Emmy-nominated actress Morgan Fairchild will speak about heart health and stroke at St. Peter’s Hospital’s 11th annual For Women Only Health and Wellness Expo Monday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Helena Civic Center.
The event is free, but a ticket must be ordered by Sept. 24 at www.stpetes.org. Tickets will be mailed to recipients.
“My mother had diabetes and died of a series of strokes,” Fairchild said in an IR phone interview from Los Angeles. “She’d been a very dynamic woman. She drifted away.”
After each stroke, Fairchild said, it seemed less of her mother returned.
Fairchild said diabetes also killed her mother’s brother. And it is a big predictor of stroke.
Being overweight “sets you up for health problems,” she said.
“It’s important for me to talk about these health issues,” she said. “I’ve lived in a healthy way because of what I saw of my mother’s health. A lot of people don’t understand the deleterious effects of some of our decisions.”
And while for some actors, speaking up about health may be just one more acting role, for Fairchild it’s been an important part of her life for decades.
As a child she had wanted to grow up to be a doctor, virus researcher or paleontologist, she said.
As an adult this interest in science continued, with her obscure hobby of reading up on epidemiology — the study of the instances and causes of disease.
She recalled reading medical articles about odd clusters of Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia, and their links to HIV/AIDS.
Fairchild became an early advocate about AIDS awareness, prevention and the need for research funding.
“I made it safe for other people to stick their neck out,” she said of her leadership that brought more public figures forward to speak out against the disease and its stigma.
“I’m proudest of that work,” she said. “I helped save lives.”
The public may be more familiar with Fairchild on their TV screens.
She originated the role of Jenna Wade on “Dallas,” as well as appearing on such series as “Barnaby Jones,” “Happy Days,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “A Man Called Sloane,” “Police Woman,” “Switch,” “Kojak,” “Big Shamus,” “Perry Mason,” “Burke’s Law,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Lois & Clark,” “Empty Nest,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Robin’s Hoods,” “Friends,” “Cybill” and “Falcon Crest.” She had a recurring roles on “Mork & Mindy” and “Roseanne.”
She also appeared in numerous TV show movies and authored a book, “Super Looks,” a complete guide that includes make-up, hair, exercises and diet tips.
It’s a work that needs to be updated for women in their 40s and 50s, she said. They don’t want to dress like they’re 20, but they also don’t want to look matronly. “There’s a graceful way to segue into aging — still looking hip, but not looking like a teenager.”
Fairchild, who grew up in Dallas, wasn’t a natural actor, she admitted. She was extremely shy as a child and had trouble even reading a book report out loud in front of her class.
Her mother, who came from a family of debaters and attorneys, wasn’t about to have a child who lacked social skills.
“She made us take drama classes. I hated it,” she said. “I threw up each time before class.”
Her mother took Fairchild and her sister to the Junior Players Guild for tryouts and they each got a small part.
“My fear of the stage was only surpassed by my fear of my mother,” she joked.
She admits, if she’d been rejected in auditions, she would have been too shattered to try again. But one small part led to another. “I kept getting hired.”
And the result changed her life and career choice.
“It’s amazing how one person’s kindness and encouragement can make a difference,” she said. First the teacher who pushed her on book reports, then her mom, and then the theater director.
“I really look forward to visiting Montana,” she concluded. “One of my most enjoyable times was cutting horses on a ranch in Red Lodge.”
In addition to Fairchild’s presentation at 7:30 p.m., surgeon Alissa Abentroth, M.D., will speak at 7 p.m. about St. Peter’s Women’s Health Institute and Behavioral Health Unit psychiatrist; Andrea Mow, D.O., talks at 7:15 about depression and anxiety.
The Health and Wellness Expo will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the ballroom, featuring more than 75 booths with health education, demonstrations, door prize drawings, refreshments and wellness screenings. Free parking will be available in the Great Northern garage.
For more information, visit www.stpetes.org or call 447-2599.