Location: Hancock Park, CA
Marital Status: Single
Education: Two years at Glendale College before pursuing her acting and singing career
Since that day, Jan has cheerfully blown away skeptics with a combination of luck, talent and will. “Even though I worked very hard, I was standing on the right corner at the right time,” she said about her first big break into the music industry.
At the age of 29, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and told she would never have a child. Two years later she gave birth to a “miracle baby.”
A few years later, a hysterectomy threatened to halt her career. She was told to take it easy, but had just signed a contract to act in twenty-five commercials for electronics giant, Sanyo. “My physician would come on set and give me B12 shots to get me through filming. They said that they never saw anyone heal faster.”
Now, at the age of 65, she’s released an album tribute to Bob Hope, and has begun a nationwide tour. The verdict is still out on whether or not it will be a success. Do you dare doubt her?
Where do you live?
Hancock Park. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles and kind of a well kept secret. I’m a native Californian, born and raised here.
How did you break into the music industry?
At an early age I got into musicals and then I was Miss California which opened a lot of doors. I think when you’re young, you get offered a lot more. I got picked up by a studio and began doing a lot of television work and commercials.
Did you attend college?
I went to Glendale College for two years and then I got an offer to travel with a band. I had so much support from my college and the opportunity to make $150 per week which sounded like a whole lot of money at that time. So I went on tour. I got homesick after about nine months and came home. After that, I ended up doing a lot of television acting. I thought ‘Gee, this is better than packing and unpacking all the time.’ I did about 150 commercials.
What kind of commercials?
For Raid, Texas Instruments, AT&T, Home Depot, Kraft Cheese, Folgers, Canada Dry and Chrysler to name a few. The most fun I had was as a Murel’s Cigar Girl for a year. They probably went through 5,000 girls to find three of us.
You sang; you acted; you were Miss California; and you even trained for the Olympics…. What was the best experience?
While doing variety television, I met Bob Hope. He asked me to go on tour with him doing the U.S.O shows, entertaining troops during the Vietnam War. It was the highlight of my career thus far. But, I think it was also a turning point. On tour I was getting maybe two hours of sleep each night and we traveled the world in 14 days, performing. After that, I think I was really worn out. I kind of stepped back to question where my priorities were and what I really wanted in life which was to get married and have a family.
Did you settle down, get married and have children?
Yes. I got married at 29. That year I was also diagnosed with cervical cancer and was told I’d never have children. When I had my daughter, at age 31, it was like a miracle. At that time, I was still heavily involved in my music career. I was working on a Christian album in Nashville. I came back and met my husband and baby daughter in an airport. My daughter didn’t recognize me. That was it. I said, ‘There is no way i can do this. I have this miracle baby and I need to be with her every second.” So, I basically gave up touring and that album was never released. I continued with the commercials because that allowed me to be home with my daughter.
It must have been a tough time for you. How did you get through it all?
I really believe if your going through a tough health issue if there’s anyway to plan a trip or to plan something to look forward to, it’s really a great incentive to get well quickly. The mind can heal your body so much quicker when you are in a positive mental state.
How did you get back into touring?
I focused on acting and songwriting while I raised my daughter. I had a wonderful mentor, Jack Seegel, and he’s really the one who got me back into singing. When my daughter grew up, I began facing empty nest syndrome. I evaluated by life, and asked myself what I always wanted to do. For me it was my music career.
What are you working on now?
I am on tour promoting my new album, “Where There’s Hope.” It’s a tribute to Bob Hope and his love songs. It was an amazing research project because I had no idea how many beautiful songs came out of Bob Hope’s wacky movies. In the 30s and the 40s, all the great American composers like Gershwin and Cole Porter and Jerome Kern came out here to California to write music for them…just wonderful songs.
Is your daughter musical?
She took piano, has a wonderful voice and really loved acting. When she was seven years old, she said, “Mama I want to get an agent like you.” I said to her, “Let’s make some chocolate chip cookies.” I really wanted her to have a normal life. She is in the entertainment industry now, but as the head of marketing and licensing for Lionsgate Films. She has the best of both worlds.
Are you still married?
I’ve been divorced for about five years now. I’ve maintained a really positive attitude and found it’s been a wonderful opportunity for growth. Online dating kept me uplifted in the beginning. I think it’s the way of a future. If you live in a big city, its great because you meet people you would never meet in your circle. It helped me pass those first couple of years where I didn’t even know who I was because I had been married for such a long time.
You were in a play called, “Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother,” what was that about?
It was a New York Times best selling book for a year and then it was a play. There were three of us in it, and none of us were grandmothers. The premise is that our generation’s grandmothers looked like grandmothers; they had gray hair, spectacles and baked cookies. The play was about modern grandmothers. I played one who took Pilates and ran a business. It’s funny because now I am a grandmother, and it really prepared me.
How would you describe your style?
I tend to buy things that are a little more on the conservative side–solid colors and streamlined cuts–then I accessorize with trendier shoes, purses and scarves. This makes the most sense when I’m touring. There’s not enough room to pack much.
Who are your favorite designers?
It changes from decade to decade. I’ve never been much of a designer person. If I find pants or a dress that works really well, I buy it in three different colors. I don’t say, ‘Oh this is Cavalli or Chanel?’ When my daughter names designers, I say “What? Huh? Who?; However I admit, I did invest in some Jimmy Choo shoes, which I love.”
What is your favorite restaurant?
I’m a total foodie, but ambiance is also a big thing for me. Because I’m single, I like romantic places. I love the Little Door on 3rd St. in Los Angeles because it’s candlelit. Sur in West Hollywood is great too. It’s all white and feels very South Beach with big candles, white, flowing drapes and beautiful antiques.
Do you have a signature perfume?
Hermes Caleche. It’s wonderful. It just matches the oils in my body. It’s not sweet or flowery. I tend to like more masculine scents, even men’s colognes.
Do you have a nutrition program?
When I was in my 20s and touring, I ate like crazy and was 30 pounds heavier. I must have been on ten diets and found that diets don’t work. You just have to eat healthy.
What is your exercise routine?
Every morning I walk for thirty minutes to wake up. Then, at least five afternoons per week, I use weights. I think in the afternoon, you have three options, you can either eat, sleep or drink and all those things are not good for you, so I exercise instead. It really lifts my day.