Creativity surrounded Cathy Lind Hayes from the beginning.
She was adopted at three months old by noted performers Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy who performed in all media: television, film, theater, and night clubs. No wonder, then, that she grew up to follow suit and became an actress, and most recently, a writer.
Hayes appeared in the film Mommie Dearest and recent television shows include Scandal, Mad Men, NCIS: Los Angeles and Grey’s Anatomy.
She is currently performing her one-woman show, The Beauty, The Banshee & Me at the Whitefire Theatre in Los Angeles.
The play is the story of her search for her birth mother, while still celebrating the parents who raised her. The show, winner of the 2014 United Solo Theatre Festival Award for “Best Autobiographical Show,” is directed by Michael Allen Angel. Hayes also serves on the Executive Committee for the Performers Peer Group at the Television Academy.
Could you tell me just a little bit about your background? I know your parents were performers.
Yes, my parents were well-known entertainers in the 1950s and 1960s, a popular comedy duo, they had several of their own television variety shows, as well as a sitcom, Peter Loves Mary. My Dad was also a guest host for both Jack Parr and Arthur Godfrey. My parents headlined at the Sands Hotel 14 times over the years as well.
My Dad came up through Vaudeville. His mother Grace Hayes, a Vaudevillian, actually ran a nightclub on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City in the 1940’s. She also played Mickey Rooney’s mother in Babes In Arms.
My Mom, a true beauty, and a singer, was discovered in New Orleans and brought out to Hollywood as a starlet at Twentieth Century Fox. She played that very role in the film Stardust.
After my Mom and Dad married they worked almost exclusively together, an entertainment team who worked with the best. So I grew up back east, in New Rochelle, New York, not in Hollywood.
And how did you decide to go into the business?
I always wanted to be an actress. I’d been the lead in two high school plays. However, because my dad was always telling me exactly what I had to do to be an actress, I – typical teenager - rebelled, and was a photography major at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
Then when I turned 27, and was happily married, I thought, “Who am I kidding?” And so began the journey. I got a big break when I got a series with Lynn Redgrave and Jackie Mason, and that was the last time I had to have a second job. 1989.
What was the series?
Chicken Soup. Short-lived, but it put me on the map. And gave me the greatest gift, a life-long friendship with the amazing Lynn Redgrave.
What have been some of your other notable roles along the way?
I’ve been working since 1979. Got my SAG card playing an over-the-hill prostitute in a Bochco/Hoblit pilot Every Stray Dog & Kid, directed by James Burrows. We exchanged quips that first morning. Because I knew his Dad, Abe (who’d been the only person my Dad had ever let write for him) and he knew my Dad.
One that piques people’s interest is the infamous Mommie Dearest. I played the nurse in the older Christina’s hospital room. More recently, I’ve guest starred on Scandal, Mad Men, NCIS: Los Angeles, and a recurring role on Grey’s Anatomy. When I get to do what I love to do… there’s nothing better!
That’s what counts.
As far as my parents were concerned - that’s all that counts. You can’t control what other people think of you. The question is: Did you do your best? Did you have a good time? Because, otherwise, what are we doing? My folks believed in hard work, preparation meets opportunity. When it comes down to it, aren’t we the luckiest people in the world that we get to make a living doing what we love doing?
If everyone could have that as their epitaph, how wonderful life would be.
It’s just - “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Well since we started with your background, let’s talk about your show, since that seems to be where it led you.
I started writing, actually, the summer my Dad passed away. I was staying with my Mom that summer, making sure she was going to make it through that passage. I would bring home funny stories for her, because that’s what my Dad did. My Mom said, “Honey, you’ve got to write those down. You’re going to forget them.”
That’s what they did to create an act - come up with something and write it down. My Mom had actually been encouraging me as a writer since I was in 4th grade. So - I finally started writing every day.
When people ask, “How did you write a one-woman show?” - for me it was like a big mosaic. I wrote a little of this, I wrote a little of that. My challenge was always too much story. What to tell and what to leave out. And why was I telling this story?
I had readings in my house for people I respected. I just kept honing it, but I didn’t think it was ready until I did a reading at the Wilshire Ebell in February 2014. I was finally working with my friend and cohort Michael Allen Angel, my director, who had seen every incarnation of the show and really called me up to do my best.
We had a great experience at the Wilshire Ebell, and then I submitted it to the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City. They accepted me, which was quite exciting. And I won an Award for Best Autobiographical Show, which was very encouraging.
So then I thought, “If not now, when?” I think it’s a good show now, I’m proud of it. Because it’s so much work, I have to be excited about it, and I am, finally. So now The Beauty, The Banshee & Me!
How is the run going so far?
It’s so exciting to have a run at it, to have six weeks, (only 4 left now!) and to have people coming to see it and getting it and loving it. It’s a lot of fun. A lot of work, but a lot of fun. I am enjoying every minute!
Can you talk a little bit about your involvement in the Academy?
About 10 years ago, I thought, my goodness, I’m a SAG-AFTRA, Equity member, but I’d like to be part of the Television Academy. That’s where my career has been, in television. That’s where my parents’ career was, in television. I applied for membership, and was welcomed into the Performers Peer Group, and was going along enjoying it.
And then, January 2015, a month before my Mom passed, Bob Bergen, who is just the most amazing, fun, positive, vibrant force of nature, who I am fortunate to call “friend,” called me up and asked, “Would you be interested in being on the Executive Committee of the Performers Peer Group?” I was honored, and of course I said “Yes.”
Bob had pulled together all these positive, energetic enthusiastic people, who, by the by, have all come out to see my show! I’ve learned about all the work that goes on behind the scenes at the Television Academy, and the excitement of being in our brand new facility.
As a committee, we’ve really been trying to present things to our peer group that would be of interest and of education. And Bob is our fearless leader, along with the inimitable legend that is Lily Tomlin, who became our co-governor after the sad loss of Kathy Joosten.
Now Lily… when I saw her brilliant solo show In 1985 or ’86 - she was the inspiration for me to do a solo show. It only took me a couple of decades…
Well, it was beyond my wildest dreams that she would come to the show, along with Bob and Kim, Kathie and Roy, and Nickie and Steve, and Naomi! So, being on this committee with Bob and Lily as our co-governors… being part of the Television Academy… I am very proud and grateful!
What do you see as some of the more interesting things going on in the TV industry right now?
We are completely DVR-centric. I hardly ever watch what’s on when it’s broadcast. I channel surf, see things that intrigue me, schedule it on the DVR, and I watch what I’ve recorded.
I am of the generation, trying to adjust.. when The Wonderful World of Disney came on on Sundays when I was a kid, you had to be there. When Davy Crockett, who I had a big crush on, was on, you’d better be there. When Wizard of Oz came on once a year -- Yes, I know, this completely dates me. And I am truly trying to adjust.
Do you do any online watching, any Netflix or Amazon or any of those?
I’m still navigating the new technology. It’s a challenge. I’m grateful for the screeners, and I watch on my desktop, which has a good size screen, when we have the links for voting. But it’s not like watching on my widescreen TV. That’s a learning curve for me.
It's hard to keep up. There’s too much out there.
The great news is, this means there’s that much more work for us actors with all these different platforms.
Because technology is changing so much and also to save money for people who are producing these fabulous shows, the screeners are going to get less and less, and I have to simply get educated on how to get all these different platforms. The Hulu, the Amazon, all of them. I know it’s going to be easier than I ever thought possible.
And now they’re all producing original content as well.
Again, Fantastic! More work opportunities! Yay!