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Friends & Mentors

Brenda Venus with Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Fun in the Sun with long-time friend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the back of a friend’s yacht. What a beautiful, magnificent, perfect day!

I met Kareem while working out in my gym on San Vicente Blvd. in L.A. as I did every day for a few hours. My usual routine consisted of stretching before I hit the weights. One afternoon while on the mat completely extended in a ballet split, I looked up to a really tall man standing before me saying, “I’m a big fan of yours! I saw “The Eiger Sanction” three times and I’ve always wanted to meet you.” Still in my split position, I suggested that he consider playing basketball. He laughed heartily and said, “I do! I play for the Los Angeles Lakers!” Of course, I didn’t know anything about basketball or the LA Lakers at that time.

Very soon, he sent two tickets for front row seating to one of the biggest playoff games of the season. I went with a girlfriend and immediately became a fan of the team. The way in which they seemed to glide down the court, flying effortlessly through the air while reaching toward the sky to sink a basket reminded me of a great ballet performance. Kareem is a highly intelligent man, and reads all the time. He is a connoisseur of jazz, loves to travel, and he can speak on almost any subject with authority.
Brenda Venus with Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck

Ahh Selleck! I met Tom Selleck when I first arrived in L.A. We were actors trying to make our way in the world of film. Tom carried my books after class and we shared many earth shattering decisions about our careers. We studied together, went on casting calls, appeared in plays… always in search of a good part—a part that stimulated our minds and touched our hearts.

Tom was always supportive and worked hard at being the best. Humble is the word I would use. He has always been very humble. I love that quality in a man. And he is self-effacing – not afraid to laugh at himself even at the most embarrassing times. It’s rare that such a nice looking leading man can also joke about himself. Very rare, indeed! Oh, and his voice plays a big part in his success. It’s very unique. No one sounds quite like Selleck!

One sunny afternoon, he handed me a play entitled, “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams and asked if I would play Maggie to his Brick. Of course I said, “Yes!” being from the South and loving the sultry, sexy play. The last night we were performing the play, I got stuck in a compromising position on stage. Tom quickly saw the problem and came over to where I was standing and without missing a beat; he cleverly and with ease, unhooked my slip from the prop in which it was stuck. We were both terrified, but no one even noticed. That was an amazing night!

Today, when I run into Tom, he picks me up, twirls me around, and gives me the best
hug, ever. Selleck is always the same gracious and lovely man, no matter where or
when we meet. I love it when he wears khaki shorts. He definitely has the most
shapely legs. What a great friend…! Kinda like a big brother!

Brenda Venus Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy

48 Hours was Eddie Murphy’s first film, and I played a ‘lady of the night.’ He came straight out of “Saturday Night Live” and my friend and producer, Larry Gordon was certain that Eddie would be perfect as partner and side-kick to Nick Nolte. I needed a small role to keep my SAG insurance up to date, so I called and asked if I could play any character that had not yet been cast.

One day during lunch, I noticed that Eddie was eating alone and he seemed so very shy. It was his first day on the job, his first stint at a big role in a big movie and he didn’t know anyone in the cast. So I walked over, introduced myself, and told him that I was from the South… from the Deep South… from Mississippi. He looked up, grinned, his eyes twinkled and he asked me to sit down. We ate our lunch together every day after our first meeting. We talked and laughed, laughed and talked. And from that day forward, we formed a bond of mutual respect. I love his humor and intelligence. He’s never at a loss for words, stories — something timely and always hitting the core of his target.

Eddie is shy and rather timid. But when he speaks, a floodgate of insights and passions come spilling forth. There are few people with whom he will share the “Real Eddie,” and those few individuals feel very special because they know that he is selective with whom he shares his true nature. I like that about a man!

Aside from being one of the funniest men on the face of the earth, Eddie has a gift.
He’s a true comedian, a true entertainer. When he’s on stage, any stage as long as
there is an audience, he entertains, and he is brilliant!

 

Brenda Venus Michael Douglas

Michael Douglas

I have always admired the way Michael Douglas has handled his celebrity through the years. Being the son of a well-renowned icon of film, Kirk Douglas, Michael worked his way up the ladder to success by learning both behind and in front of the camera techniques.

He strategically planned his moves like that of a grand chess master, securing the rights to films in which he had a passionate and moral interest. After which, he called various people that he thought might be interested in investing in his newly acquired projects. A good example of this is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” starring Jack Nicholson. Michael received the rights to the novel from his dad, Kirk Douglas. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Michael went on to produce and star in so many beloved and memorable films.

In this photo, we’re eating dinner in a friend’s back yard in Santa Barbara, although I’d call it a tropical oasis with a waterfall and lake to the right of our table. The entire area glowed by candlelight which bounced off our faces as we chatted. We discussed Michael’s collection of fine wines, the delicious food we were eating, his favorite black Porsche Carrera and the divine music playing in the background. I love his style and elegance! After all, he married one of my dear friends.

Brenda Venus with Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood

In this photo Clint Eastwood was telling me a funny story between takes of filming “The Eiger Sanction.” We were preparing to climb the North face of the Eiger, a treacherous mountain in the Swiss Alps. Whenever he could steal a moment from both directing and acting, he taught me about film-making, and being brave in the face of danger by his example…

While we were climbing a mountain in Utah, I lost my footing and slipped several feet down the mountain. Clint quickly realized that if I had moved a muscle, I would have fallen into the deep, dark, seemingly never ending abyss. He gently told me to keep looking up, never look down, and to be very still until he could make his way down to where I was dangling from a twig. He continued talking confidently and quietly as he came closer and closer.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, he held out his long, strong arm and said, “Give me your hand.” Trustingly, I did so. Cautiously and carefully, he pulled me to safety. My heart was beating so fast when we reached the top of the mountain that I flew into his arms, in gratitude.

Clint gives true meaning to the words: He walks softly and carries a big stick! There are men who talk, and men who act. Clint acts… in more ways than one. He has developed into one of our finest actors and filmmakers of all time.

Brenda Venus with Yuri Smaltzoff

Yuri Smaltzoff

Yuri Smaltzoff was my ballet master. He honed my talents while supporting my dreams and desires. He always had a kind and encouraging word that pushed me forward to achieve my goals. He also taught me discipline, focus and hard work is the key to every successful person; that knowing exactly what I want and not giving up was his unfaltering advice.

He is one of the most positive and intelligent men that I have ever known. He supported my choice in flying to Moscow for opening night of a play that was performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in my honor. I was the guest of Vladimir Putin, but I was still a stranger in a strange, exotic and beautiful land.

Yuri gave me the courage that I dearly needed for that magnificent journey. It was indeed a memorable moment in time. From afar, Yuri was my anchor and guide throughout the gracious event of seeing and being welcomed by the vast beauty of Russia and her people. It was a ‘once in a lifetime’ adventure, and made possible due to Yuri Smalzoff’s positive encouragement. Yuri not only choreographed most of my ballets, but also my trip to the romantic city of Moscow.

Brenda Venus with Henry Miller

Henry Miller

Henry Miller was my ultimate mentor! I was his muse. When I first met Henry, I was a film actress. After a few weeks of exchanging letters, phone calls and dinners, he began to encourage my writing ability. He said the most important aspect of writing is to speak from the heart about a subject you know well, sit down and do it! No excuses, no apologies… just write and write, and eventually you will have written something that is worthy to be read. He wrote me over four-thousand letters in only four years and I wrote him an equal amount. After his death, I published my first book, entitled, Dear Dear Brenda which are the three words in which Henry began writing most of his letters to me and always ended with another three words, J’ai taime.

I am grateful for his foresight, time, energy, support, humor but most of all… his unconditional love. I was blessed with the great fortune of knowing the genius of our century, and a wonderful human being who cared about humanity. He taught me to be myself, because that’s when a person is truly unique. His profound words of wisdom ring in my ear and beat in my heart every day. He believed in destiny and told me that we had been destined to meet. I know he was right! I cannot imagine what turn my life would have taken without the intervention of the late, great Henry Miller! I am truly blessed…

 

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