Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Stefanie Powers Heads Down Under for I'm A Celebrity

In a surprising move, ITV producers have gone for an older batch of celebrities to throw into the jungle this year.

Rather than the usual batch of buxom, bikini-clad D-listers, a host of over-60s have been recruited.

At least four of the celebrities who will be thrown into the Australian bush are in their 60s.

Former jockey Willie Carson, 69, has also arrived in town, according to the Sun, and comedian Freddie Starr, 68, was spotted leaving Heathrow.

Starr is famous for the Sun newspaper headline 'Freddie Starr ate my hamster.'

The story, in 1986, was untrue, but remains one of the best-known front pages in history.

U.S actress Stefanie Powers, 69, is also understood to be joining the line-up.

Stefanie, best known for 1980s TV drama Hart To Hart, is said to be jetting into the Gold Coast from Los Angeles.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stefanie Powers still gets around like The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

Stefanie Powers was never really a globe-trotting spy, she just played one on TV.

But if she ever decided to become a secret agent for real, she certainly has a lot of the right qualifications. The actress lives in three different countries, speaks seven languages fluently, is a cultural scholar, world traveler, expert horsewoman and talented singer and dancer — all of which add up to a promising resume for any aspiring undercover sleuth. She could blend in almost anywhere.

And some of those attributes were actually incorporated into storylines for “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” the 1966-67 television series in which she played intelligence operative April Dancer, the sexy and resourceful nemesis of THRUSH, an international organization of criminals bent on world domination.

This spinoff of the popular '60s spy series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is available in its entirety for the first time on two four-disc sets manufactured on demand by Warner Archive, wbshop.com.

Time to reminisce

Powers — perhaps best known for her role opposite Robert Wagner on TV's popular “Hart to Hart” (1979-84) — had not yet had a chance to revisit the “U.N.C.L.E.” episodes when she talked to The Oklahoman.

“I live in Africa as well, East Africa, and I've just returned from there, and I'm looking forward to seeing and reminiscing about these shows,” she said in a recent phone interview from her California home.

Powers' Dancer masqueraded as a high-fashion model while co-star Noel Harrison — son of Rex — posed as her Carnaby Street styling partner Mark Slate in a show that was more of a campy spoof of the then-popular spy genre than its parent program, which starred Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.

“We were almost polar opposites,” Powers recalled of the two series. “We were sending up all this espionage in a humorous way, hopefully, or a satirical way. And of course they were very serious about it, and NBC was concerned about that. I remember the remark was that they thought that it looked as if we were having too much fun. We were.”

Her most vivid memories of doing the series were of the people she got to work with on “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.”

“Certainly I remember being shot out of a giant toaster; I do remember that one,” Powers said. “Stan Freberg, as a matter of fact, was the other piece of toast. And I remember working with Peggy Lee. Can you imagine? Peggy Lee, who was the pistol-packin' mama in a bizarre storyline where we wound up in a Western town fully equipped with cowboys and Indians, and she ran the saloon. I mean, what a privilege it was to work with those people.”

Despite the differences in tone between the “Man” and the “Girl” series, there were several crossover episodes.

“Noel went to play on ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' with David McCallum for ‘The Mother Muffin Affair,' starring Boris Karloff in drag,” Powers remembered.

Meanwhile, Vaughn guest-starred once on Powers' show. “Yes. Wearing tights,” she recalled.

Many talents, causes

Powers' linguistic skills (she speaks Polish, being of Polish descent, French, Italian, Spanish, Swahili and “smatterings” of Mandarin and Cantonese), dance training and an early interest in bullfighting were written into episodes of the series. She also learned how to fence for a five-minute fight sequence with sabers.

But she doesn't like to talk about the bullfighting period of her youth, since a relationship with the late actor William Holden taught her the importance of animal rights and conservation. To this day, she still serves as president of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, a public charity dedicated to the preservation of wild animals, which she helped to found in honor of Holden.

“An ongoing pursuit,” Powers said. “One that has its moments of tragedy, which we're now all experiencing with the advent of the Chinese market demanding rhinoceros horn and ivory. And I don't think enough can be said in the press to encourage people to write letters, complain to their congressmen, to make their complaints known about the increase in poaching of these World Heritage animals, solely and utterly to fulfill the desires of the Chinese market.”

Aside from her philanthropic endeavors, Powers remains active on the stage and is mounting a production of the musical adaptation of “Sunset Boulevard,” in which she plays the role of eccentric ex-silent screen star Norma Desmond. It's a role Gloria Swanson immortalized in the 1950 film version, opposite Holden as down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis.

“So my Bill Holden is a wonderful actor called Todd Gearhart,” Powers said. “... There's no one else who could do this (Norma Desmond) role that has that connection (with Holden). So it's really quite a remarkable marriage of circumstance and events.”

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hart to Hart: Stefanie Powers on the TV Series, Reunion Possibility

Stefanie Powers has had a long and impressive career that has included starring in numerous stage plays and musicals, television shows, and movies. She’s also written books on fitness, authored an autobiography, and released a CD.

While speaking with Powers about the Warner Archive’s release of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. on DVD, I had a chance to ask her about her most beloved TV role, playing opposite Robert Wagner on Hart to Hart. The series ran for five seasons on ABC before being cancelled in 1984. The characters found new life some nine years later in a series of eight TV reunion movies on NBC. The final movie was broadcast exactly 17 years after the first episode of the series.

Before we get to Hart to Hart, I’d like to ask you briefly about The Feather & Father Gang, a TV series you did with Harold Gould.
Stefanie Powers: Ah yes, my dear Harold. Harold just died last year. What a loss, what a great actor. What was so great about The Feather & Father Gang was that, here were all these wonderful comedians. It employed the most fabulous assortment of comics that were all those… comedians, and oh God, they were sensational. Nothing short of wonderful.

Hart to Hart ran for five seasons, 110 episodes. Anything that immediately comes to mind about your working with, your partnership, with Robert Wagner?
Powers: Oh yes, lots of thoughts, of course. We are still friends — thank God. Unfortunately, we see each other a lot at funerals these days. We’ve lost a lot of our pals from that period, which is very sad and lamentable.

But it was a fantastic privilege and great period of time for all of us. One of those rare things — if you’re lucky it happens once in a lifetime.

Did you actors know, when you filmed the last episode, that that was going to be the series finale?
Powers: No, we had no idea. I was in Paris filming Minstrel’s Daughter which was a mini-series. It was Sunday night. We had been in discussions about starting the next season of Hart to Hart in Paris and doing a couple of shows where Freeway [the dog] falls in love with a French poodle and runs off and something surrounding the fashion world. And those were actively on-going discussions. And that Sunday night, I got a telephone call from Robert Wagner and Leonard Goldberg and Tom Mankowitz, saying that we were not on the fall schedule. And that’s how it happened.

So we felt very much nipped in the bud. And when it was possible, four years later, we began discussions about doing a reunion of Hart to Hart. It came in many forms, it was going to be a movie for television, and then it was going to be a miniseries, and then it was going to be a series… so many different things. And then, finally NBC came up with the idea of doing a mystery “wheel”. Do you remember those things called wheels?

Oh absolutely.
Powers: About four people do remember them. Unfortunately. Not enough people understood what the rotating wheel was all about. And I don’t think that NBC really understood that in order to make something like that happen, you really do have to commit. You can’t just sort of see how it goes. You have to educate the audience that they’re going to see one of four alternating shows each week. When the wheel was invented, it was MacMillan & Wife, Columbo, McCloud, and The Name of the Game. And they all committed to making eight shows a piece. So, for a full year, you could see your favorite shows at least once a month.

But if you’re producing that, you have to commit, you can’t drop shows, you know, and say we didn’t get a rating on that one, so we’re going to drop it and next time we’ll have a new show. They never did really commit to it.

And we were a remake, we were revisiting Hart to Hart so we already had an audience. The other shows were brand new. So, it really was badly conceived unfortunately, but for us it accomplished one thing. We were able to put a period at an end of the sentence a little more gracefully than we were allowed to do when it was cancelled.

In closing, do you have any thoughts about where Jennifer and Jonathan might be today?
Powers: You mean, if we were to revisit them? I have no idea. They didn’t have children so they wouldn’t be grandparents… You know people have frequently asked if we’d want to go back and do another reunion. And, I think we’ve said good night to it. I think it’s had its day and had its moment. I don’t know where we could recapture it or how. It just wouldn’t play the same.

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. is currently available from the Warner Archive on DVD.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Hart to Hart? Do you have any favorite memories? Would you like to see the Harts reunited once more?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stefanie Powers interview: 'Girl From U.N.C.L.E.' star on the environment

Mad dictators, enemy agents, death rays — these are things the girl from U.N.C.L.E. could protect us from. But the '60s TV superspy would have been no match for the wrath of Mother Nature — nor man's role in exacerbating it — according to the actress who played her: Stefanie Powers.

owers lives in England, but happened to be in New York one recent, fateful weekend.

"I was there for the hurricane, which was a 'non-starter' in New York," the actress says in a call from England.

"That (Mayor) Bloomberg went berserk, closing down the theater. You had a lot of flooding in New Jersey. When a 150-year-old bridge goes down, it makes you wonder," Powers adds, referring to a 156-year-old bridge in Blenheim, N.Y., destroyed in the storm. "You think, well, surely there must have been floods during the 150 years that bridge existed.

"So it's all man-made. It's all human beings developing land that shouldn't be developed. It's all our fault."

Wildlife preservation is a cause dear to Powers — more on that later — who is on the line to talk about her 1966-67 series "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.," which is available in two DVD sets from the Warner Archive Collection.

Los Angeles native Powers, 68, has many career milestones. She worked with Helen Hayes, Tallulah Bankhead and John Wayne; she was a Disney heroine ("Herbie Rides Again," "The Boatniks"); and co-starred with Robert Wagner in the long-running series "Hart to Hart." Powers feels fortunate to have been in the last wave of actors signed to a studio at the tail end of Hollywood's "star system." Powers was young but, she maintains, experienced.

Recalls the actress: "I had been in a ballet company; I worked for (choreographer) Jerome Robbins. I had worked in a couple of movies when I was put under contract to Columbia. But I was a teenager. And I was a real teenager, not an overly sophisticated teenager, and certainly not a teenager the likes of which we have today.

"So you might say I was wide-eyed by comparison to the teenagers today, who are exposed to so much more, and who begin a 'physical' life — even though they're not emotionally stimulated — much earlier than we did in those days."

Powers is asked if she learned anything from Hayes and Bankhead, who are considered two of the greatest actresses of the theater.

"I learned something from everyone, because I had the privilege of working with so many extraordinary people," Powers says.

"I think one of the most important things I realized was their humanity — that while these people were consummate professionals, they were also human beings. Most of them were extremely generous as actors. Not one of them ever refused to be off-camera, if I was on the other side (of the camera). That's not only when I was the star of the show — that's even when I was the supporting player.

"Back then, even the movie stars were actors, and everybody was a human being. Today, everybody's got a phalanx of bodyguards just to walk around the corner, you know? It's really quite such a hype, that it's very difficult to understand that you could actually walk up to John Wayne in a restaurant, as people frequently did, right in the middle of his meal and say, 'Oh, excuse me, Mr. Wayne, but I think you're wonderful.' And he'd stand up and say, 'Well, that's really kind of you.' "

Powers played the daughter of Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in the 1963 Western comedy "McClintock!" Was the "Duke" a teddy bear to Powers?

"I would never call him a teddy bear," she says with a laugh.

"Everybody on that set was part of the John Ford/John Wayne extended family. It was very much a familial feeling on that set."

Three years later, Powers was sought to play April Dancer, the title secret agent in "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.," a spinoff of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

"I was under contract at Columbia at the time," she recalls. "They had done a pilot of the show with Mary Ann Mobley playing the girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Norman Fell, the comedian, playing her assistant. But they (the studio) didn't like the chemistry.

"I was in England working when I got the message that my contract had been sold; MGM bought me out of my contract to do 'The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.' Because I was in England — with the 'mods' and 'rockers' and Carnaby Street and all of that 'swinging '60s' stuff happening — I thought it would be interesting to bring that into it."

Powers was behind the casting of a British actor to play April's partner-in-spying.

She recalls: "I'd read an article about Noel Harrison, Rex Harrison's son. I thought it would be interesting if we could have a kind of mid-Atlantic couple, in keeping with the fashion that was going to hit America full-swing, and did, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all of that stuff that came from England in the 1960s. Fortunately, we were able to get Noel. That's how it started."

In contrast to "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." — the acronym stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, by the way — "Girl" had a decidedly comedic tone.

"That was one of the points of it," Powers says.

"Our producer (Douglas Benton) was also a writer. He loved kind of crazy comedy. He was a great devotee of the great comedians. He's the one who set of the tone of the show. It was markedly different from 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' It was satire. Because that half-hour series with the cartoonesque characters — 'Batman' and 'The Green Hornet' — had already been on. He loved that. He incorporated a bit of that into our show, which was adorable, I always thought.

"But it irritated NBC, who thought we looked as if we were having too much fun. That was their big criticism."

As April, Powers wore the latest fashions ("I brought a lot of them from England") and drew on her experience as a dancer to perform her own stunts.

"I did most of them," she says, "until I got hurt. There I was, jumping off of things and explosions and all. But I was injured during one, and we had to shut down for a few days. So I was not allowed to do some of the hairier stuff after that.

"I have really fond memories of some of the episodes, although it was my first experience in television. Unbeknownst to me at the time — because it was never made an issue — it was groundbreaking in its way because it was, in fact, the very first hourlong television series starring a woman. Isn't that something?"

(Powers' information may be correct. Barbara Stanwyck received special star billing in "The Big Valley," but Richard Long was top-billed.)

"Girl" lasted for one season; "Man" was canceled the following year. Powers appeared in the Disney films and much episodic television before being cast in "Hart to Hart" alongside her old friend Wagner (whom friends call "R.J."). Powers says she remembers the 1979-84 series "with great affection and nostalgia," and credits its success to producer Tom Mankiewicz, who died last year.

"Today, unfortunately, of the nucleus that created the show, R.J. and I are the only ones left standing," Powers says.

"Unfortunately, we just lost Tom Mankiewicz, who was our director, writer, creator. Although the idea of the show was to have the couple mimicking a bit of 'The Thin Man' series of films, which was (series creator) Sidney Sheldon's idea, 'Mank' changed a great deal of it and brought it into the characters that they became. He introduced the dog, he introduced the butler, he introduced this repartee that R.J. and I, I suppose, became so successful with. That show is still loved and talked about all over the world."

Powers first became interested in wildlife conservation when she became the girlfriend of actor William Holden; Powers established the William Holden Wildlife Foundation after the actor's death in 1981. In Powers' opinion, you need look no further than the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Irene to see that rampant development needs to be curbed.

"We are losing our environment so rapidly," Powers says.

"The world that our children will inherit is going to look substantially different, very quickly, than the world we have today. It's alarming. I was reading the Royal Geographical Society's report on the loss of the ice fields in Antarctica, where species of shrimp and other marine life have appeared that have never appeared in those waters before, because of the change in temperature. That's not a joke.

"We have to stop thinking about ourselves so much and start thinking about the environment. We have to change."

"The Girl From Uncle: The Complete Series, Part One" and "Part Two" are $39.99 for each four-disc set, manufactured on demand. To order, visit warnerarchive.com.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. available on DVD

The Complete Series: Part One

The Complete Series: Part Two

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Stefanie Powers’ holiday heaven and hell

The actress Stefanie Powers on Mayan ruins and narrowly missing boarding Pan Am 103, the flight brought down in the Lockerbie bombing.

Great holidays...
What was your best holiday?
I love expeditions and recently visited a great friend who has devoted the past 27 years of his life to a tiny corner of north-eastern Guatemala called the Petén. In this luscious, highly inaccessible rainforest is the excavation of the Mayan cluster of cities known as El Mirador.
The work to uncover the ruins of this World Heritage Site is painstakingly slow and the jungle is unforgivable in its determination to take back every inch of progress, but the rewards are great. Camp life is demanding, and even the simplest daily routine becomes a chore in a climate with 90 percent humidity, not to mention the bugs. But still, it is my ideal holiday – challenging my body and mind.
And what was the best hotel you've ever stayed in?
In 1972, Bill [the late actor, William Holden] and I stayed at the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong. It was very early in our relationship and Bill had very sweetly reserved two rooms side by side, as he never wanted to make me feel pressurised. Needless to say, it was a week of high romance, interrupted only by the awkwardness of dodging the eagle-eyed bell boys when either of us attempted to return discreetly to our room.
What do you need for your perfect holiday?
I want to feel that every trip I make has enhanced me as a person.
What do you always take with you?
I highly recommend a brand of clothing called Bug Off. It really works. The cloth is soaked in Deet to repel unwanted flying or crawling passersby. But do be careful of the uncovered parts: clothes protect only what they cover.
What is your best piece of travel advice?
If you are going to a destination where the food might be more exotic than usual, always err on the side of caution. I am largely vegetarian and it is usually possible to find an Indian or Chinese restaurant where the cooked vegetables are tasty, and moderation is not a bad idea anyway.
Where do you want to go next?
I always look forward to going back home to Kenya, where every day I see the legacy Bill left me [at the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, a charity she founded after Holden's death]. It is my greatest treasure, and I see his legacy in the animals he helped to preserve and the people whose lives he bettered.
...and disasters?
Which was your worst holiday?
If it is necessary to travel in a group, I hope that it will be a group of like-minded people who are curious and knowledgeable about where they are going and what they are interested in seeing. On one unfortunate occasion, I overheard a man visiting a historical ruin in Egypt say, "Ah, you seen one rock, you seen 'em all."
And your worst travel experience?
In 1988 my mother, my cousin Geri and I visited India. On the return journey, our flight was delayed for three hours in New Delhi.
On arrival in Frankfurt, we were greeted by special-services reps who ushered us to a private VIP lounge. When the doors to the lounge closed, they practically broke down in tears.
The flight we were to have connected to in Frankfurt, had we not been delayed in India, was Pan Am 103. Mom and I would have got off at London, but Geri was meant to go on to New York. Flight 103 had crashed [a subsequent investigation would reveal that it had been brought down by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, in Scotland] three hours earlier, the same amount of time we were delayed in India.
We were speechless, devastated and in shock. I have always felt a special empathy for those connected to this tragedy.
What is the biggest packing mistake you've made?
Packing is always a nightmare. Fortunately, I have clothes in my home in London and in Kenya, but after a few years, people get tired of seeing me in the same gear, so I have to renew from time to time.
Which is the worst hotel you've stayed in?
In the early Seventies, Bill and I flew into Zanzibar on a twin-engined aircraft without a permit to land. After much discussion and crossing palms with silver, and because it was getting dark and we couldn't take off after dark, we were allowed to stay overnight. Typical of the Soviet packages at the time, there was one road and one hotel whose architecture was reminiscent of a cement bunker. When we reached our room, we discovered it was the sort of place where we would best sleep in our clothes to avoid touching the sheets. Things looked worse in the clear light of dawn, so we moved out and said a fond farewell to Zanzibar.
What do you avoid on holidays?
Travelling during peak season.
What do you hate about holidays?
Saying goodbye to my little family of animals, including Papuga, my yellow-naped Amazon parrot, who has been my feathered companion for 37 years, and my five dogs: Chiquita, Miss Bounce, Alex, Ethel and Skip. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stefanie to Present Gena Award

Stefanie will be presenting the Gena Award to Jacqueline Bisset at the Palm Springs Women in Film Broken Glass Awards on March 4, 2011.

Stefanie to be on The Talk on Jan. 31

Stefanie Powers will be a guest on The Talk on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. The show airs live on CBS at 2pm ET and tape delayed at 1pm PT.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stefanie to be on Piers Morgan Tonight on Jan. 30

There's been a change in CNN's TV schedule due to Pres. Obama's State of the Union address. The episode featuring Stefanie will air on Sunday night @ at 9 PM.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stefanie to be on Piers Morgan Tonight on Jan. 28

Stefanie (with Angie Dickinson, Nichelle Nichols, Linda Evans) will be appearing on Piers Morgan Tonight on January 28 @ 9:00 PM (CNN).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pix - January 18, 2011

At Betty White's birthday party at Le Cirque in NYC on January 18, 2011.

Click on photo to see larger version.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pix - January 16, 2011

Pioneers of Television photocall at the 92nd Street Y on January 16, 2011 in New York City.

Click on photo to see larger version.

Angie Dickinson, Nichelle Nichols, Stefanie Powers, Linda Evans

Angie Dickinson, Nichelle Nichols, Stefanie Powers, Linda Evans

Angie Dickinson, Nichelle Nichols, Stefanie Powers, Linda Evans

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stefanie Powers on PBS Show "Pioneers of Television" Feb. 1

The "Pioneers of Television" episode "Crime Dramas" is to be shown on Feb. 1, with much time spent on "Dragnet" as the parent of a genre that lets Mike Connors talk about "Mannix" and Stefanie Powers reflect on "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E." and "Hart to Hart."

Check PBS listings for the time in your area.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stefanie Powers Wins BroadwayWorld Boston Theatre Award

Voting has ended and winners have been decided in the inaugural BroadwayWorld Best of Boston Theatre Awards. Results for 2010 underscore the breadth and depth of the region's outstanding theatre community, with favorites ranging from Broadway luminaries to fringe newcomers.

Stefanie Powers won Best Actress in a Musical for her powerful portrayal of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

Mount Kenya club opens tennis court

The Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki opened a state of the art tennis court last week to cater for its sports-inclined clientele and management. The court was inaugurated by legendary film artist, Stefanie Powers, popularly known for the television series ‘Hart to Hart’.

The tennis court is part of the recent extensive renovations programme at the club, nestled at the foot of Mt Kenya. Mount Kenya Safari Club provides a serene atmosphere for some of the world’s most celebrated personalities.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pioneers of TV - Jan. 16

Angie Dickinson, Linda Evans, Stefanie Powers and Nichelle Nichols will be in town on Sunday, Jan. 16, at the 92nd Street Y, for a "Pioneers of Television" roundtable in conjunction with the PBS series of the same name. All four women are featured in the series, which returns for its second season Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. with "Science Fiction," which features Nichols ("Star Trek") and her co-stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, among others.

Dickinson starred in "Police Woman" (1974-78, NBC) Evans in "Dynasty" (1981-89, ABC) and Powers in "Hart to Hart" (1979-84, ABC).