Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Nora Fraser
To television fans, she’s most famous for being Robert Wagner’s beautiful costar in Hart to Hart. (A lot of people think that Robert Wagner married Stefanie Powers when Natalie Wood died, but he married Jill St. Johns and Stefanie hooked up with William Holden.)
Besides being a television star and a veteran of the stage, Powers has emerged as a fitness expert, starring inStefanie Powers - PowerPilates and PowerPilates 2videos. She is also a consultant to Land Rover and Jaguar. She is on the board of directors at several zoos and a mutual fund. And for the last twenty years, she has been President of The William Holden Wildlife Foundation.
As we are conducting this interview, she is preparing to do an infomercial called the L.A. Diet, and she is finishing her book, Longevity and Wellness Through Pilates, a fitness program that supports everything- building strength and support from the inside by engaging your body and your mind.
Let’s recap: TV star, stage, screen and video veteran, board member, fitness expert, consultant, president, pitch man, author, animal lover and advocate.
Where do I begin?
To simply describe Stefanie Powers as an animal lover would be a gross understatement. A formidable advocate for animals in countless arenas around the world, Stefanie was recently given an award in her ancestral homeland Poland, for her campaign against domestic animal abuse which focused on spaying, neutering, cruelty and neglect.
“These are animals you don’t have to have... and they are not yours to abuse.”
In the past, she’s worked to pass legislation regulating the circumstances under which race horses can be sold at auction. The law called for thoroughbreds from the racing industry to command at least $1000 at auction, which was designed to price the “meat” buyers out of the game.
As a consultant to Jaguar Motor Cars, Powers promoted a commitment from them to sponsor jaguar zoo habitats.
“It’s the first time an automobile company has sponsored or done anything for the preservation of the animal it uses for its logo. We want them to make it part of their campaign. That when you see a Jaguar car, you know that that company is doing something for Jaguar conservation and it becomes synonymous with the brand. That’s what we want.”
She hopes other car companies will follow suit.
Heads up Mustang, Cougar, Beetle, Eagle. This woman has your number and knows what to do with it!
For some reason I remark about how nutty some animal people can be, you know, being judgmental with each other… I want to know what she would say to people who might criticize her for serving on zoo boards?
“Well I’m sorry but I also live in the real world and I know that if it weren’t for some of the zoos and the breeding programs in zoos, those animals would be finished.”
I asked if it’s a matter of “sleeping with the enemy” in order to keep an eye on what some zoos are doing?
“Of course, but most of the time the zoos try very hard.”
When it comes to the LA Zoo, Powers is frustrated.
“A zoo is a kind of vicious circle. Because they are city employees there’s a limit to what you can pay anybody at the LA Zoo. And beyond that you can’t even offer them a place to live because they’re a civil servant and they can’t take exceptions. We’re not even competitive with the rest of the zoological community in salaries and in benefits because there’s always this: the zoo has to make a profit. The bureaucracy just to try to get anything done is a nightmare!”
This reminds me of the late Roger Karras and the current Gretchen Wyler’s battles to have money allocated to a new ape habitat instead of things like a new front gate and new snack stands that the zoo wanted.
“I’m an activist as well and I think it’s always good to have the voice in the wilderness. I do think, though, that sometimes it becomes such an irritant that there’s no way to progress and there’s no way to find a happy medium. It can’t be all one way or the other. There has to be some way that works for everybody. You’ve got a zoo that’s in the middle of the city and everybody wants a big collection of animals or they’re not going to go visit.”
Add to that list, Stefanie Powers, pragmatist.
Stefanie Powers the animal lover speaks from years of personal experience. She is guardian to a number of horses as well as a menagerie of animals in Kenya. She also shares her home with Penny, a Bichon, and two Jack Russell Terriers named, oddly enough, Jackie and Russell. A strong believer in the animal – human bond, she witnessed first-hand with her aging mother how animals help to prolong life, especially for the elderly.
As we are talking, her parrot, a “talky-touchy” yellow nape named Papuga, (‘bird’ in Swahili) is perched on Powers’ shoulder.
I ask her how long she’s had the parrot. “Oh Jesus! Ha ha! It’s my longest relationship with a male!
(Stefanie the comedian).
“We have an understanding. He runs the house and I just ‘do’. The understanding is that we all belong to Papuga.”
As for recommending if people should get a parrot she replies, “unless you’re willing to make the full commitment (some parrots live up to 80 years) you should not even think about it. So many times you hear ‘Oh I had this wonderful parrot and then I got married and my husband or my wife didn’t like it and I got rid of it.’ Well I’m sorry, but I would get rid of the person before I got rid of the parrot!”
Stefanie’s solution to preventing boredom for her bird is simple: “Papuga sits in the tree and screams at the neighbors and everyone as they go by. He’s very busy. We keep him busy. There’s always a lot of activity and a lot of people and dogs around him. He’s out of his cage most of the time.”
Papuga has been with Powers over 20 years. “I don’t remember not having him.”
While Stefanie Powers’ jokes that her relationship with her parrot is her longest with a male, that’s not entirely accurate. Her friendship and romance with the late actor William Holden began in the 70’s and continues to this day because of her involvement with The William Holden Wildlife Foundation.
When I mention that I have visited the Mount Kenya Safari club, which William Holden started back in the fifties, Stefanie explains how it all came about.
“These pals went on a hunting safari. Safari means ‘trip’ in Swahili. Nobody traveled out to East Africa in those days for anything other than to settle there or to have a good time because they were sent out there by their families wanting to get rid of them. Or they went as hunters.”
“And it certainly was not the hunting that killed off the great herds.”
“It was the poaching, because in the days when they went there it was so expensive that it was really relegated to just a few people... to go for the big five which was elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. It cost $14,000 just for the permit in 1950. So you can imagine how much money that is now. The money went back into the game department. So they made conservation work. They were the first conservationists because they were sorting out - the culling of animals - and getting money for it which went back into the parks and into the maintenance of an honest moral management.”
Because the camps had to be moved periodically in order to snag all of the big five, Holden and his pals would “repair” to an upcountry inn on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. The place was for sale at the time.
“As they sat on the veranda of this beautiful hotel, looking at Mt. Kenya, a permanently glaciered mountain on the equator, the only one in the world, they kept saying ‘somebody should buy this place’”. And finally one of the hotel’s famous residents, author Robert Rourke said, ‘put your money where your mouth is,’ and so they did. And that’s how the Mt. Kenya Safari Club came about.”
Powers co-founded The William Holden Wildlife Foundation after his death in 1981 to fulfill Mr. Holden’s dream to build an education center for the local children. He believed education was an instrumental part of wildlife conservation. The primary objectives are to educate students as to the delicate balance of nature and the importance of wildlife and conservation as well as to motivate these students to carry out specific conservation projects.
I’m now thinking about Stefanie’s 20 years with The William Holden Wildlife Foundation and what loyalty that takes. And I’m compelled to ask how she has managed to keep the Foundation afloat during such difficult economic times for charities?
“We don’t have a lot of overhead. I take care of all the overhead out of my pocket so I can honestly say that when I ask somebody for money, 100% of it is going where I say its going.”
The foundation, celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, is a non profit organization that has served over 70,000 visitors and around 10,000 students a year. As the office in California operates at zero overhead, 100% of all donations go directly to Kenya.
“It’s a particularly difficult time for animal-related charities, strange as that sounds. People come to me all the time and they don’t know what I do but they know it’s animal related. They say ‘I love what you do for animals’ and in the next breath they say ‘you know my family and I love animals. We watch the Discovery Channel all the time.’ As if the very act of watching the Discovery Channel is going to make them feel as if they’ve done something for conservation! I think they really feel that! And it’s not out of meanness that I say this. It’s just that people aren’t aware that it isn’t somebody else’s job! It’s our job!”
Stefanie Powers, a woman who tells it like it is!
A great way that you can personally help Stefanie in her conservation efforts is by attending Broadway Goes to the Movies, a star-studded gala and concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of The William Holden Wildlife Foundation on November 1st. Featuring an evening of music from the Great White Way to the Silver Screen, some of the Broadway, film, television and music greats scheduled to perform include Theodore Bikel, Red Buttons, Carole Cook, Robert Goulet, Kelsey Grammer, Merv Griffin, Florence Henderson, Dale Kristien, Shirley MacLaine, Monica Mancini, Rod McKuen, Brock Peters, Debbie Reynolds, Patrick Swayze, Rip Taylor, and Michael York, along with the Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra of California, and the Lula Washington Dance Theatre. In addition, Clint Eastwood, Jacqueline Bisset, Ernest Borgnine, Nancy Olson, and Rick Schroder are expected to pay special tribute to the film work of William Holden. The evening will also feature His Excellency Dr.Yusuf Abdulrahman Nzibo, Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States, who will participate in honoring the work done in his homeland by The William Holden Wildlife Foundation.
For ticket information and more details about the event, see our Calendar of Events on page 34, call 323-656-9069 or email WHoldenWildlife@aol.com. To learn more about The William Holden Wildlife Foundation visit www.whwf.org.
Personally, I’m looking forward to Stefanie Powers “the party giver” because I’m planning to attend this All Star Celebration of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation’s 20thAnniversary. If this is at all like anything else Stefanie Powers sets her sites on, it’s going to be one hell of an evening! See you there!
(Nora Fraser is an Emmy-award winning producer and mother of 3 humans, 2 furballs, and one fleabag.)
First published in August of 1999, The Pet Press has become THE only local resource for
pet lovers in the Los Angeles area. The mission of The Pet Press is three-fold:
Each issue of The Pet Press contains the following sections: