It was a quiet night in the Oregon Coast town of Lincoln City. A gloaming fog rolled in and herring gulls gathered to poke through scraps from nearby fishing boats. If you were at the local historic Bijou Theater, you'd be forgiven for imagining you were in Bodega Bay, circa 1963. Especially since its main attraction that night was Hitchcock blond Tippi Hedren, in town for a special screening of her breakout film, The Birds.
80 years young and sharp as a new Henckels, she was there to raise awareness -- and cash -- for the Roar Foundation and its sole beneficiary, Shambala Preserve. I had the honor of emceeing the event, introducing the still-working movie star, and joining her in a post-movie discussion.
As a long-time advocate for animal rights, Tippi's wildlife preserve provides sanctuary for big cats, such as tigers and lions, who have been abused by ignorant "pet" owners and circuses. As great as that contribution is, her most far-reaching impact has been behind the scenes: in 2003 she she co-authored “The Captive Wildlife Safety Act,” halting the interstate traffic of exotic felines for personal possession, which was successfully signed into law by President Bush. More recently, she has co-authored a bill banning the breeding of exotic felines for personal possession.
She and her entourage arrived at the theater around 3:30 for an autograph session ($20 a pop, each signature personalized and artfully executed, with all proceeds going to her non-profit). After that, I spoke briefly about the film and then it was movie time, during which she hung out in the lobby. At one point I dashed out of the auditorium to silence my mobile phone (I know! I know!) and caught her peeking through the curtain to glimpse one of the scenes, which she must have seen a thousand times.
When the lights came back up, I interviewed Tippi and led the audience in a Q & A session. (I'm working on obtaining a video of the program, to be posted here.)
Then it was off to a banquet dinner at the historic Anchor Inn, where we mingled with local business leaders, Shambala supporters and movie buffs. So get this: from 3:30 to around midnight, Tippi hardly sat down as she talked, signed autographs and pitched her cause. After dinner, as patrons stumbled out the door to go home, she was left alone with the restaurant staff. So she went into the kitchen to meet the cooks. I hope to have such energy at that age.
You can probably imagine what a thrill it was for me to meet Tippi Hedren. My Hitchcock geekery and her history with the director brought us together -- deftly orchestrated by Alex Ward and the Bay Area Merchants' Association. But my takeaway from the event was the even greater pleasure of getting to spend a bit of time with a remarkable woman who has leveraged her success to do something meaningful in the world. Not everyone can start a wildlife sanctuary, but there are thousands of orphan pets who likewise need to get into a good home. Next time you're looking to get a cat or dog, don't go browsing at the pet store. Drop by the local humane society and just do a walk-through. No commitments -- just look. Who knows? Maybe you'll get a nudge from the spirit of Shambala.