Udana Talks About Her TV and Movie Career, Pt. 2

NOTE: This interview with Udana Power was conducted by publicist Bill Murphy in late 2012. This is Part 2 of what’s likely to be a 3-4 part series of interviews with Udana about her appearances on TV and in movies. We hope you enjoy it!

BM: I believe we left off last time with Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1975). You know what the next one is in your career? Barbary Coast (1976).

UP: Oh my gosh!

BM: Tell me about Barbary Coast and your role as Sara.

UP: Sara. Did I send you a picture of it? I sent you a picture of it, didn’t I?

BM: Yes. It was you and Bill Shatner.

UP: Yeah, it was me and Bill Shatner, and I know I have some pictures of it, but it was old-fashioned setting. And I played this innocent little girl, young woman, in old-time San Francisco. It was a take off on the old movie, Barbary Coast. I don’t remember what I did so much. I just remember wearing this beautiful little high neck, and my hair being done up. I felt so pretty. It was just something unusual that I hadn’t done before. I was very 1800s. It was very Barbary Coast. And as I remember, he [Bill Shatner] would wear disguises. Doug McClure was in the show, too.

[NOTE: This episode of Barbara Coast that someone posted on YouTube doesn’t feature Udana. It’s just an interesting clip to watch because Barbary Coast has been off the air and unavailable for decades.]

I was a fan of Bill Shatner. Bill had amazing energy, pizzazz. I really liked him. He and I got along and we started talking, and I ended up a lot in his trailer. [laughs] And that started a relationship with Bill that went on for several years. And I just adored him. The show didn’t last for long. I don’t even know where we could find it on DVD. But I just thought [Bill] was an amazing actor. So capable. Just wonderful. So that started a friendship with Bill for many years. Well, actually it was two, two and a half, maybe three years, something like that. I can’t remember. And then, he’d come over to my house after [the show ended], and he was so concerned, because this was just before TJ Hooker. And he didn’t have work, and he was like, “Oh my god, now what are we going to do?” And I don’t know, because he was married at the time, to Marcy Lafferty, who I never met, and he had horses and stuff like that. He was like, “What am I gonna do now?” And then he got TJ Hooker. I saw him a couple of times after he was doing that, and then we would see each other every once in a while. Haven’t seen him in a long time. I was thinking about calling him just to connect about Isagenix and Product B, but I haven’t talked to him in a long time.

So, basically, what I remember [about Barbary Coast] is going in and dressing up and having my hair done back and looking like this, you know, wearing a cameo, and just being star struck. And swept away by Bill Shatner.

BM: Bill Shatner had a reputation over the years of being sort of arrogant or full of himself, especially on Star Trek. Was he that way with you in person? Did you see him that way?

UP: No. I didn’t see that in him. I found him to be gregarious. He’s a wild man. I could see how people might experience him as [difficult], but he was never that way with me. He was great. A really kind, intelligent, smart, and just a wild man. I remember one day, I was really sad, and I was sorting through all the trauma and emotional eating and stuff like that, and I realized, oh my god, I had a really terrible time on my fifth birthday, everyone was really angry. And I just wanted to have cake and have everyone feel happy. And, as I remembered, my father was angry, my mother was upset, everybody was angry, and it was just a terrible experience. So [Bill Shatner] called me and I told him I’m sorting through that, all those old memories. And he said, “Oh, Ok.” The next thing I knew, he came by my house and he had a big sheet cake, a big chocolate cake. “Hi, happy birthday! My name is Billy!” he said when I opened the door. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

UP: I was in shock. And we started playing. We re-did my fifth birthday. We were eating with our fingers and just, it was the sweetest, sweetest, most thoughtful thing. And it was fun. It was, like, stupid fun.

BM: [laughs]

UP: “Hi, my name is Billy!” With this big sheet cake, a big chocolate sheet cake. [laughs] So funny.

BM: What’s your most fond or vivid memory of Barbary Coast? You were there just for one episode. Was there anything you remember most about it?

UP: Just one episode. It was funny, because I was doing that show, and then I was walking down the lot on Paramount, and I ran into “Laverne,” Gary Marshall’s sister, what was her name? Penny Marshall.

BM: Penny Marshall, yeah.

UP: And she said, “Oh my god! We should have had you for Laverne and Shirley!” And that’s when I realized I was doing Barbary Coast at that time. “Oh my gosh, we could have done…” And I thought, “Wow, isn’t that the luck of the draw?”

BM: [laughs] Do you remember getting the Barbary Coast gig? Was it just another audition?

UP: I was an audition, just went on straight audition, and they hired me. That’s all I remember. Isn’t that funny? I remember [Bill Shatner], I remember being on the set, I remember talking to him, and I remember his trailer. We were just giggling and laughing. Oh my god, it was hilarious. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] Did you follow his career ever since then, pay attention to things like Boston Legal or other things he was in?

UP: I loved Boston Legal! I watched every episode of Boston Legal. I didn’t care for TJ Hooker, it wasn’t my style, but Boston Legal I loved. I watched it literally every episode, one of my favorite shows on TV, and I was really sad when it ended. And it was just Billy all the way.

BM: [laughs]

UP: It was Billy all the way. It’s outrageous and it’s fun and it’s just far out. And I love his ads for Travelocity or whatever, he does the ads.

BM: [laughs] Oh yeah.

UP: And singing a rap song, and whatever he’s doing, he’s just so entrepreneurial. And he’s written a lot of books. And I’m just going, “Right on, Bill! Right on!” For somebody that was worried, you know, “Oh my god, what am I going to do next?” It was, boy, did he make that happen.

BM: [laughs] Well, he comes across as a guy who’s really gutsy, because he’s released albums where he’s singing. Have you heard those?

UP: Yes. No, I haven’t heard them.

BM: They’re, I don’t even know if you’d call that singing. He does like, the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man,” and it’s out there. Way out there.

UP: [laughs]

BM: But he seems fearless, you know?

UP: Fearless. That’s a good word, fearless! I mean, I remember when they started doing all the movies of Star Trek. He was so happy about one of them, because he said, “It ends in a big orgasm. Everyone has an orgasm.” And I’m going, “What is he talking about?” I can’t even remember what it was. [Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979.]

UP: Yeah, that stuff is just a hoot. I congratulate him. He doesn’t take himself very seriously. He just has a lot of fun, and he does enough good stuff that, I mean, what a charmed career.

BM: Let’s see, the next show in your career was Marcus Welby, MD. [Episode: “All Passions Spent” 2 March 1976].

UP: It was a small role. That was over at Universal Studios. Steven Spielberg, and I spent a lot of time over there. I remember the offices, and I remember being in that show with Brolin, James Brolin. I spent a lot of time at Universal, and that’s one of the first things I ever did over there.

BM: What do you remember about that role?

UP: Nothing.

BM: [laughs]

UP: I can’t remember a thing.

BM: [laughs] Ok. You don’t have to remember them all. You may not remember this next one, either. It was called Good Heavens. [Episode: “The Big Break} 5 June 1976]. Good Heavens is described this way: “In this comedy anthology series, Mr. Angel was an emissary of Heaven who came down to Earth each week to grant wishes to those who had performed a good deed.”

UP: Uh-huh.

BM: Carl Reiner was Mr. Angel.

UP: Oh shoot. I remember that. It was a TV series, wasn’t it.

BM: Uh-huh. Oh, wow. Also in the episode were Steven Collins, Sandy Duncan, David Huddleston, Fred Willard, Pat Carol.

UP: That’s where I met Sandy Duncan. Sandy Duncan and I were up for all the same things. And I was up for a show, and then I had a dream it was between Sandy and I, and she got that show, and that made her. Remember Sandy Duncan?

BM: Yeah, of course.

UP: Yeah. We were up for the same things all the time, and I had a dream they gave it to Sandy, and I went, “Oh shit.” And that’s who got the role.

BM: Wow.

UP: Interesting, interesting. That’s where I met Sandy.

BM: The next show you were in was Happy Days [two episodes, 1974 and 1976.]

UdanaAndHenryUP: Oh, Happy Days! It was out on Paramount Studios, and I remember distinctly, [the role] was for a beatnik, and I was out for auditions, and I dressed up as a beatnik, and I went in to, it was a little, it wasn’t a bungalow, but it was a low office building. And Fonzie [Henry Winkler] opened the door. He opened the door, and he had the thinnest face I’d ever seen. It occurred to me that, did he get his face caught in the door? [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

UP: But he was dressed as Fonzie. And I was so naive, and so tender and so polite and so sensitive, that I just, but I was that character of hippie. You know, I hadn’t gone to India yet, I hadn’t done all of the other stuff that I’ve done, but I was that little free spirit. So I did the audition, and Fonzie did it with me, Henry did it with me. I can’t remember what it was, but it was a real sweet time, because Paris, Jerry Paris was the director. And the producer.

BM: Gary Marshall?

UP: Gary Marshall. Gary Marshall and Jerry Paris. They had such a warm, sweet energy there. I mean, it wasn’t like work, it was like a daily party with all the kids around.

BM: Tell me about Jerry Paris, because I remember him from the Dick Van Dyke show, and then he went on to become a director.

UP: Yes, he was one of the top directors, literally, in all of comedy. And the reason was, he was so warm. He was so fun, he was so wonderful, he made everyone at ease. It was just a party. So when I showed up, I got the job, I was terrified, I was naïve, I was young, I was sweet. And there’s this very, this magnetic guy, Henry Winkler was a Scorpio. Henry Winkler was hilarious, and he’s very, very smart guy, kind, kind, loving. But he was also, he just did things that were off the wall that I’ll tell you about, but we can’t print them. He was just off the wall. He was a really sexual guy. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] You bring that out in people, don’t you?

UP: I think it’s just him. It’s just him. So anyway, I was naive, I was really naïve, and I had my, oh, there was another thing that we had done, and I could have been before this. Did you have anything about the Soupy Sales show?

BM: No.

UP: There was a pilot we did for Soupy Sales down at 20th Century Fox, and I played his girlfriend. It’s not listed, but they gave me a really beautiful leather-bound script cover that says “Soupy Sales Show” with my name on it. So I have that.

BM: You still have it?

UP: Yeah, I still have it. It’s a beautiful leather bound. Soupy Sales. Remember Soupy Sales?

BM: Absolutely.

UP: So I played his girlfriend in this show, TV series, 1959-1962. So I took, there was a couple of other things that he did. I don’t know, we’ll have to go check.

BM: There’s a Soupy Sales Show, 1976, showing up here [checking IMDB].

UP: Yeah. But then after that there was something else with Soupy Sales. It wasn’t the Soupy Sales Show, it was a pilot that was done over at 20th Century Fox. But that was where they gave me, the producers gave me this really beautiful thing. So I brought my script in that, I just remember sitting down at that big, long table. It was at Paramount, inside the sound stages, they’re like these great big, huge hangers. They’re just huge. And so there was, it was a stage, right around it, and we sat down at a big table. I was really nervous, and they made me feel so at home. And they were just sweet, it was so warm. And we just ran through the whole thing, and then we got on our feet and we did it on our feet. And all I knew was know your lines, don’t bump into the furniture, and be sincere. Just really, and we had so much, I just remember it was so much fun. And we did things like, I used to still see stuff like that online. They took it off, the whole show was there for a while, out on YouTube, because it was unauthorized. That whole scene about where I’m at the dinner table, we just made everything work. And where it says, “Please pass the beef” and I have to fall over in a faint off the chair. Remember that?

BM: [laughs]

UP: It was so, it was so, some of the lines were kind of a stretch, but by saying things so naïve and saying them sincerely, it just all worked. And that one was done on film. That was the first one, and it was done on film. That was the only season that was done on film. And after that it was done three camera. But this was done on film. And I remember the, I reached, they had to pad, they were actually surprised that I actually did it, but they put a pad down to the left of my chair. And kind of a thick mattress. And so when I went to get the beef, and then I just kind of zoned out and passed out, I fell, literally off a chair onto the floor but ended up on this mattress. It was just hilarious. It was just sweet, it was fun. It was fun. So that was the first year, and spending the time on the set with them, it was like family. It was just warm and it was as much fun and as sweet as it was on the screen.

BM: Oh man. That sounds like a wonderful time.

UP: It was.

BM: You had another role in Happy Days. It actually crossed over into Laverne and Shirley, you played Lisa Corrigan. [Episode: “Bachelor Mothers,” 1976].

UP: Yes.

BM: Tell me about that.

UP: That happened about two years later. And it was, again, I was pregnant both times. I used to laugh over that. And I had to be this was a funny thing Fonzie did. It was called “Fonzie the Father,” [Happy Days, 1976] and they expected, I come into the diner, looking for Fonzie, and I’m very, very pregnant. And just very naïve, I was very naïve, and they’re all saying, “Oh my god, Fonzie’s a father, Fonzie did this to her, Oh my god, Fonzie, you weasel, find him, oh my god, he’s in trouble!” And but it was all three camera. So we’re all getting set to go, the audience is all there, it’s all warmed up, and I’m getting ready, and Fonzie is with me. We’re backstage, and we’re getting ready to go on. Everybody’s cheering and our entrance is coming up. And he looked at me and said something so dirty, so sweet but so dirty that I just, I was in shock. My jaw dropped. I didn’t know how to, and it was very sweet, it was very endearing, very much like a Scorpio, but I was like, “Uh, uh, uh…” [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

UP: And then our cue came up, and we had to go on. I don’t know whether he did that to make me forget about being nervous, or whatever, I don’t know. He was hilarious. He was so funny. But we spent a lot of time with Richie [Cunningham, Ron Howard], and that was the one where we, he and I had to go over to, and he was always very professional, and at that point he was falling in love with the woman he married. I remember, he was head over heels, so he wasn’t coming onto me, he was just having fun. This big limo would show up all the time. He was so ecstatic, he was doing cartwheels, practically, and I thought, “Oh my god, he’s falling in love. I’m watching someone fall in love.” And so I watched this big, she was always there in the limousine, and I never met her, but it was fun. It was, watching that happen was, watching Fonzie fall in love, or Henry. And he did all that with Fonzie. You know in that first open part when they told him to, you know, comb his hair?

BM: Yeah.

UP: He’s a brilliant actor. He wanted to do things that were really serious and sincere, and really be a good actor. So he did the whole thing, he was right on that. He did the whole thing where he combed his hair, he started to comb his hair and then he looks in the mirror, and no, it’s perfect already, and boom, “Heeeey. It doesn’t need to be combed, I’m perfect already.” That was him. He was such a thoughtful actor. It was like, “Hey, comb your hair, Fonzie. Cookie, give me your comb, whatever.” He took it the next step, because he was such a good actor, and he’d think about starting to comb his hair, “Heeeey, I’m perfect.” So he was fun.

BM: What do you remember about the Laverne and Shirley episode?

UP: I remember that I was so in awe, and by that time they had a good series, and I went, “Oh my god, I missed that because I was doing Barbary Coast with Bill Shatner.”

BM: Do you remember the Dick Van Dyke Show? When Jerry Paris was in it? When I read Dick Van Dyke’s autobiography, I think he said that Jerry Paris was very headstrong, knew what he wanted. Maybe he wasn’t happy acting, maybe he wanted to be on the other side of the camera. But that’s what I remember reading about him. He died in ’86, Jerry Paris.

UP: Interesting. And I only watched Dick Van Dyke a little bit, I didn’t even remember Jerry Paris as being in it. Isn’t that interesting. That was where Mary Tyler Moore was in it. She was excellent.

BM: It’s a really good show. Funny.

UP: He may have wanted to direct even then.

BM: And he did. He eventually, by about season two or three, he was directing episodes of Dick Van Dyke.

UP: Yeah, it was a phenomenal show, and Dick Van Dyke was phenomenal. It was sad that he got caught up in alcoholism. That seemed to cut a lot of what he was doing short. What an amazing gift, but what a great talent, though. And he’s still here.

BM: Absolutely.

UP: That’s alright. Can I talk a little bit about Universal Studios?

BM: Absolutely.

UP: That was when Steven Spielberg was getting started. And he had an office there, and he would bring in his dog, a Cocker Spaniel. And I thought that was so cool, because he, I didn’t kind of really realize what was happening. He had a lot of people around him all the time, and we’d see each other all the time, and wave, and I had a manager at the time, and Steven pulled me into his office one time and said, “Oh my god, this girl’s special. I want to help you get an agent. I want you to use this person.” And I asked my manager, and he said, “Oh no, you don’t want to do that.” My manager was managing, he was a very famous manager, he was managing Milton Berle. But he really didn’t know what to do with me, I don’t think, so he said, “No, no, no, you don’t want to do that.” Well, that was probably one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I made a couple of really big mistakes. No, I remember saying, “Danny, Danny, he’s offering.” He said, “No, no, no, you don’t want to do that.” And another thing that happened about that time was Gordon Davidson, I had stared in some shows down at the Marquis Forum. And Gordon Davidson had called me a few times and said, “I want you to do.” They had four couples, I remember it was Leonard Bernstein’s, it wasn’t the Messiah, but there were only four singers, or four, say eight or something like that. And he called me personally three times, and I said, and he really wanted me to do it. After I’d done the history of American Film, I guess that was it. And Danny says, “No, no, no, you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to be one of four people. You don’t want to do that.” And so I turned it down, which was another actually really stupid thing. Because Danny never did really anything for me, however to have worked in person with Leonard Bernstein and Gordon Davidson, and I never got hired for anything at the Marquis Forum again, it was a mistake. Those are mistakes that you make in your life. And it was, I say that cautionary, take what comes and do as well as you can. You know, and make good friends, contribute, contribute, contribute. And you’ve got to be careful where your advice is coming from. You need good advice when you’re negotiating something like Hollywood, but I don’t know. Those were big mistakes, but interesting ones.


Watch for Part 3 to come soon!

3 thoughts on “Udana Talks About Her TV and Movie Career, Pt. 2

    • Hi Steve! Are you the Steve Zieff who wrote an article about me years ago in the American Film Magazine? If so, I want to talk with you!

      Thank you for this information. I couldn’t remember what the name of my Soupy Sales show was.

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