The musician and songwriter Andi Fraggs talks to Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of Joan Crawford, about her show Surviving Mommie Dearest.
Last week, I talked to Christina Crawford, the adopted-daughter of Oscar Winning actress Joan Crawford and author of the ‘tell-all’ 1978 best selling book Mommie Dearest, later made into the critically panned, camp classic movie of the same name, starring Faye Dunaway.
As well as being a successful actress in her own right, Christina Crawford has since gone on to write several successful books and has also become a human rights activist. In 2011, Ms Crawford founded the non-profit Benewah Human Rights Coalition, and she has spoken out about child abuse and bullying. Her recent award-winning show Surviving Mommie Dearest was a great success and she now hopes to bring it to the UK.
Ms Crawford, how would you describe Surviving Mommie Dearest?
It is a process of overcoming the abuse of power and abandonment without a roadmap to follow. So, it is a pioneering journey toward wellbeing against stiff odds.
Jerry Rosenberg, who also produced the movie Ghost of a Chance, is the Executive Producer of your show. How has it been working with Jerry, and how did you initially connect?
Jerry and I have been friends for a years and he has been a champion of this work through all the tribulations of creating an ambitious project. I’m happy to say that we are better friends now!
What has the audience reaction been to your show so far?
Audiences are living creatures with a life of their own every new performance. Our show appeals to a diverse audience, different demographics – from surviving abuse to gay rights, to old movie film lovers. At live performances, I do a Q&A and love it. The press in New York were positive and the documentary has received awards from four film festivals and one Telly Award.
Are there any plans to bring the show to the UK? (I know for a fact there is a long queue of people who would like to see it!)
We would love to bring the show to the UK. Just need a reliable producer, a theater and a guarantee. I loved doing the tour when Granada published the book.
For many years, you were an actress in your own right appearing in several successful movies, plays and TV shows. How do you feel about getting back up on stage now and telling your story to a live audience?
Being an actress was my life when younger and I still enjoy it today.
Your first autobiographical book Mommie Dearest was initially published in 1978. It was a groundbreaking tell-all book. Is there anything you now regret putting in the book, or anything you feel you missed out?
No regrets … quite the contrary: together we helped to change attitudes, laws, and the social con-pact.
Did you ever feel you had a responsibility to maintain your mother’s image as a hugely successful award-winning actress?
That was never my responsibility! What I did was hold her to account for her destructive personal behavior toward me and my brother.
Have you forgiven your mother for her abusive behavior? If not, do you think you ever will?
Forgiveness is a two-way street. The wrong-doer must ask for forgiveness, indicating they understand their behavior. She never did. Without that, it is misguided to put that added burden on a victim. One better left to clergy and courts.
Do you ever watch any of your mother’s movies?
In 2008, your step-sister Cathy appeared on ABC and stated that her experience growing up with your mother was very different to yours, calling her ‘wonderful, kind, loving and caring’. Are you still in touch with her?
I recently watched an interview you did with Phil Donahue in 1978, upon the release of the book Mommie Dearest. I was shocked to see some of the aggressive audience reactions towards you. Do you feel that people’s attitudes have changed towards victims of child abuse, or is there still a ‘blame’ mentality?
Everything has changed in 30 years, but each generation needs to renew the conversation and commitment to social justice.
Your mother was as big a celebrity as you can get. Do you feel that celebrities in general are given too much power and are you surprised by the recent influx in child abuse allegations against celebrities?
Absolute power always corrupts.
The movie version of Mommie Dearest was, in some ways, an inaccurate account of your book. Did that upset you and did you feel that your story had been taken out of context?
The film version was a disappointment.
How did you feel about Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of your mother?
If the movie was remade, which actress would you most like to play the part of your mother and of you?
Unlikely to occur.
Can you tell us about some of the extensive work you have done to support victims of child abuse?
Too long an answer – Covers 30 years!
Ms Crawford was right about that. All of the work she has done to improve the lives of abused children and adults, how she has helped society speak up about such things, could never be listed in a few sentences. While her mother’s legacy as an actress will live on, so will that legacy be associated with what happens when people are given too much power.
More information about Christina Crawford’s new hit show, Surviving Mommie Dearest, can be found online at www.survivingmommiedearest.com