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Roger Smith

Ann-Margret

Swedish born Ann-Margret (AM) is a singer-actress who starred in such Hollywood classics as "Viva Las Vegas" with Elvis Presley, "State Fair," and "Bye Bye Birdie," and lately "Grumpy Old Men" and its sequel, "Grumpier Old Men." She is also a singer and performer, who rose to prominence with her Las Vegas act. This interview with Robert H. Schuller (RHS) took place at the Crystal Cathedral on Sunday, December 19, 2004.

RHS: Now my guest of the morning is Ann-Margret, and her name is a household word. Please join me in welcoming her as my guest this morning. We love you.

AM: Thank you. Thank you so much.

RHS: We met years ago, didn’t we?

AM: Yes we did.

RHS: You remember it?

AM: Yes, we met at a Raiders game and they won. Also, I was at the Memorial for Mr. George Sidney when you spoke just a year ago.

RHS: Wow.

AM: Yes.

RHS: Tell us, you were born in Sweden, right?

AM: Yes.

RHS: And you came to America at the age of...

AM: About six. I was born in Stockholm and I came to America when I was six years old. My father had come to America to look for work when I was about 8 months old. It was during World War II and daddy just thought it was much too dangerous for mother and I to cross the ocean. But she would always talk about him and show me pictures of him. And then five years later, finally, mother and I boarded the ship and when we were docking New York harbor, mother pointed out this gentleman and said, "That’s your father." And I looked at him and I thought, what a handsome, strong man. I was just so excited.

RHS: Fantastic. You learned English without a hint of an accent?

AM: Yes. My mother had a very strong Swedish accent.

RHS: Did she?

AM: Yes

RHS: How did you get into performing?

AM: Well, my goodness, when I was four years old and still in the little village called Valsjobyn in Sweden, my mother was an amateur performer. This little village of 180 people was in northern Sweden and she would teach me Swedish songs and then she would move and I would just mimic her. And we would harmonize all the time.

RHS: Did you ever take voice lessons or dancing lessons?

AM: Oh, I took them all.

RHS: What was the big break that brought you into the big league in the theater?

AM: Mr. George Burns.

RHS: Tell us about that?

AM: I auditioned for him when I was 18 years old and after I auditioned he said, "Ann, you want to come to Vegas in my show? " And I was just thrilled and I learned so very much from him.

RHS: Oh, wow. What a legend!

AM: Yes.

RHS: What a great guy.

AM: Yes.

RHS: What in your career, which is still far from finished...

AM: Yes, I’m 95 and still hoofing.

RHS: Yeah! But seriously, is there anything that stands out as probably the most unforgettable moment or the most inspiring moment?

AM: Oh my goodness.

RHS: I think all of your events were so important that I don’t suppose you could single anyone out?

AM: You know, I must tell you, the most important to me really was buying my parents their own house. It made me feel so good because they had only rented before.

RHS: In Sweden they rented. Here they bought a house?

AM: I bought them a house here in 1962.

RHS: Wow.

AM: Yes.

RHS: Rich enough you could buy your parents their first house. Isn’t that wonderful?

AM: It was totally incredible.

RHS: Now, you know I’ll bet many people think because you’re so gorgeous...

AM: Thank you.

RHS: ...I wonder how many husbands she’s had her and all that stuff, you know? You are married, right?

AM: Yes indeed, and we have been together for 40 years.

RHS: Wow.

AM: I met Roger (Smith)... I’m so proud of that. I met him in 1964.

RHS: Wow.

AM: Yes.

RHS: And the two of you really had a struggle with his health problems, I believe. How did your faith help you to get through that?

AM: Well, it has always been there. My faith has always been there. I came from a family; it was just my mother, father and I. And we always had a very strong belief system. I was raised a Lutheran.

RHS: I was going to guess you were probably baptized as a little baby in the Lutheran church?

AM: Yes, and I don’t know if you know but in Sweden, Lutheran is the state religion.

RHS: Yes.

AM: Yes. I was, let’s see I was confirmed in the Trinity Lutheran Church on Gulf Road in Skokie, Illinois. And it really has helped me pull through a whole mass of things. And we’re all still here.

RHS: That’s right.

AM: I know you wanted me to say something. It’s been 32 years now since I had an accident in which I fell 22 feet and I smashed myself up and I really did it. And three days later I woke up and I really felt...

RHS: You were unconscious three days?

AM: Yes.

RHS: Where did you fall?

AM: It was actually on stage, I was about to go on and at that time I arrived on a platform and it just gave way.

RHS: Where did this happen?

AM: In Lake Tahoe. But when I woke up...

RHS: Three days later?

AM: Yes, three days later, I realized that I must have been spared for something. And boy through the years, I know, because I’ve been able to help people one-on-one on just about everything. Whatever I have gone through in my life, I want to be a really good example to teach others.

RHS: You have been such an example with your husband because his health problems, can we mention what they were or are?

AM: Yes, he has Myasthenia Gravis, but he has been in remission about 30 years now.

RHS: Wonderful.

AM: And yes, I know he’s well because he’s ornery. I always know.

RHS: Well everybody here loves you.

AM: Thank you.

RHS: As you approach in the years to come the peak of your career, you are doing something you’ve never done before. I’m looking at two CD’s here, one is "God is Love: The Gospel Sessions" and the other is "Ann-Margret’s Christmas Carol Collection." Are these both new or did one precede the other?

AM: I did the "God is Love" two years ago, and I told mother that I was doing it and she was so thrilled. And she unfortunately passed away before, but it was really such a catharsis. I started doing it three weeks later in Houston. And I did it every night after I was doing a show from 1 AM to 4 or 5 AM and it really, really helped me.

RHS: And this one is new?

AM: Yes, it came out two weeks ago.

RHS: Read the title.

AM: It says, "Ann-Margret’s Christmas Carol Collection."

RHS: Wow, you’re singing the Christmas songs, "Jingle Bells," "I’ll be Home for Christmas," "What Child is This?" "Go tell it on the Mountain," "Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," "O Come all Ye Faithful," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and all you happy women. I just lengthened the title a little bit.

AM: Yes, I know.

RHS: Political wisdom, you know.

AM: Oh boy. You’re a smart cookie.

RHS: "Silent Night," and "Jesus Loves Me." Wow!

RHS: You’re a dear friend. Thank you for setting all of this together. Now, you’re going to sing for us this morning, right?

AM: Yes I am.

RHS: Which have you chosen to sing?

AM: "Away in a Manger."

RHS: Thank you, Ann-Margret.

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by Lydia Rose Proenza

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