Do you remember when a whole season of Dallas turned out to be a dream? Actress Audrey Landers certainly does, and that’s how her years on the hit show starring as the seductive songstress Afton Cooper feel. But Landers’ career didn’t begin when she started sleeping with J.R. Ewing. At only 12 year old, she wrote and performed the tune the Apple Don’t Fall Far From the Tree. That song, about a pregnant girl who is afraid her child is going to turn out just like her father, led to national television appearances and a recording contract. From then on, there was no stopping the blonde bombshell from Philadelphia.
She took on the world of daytime soaps, starring in the Secret Storm, Somerset, and One Life to Live. She strutted her stuff in the film version of a Chorus Line, had guest roles on countless TV shows, including Murder She Wrote, The Love Boat, and Burn Notice, and her voice earned her dozens of hit pop and disco songs all across Europe.
Today, at 51, Landers isn’t even thinking about slowing down. Recently she launched a new fashion line with her mother and manager, Ruth Landers, called the Landers STAR Collection. Still, Landers is at her happiest when playing mom to her twin boys and her other two children, Roxy, a miniature Rat Terrier, and Andy, a Maltese Yorkie.
Tails spoke with Landers from her home in Florida, where she told us her thoughts on being hailed as an ’80s icon, how she met her husband, and why Roxy and Andy are the perfect doggies for her.
What are Roxy and Andy up to right now?
Oh, they are sleeping, and they are so cute.
How do they get along with each other?
They are inseparable. That’s why we rescued them together. Sadly enough, they were in a little crate together, and they’ve only grown closer. I look at the way they treat each other, and I say, “You know, this is the way all people should be.” They are so caring, and if one makes a little yip, the other is right there licking her face and checking her from head to toe, making sure everything is good.
Maybe they are in love?
Whatever it is, it works!
With all of the dogs at the shelter, what was it about Roxy and Andy that you fell in love with?
The decision is always so difficult. You want to take home every animal you see. For me, there were some logical factors, and I think when anyone adopts a pet, they should also consider the logic and not just their initial gut feeling.
What was your logic?
I travel a great deal, and I wanted to make sure that I brought into our family two little guys who wouldn’t grow too large to fit under the seat on an airplane. I take them with me most of the time. So as much as I fell in love with a Lab or a Husky, I knew that kind of a dog would not fit into my lifestyle happily. I had to look the other way because it was so tempting. I had had a Husky before, and she lived to be 18.
But in the end Roxy and Andy did win you over.
They really chose me. You look into their eyes, and there is just a connection. I took my boys with me [to the shelter] because we had just lost another pet about six months earlier, and we all felt that our mourning period was over, and we needed that love in our family again.
On MacGyver you played a character named Roxie.
I know! But I did not name the dogs. My boys did. When we chose the dogs, each of my boys fell in love with one of them. There was an instant bond, and it was very clear which one belonged to whom.
You recently launched a clothing line with your mother, Ruth, called STAR. What was the inspiration behind that?
On the glamour side, my mom and I have always been involved in the designing of my wardrobe and my costumes when I did Vegas and Atlantic City. Even though we worked with the best and most famous stylists in the world, there was always something we’d look at and say, “This is great, but let’s take a little tuck here or hem it or make it asymmetrical.” We would always put our own touches on, which were to make everything a little more flattering for the figure. We’ve just collected a whole bunch of secrets that we call “glamouflage.”
The tag line is “Every Woman is a Star and Deserves to Shine.”
Yes, we created a line that brings glamour and elegance to women of all ages. So often you hear a woman say, “Oh, there is nothing glamorous for a woman my age.” Well, we have it.
So would you say the line is for older women?
No, it really is multi-generational. My nieces used to go into my mom’s closet—their grandma—and say, “Grandma, I have a really big date. Do you have something I can borrow?” We thought it was so funny that they would go into their grandmother’s closet to find something gorgeous and sexy to wear!
Well, that is Ruth! What’s it been like to have your mother as a manager all these years?
I was born to be her partner. We’ve co-produced films, music, TV pilots, and videos. We have a real estate venture we’re working on. That’s been our business here in Florida for a few years now. We have another endeavor that we’re working on. You’re the first to hear about it.
What is it?
It’s complicated, but it has to do with wellness and healing. It’s a product that we’re bringing over from Europe.
Can you tell us about your skin-care line that you will be launching later this year?
We really like to keep everything as natural as possible. Everything is nature inspired. The main product is green coconut milk. It’s not that white stuff that people talk about. It’s actually an essence from the root and the plant itself. It has incredible properties of regenerating, hydration, and it has been tested in many capacities, including as a drink.
Let’s talk love. You have been married to your husband, Donald Berkowitz, for 22 years. What has been the key to your marriage?
I think the biggest thing in a marriage is that you have to have a great respect for each other. If you have the respect, then you treat each other with respect, and that’s really important.
How did you two meet?
My mom introduced us.
She played matchmaker?
Yes! My mom and my stepfather had a business in the printing industry. It still exists, but my mom has sold it off, but is still on the board of directors. My husband is in the paper business. So their companies had been doing business together for several years. He was the son of the owner of the paper company, and he was the salesman who called on my mom. After several years of checking him out, she decided to introduce us.
Did you like Donald instantly?
I did, but the relationship moved ahead because he was so persistent. I was living in L.A. I had just started on Dallas. I was really in the midst of my career, and he was living in New Jersey. So I liked him, but I just couldn’t imagine where this could go. But he proved to me that he could make it happen.
How many years did you do long distance?
Forever—and we still do! He still has his business in New Jersey and New York, and now he commutes to Florida every weekend.
After years of trying to get pregnant, in 1993 you had twins, Adam and Daniel, through in vitro fertilization.
We did succeed on the first try. I’m sure it would’ve helped if we had lived in the same place. Getting pregnant would have been a lot easier if we lived, not only in the same house, but at least in the same time zone.
Yeah, you really can’t send it by mail!
I know! You can’t say, “Oh my God, it’s that time! Quick, one of us has to get on a plane!”
Daniel is in show business now, correct?
Yes! You have to check out his MySpace page. You can even print that! It’s MySpace.com/daniellanders. He’s had the show business bug since he was 3.
But not Adam?
No, he is the anti-show business!
Besides the common interest in the entertainment industry, you and Daniel also are both vegetarians. Does that mean you have to make separate meals for Adam?
I do. Although Adam is not a vegetarian, I think he eats really sensibly. It’s not that I think everyone in the world should be a vegetarian. I don’t believe that at all. It’s just right for me, and I feel better about myself.
Your music has been very successful in Europe. You’ve earned 10 gold singles, four gold albums, and two platinum albums. In January you released your latest album, which is in English and German. Were you ever disappointed that you didn’t have the same success with your music in the United States?
In the beginning I was. In the United States the world was a little different then. It wasn’t easy to cross over. There was a little bit of a stigma. If you were a TV personality, you could not be a recording artist. Now everything is different. But I was so excited that it did work in Europe.
What kind of music do you listen to?
It all depends on my mood. I really do enjoy today’s music.
Like Lady Gaga?
I do. I also like David Cook. I think he’s an awesome artist. I love his voice and choice of material. I love Bon Jovi. I know that’s ‘80s, but they are also contemporary, and they write really great pop songs.
Who shot J.R.?
It wasn’t me!
Do you remember who it was?
Yes! It was Mary Crosby.
After all of these years, where does Dallas sit in your heart?
It has a very special place. I had been acting since I was a child, and yet Dallas made me an overnight success. I did soaps in my teens, but it wasn’t until Dallas that the whole world knew me. My character was fun. The people were great. I can’t say one bad thing about it.
Do you think a show like Dallas could succeed today?
I do. I think people are hungry for it. The only difference would be is that you would have to have more of a youth edge to it. To me, there was such a perfect setup when we did the Dallas reunion movie. They introduced the second generation of Dallas kids. J.R’s son was a teenager. My daughter was now a teenager. You’d still have that Dallas recognition, and you would also have appearances with the well-known characters.
Why do you think it didn’t work?
I think there was probably difficulty in getting all the producers to agree. I can only conjecture that they didn’t want to let go and pass the torch.
Your sister, Judy, is also in show business. How are you two different?
I think there are the obvious similarities. We both grew up in the limelight, so of speak. I think the thing that sets us apart from a lot of other actresses is that we’ve always been able to maintain our family values and not compromise that. She’s been married 22 years too.
Did your mom set her up too?
Wasn’t there a reality show in the works that you were going to do with your sister and her daughters?
Yes. E! filmed 100 hours of footage—probably enough for about four episodes. They put it together and then they realized they wanted something that was a little racier and a little more controversial. The basic idea was following the two sisters and how their children are following in their footsteps. It was really a cute show. There was a lot of humor and a lot of family stuff in it. It got great reviews, but then they said, “Wait a second. We need to spice this up. Would you consider doing three generations of Playboy?” We were like, “What!” They wanted us to argue a little more, so we did and played it up for the cameras, but there was only so far we were willing to compromise.
Speaking of Playboy, you appeared on the cover, with clothes, 27 years ago.
And I have the framed pictorial right here in my hallway.
Do you like being called an ’80s icon?
I do. I think it’s fun. When I was 18, a soap opera a magazine said I was a “show biz veteran.” So if I’m an icon now, I must be a hundred years old.
Do you watch soap operas?
I really don’t, but I will turn on One Life to Live every now and then just to check it out.
After all these years, what are you the most proud of?
You know that: my kids.
Like the E! producers asked you to do—can’t you spice up that answer?
I always said I was definitely too square for Hollywood. I guess that’s why I’m still married. On a more philosophical level, I’m proud that I’ve lived the life that I have without compromise. I think that’s an important thing.
To learn more about Audrey and the Landers STAR Collection, visit Audrey-Landers.com.
Dustin Fitzharris is an award-winning journalist who is known for his celebrity profiles. His articles on Patti LaBelle, Reba McEntire, Jackie Collins, Vanessa Williams, Melissa Etheridge, and many others have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country. His last article for Tails profiled Chudney Ross, the youngest daughter of superstar Diana Ross. Fitzharris resides in New York City and is currently a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Visit his website at DustinFitzharris.Wordpress.com.