Wednesday, December 15, 2004

'It's hard to be ...' an actress, an author and a mom

Jamie Lee Curtis talks about her connection to the valley and her new book

Express Staff Writer

?It?s Hard to Be Five? By Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. Joanna Cotler Books. $16.99. 40 pp.

"I want to come up with a way to honor my mother here. She represented a real connection to the glamour days. She was one of the few movie stars who came and stayed."

The seemingly tireless Jamie Lee Curtis—author, actress and mother—has published a new book titled "It's Hard to Be Five." The part-time valley resident will be hosting a book-signing event Monday, Dec. 20 at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Hosted by Iconoclast Books and benefiting the Lee Pesky Learning Center, a ticketed reception begins at 3 p.m. At 4:30 p.m. the theater opens to the public for the signing of Curtis' book, as well as "Every Child Ready to Read," a book produced by the Pesky Center.

In an interview last week, Curtis discussed her love of Ketchum and Sun Valley, her admiration for young entrepreneurs in the valley, her reasons for aligning herself with the Lee Pesky Learning Center and her children's books.

"I try to do book signings that have some connection to causes I care about. It looks like I'm just trying to sell books, which is good of course but it can sometimes become a horse race, which is no different than any other part of my life in entertainment. So to attach it to something I care about is good.

"I like to do movie benefits for children related health issues. If my new movie, 'Christmas With the Kranks' hadn't already been released I would have done that for a benefit for the Pesky Center."

Curtis learned about the Pesky Center via a brochure sent in the mail. It coincided with a personal interest in teaching the learning disabled.

"There was a need here in Los Angeles in my family for a learning center. I've seen the benefit of it with my son. We've been fortunate to have a learning center here. So, the connection felt complete. I turned this into an opportunity to help."

Curtis has a long-standing connection with this area. Her late mother, the actress Janet Leigh began coming to the valley in the early 1960s with her husband. Leigh died in early October.

"This will be a bittersweet Christmas," Curtis said. "I credit my father Bob Brandt with Sun Valley. He was an early Proctor Mountain skier. He married my mother and brought her here. I've been coming for 40 years. When Chris (her husband and movie director Christopher Guest) and I were married we honeymooned there, bought a house and property. We've become very committed to the valley.

"I want to come up with a way to honor my mother (in Sun Valley). I certainly think there is a way. She represented a real connection to the glamour days. She was one of the few movie stars who came and stayed. She really loved it so I am grateful to Bob Brandt and Janet Leigh. After every hike, when I get to the summit and look out I say thank you, thank you for bringing us here. That is the true gift."

Curtis, who is nothing if not a precise and experienced interviewee, also expressed her admiration for people who've made a go of it in business in the valley. People like Todd Rippo of Java, Karin and Jim Slantz of Boardbin and Gary Hunt of Iconoclast.

"It's a particular pleasure for me to watch young people and young business owners develop themselves and the community. My daughter will graduate this year and places we've been going since she was young have now become the establishment, tried and true. I admire people like that. My first pull is to support these people."

It's for this reason she decided to do the reception and signing in the theater with Iconoclast and the Pesky Center.

"We connected," she said simply.

Like her other books, "It's Hard to Be Five" is based on things that have occurred in her own children's lives.

"It's based on something that occurred when he was five. He's now eight and a half. He was just frustrated trying to do something so I started narrating: 'You tried to build that tower and it was going well and it didn't work but it was a good try.' I said 'It's hard to be five' and he just exploded." Curtis said she immediately wrote that phrase down, and later began flushing out the story.

"One of the books, my favorite, 'Where Do Balloons Go: An Uplifting Mystery' was inspired when I was at a birthday party at Atkinson Park. A storm came and we took shelter under the gazebo. Balloons were tied to a post, but they got loose and flew away. Rachel Evans, who lives in Ketchum, said to her mother, 'Mommy where do balloons go?' I felt like I had been struck by lighting."

Suddenly, Curtis stopped. "I have to go right now, I am doing a phone interview with Public Radio."

With that she was gone.

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