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Roger Smith

Ann-Margret - You're still the same old
little girl you used to be when we were kids!

Ann-Margret has been a super-star in the U.S. for 20 years. Wherever she goes she's treated as a queen. But to her friends she's Ann-Margret from Jamtland (a county in Sweden).

Karl-Åke was a bit nervous when meeting his old playmate. A long time has passed since they jumped on wasps back home in Valsjobyn. Or when they played tricks in the the local general store.

Back then, Ann-Margret was a little girl with thick stockings, and a Lapland-cap on her head. Today, 35 years later, Karl-Åke was in the lobby of fashionable Grand Hotel in Stockholm, waiting for a huge star from the U.S. of A, Hollywood, Las Vegas... He had brought a huge bouquet of pink roses for her.

Ann-Margret, dressed in black, with a a red scarf, came down the hotel stairs. When she saw her old friend, she screamed and threw herself in his arms. All the glamour, all those years in Hollywood were gone. It was a little girl from Jamtland hugging her dear friend.

Her husband and manager, Roger Smith, who by the way is well-known for his jealousy, kept in the background together with Anna Olsson, A-M's mother.

Karl-Åke and Ann-Margret had a lot to talk about. The old village, the people and the store. Ann-Margret remembers the village very well, even though she left when she was 6 years old. She still has her Jamtland accent, even if it has a twang of Los Angeles in it.

The last time they saw each other was in 1974, when she was home visiting Valsjobyn. Her relatives were to meet the husband, Roger, who at the same time was to get to know some of the local traditions, like thin bread, sour herring, reindeer meat and other to him, exotic things.

"Then, in 1974, Ann-Margret visited me in my general store", Karl-Åke says. "We were sitting in my office drinking coffee, talking about the old days. She was smart, and I remember thinking she was heavenly beautiful. Ann-Margret has always been the prettiest girl in the village". "This time however, I more got the feeling that I was meeting a star", he says. But when the old childhood friends had left each other late in the Stockholm evening, "She's still the same old fantastic girl she was back then, Jesus, I can feel it".Karl-Åke was thinking.

It's been 35 years since Ann-Margret left Sweden and Jamtland. A lot has happened since then. "When she recorded her first album in 1960, she wrote me. I couldn't believe the success she had".

Musical genius George Burns discovered Ann-Margret in 1960. One year later a 20-year old girl from Jamtland did her debut on American television. All those years of hard work for both Ann-Margret and her mother Anna, had finally paid off. "I worked extra as a cleaning lady, so she could have as many dance lessons as possible" Anna says. "We lived next door to a funeral parlour, and times were tuff. But we stuck it out".

Ann-Margret decided at an early age to become an artist. When she was 4, she strutted her stuff back home in Valsjobyn. "Mother has always encouraged me, and I'm so grateful for it", she says.

22 years ago, Ann-Margret was christened "The Animal" by an American director. He saw her working out on stage and called out: "My God, she's like an animal!"

Ever since, she's been Ann-Margret "The Animal" Olsson, fom Jamtland, Sweden. But she doesn't look like one. Ann-Margret is small, 1 1/2 metres without her shoes, and thin as a rail. She's also very modest. When ever she feels like shouting, she jumps on her motorcycle and go driving on the Los Angeles streets.

Ann-Margret has something few other stars have. A 17-year old marriage. To the same husband! Of course she and Roger have had their ups and downs, he's jealous you see, but peace has always been made. And when Ann-Margret 10 years ago had her terrible accident, Roger was by her side constantly.

Today it's the othert way around. Since a few years Roger is suffering from an incurable muscle disease, Myasthenia Gravis (MG), and therefor he needs all the support he can get. The illness is related to MS. When Ann-Margret mentions how much Roger means to her, mother Anna suddenly becomes grave. They both know, that he could be taken away from them any day. Not an easy thought.

Despite his illness, Roger stood by his wife during her visit to Stockholm in March. That's when she showed us what a show is made of. She stormed into the newly opened China Theatre, and gev it all. An event not to be forgotten.

Ann-Margret has come a long way. She has done almost all the things a star can dream of. And today she has stopped dreaming. "I'll take it easy now for a while", she says. "No films, just my show. Actually I'm quite tired".

Ann-Margret doesn't often have some time of her own, but when she does, she of course spends it with her husband, they travel a lot, if he isn't too tired, that is. She plays tennis, rides her bike, goes jogging , and she eats.

"Pasta, pizza and cake are my favourites. And mother's Swedish meatballs of course!"

Roger laughs. He remembers the time after the accident. Ann-Margret could only eat fluid food. In the end she got so fed up with all the juices and drinks, she went and bought a cake and squeezed it through the food processor! "That was a new idea, and we also tried it with pizza a few times", Roger says.

"I love food, and therefor I have a weight problem", Ann-Margret says.

She doesn't know when she'll be back in Sweden. It all depends on Roger's health. "I would love to come and stay a bit longer in Sweden", Ann-Margret says. "America is fine, there you have it all, but I'll never forget my native country".

Her childhood house is still there in Valsjobyn. Her Uncle Kalle lives in it now. The general store with Karl-Åke is still there. The small island in the lake is still there and the pine trees on the mountains look exactly the same today as they did 35 years ago. Ann-Margret is the only thing missing.

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By Li Hillker

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