I was nervous. I was about to meet my dear childhood friend, for the first time in nearly 40 years. What would I say to her? Would she think I was fat? What would she think of me being a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer on the side? She’s done so much in her life, and I’ve done- not so much. Okay, I’ve raised two happy, drug free kids, but she raised two kids too, along with being a Movie Star. If you were an adolescent in the 80s chances are you know who Diane Franklin turned DeLaurentis is. She was the “It” girl in three of the biggest teen comedies of the time. She starred in “The Last American Virgin,” “Better Off Dead,” and she was a beautiful princess in the wildly popular “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” franchise which is currently getting ready to shoot the third in the series.
To add to my angst, my husband is one of her biggest fans. While on deployment in the Navy, long before we met, he and his buddies watched her films and fell in love.
We were in LA, on vacation from NY, and she picked the place. A hipster coffee house in Venice. My husband and I, suburban parents from Long Island, stuck out like sore thumbs. “We’ll have an awkward chat for a half hour and we’ll never see her again,” I was thinking.
She walked into the coffee house and she was just as confused as we were. She had never been there before. Her daughter told her about it, that put us at ease. She was a ball of energy and she was busting. On the way to meet us, she just signed a contract for a new movie, “The Haunting on Long Island, The Amityville Murders.” For Diane, this is coming full circle. She starred in ‘The Amityville Horror 2 — The Possession” in the 80s. In that film she played the daughter of the murdered family. In this one she plays the mom. She couldn’t be more thrilled.
In addition to signing the movie deal, she just got done with a day of teaching drama to third graders. While we were talking, both her kids texted her. Her older one needed a doctor’s appointment rescheduled, and her younger one needed a music stand to take to music camp in Massachusetts. Then my daughter texted, needing me to pick up a few things at the drug store before she and her brother met us in LA from Long Island the next day. We connected on the mommy level. As a matter of fact, our kids are the same ages, 21 and 18. Just switched. Her older one is a girl and her younger one is a boy. Both of us have kids heading off to college for the first time and older ones heading into their fourth year. We talked about the outrageous prices of tuition. Like old friends we did the whatever happened to… talk about old friends, we talked about past boyfriends, and my favorite memory of her, when she wrote a song for me when some teenage jerk broke my heart. We were still old friends.
Still, she has lead an amazing life. Always taking the bull by the horns. Never letting anything stand in her way. She’s like that with her kids and her career. When her daughter was born, Diane took five years off from acting to jump into Mommydom head first. Her son came along three years later.
When her kids were toddlers, Diane turned to drama coaching at the public schools so she could bring them with her. She never wanted to leave them with a nanny. She thought there was no point to having kids if they were raised by nannies.
I could relate. I went freelance when my kids were born so that I could make my own schedule and spend oodles of time with them.
When Diane’s kids hit elementary school, she thought she would try her hand at animation. She had no formal experience. But that didn’t stop her. She enrolled in a professional animation school and soon after was producing animated trailers.
But her first love was acting, so she went back to coaching drama in the public schools. Now, her kids are grown, and she has more time on her hands, so she wants to teach acting full time. When she was 18, the age most kids go to college, she was making movies, so she didn’t have a degree, making it impossible to become a full-time teacher. But never say no to Diane Franklin. At age 55, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Drama enabling her to get that job she wanted. And, of course, she got the most out of her education. During her time at school she wrote two autobiographies.
“I do it all now, because I may have a stroke tomorrow!” she said. And she encouraged me to do the same.
She spoke to my insecurities and urged me on. “You’re a great journalist, like I’m an actress,” she said. “Do what you know how to do! Own it and get out there and do it!”
But I still wasn’t really sure. While my features have in published in major publications, I never formally studied journalism. In the back of my mind, I always thought I was a fraud. Not ready for prime-time, as they say. But Diane’s words struck a chord. “Just get out there and do it because you may have a stroke tomorrow.”
Ironically, my husband had a heart attack just a few months after our meeting with Diane. Thankfully, he is doing well and back at work. The experience reverberated in my heart. “Do it now, because you may have stroke tomorrow.”
So, now I am sending out pitches to all my dream publications. The response has been great, I’ve been published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family,” “Next Avenue,” “Grown and Flown,” and “Motherhood Later…than Sooner,” and I owe it all to facing my fears and meeting up with my dear old friend. It is truly her encouragement that gave me the bravery to branch out!
The good news is the relationship doesn’t stop there. I can’t wait to see her again. I think this time, I’ll pick the place.