optimistic and help people be optimistic about the world because there’s so much wonder in the world and in it’s important.
Peter Bowes: [00:06:56] I mentioned in the introduction, obviously, we’re all living through this this crisis, this pandemic at the moment, and it isn’t always easy to be optimistic when we see all this and experience the doom and gloom around us. Have there been times in the last six months when you have had perhaps reason to question that optimism?
Cheryl Ladd: [00:07:05] Sure, definitely so. I mean, the idea of not being able to hug someone that I love is is we are people who want to connect and embracing another person is so healing. To me, hugging is healing and genuine affection with people is so healing. And we have that with each other. And to not be able to do that for all these months, it is distressing and it is tough to get through. But we I believe, you know, I pray and I believe and I know that I’m not in charge, which is also an optimistic thought sometimes because you can’t fix everything. You can’t make it go the right way all the time. You just also have to say, OK, tomorrow, literally tomorrow is another day and we’re going to get through this. The whole country, the whole world will get through. It will will get a vaccine, will we’ll get healthy again. I’m sorry for all the losses of life. It’s so painful. I think the most painful part of losing people during the pandemic is the fact that their loved ones couldn’t be with them. It’s just breaks my heart to think of it. And those are hard things to get over. But, you know, we just march on. We all the whole world has gone through wars and losses and terrible things have happened. But we always get through and we always have to trust that we will and try to remain optimistic.
Peter Bowes: [00:08:29] And I think something else that helps us get through and this applies to aging and longevity as well, is is pure gratitude for what we have. And I think times like this, when we see, and you’ve explained it well, what is happening in the world and how so many people are suffering very, very badly, it’s perhaps in a sense easier to appreciate what we have
Cheryl Ladd: [00:08:52] Yes,
Peter Bowes: [00:08:53] And what we have to be positive about.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:08:54] It’s so true to appreciate, I mean, sometimes, especially now that I have my my cataracts and my lenses put in, I sit in the backyard and like when I was a child, one of my favorite things to do when I was growing up in South Dakota, in farm country, I would lie in the grass and look at the bright blue skies and these gorgeous clouds rolling across and looking at faces and scenery. And it was a sort of connection I had with with God and with calming this. It always made me feel like I was in a happy place when I did that. And I do that here. I go out and my husband and I sit out in the backyard and we look at the beautiful clouds rolling by and and, you know, having someone to share it with is also such a gift, I feel, for the people that are alone in their apartments. And you know that I don’t have someone. It’s such a blessing to have not just my husband, but my little doggie and lots of movies and lots of fun. And my husband’s a fabulous cook. So I know every little thing that is mine that that it got as provided. I just feel very grateful for. And I think that’s right. I think gratitude is a is a huge helper in times of of difficulty to count your blessings. I mean, there was a song that said Count your blessings. And I and I play it in my head sometimes when I’m feeling a little down.
Peter Bowes: [00:10:22] In the introduction, I mentioned your age, and I always hesitate before doing that, mentioning a lady’s age, that not everyone appreciates that. Clearly this is a podcast about aging and it is something that we focus on all of my guests. Well, the vast majority, anyway, are quite happy to actually, in most cases, to embrace their age. And especially if, like you, you are healthy and you are still forward looking and you’re still optimistic. But I’m wondering, does age prey on your mind in any way? How do you approach that number?
Cheryl Ladd: [00:10:55] It’s just the number when I when I think of the number, I go, wow, I’m 69 years old. How did this happen? Because I in my being, I don’t know what 69 is supposed to feel like. I didn’t think I would feel this good and and be this excited about more life and grandchildren and all all the wonderful things. We’re about to have our fortieth wedding anniversary, my husband and I, and looking forward to that and having a chance to to go somewhere with our kids and and do all of those things. So Sixty-nine is just a number, but it’s a big one. And that’s okay.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:11:35] Maybe not quite as big as the next one.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:11:37] That’s correct. So you might as well just as you’re getting used to this one, then there’s the 70. And that’s OK too. I pray I get to be seventy.
Peter Bowes: [00:11:48] What strikes me about your lifestyle is and it would be interesting just to delve a little deeper. You’re clearly a very active person and
Cheryl Ladd: [00:11:54] Yes,
Peter Bowes: [00:11:55] Your your goal is these days you’re trying to motivate other people to to embrace that aging process. And certainly for me, activity and exercise comes – well, no one is sleep for me, but pretty high up there is exercise.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:12:08] Yes, getting a good sleep is so important, and we didn’t really think that when we were young because, you know, we went to sleep with I don’t know about you, but when I was a teenager, I could sleep for 12 hours straight if I if I wanted to. And as you get older, I think sleep is can be very difficult to find sometimes. So it is important to get good sleep and to be active. You know, my husband and I walk almost every day and I do Pilates and I do yoga with my daughters. And yeah, it’s it’s very important to stay active because I think that energy I’ve always had big energy and my poor parents, when they couldn’t find me, I was usually up at the top of a tree climbing the tree or doing doing some silly thing, building a fort with a you know, all my friends, I was always active. And it’s a it’s a good way for me to be because I just keep moving forward. And I think moving forward in many ways, in your mind and your heart. And as you said, I think what you said is so important to be very grateful for what it is you do have.
Peter Bowes: [00:13:16] So let’s talk about you mentioned at the beginning of the interview that the problem that you had with your eyesight, I’m just curious to know the emotions that went through your mind when you realized that there was a problem.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:13:27] It was a sort of gradual thing, I needed glasses, I couldn’t read as well, and then I needed better glasses. And and then one day I just thought, I just I can’t thread a needle. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. All the can’t do this started to happen. And it was really depressing. And I went to see the eye doctor. And when he told me I had cataracts, as I told you, I was like, but I just feel so grateful that we are in this day and age where these trifocal lens are available for us, because literally I have my 12 year old eyes back and they will be there for the rest of my life. It’s astonishing, all the breakthroughs, these PanOptix lenses are incredible and they’re new and they’re the only trifocal lenses available for us here in the United States. So that I just feel so grateful that I got to live this long. So I have this remedy and we need to count those blessings, too. There are a lot of breakthroughs going on.
Peter Bowes: [00:14:32] And of course, you’re not alone with this, some 25 million people in the United States suffer from cataracts as well. This is very common, isn’t it.
Peter Bowes: [00:14:40] It’s very common end, and the doctor said, if you live long enough, you will have cataracts and as I said, you can get them at 40, you can get them at 90.
Peter Bowes: [00:14:49] And I think what happened to you also highlights another very important issue, and that is that you simply went to the doctor. A lot of people I’m still surprised by the number of people who clearly have a problem but will resist getting medical attention for it.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:15:02] And you know, the idea at first, you know, the idea of having surgery on your eyes, it’s not one of those yay, I can’t wait to do that. Let’s face it, we don’t feel like that in ourselves when it happens. But I have to tell you the simplicity of it. It was a 10 minute surgery, an easy recovery period. There was nothing to it, really. And you get so much from it. It’s just incredible. The technology in every way, the doctors, the understanding these new lenses. I mean, we’re just really fortunate to live in this this day and age.
Peter Bowes: [00:15:37] And that’s what makes this whole issue fascinating to me, and I talk about science and I talk about aging and longevity from the perspective of personal stories like your own. But increasingly, it strikes me that this is all one big subject and that we need to embrace the the technology and the science. And I try on this podcast to explain the technology and science to people, because it can be scary for some people to, I think, get to a certain age and realize that you need to delve into something that maybe at one time in your life you would think would never happen to me.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:16:10] Yes, of course, of course, and when it happened to me, when I was losing my eye sight in and it was getting worse and worse and darker and darker, it was really hard to stay optimistic. It was like in my mind somewhere I thought, oh, I’m getting old. That was the first time in my life I felt like I was really getting old. And to have that not be in my existence anymore is just it’s so incredible and such a gift. Such a true gift.
Peter Bowes: [00:16:38] So one question I and you just reminded me of it when you said that that thought went through your mind, I’m getting old. Of course, the great goal of people listening to this podcast especially is to grow old and remain healthy as long as possible. And we talk about healthspan the number of years that we can enjoy optimum health healthspan as opposed to lifespan, which is simply the number of years that were alive. And our heart is beating, but we’re not necessarily in the best of health. So the the aspiration is a good healthspan when we can still be social and active and enjoy friends and family in that kind of thing. I’m curious in your perspective, as you look beyond your current age, maybe a decade in the future, what inspires you to want to keep doing all of those healthy things, the long walks with your husband, all those good things that we understand to live as as long as possible? So the question really is, what do you enjoy about life that you want to just keep on going with?
Cheryl Ladd: [00:17:33] I love everything about life, I like the sunrise, the sunset, the trees, the flowers, my friends, the children, the grandchildren, there’s so much to enjoy, movies, music to embrace, all of it. And and just because you can’t dance the way you used to still dance, just go dance. I have a very good friend whose mother is well into her 90s and she goes and dances now. She doesn’t dance the way she danced at 20, but she still feels the joy of the dance and the music and does it. And I think we all need to dance for as long as we possibly can.
Peter Bowes: [00:18:12] And it’s interesting that you say that I think what often strikes me is that older people who do actually get out and do something like that, it’s not just the physical, the physicality of doing it. It’s the social aspect. It’s being with your group of friends or your peers or maybe your younger friends as you get older. People tend to have more younger friends for obvious reasons. But but that in itself keeps you going.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:18:36] And laughter I’m sorry, I’m married to a really funny man. He has no idea how funny he is sometimes, but now he has a great sense of humor. He’s British, you know, so he’s got that real dry, amazing sense of humor. And he makes me laugh every day. And that is a gift as well.
Peter Bowes: [00:18:54] He’s got a good sense of irony then.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:18:55] Oh, yes, totally, he’s a goofball.
Peter Bowes: [00:18:59] And we’ll return to my conversation with Cheryl Ladd in less than a minute. You’re listening to the Live Long and master Aging podcast.“This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new product that helps fill in the financial gaps that are often created once you’ve mastered aging and achieved an exceptionally long life. Small monthly payments to AgeUp stack over time to create a secure income stream for your 90s and beyond. Contributions to AgeUp are shielded from market swings, and once payouts begin at age 91 or above, they’re guaranteed to last for life. AgeUp is backed by MassMutual and sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency. You can find out more at Age dash Up dot com.” Now let’s get to my conversation the actress Cheryl Ladd:
Peter Bowes: [00:19:50] We started talking, also referred to your career, obviously, with Charlie’s Angels, which is what to this day probably people will associate your name with. But a lot of, as you say, water under the bridge. Since then, we often talk about retirement on this podcast. And when comes the day, when are you going to say, okay, that is over, that’s a part of my life that I’m going to end now and move on in a different sort of chapter. Is retirement something that you have done, accepted or maybe plan never to do?
Cheryl Ladd: [00:20:18] Well, I keep working, so I love that, and while I can keep working as long as I can do my work and learn my lines and and I love acting and I love my craft, I’d like to keep doing it. And I never stop. I have a movie that will be out here on Lifetime, a Christmas movie called Christmas Unwrapped. It’ll be on October 24th. I do one or two projects a year. I don’t I don’t I’m not driven the way I used to be driven for. Oh, I need to get that part or I need to. But every once in a while something will come across that I really would like to do. And and I still love it. I still love my work. I think working is is really good. It’s challenging. It’s always challenging. You have to use all your wits and all your creativity and you get to work with a lot of witty, creative, wonderful people and make something that people enjoy watching.
Peter Bowes: [00:21:13] Is there something is there an aspect of your work that you still would like to achieve? Is there a goal? Is there something at the back of your mind that professionally you would still like to do?
Cheryl Ladd: [00:21:25] The older I get, the more I want to do more inspiring things, I’d like to play, you know, my age and my my characters and just and bring someone to life for someone that really go they see themselves in and say, oh, oh, yeah, I know how that feels. I know who that is. I know who that woman is. I’m that woman. I feel that I’m I would like to play inspiring women, but inspiring women that are just really in life, you know, and facing difficult things.
Peter Bowes: [00:22:00] And do you find that Hollywood is accommodating of that these days, the entertainment business obviously is changing rapidly and leaving aside what we’re going through at the moment with Covid and the difficulties of making anything at the moment, but it is in terms of female, older female roles.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:22:18] I think it’s getting much better. Yeah, there are a lot more female directors, female producers, but there are a lot of wonderful men who produce and direct, who adored their mothers, who adore their wives, who who want to tell women stories. I love that, too. I don’t think it’s strictly you have to just be with women to tell women stories. I think I think the whole us all working together. I’ve worked with women directors, women producers, loved every minute of it, worked with a lot of men most of my life for especially when I was starting my career. But yeah, I think I think we’re in a different place than we were in the 1970s. All of us have sort of grown and broadened our horizons. And yet there’s such a wonderful, wonderful distinction between men and women. And God bless making a difference because we don’t all want to be the same person. And I find my husband, after 40 years, still completely fascinating and completely un-understandable. I like, you know, OK, all right then. He’s not me and I’m not him. And yay for that.
Peter Bowes: [00:21:36] I think that’s a great note to end on, Cheryl. It’s been fantastic to talk to you and hear your optimism about life and the work that you’re doing to inspire other people.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:23:47] Thank you, I enjoyed visiting with you very much.
Peter Bowes: [00:23:49] Thank you so much and I will put some details into the show notes for this episode, you talked about your experiences with cataracts and eyesight, and I’ll put a few links in the show notes. So if anyone wants to delve a little deeper, they can find out more about your experience.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:24:04] Thank you so much.
Peter Bowes: [00:24:06] And those show notes at our website, which is the Live Long and Master aging website. That’s LLAMApodcast.com LLAMApodcast.com The LLAMA podcast is a Healthspan Media Production. If you enjoy what we do, you can rate us, you can review us at Apple podcasts. You can follow us in social media @LLAMApodcast and you can direct message me @PeterBowes. It’s always good to hear from you. Many thanks for listening.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:24:30] Well, done you.
Peter Bowes: [00:24:31] That was wonderful. Thank you. I enjoyed it.
Cheryl Ladd: [00:24:33] Pleasure. Me too.