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Roger Smith

Ann-Margret, 60, is This Year's Swedish-American:

She loves Dalecarlia-horses,
Strawberries, Pickled Herring & Schnapps!

She was 60 this spring, but age doesn't worry Ann-Margret a bit. She has managed to stay beautiful and fresh. Soon she will come to Sweden to pick up the award as "Swedish-American of the Year". And you have to look far for something more Swedish than Ann-Margret!

Which is a bit strange, when you consider the fact that she was only 5, when she and her mother Anna, left Northern Sweden and emigrated to the U.S. Ann-Margret insists, though, and she still has lots of relatives in the old country, she still speaks the language - and she actually thinks that pickled herring , schnapps and goat-cheese and strawberries are the best things in life!

She is called "The Animal"
Apart from that, she has always looked like a Swedish Midsummer Night's Dream, and still does, despite the years. She is called "The Animal" and became early on one of the world's biggest "superstar sex symbols", but Ann-Margret thinks the question if she's attractive or not is irrelevant. "I was born in a family where you didn't talk like that", she says. "What mattered was what's inside."

We better take things from the start. Ann-Margret was born on April 28, 1941 in Stockholm, but that fall the family moved to the North, and the small village Valsjobyn, population 150, with lots of forests and fresh air. A few months after that her father emigrated to the U.S. A few years later, in the summer of 1946, when the war had ended, and with peace in Europe, Ann-Margret and her mother followed. The family settled in Fox Lake, Illinois, and then moved on to Wilmette, where Ann-Margret grew up. Artistry was in her blood right from the start.

"It's there from my mother's side", she thinks. "Mother liked to sing and perform and was something of an amateur artist in the village where I lived my first years. We sang Swedish folksongs together, and when we arrived in the U.S. my parents made me take dance- and piano-lessons.".

Cheerleader in School
In 1955, Ann-Margret started high school at New Trier in Winnetka, outside Chicago. When she graduated in summer of 1959, she of course had been cheerleader, gone to all the traditional parties and become an all-american girl - but her Swedish roots were there, and she cared deeply for them.

"Of course", she says, "they were the base, the foundation in my life, and I guess they still are."

School was behind her. Ahead was thecareer as an artist. She started by touring Germany with Bobbie Brown, fixed her name by getting rid of "Olsson", and in the summer of 1960 joined the group The Suttletones. Things started to happen fast. In February 1961 her first solo-single. "Lost Love" was released, in March the album "And Here She Is", George Burns discovered her and asks her to join his show in Las Vegas, Hollywood follows, and suddenly Ann-Margret is red hot, and the star everyone talks about. At least in the U.S.

In Europe, we weren't that wild about her, even if she as a star here as well. But in the States she was hailed as a goddess and was seen everywhere. In 1963, for instance, she did the film "Viva Las Vegas" with Elvis Presley, who fell madly in love with her.

Married for 33 years
"He was strong, tender, exciting and protective", she has been saying.

But it didn't las very long. Elvis was soon out of the picture, others came and went, and among all her dates, she chose Roger Smith, with whom she up till this day has been married to for 33 years. Something of a record in showbusiness, and Ann-Margret stresses how much she loves her husband, and how important it is with faith in a marriage.

"We like each other and we respect each other", she says. "Very, very much. I am a one man's woman and I let Roger decide over me. We trust each other. And we laugh a lot. To be able to laugh together is really important!"

It hasn't always been easy, however. According to rumours, Ann-Margret has had her periods of alcoholism. She has never had children, and in 1972 she was badly injured when she fell from the stage during a show in Lake Tahoe, badly hurting her face.

"I'm so glad I survived", she says. "And the pain wasn't a big problem. I received good treatment - and 10 weeks later I was back on stage!"

She is a fighter, and also has never been afraid of changes. In the 80s, Roger was diagnosed with the muscular disease Myasthenia Gravis, and Ann-Margret cut down on her engagements, to be able to help him. She actually totally stopped touring for awhile. "He's just not my husband", the star explained to all disappointed producers, "he's also my manager, and it's impossible to travel in his condition."

Television a Bigger Challenge
In the 90s, his health stabilized, and Ann-Margret was able to take up touring again. During this year she has been in a well-received production of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" all over the U.S. Critics have unanimously declared that, she may be 60, but she doesn't look a day over 40!

But the years go by.And for that reason she has done a lot more television lately.

"I have realized", she says, that if you are over a certain age and a woman, television parts are a much bigger challenge."

She is a twice Oscar-nominee, have won 5 Golden Globe-awards, have been nominated for an Emmy 5 times, and has been Female Star of the Year 3 times. You could very well say that things have turned out well in America, for the emigrant Ann-Margret Olsson, from Valsjobyn. She lives fabulously, with Roger Smith high up in Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills. The big white house, is fantastic, and there's a big garden, tennis-courts, a park and a swimming-pool. In the window-sills and tables inside, there are Dalecarlia-horses and blue-and-yellow Swedish flags, there's pickled herring and schnapps in the fridge, and hard Swedish bread in the cupboard. Despite the Americanization, after 55 years in the new country, she is till blue-and-yellow through and through, and now she's soon coming "home" to Sweden, to pick up the award as "Swedish-American of the Year", from the hands of their majesties the King and Queen. And a better choice than Ann-Margret can't be found.

"I always want to inspire" she says. "That's why I always choose the parts as the heroine."

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By Max Nyblom

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