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Author of the hit, acclaimed TV tell-all Come and Knock on Our Door, Retroality.TV editor Chris Mann served as Consulting Producer on NBC's hit 2003 telefilm Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Three's Company. He's also covered talent, legal issues and social trends as a freelance writer for TV Guide, emmy, Geek and other publications. Additionally, Chris pens and sometimes art directs celeb cover-story profiles and photo shoots for numerous healthy living magazines. click for more
JOHN RITTER RAVES: In this 1997 interview with RetroRewind.com's Dave Harris, the late, great John Ritter graciously shares supportive words for Chris Mann and Come and Knock on Our Door (see 4:40)
"I have to admit that Come and Knock on Our Door was the very best book I ever read about any TV show. I felt like I was on the set of Three's Company. The author (lemme just take this time to say that Chris Mann is a genius) captured every element of the show." -Bill Cassin (Scarsdale, NY)
"Chris Mann did a fantastic job on this book! I entered this reading experience expecting a superficial offering of one-sided stories about the trials and tribulations of this pop culture phenomenon known as Three's Company. I exited feeling satisfied at the invested hours I spent in reading this book." -Robert Nguyen (Orange Cty., CA)
"Chris has managed to tell the backstage story in a non-biased manner but has decided to let the stars tell their own sides, ensuring their integrity and the integrity of the book in the process. This book is anything but a tabloid. It tells the stories from those who experienced it. No commentaries are made. No opinions are offered. Just the facts.The show itself was dissected and Chris Mann speaks about the behind the scenes goings on as if he were there. -Roy J. Dlucca (Phoenix, AZ)
"This is one hell of a good book. One you can really get glued to. Very informative. I just love it. I'm buying all the Three's Company DVDs as they come out, and this is like a bible to them." -Brian (Melbourne, Australia)
"Like so many others, I grew up watching Three's Company, so I couldn't wait to dive into this book. The behind the scenes stories are alternately funny and enlightening, and the author clearly went to great lengths to present all sides of the story. This is especially important, since opinions on the Somers situation vary widely." -J.T. Schweizer (Queens, NY)
"It documented the fight between Suzanne Somers and the producers so thoroughly, I felt as though I was there. It interviewed the actors and producers so honestly, I knew that (the experience) had really hurt them. It is almost impossible to be inside someones head, especially a celebrity's, but Chris Mann has taken that experience and put it on paper, making this one of the most (if not THE most) superb TV book I have come across." -"MooShoo2000"
"This book was very interesting, detailing in full the behind-the-scenes conflicts, including the much-ballyhooed incident with Suzanne Somers. But what I find most extraordinary is that the author gets EVERYONE'S side on this one ... he doesn't take sides, just presents both arguments and lets the readers decide who was right or wrong. What I enjoyed was that Chris Mann spent his time discussing the cast and the problems they were facing, not describing in detail the episodes we have all seen many times. Chris Mann did a great job of giving the public the information they wanted, and I must give him credit for gaining the cooperation of the entire cast, which seems unheard of these days." -Donald Brickeen (Memphis)
"It goes in depth and gives all view points, without taking sides. It blends Suzanne Somers' and Joyce DeWitt's interviews as if they were talking face to face. It holds every actor and person involved with the show at the same level of appreciation and regard." -A reader
"Just about everyone involved with the show is interviewed and gives their take on all the going-ons. There is a great description of how Three's Company finally got on the air, the tensions and problems that developed between its stars, the decision to cancel the show, and everything in between." -F. Leal
"I was constantly surprised at how much building tension there was behind the scenes of this number-one show." -A reader
"Gossip, drama, depth, this book has it all." -A reader (Miami, FL)
"This book provides a great way to bring closure to an epic adventure from my childhood." -A reader
Lindsay Wagner's Valentine's Day weekend could be described as Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Autographs and Flash Photography. But the incessant action hasn't sapped her energy (we know, we know: she's bionic!)—or her sense of humor. The ever-calm and soft-spoken '70s icon-turned-TV movie queen, powered by a pre-dinner banana and two pink-foil-wrapped Hershey's Kisses, kindly sits down for an hour-long chat after a day-long meet-and-greet with fans at the Hollywood Show autograph convention in Burbank, Calif.
She's heard it all before, I'm sure: "I loved the Bionic Woman," "I used to make that bionic sound while running," "Fembots gave me night sweats." But she clearly cherishes each story she hears about childhoods transformed by superhero super couple Jaime Sommers and Steve Austin. So I gather the nerve to tell her my life-changing tale: Between ages 4 and 6, I was terrified to get shots. My pediatrician's nurse soothed my fear, though, by bending the needle immediately after sticking it in my, um, cheek. For years I took her words as gospel: "You, little man, have a bionic butt."
Wagner bursts into laughter. Phew! She assures me she's never heard that one before.
That nurse helped me conquer my fears and stand tall with the power of positive thinking. In essence, this also describes Wagner's work in recent years as host and facilitator of her own holistic healing workshops and retreats titled "Quiet the Mind and Open the Heart." "The study and sharing of holistic health, the integration of body, mind and spirit to awaken our amazing human potential and heal the body, has always been my greatest passion, whether it be throughout my career or my personal life," Wagner states on her website LindsayWagnerInternational.com."My workshops and retreats have developed out of my own experience and many years of studying both Western and Eastern modalities."
The Emmy-winning actress, author and wellness advocate—comfortably draped in an Eastern-style wrap and still naturally stunning at 60—co-founded the Peacemakers Community in 2004. The non-profit group helps families and individuals relate to each other in hopes of ending the cycle of family violence. (For more information, see LindsayWagner.com, OpenToOneness.com and Twitter.com/opentheheart.)
Here, in the first of an exclusive two-part interview, the actress—who splits her time between her homes in California and Washington state—shares her tranformative experiences that led her into acting and teaching before ultimately accepting the TV role that made her a global star and role model.
So you flew in last night from Seattle? This morning. The flight was late and it couldn’t make the connection. They went from Seattle and ended up having to change planes in Redding. And then from Redding to Oakland. I spent the night in Oakland. Then I flew into Burbank this morning. It turned out being my Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
Thank God you have your Sleep Number bed. (Laughs.) I didn’t have it with me on this trip!
You’ve always kept yourself energized through meditation and holistic healing. What are you doing now in that realm? I’m doing some workshops and retreats. I call them experiential workshops. They’re really designed to help people recognize and shift limiting perspectives that we carry with us. And I believe that it is our perspective of any life circumstance that renders our experience of it rather than the circumstance—or the relationship or event—itself.
Marianne Williamson defines a miracle as a change in perception. Yes. Well, then we have lots of miracles at our workshops. (Laughs.)
Because you are so well known for the Bionic Woman's physical super powers, do you find people are surprised by this other level to you? Honestly, people who’ve followed my whole career may remember The Bionic Woman and relate to that in a very intense way. But I find that most people who’ve followed my whole career don’t see me as the physical, strong Bionic Woman. They relate more to the types of stories I’ve always gravitated to and/or generated; stories that have to do with people transcending circumstances in their lives, which we call all relate to.
So most people say, when they come (to my workshops), that they’re not surprised. What they do express is a pleasant validation of what they thought may be so. People will say things like, “I always knew that—you always did this kind of movie, or I’d see you on a talk show and hear you’d talking, and I just always felt you really had this heart, and I feel that way, too.” And then some people come to the workshop and feel the extent and the potency of the work. We do really have wonderful experiences at the workshops.
You mentioned the heart connection. I’m one of the many, many who grew up watching you on The Bionic Woman and who’ll tell you that that show had heart. Which the remake did not.
No. It missed the soul of the original. Do fans often express that that’s something you brought to the show? Oh, definitely. Though kids watching it were not able at that age to articulate what they saw that we worked so hard to put in it—especially at my incessant prompting. They had to take a black-and-white formula—good guy/bad guy, good guy always wins and bad guy is just plain bad—and make it more human. I was very insistent about not using my bionics in an aggressive or offensive way. No offensive moves were done by her. It was all in defense. I continuously encouraged the writers to find ways for her to use her mind and her bionics as an extension of her mind.
If you think about and go back and view the series with that viewpoint, you’ll see that she could’ve just gone off and gone, “Bam! I win! Let’s get out of here.” And she didn’t. She had to use her mind to think her way through something. So maybe she shoved a piano in front of a door to stop the bad guys—but she didn’t shove a piano at the bad guy. Or she could’ve picked up a giant rock and thrown it through a car window and knocked the guy’s head off. But instead she pushed a tree down and when they got to it they had to stop, and it impeded their ability to chase her.
And I think young girls especially picked that up. When you were signing the Bionic Woman lunch box, I was thinking of my elementary school cafeteria—the Bionic Woman and Six Million Dollar lunch boxes were the two biggies. Those were for many the first two superhero role models. Her humanity was gone in the remake. It was gone, honestly, for me, in almost every other female-driven, empowered-woman (series). The Bionic Woman was the launch of allowing women to have that role of a fully-empowered woman in a man’s world. And a lot of shows followed with that formula. But from my perspective a lot of times they missed it. What we were trying to do was bring the feminine to conflict resolution. Whether you were a man or a woman, the point for me was looking at conflict resolution more deeply rather than just winning because you’re stronger. Looking at your adversary as a human being, even though they might be at the other end of a disagreement of what’s right or wrong or this disagreement about what you want to have happen.
And you were able in 1975, 76 to get these kinds of breakthrough stories on the air? Yes. It was part of my deal. I actually wasn’t interested in doing a series at the time. I already had started doing features. (1973’s) Two People with (director) Robert Wise was my first one. Because of the subject matter they jerked it off (screens). It was the story that was looking at the dilemma of the deserters from the Vietnam War. It wasn’t saying they were right or wrong; it was exploring what they had to say and what was going on for them. It wasn’t a typical kind of situation as with other wars when someone would desert. It was a unique situation in history. As the film came out, in about two weeks in Westwood as the POWs came home, they started pelting and egging the theater. So they had to pull it right off because nobody wanted to hear anything about a deserter as the POWs were coming home. It was understandable; it was a very difficult time.
And then came (the 1973 film) The Paper Chase. And that was a huge hit. So I was in that mode when this phenomenon of the Bionic Woman—which kept coming back, because I’d done an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man—started chasing me. (Laughs.) “She started chasing me—at 50 mph!”
So you finally decided to do the bionic spin-off, playing Jaime Sommers as a teacher.
I finally decided to do it because I love working with kids. Prior to that I’d been teaching at a private school. I’d been teaching acting to kids as therapy. Not because there was anything wrong with them. But on a basic level I was working with kids because I had learned to act kind of through therapy. It was very important part of my development and understanding of being judgmental. One of the things I learned early on that when I shared myself I had a lot of judgments about the pains I grew up with. As a young person, I would hide them until it was okay to share—as many of us do. It’s kind of a familial trait. We learn to do that or we think something about us is shameful.
Jimmy (Best), who I studied acting with as a kid, kind of took me under his wing. He thought I should do things that young people do, because I was babysitting all the time and kind of working to help my family. And him being an actor, he kind of saw right through my bravado and saw that I was hurting. There was a lot of tumultuous stuff going on in our family at the time. So he kind of gave me an outlet and brought me into his acting class, which was really a workshop for working actors, to improve their skills. It wasn’t an acting class for beginner actors. So he sort of begged their indulgence and brought me in. So my first acting was with people who were already into acting.
One of the things he taught was to sit and observe people, to watch them. And when you find yourself feeling uncomfortable about someone, explore that. Explore yourself and why you’re judging that person and what it is about them you’re judging. Because if you have judgments about them, you won’t be able to play somebody like that honestly until you get that you’re in judgment. So I learned this at like 12-13 years old. It was a life lesson.
So since I learned to act because I was holding everything in, it gave me an arena where I could let out my emotions. That’s also what I got out of those early experiences. He gave me a Tennessee Williams play, This Property’s Condemned. I played a girl who was a very sad little girl who was hiding behind her bravado. I got to let it all out. And I saw people responding positively to my pain when shared, which in this case was as a character. But nonetheless it was in a healthy way.
So it was my first inkling that sharing my whole self—which would include my pain and not just my ability to make you laugh or be pretty or whatever—gave me a sense that everything about me might be valuable. I wasn’t convinced, but it was the first inkling. That took years. (Laughs.)
So you decided to become a teacher yourself. I was teaching other kids by (the mid-1970s) because I’d had that experience. And by this time I was very aware of what a gift I’d gotten. I was kind of passing it on to other kids at a private school that didn’t have enough funds for art classes. So I just volunteered after school.
I was doing that at the same time the Bionic Woman was chasing me. I’d been under contract for a year and a half to two years. And one of the things I was struggling with was how much satisfaction I got from doing the work with the kids—and yet my career was going so strong so fast, that I really did not have the time to devote to the kids. I missed that.
A friend of mine, my best friend at the time, said, “Why aren't you taking this (show)? They’re offering you more money to do this.” I said, “It’s going to be so overwhelming if I do it. And I don’t find anything attractive in it. It’s an action show and I want to talk about serious issues in my work.” And she said, “What is your primary struggle right now? You want to work with the kids but you want to keep acting because you love acting and you love working with kids. What are they asking you to do, you ninny? (Laughs.) They’re asking you to work with children of the world.”
So that’s how I came to say, “I’ll do it as long as I can have creative input into the way this is done. Because I don’t want to be a man in a skirt going around bashing people because I’m super strong. And I don’t even think that’s what being a man is to begin with, but that seems to be the current definition.”
sive! Meet the Bionic Woman,
Mini-Me, Jane Russell & more!
Coming: Gena Lee Nolin Q&A!
CHRISTOPHER ATKINS' "CONFESSIONS," PT 1
CHRISTOPHER ATKINS' "CONFESSIONS," PT 2
'HOLLYWOOD SHOW'-&-TELL: Retroality.TV has the scoop on
the Feb. 13-14 event featuring
a hot Knots Landing reunion,
Baywatch babes, Lindsay "The
Bionic Woman" Wagner, Hugh
"Wyatt Earp" O'Brian and more!
See Chris Mann's exclusive story
in the Los Angeles Times