The Ultimate Cary Grant Pages - www.carygrant.net

Redbook - October 1988, pg 50

Dyan Cannon:  I Tried to Make Cary Happy

by Vicki Jo Radovsky
(submitted by Barry Martin - Thanks Barry!)

She admits going to extremes to please her husband, Cary Grant. And though the divorce was bitter, she never kept their daughter from him. He was a doting father, she reveals in this fascinating interview. "I had to be the strict one. But when Jennifer was very little, I old her, 'Honey, it's okay to love your dad.'"

"As I grow older, my life just keeps getting better - and this is the best it's ever been," says Dyan Cannon, sipping chamomile tea in the cozy living room of her Beverly Hills home. Curled up in front of a fire on a rainy Los Angeles afternoon, the actress - just in from a friend's wedding - has kicked off her high heels, unbuttoned the jacket of her beige suit and settled comfortably on the sofa.

"Life is different from what I thought it would be," she adds. "I was so protected, so guarded by adoring, wonderful parents, that I thought life was just what I saw at home - two people who had a marriage and a couple of kids and who lived happily ever after. I was really blinded by this completely idyllic world. But now, I must say that I've finally come full circle back to that view."

It's been a long trip. The older of two children, Cannon was born Samille Diane Friesen on January 4, 1937, in Tacoma, Washington. She was raised in Seattle, where she earned the nickname "Frosty" after giving amorous high-school boys the cold shoulder. She left Seattle to pursue a modeling career in Los Angeles. She eventually gained fame as a giddy, big-screen sexpot, and as the wife of actor Cary Grant, whom she married in 1965 and had a child with a year later. Along the way, Cannon experimented with a variety of drugs and pop therapies, embarked on a period of self-imposed retirement and celibacy and, after years of soul-searching, found the peace of mind she'd been seeking.

Today, at 51, Cannon, who has been married for the past three years to lawyer/real estate broker Stanley Fimberg, is calling all the shots in her career.

"I'm having more fun now - in everything I do - than I've ever had in my life, and that's because I don't have to do anything now to make my life special," she says passionately. "The gift of life is special - and this is coming from someone who used to have to wait for 'Action!' to be called and the cameras to roll to think that something was going on." She pauses. "That ain't it."

But the harmony in her life didn't happen overnight. "I've had to learn how to deal with my heart and my mind and what makes Dyan run - and that's been my main endeavor over the years," Cannon explains. "Finding a husband was just the icing on the cake. Having a man doesn't make life all right for a woman - it's learning how to make every moment alive and joyful that counts. Women spend so much time working on their men, you know? We've got to do our work on ourselves first."

Working on pleasing her man was reportedly one of the problems in her relationship with Cary Grant, whom Cannon dated for about four years before they married, when she was 28 and he was 61. It was her first marriage - and his fourth. In a 1982 interview, Cannon revealed that catering to Grant was "the most important thing in my life - more important than working, more important than anything. That was the big flaw. I pushed aside everything that I'd desired to make him happy."

Cannon was so intent on pleasing her husband that she even consented to undergo LSD therapy - the same medically administered therapy that Grant believed had been beneficial to him. "It was something Cary asked me to do, and I thought about it a lot before doing it," Cannon recalls. Today, Cannon is reluctant to talk about the therapy, except to say, "I didn't do it a lot - it wasn't good for me."

After three years of marriage, they went through a bitter divorce in 1968, amid stories of Grant's violent temper and rumors that he spanked Cannon in front of the servants an once even locked her in the bathroom.

"Even though there was pain as a result of those years, we had a wonderful daughter together," says Cannon. "Cary was very special. I loved him with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and I will always be grateful that we married. I learned a lot from him. They weren't wasted years."

Having their daughter, Jennifer, born in 1966, helped Cannon cope with her crumbling marriage. "Motherhood really teaches you how to be selfless," she explains. "None of us can come to any greatness until we learn how to get outside the little periphery of 'me.' When we burst out of that cocoon," she adds, snapping her fingers for emphasis, "life begins. And nothing hastens that process as fast as mothering, because you've got to put something else ahead of yourself."

Jennifer was two years old when her parents divorced, and Cannon was awarded custody. Grant's visitation rights extended to every other weekend, as well as a month each summer. "But there were many, many, many more times when Cary saw Jennifer, and she was never, ever used as a 'football' between us," the actress recalls. "when she was very little, I told her, 'Honey, it's okay to love your dad.'"

Although Grant, a first-time father at age 62, doted on his daughter - he even retired from show business after she was born - when it came to actually raising Jennifer, the responsibility fell to Cannon. "Cary let me make all the decisions. When Jennifer was little, I'd send the nurse with her anytime she visited Cary so she would be cared for. When she grew out of that stage and wanted to go out while visiting him, he'd say, 'Call your mother and find out what time you have to be in,'" Cannon remembers.

"I wish Cary had participated more in the parenting process, but I don't think he knew how. I think he thought, 'Go to your mother.' I think he thought he was doing the right thing. It's hard to know what was in his head. So I was the heavy, across the board. I never felt overburdened with Jennifer, though I didn't like always being the heavy. But she's turned out to be a great kid, so I must have done something right. That doesn't mean it was always easy."

Cannon takes a sip of tea. "Nothing is as hard as mothering," she continues. "A lot of Jennifer's friends' parents were very permissive. I was overly strict and overly protective and I don't regret a minute of it.

"There were times when Jennifer didn't like me, and that was hard, because your children are the ones you want most on the earth to love you," Cannon adds. "There was a time when she couldn't stand the sight of me, when I could see the hatred coming out of her eyes. And I still had to say, 'Turn around and get in this house!' It started when she was about thirteen, when the hormones started to change. Up until then we were incredibly close, and today we're ... I can't even explain how close we are."

Their closeness was crucial when Grant died of a stroke in November 1986, at age 82. "I didn't realize how difficult his death was going to be for me," Cannon confides. "There was no love lost when we separated, but over the years we came to be friends again because of our daughter. Although his death was surprisingly difficult for me, it didn't change a thing about the way I felt about him. I'd healed way before that."

But coming to terms with their relationship required that Cannon go through a lonely, painful struggle to reestablish her self-esteem after their divorce, when she retreated with Jennifer to her Malibu beach house and began to put her life back together.

"They were very frightening, very scary years," Cannon remembers. "I was living at the beach, raising my daughter alone, and there wasn't really anyone in my life. It was then that I decided to become truly independent - to learn not to base my happiness on whether I was with a man or if I had the right job or the right things. I was going to learn inside what happiness meant."

Determined not to lose her autonomy to a man again, Cannon also remained celibate for about three years. "Everyone I met I knew wasn't right," she recalls. She filled the void by sampling a smorgasbord of therapies, including Freudian analysis, encounter groups, yoga and meditation. She even installed a padded room in her house where she could practice "primal scream" therapy.

"The premise of primal therapy is that, as children, we are not allowed to have feelings ... we're shut down," the actress explains. "In order to feel those feelings, we have to go back to that time and feel the original pain. After spending three years with my eyes swollen," she adds with a burst of explosive laughter, "I can now tell you it's a crock! You don't have to feel bad to feel good.

"But I became such a total convert that when I had an engagement to sing in San Francisco, I called the car rental company and said, 'Give me the dimensions of your van.' I got pads that fit eh van and took them to San Francisco, where the van was parked at the side of the hotel.

"So I'd run outside to 'primal' in the van, and I'd tell my secretary to stand outside and wait for me," she continues, laughing uproariously at the memory. "The screams that would come out of the van ... it would be rocking and rolling! And I'd come out, and there would be all these people standing there - and my secretary would be gone!

"But you see," she adds, "I was an earnest seeker. It didn't matter to me what people thought. I was trying to save my life - that's what it got down to. I mean, if you're an open flower and this big wind comes along, it's going to blow you over unless you're rooted in something stronger than 'I am an actress.' So I was getting my roots, and I wasn't going to let anything stop that."

Cannon stopped shopping for the perfect panacea when she discovered metaphysics. "For about the past ten years that's been the answer for me," she says. "Every day I read, write and meditate. I just get quiet and center myself in the truth. I have never known what I now know inside, and no matter what happens, nobody gave me that knowledge, and nobody can take it away. All I can tell you is that life has never been this good."

For Cannon, getting on with her life also meant getting over her fear of men, which is exactly what she did after meeting Stanley Fimberg, and marrying him four months later in April 1985. "I can't believe I had the guts to do that," she says with a laugh, "because I was so scared. I'd been single for so many years that I wouldn't even say the word 'marriage' - I called it 'the M word.' But I'm so glad I let myself do it.

"I think what attracted me most about Stan were his principles," add Cannon. "He is a rare man, a miracle. You know how, in the midst of the ca-ca, an orchid grows? That's what he is."

Cannon is also content with the way her daughter has turned out. Jennifer, now 22, recently graduated from California's Stanford University with a major in American studies and is currently considering career options. "She changes her mind every week, but she's having a ball," says Cannon. "The things she talks to me about are confidential, but right now she is working on a TV special about her father."

Asked if Jennifer feels burdened by the fact that she's Cary Grant's only child, Cannon replies: "You know something? My kid is so together. She was raised with moral values. She had a daddy she loved very much, a mama she loves very much and a good sense of herself. So I don't think that weighs on her. She's got a really good center."

These days, so does Cannon, who now stays away from alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Currently starring as a wealthy, wacky divorcee in Caddyshack II, the actress recently finished writing her first full-length movie, which she plans to act in and direct. In the meantime, she's writing songs for an upcoming album. She also plans to write an autobiography, "but I'm going to wait on that until I hear the 'yes' in my head, until it's time," she says. Cannon is even toying with the idea of studying to become a minister, she explains, "so I'll be able to marry some of my friends."

In whatever direction she chooses, Dyan Cannon - whose experiences have helped her emerge a winner - is sure to succeed. "I'm doing what I've always dreamt of doing," she says. "I've reached my goal."

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