Intimate Portrait - Season 10

Lifetime (ended 2004)


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Episode Guide

  • Linda Lavin
    Linda Lavin
    Episode 9
    Linda Lavin: Hardworking Woman Linda Lavin was born on October 15, 1937, in Portland, Maine. She took to singing almost from birth, but her love of music couldn't mask the insecurity she felt as a child. Fortunately, she found confidence during her teenage years, when she began performing in community theater. After high school, Lavin headed to the prestigious College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, to study acting. In 1959, she followed her dreams to New York City, and it wasn't long before she scored a part in the Broadway play "Family Affair." She continued working on Broadway and in 1969, she earned her first Tony Award nomination for Neil Simon's "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers." She blossomed personally, too, finding love with fellow actor Ron Leibman. The couple married in 1968 and eventually moved to Los Angeles. There, Lavin was repeatedly told she didn't have the "leading lady look"; bigger acting roles — especially on TV — were scarce. But Lavin's dry spell didn't last. The feminist movement of the early 1970s redefined the way society saw women, and Lavin was suddenly in demand. She landed a scene-stealing role on the sitcom "Barney Miller," which led to a contract with CBS. Lavin's career was flourishing, but her marriage came to an abrupt end. The newly single actress instantly connected to a script for "Alice," a new sitcom that focused on a widowed mother who worked as a waitress while pursuing a singing career. The show was an instant success — and as the first sitcom to feature a single working mother, it was a watershed moment for women everywhere. "Alice" earned Lavin an Emmy Award nomination and two Golden Globe Awards, as well as the highest salary of any actress on a half-hour program. Lavin was the perfect choice to become the spokesperson for the National Commission of Working Women in 1979. She became an outspoken activist and joined forces with Gloria Steinem. Around the same time, she married actor Kip Niven. When "Alice" ended in 1985 after nine seasons, Lavin returned to the theater and won her first Best Actress Tony for her role in "Broadway Bound." But along with her achievements came struggles. In 1989, she split from Niven, who demanded half of all of her present and future earnings. Fortunately, Lavin emerged from a very public and very long courtroom battle victorious. In 1997, Lavin moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, and started an after-school theater program that helps teenage girls build their self-esteem. One year later, she fell in love with painter Steve Picunis. She has since returned to Broadway and has nabbed two Tony nominations for her roles in "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" and "The Diary of Anne Frank." "Having...learned to deal with losses,...I can live in the moment and be grateful for what I have," says Lavin.moreless
  • Alyssa Milano
    Alyssa Milano
    Episode 8
    Alyssa Milano: Child-Star Survivor Alyssa Milano was born on December 19, 1972, in Brooklyn. She was bitten by the acting bug at the early age of seven, after seeing a Broadway production of "Annie." When she accompanied a family friend to an audition for the touring company of "Annie" shortly thereafter, she landed the role instead of her friend. Other plays soon followed, as did her first film role in the 1984 movie "Old Enough." That same year, 12-year-old Milano auditioned to play actor Tony Danza's daughter, tomboy Samantha "Sam" Micelli, on a new sitcom called "Who's the Boss?" Audiences immediately took to the show and to Milano; before long, her work on TV and in film became popular overseas. She tried her hand at music, landing a five-album deal in Japan, where her 1989 debut record reached platinum. In 1992, "Who's the Boss?" went off the air, and Milano faced the daunting task of transitioning from child star to adult actress. At first she found it difficult to get good roles, but her career got a boost in 1997, when Aaron Spelling cast her as a troublemaking vixen on his nighttime soap "Melrose Place." Becoming a sex symbol came with an unexpected price: Illegal and often doctored nude photos of the actress began popping up all over the Internet. In a 1998 lawsuit, Milano and her mother won a quarter of a million dollars from a number of porn sites. The pair used the money to set up a Web site, called Safe Searching, to help protect celebrities' images online. Meanwhile, Milano was cast in another Aaron Spelling endeavor: "Charmed," a show about three witch siblings. This move officially put the actress back on top.But in her personal life, all was not charmed. Her 1999 marriage to Cinjun Tate, the singer of the band Remy Zero, was short-lived. But some soul-searching after the breakup helped Milano discover another passion — photography. While she was shooting a movie in South Africa, she began volunteering at local hospitals on her days off, which inspired her to chronicle the experience in a series of photographs. Soon after, her pictures were exhibited by the United Nations, which also honored the actress for her humanitarian efforts. Milano continues to use photography to express herself and share the world with others. In 2003, she brought her camera on a visit to Baghdad, where she and other entertainers performed to boost the morale of U.S. troops. The actress, whose talent and persistence have kept her in the acting industry for nearly her entire life, says that she hopes to continue inspiring others across the globe.moreless
  • Penny Marshall
    Penny Marshall
    Episode 7
    Penny Marshall: Directing Diva Penny Marshall was born in the Bronx, New York. Her mother, a dance teacher, taught her to tap and recruited the youngster into a dance troupe that performed on TV. But Marshall's mother also constantly criticized the young girl about her unglamorous appearance, contributing to her decision to move far afield after high school, to the University of New Mexico. In her junior year at college, Marshall got pregnant by her boyfriend, Mickey Henry; she dropped out of school and the two got married. Their daughter, Tracy, was born in July 1964. Unfortunately, the young couple's marriage crumbled just two years later. Soon after, Marshall tried her hand at acting as part of the Albuquerque Light Opera. In 1967, at the age of 24, she headed to Los Angeles to visit her brother, Gary, a comedy writer. With his encouragement, she enrolled in an acting class. Although she had trouble landing parts, Marshall did get lucky in love: She married rising star Rob Reiner in 1971. She later got her first big break with a recurring role on the hit show "The Odd Couple." Off camera, Marshall began spending most of her time with her writing partner, Cindy Williams, creating comedy scripts. After Marshall's brother, Gary, asked the twosome to make a guest appearance on his new show "Happy Days," they got their own sitcom, "Laverne & Shirley," about a couple of quirky roommates in the 1950s who worked as bottle cappers in a brewery. The show premiered in 1976 and was an instant smash. It stayed on the air for seven years, and Marshall even directed a few episodes. But success strained Marshall's marriage; she and Reiner divorced in 1981. Marshall was devastated. But in 1986, things began looking up when a new friend, Whoopi Goldberg, invited Marshall to direct her film "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Although it failed to ignite the box office, the movie introduced Marshall to her true calling. Her next film, "Big," became the first picture directed by a woman to earn $100 million. Other hits followed, including "Awakenings" and "A League of Their Own." Today, the nurturing grandmother still plays ball in a mostly boys' club — and she is still one of the industry's most sought-after directors.moreless
  • Tracey Gold
    Tracey Gold
    Episode 6
    Tracey Gold: No More Growing Pains Tracey Gold was born in New York City and was raised by her mom, an ad executive, and her stepfather, an actor. As a child, Gold tagged along to one of her stepfather's auditions for a Pepsi commercial and, much to his surprise, the little girl was cast instead. By age six, Gold was regularly appearing in print ads, TV shows and movies. Entering adolescence while in the spotlight wasn't easy for the young actress; by the time she was 12, Gold began obsessing over her weight and eventually succumbed to the early stages of anorexia. In 1984, the 16-year-old Gold landed her big break: a role on the TV sitcom "Growing Pains," about a quirky family raised by a stay-at-home dad and a working mom. The show's popularity skyrocketed, but Gold's personal life was about to plummet. After several seasons of shooting the hit series, Gold, then 19 years old, began to put on weight; fat jokes subsequently began appearing in the scripts. When producers asked her to shed some pounds, her anorexia returned with a vengeance — the 5'4" actress's weight eventually dropped to a mere 80 pounds. In 1991, Gold left the show and checked herself into a hospital. Her eating disorder became front-page news, and the actress reluctantly went public with her disease. Gold's road to recovery was long and difficult, fraught with relapses and years of therapy. While reviving her career with a slew of TV movies and battling toward good health, she was introduced to Roby Marshall by "Growing Pains" co-star Joanna Kerns. (The murder of Marshall's mother was the subject of the TV movie "Blind Faith.") The two fell in love, helping to quiet each other's demons. On October 8, 1994, Gold and Marshall tied the knot. The couple now have three children: Sage, Bailey and Kaylee Lynn. Gold has finally overcome her body-image battles and turned her recovery into a mission to help others. She starred in the well-received TV movie "For the Love of Nancy," about a young woman who struggles with an eating disorder. Also, in 2003, she released a book, "Room to Grow: An Appetite for Life," which offers a personal look at her triumph over anorexia.moreless
  • Vicki Lawrence
    Vicki Lawrence
    Episode 5
    Vicki Lawrence: Mama's Got a Brand-new Bag Vicki Lawrence was born on March 26, 1949, in Inglewood, California. Although Lawrence was an extremely introverted girl, her mother, who had once dreamed of becoming a professional singer, encouraged her daughter to pursue the limelight. So a teenage Lawrence entered a Miss Fireball talent contest. A reporter covering the event compared her to Carol Burnett. Lawrence later sent Burnett a fan letter with the article, and, to her surprise, the legendary performer looked her up. At age 18, Lawrence was plucked out of high school in order to join "The Carol Burnett Show." For years, she had only a minimal role on the show because she was too intimidated to talk. But otherwise, Lawrence's life was blossoming; in 1972, she married singer-songwriter Bobby Russell. A year later she recorded his song "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." The tune went on to become a number one hit on the Billboard charts. In 1974, Lawrence, then 25, finally found the confidence to break out of her shell on "The Carol Burnett Show" and created the character Thelma Harper, aka Mama, an outrageous Southern curmudgeon with a sour face and a sharp tongue. The character was an automatic hit with audiences. That same year, Lawrence found unexpected love with old friend and makeup artist Al Schwartz, and she eventually divorced Russell. She and Schwartz married and had daughter Courtney in 1975 and son Garret in 1977. Between the two arrivals, Lawrence also took home another treasure — an Emmy Award — in 1976. But after 11 years, "The Carol Burnett Show" ended. One year later, Lawrence reprised her Thelma Harper persona for a TV movie, which led to the creation of her own sitcom, "Mama's Family," in 1983. The show had a successful seven-year run. In 1990, Lawrence switched gears to become a talk show host. But a public feud with the producers over the program's vision led to Lawrence's ouster. It would take several years for the star to bounce back from her depression over this debacle and return to work. In 2001, she took a recurring role on the hit sitcom "Yes, Dear," co-starring old friend Tim Conway. She also brought Thelma Harper out of retirement for a national tour of a one-woman stage production aptly titled "Vicki and Mama — A Two-Woman Show."moreless
  • Cloris Leachman
    Cloris Leachman
    Episode 4
    Cloris Leachman: Accomplished Chameleon Born in 1926, Cloris Leachman grew up in a small town near Des Moines. As a child, she loved to act and play the piano. At age 11, she landed a job on a local children's radio show. By 17, Leachman had joined the Kendall Community Playhouse; a year later the aspiring actress headed to Northwestern University on a drama scholarship. At 20, Leachman entered a local beauty pageant on a lark and made it all the way to the Miss America finals. Leachman lost the beauty contest, but not her love of the spotlight. She headed for New York City and was recruited for the prestigious Actors Studio. Determined not to be typecast as a beauty queen, she tackled a smorgasbord of parts. In 1952, the starlet fell for aspiring director George Englund; the couple married in 1953 after Leachman discovered she was pregnant. Although Englund would have several affairs, the couple stayed together for many years and had four more children. Ignoring the traditional 1950s stereotypes of motherhood, Leachman kept working on both the small and big screen, which includes her critically acclaimed turn as a prostitute in the 1969 classic "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." But it wasn't until she was 44 that Leachman scored the biggest role of her career. She was cast as Phyllis Lindstrom, the snooty, busybody neighbor on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Her outrageous antics earned her rave reviews and two Emmy Awards. During the sitcom's hiatus, the diverse actress portrayed a neglected wife in "The Last Picture Show." Her powerful performance won her an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress in 1971. In 1975, Leachman went on to star on her own show, "Phyllis," based on her famous TV character, for which she took home a Golden Globe Award. Despite the successes in her career, the actress's personal life was unraveling. After 26 years of marriage, she divorced her husband in 1979 so that he could marry another woman. More heartbreak followed when Leachman's son Bryan died of a cocaine overdose in 1986. Though, devastated, Leachman eventually found her way back to her first love, acting. She took home her eighth Emmy in 2002 for her portrayal of the grandma from hell on "Malcolm in the Middle."moreless
  • Gladys Knight
    Gladys Knight
    Episode 3
    Gladys Knight: Soul Survivor Gladys Maria Knight was born on May 28, 1944, in Atlanta. While her father juggled three jobs to support the family, her mother was busy nurturing the young girl's natural singing talent. When she was seven years old, Knight won the popular Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour contest. In 1952, she and her two siblings and two cousins began performing at local supper clubs and churches. In 1960, they officially became known as Gladys Knight and the Pips. After a few personnel changes, the quintet recorded the top R & B hit "Every Beat of My Heart." At age 16, the aspiring singer discovered she was pregnant and married saxophone player Jimmy Newman. Unfortunately, Knight miscarried. Anxious to be a mom, Knight became pregnant again and gave birth to Jimmy Jr. in 1962 and to daughter Kenya two years later. Because of financial pressures, the young mother returned to performing with the Pips, and the group began putting out bigger hits, including "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," under the direction of the legendary Berry Gordy's Motown label. Feeling underrated with Gordy, the group boldly switched to Buddha Records in 1972. The move paid off with the release of the album "Imagination," which featured the classic song "Midnight Train to Georgia." The triple-platinum recording scored the group two Grammy Awards. Knight made a romantic change as well; she divorced Newman and married TV producer Barry Henkerson in 1976. The couple had a son, Shenga Ali, together. But Knight's superstardom overshadowed the relationship and the couple divorced in 1979. Knight hit rocky times with a bitter custody battle and a gambling addiction that left her bankrupt. With the support of her family, she began to get her life back on track with some small TV roles and the 1987 Grammy-winning song "Love Overboard." In the early '90s, Knight opted for a solo career for the first time since she was seven; during this period she had a short-lived marriage to motivational speaker Les Brown, which ended in 1995. Feeling lost again, Knight found direction by joining the Mormon Church. Her newfound spirituality would be tested in 1998, when she lost her mother to diabetes and her 36-year-old son, Jimmy, to respiratory failure. Knight eventually found comfort as well as love with longtime friend William McDowley; she married him in 2001. The crooner also threw herself into performing nightly in Las Vegas and producing "At Last," the first solo album that garnered her a Grammy. Today, the rejuvenated 59-year-old is feeling unstoppable and in search of new challenges. In the summer of 2003, she is making a huge acting splash in the Harrison Ford blockbuster comedy "Hollywood Homicide." Gladys has also recently been on the American Idol spinoff American Juniors serving as one of the judges.moreless
  • Shania Twain
    Shania Twain
    Episode 2
    Shania Twain: Country Survivor Shania Twain (born Eileen Regina Edwards) was born in Windsor, Ontario, on August 28, 1965. When she was young, her parents divorced and Twain lived with her mom and two sisters. The kids were eventually adopted by their mom's new husband. The family struggled with poverty, and Twain's mother suffered from bouts of deep depression. Twain turned to singing to find happiness amid her harsh reality. In 1974, at the age of nine, she was already performing in honky-tonk clubs to help pay the family's bills. At age 12, Twain appeared on a local country show, and later she fronted a cover band, called Long Shot. In 1983, the teenager began singing full time after graduating from high school. However, her career came to a terrible halt when her parents were killed in a car crash in 1987. Devastated, the 22-year-old Twain took on the task of raising her sisters and two half-brothers; she supported them with a singing gig at a tourist resort. By 1992, her siblings were all grown up and Twain began to focus on her career. Although she soon scored a recording contract, her big break turned out to be a disappointment — her debut album wasn't a hit. In 1993, the struggling singer took a call from the legendary Robert "Mutt" Lang, a reclusive rock producer. The two began writing songs, and it wasn't long before they were making beautiful music together as husband and wife. Twain's second album, "The Woman in Me," which fused country with pop, was released in 1995. It was a smash success, spawning seven hit singles and winning Twain numerous awards. The 32-year-old's 1997 follow-up, "Come on Over," catapulted her to superstardom. But after three years of touring and celebrity life, the performer needed a break. In 2000, she and her husband moved to Switzerland. The couple had a baby boy, Eja (pronounced "Asia"), in 2001. While she savored the tranquility of her life, Twain returned to the studio in 2002 to record the album "Up!" Since her album UP! has been released it has had major success. It has sold 10 million copies, and since its release it has not fallen out of the TOP 10 on the BILLBOARD COUNTRY ALBUMS Chart. It has been in the TOP 10 on the BILLBOARD COUNTRY ALBUMS Chart since its release, 66 consecutive weeks.moreless
  • Chaka Khan
    Chaka Khan
    Episode 1
    Chaka Khan: Shining Star Before she became Chaka Khan, she was Evette Stevens. Born in Illinois in 1953, she grew up in a household filled with music. When the Black Power movement gained steam in the 1960s, the then 13-year-old singer joined a band called Shades of Black. During this time, a shaman christened her Chaka after the great warrior Chaka Zulu. By age 16, she had left school, joined the Black Panthers and moved to a commune. She also teamed up with Rufus, an up-and-coming R&B band. Thanks to her deep, powerful voice, the group scored a record deal. In June 1970, the singer married Chicago musician Hassan Khan, with whom she had a daughter, Milini. However, the marriage hit rock bottom in 1973. Musically, Chaka Khan was collecting successes. During the recording of Rufus' second album, her idol, Stevie Wonder, showed up at the studio with a song for her. "Tell Me Something Good" became the band's first hit. In 1974, Rufus earned its first Grammy Award. But life on tour was hard and lonely, and Chaka Khan turned to drugs to cope. In 1974, she married Richard Holland, a neighbor who saved her from a drug overdose that nearly killed her. In 1978, she decided to go solo and released her first solo album, featuring the smash hit "I'm Every Woman." After giving birth to her son, Damien, in 1979, Chaka Khan split from her second husband. In 1984, Chaka Khan was at the top of her game with the catchy hit "I Feel for You." Unfortunately, in 1988, battles with her record company stalled her career, and the star once again turned to drugs. She finally moved to London to get her life together, and after two decades of narcotics use, she kicked her habit once and for all. Life was looking up: She won her sixth Grammy in 1990, and a few years later she launched her own record label, Earth Song Entertainment. After undergoing vocal-cord surgery with her voice intact, the singer decided it was time to give something back. In 1999, she launched the Chaka Khan Foundation to help battered women and children. Now 50 and a grandmother, Chaka has plenty of experience to share with her loved ones and the world.moreless
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