Dec 2, 2013
"Murder One" Actress Honored for Hartford Scholarships That Empower Young Women
If you’ve been a fan of network TV for decades, you know the actress Linda Carlson, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell and the face isn’t immediately familiar.
In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, she had roles in all the hit series—Kojak, Cagney & Lacey, Remington Steele, St. Elsewhere, Quincy, M.E., Growing Pains, Newhart, Lou Grant, and many others, including playing the role of Judge Beth Bornstein in 22 episodes of Murder One in the mid-90’s.
The former resident of Los Angeles, who now divides her time between a pied-à-terre in Manhattan and a country house in the Gaylordsville section of New Milford, is about to receive a special honor in Connecticut for her latest—and perhaps most enduring—role.
It’s unlike anything TV viewers will remember. It’s more dramatic, for one, and arguably more impactful.
Sure, a finely-tuned performance on a major network can have a salutary imprint on potentially hundreds of thousands, even millions, of viewers—but what Carlson is doing now turns the table on the equation.
Instead of connecting superficially with the masses, Carlson focuses intensively on an “audience” of just a handful of people a year, and what she “performs” for them will profoundly change their lives for the better.
Carlson, who has also acted in films (Honey I Blew Up the Kid, The Beverly Hillbillies) and on stage before retiring from the profession in 2003, will receive the Woman of the Year award from The Village for Families & Children, based in Hartford, as part of The Girl Within Luncheon Dec. 6. (Above Carlson with Ernest Thompson and James Sloyan in 1977 from the series Westside Medical; Wikimedia Commons photo).
The honor comes for her philanthropy, through which she provides scholarships to disadvantaged and challenged young women so they can go to college and build foundations for productive, fulfilling lives that are unfettered by the kind of issues they may have faced when young, or by financial insecurity.
“My main interest in doing this is that we put them in a position to have some kind of economic security in their adult lives,” Carlson says, explaining by phone that she first launched similarly-focused philanthropic efforts on the West Coast and has only recently realigned those efforts with her East Coast residency after coming to Connecticut a decade ago.
“So this is my first year with them, basically, of many I hope,” she says of The Village.
Scholarships ranging from $1,750 to $4,500, based on need, were awarded this past spring to four young women—a college junior and three freshmen—who were chosen from the ranks of people helped by The Village, the nonprofit whose mission is “to build a community of strong, healthy families who protect and nurture children.” Under that umbrella, it provides a full range of children’s behavioral health treatment, foster care and adoption, and community support services for children and their families in the Greater Hartford region. To learn the specifics, see the website or call the Village at 860-236-4511.
One of the things that differentiates Carlson’s effort is that she helped to coax into creation an aspect of the scholarship program that pairs each recipient with a mentor, “amazing women from the professional community in Hartford” who take on the role as volunteers.
“I feel it’s important we follow these young women through their first couple of years,” Carlson says of the scholarship recipients, who are encouraged to pursue something through which they can make a good living.
“She provides them with emotional support and encouragement beyond the financial support. That means the world to these young women,” says community volunteer Kim Burris, who nominated Carlson for the Woman of the Year honor.
Students receiving scholarships who maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or higher can apply for funding in subsequent years, which may mean that Carlson’s gifts to ensure brighter futures could total $20,000 or more in a given year.
“Linda embodies the spirit of generosity, inspiration and motivation that are the hallmarks of the award," Burris says.
“The Woman of the Year award is given to a woman who, through her words or deeds as a volunteer, is a strong advocate for at-risk girls and young women, who motivates and inspires young women to realize their potential, and whose efforts have a transformative effect on a young woman’s life,” Joanne Eudy, a board member of The Village and chair of The Girl Within Luncheon, says in a release on the honor.
The luncheon, to be held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown, “celebrates the community's commitment to improving the well-being of at-risk young women and girls in the greater Hartford area.”
New York Times bestselling author Laura Schroff (An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny) is the guest speaker for the luncheon.
Schroff, according to The Village, “highlights the power of small acts of kindness and teaches us about letting go of fears, burdens and expectations, in order to embrace the sweet, unplanned blessings of life.”
Guests will also hear from several of the young women helped by The Village’s programs.
Tina Martin, a reporter and weekend anchor with WFSB-TV who was named one of the “Most Powerful and Influential Women in CT” in 2012 by the National Diversity Council, will serve as the event emcee.
To register to attend the luncheon, go online to www.villageforchildren.org/girlwithin.
Proceeds from the event will enable The Village to provide life-changing opportunities for young women and girls who need the guidance and inspiration to become more resilient, confident and independent.
“My vision for the Village is to assure that the most vulnerable children and families have access to and benefit from quality and culturally competent services,” says Galo A. Rodriguez, MPH, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Village in his website bio.
On the phone, Rodriguez stresses how the nonprofit has been able to help children, especially the most vulnerable, “to get to a productive life in general,” work that involves intervening at times of real crisis for children and families, including situations involving abuse, neglect and environments that are not safe.
Within that realm, he says, young girls in particular get influenced by so many things in a negative way. “We strongly believe that if they get the message about different choices, they will be empowered” and succeed in life, Rodriguez says. “When they come over here, they have to talk about issues” and the future: What kind of family do they want, what kind of career?
“We see their lives getting transformed. They begin driving their destiny,” says Rodriguez, and now that transformation has the added financial impact, and positive role model, that comes from Carlson’s involvement.
The former actress, who also has written four plays, had essays published in The New York Times and More magazine and is working on a memoir, says she was “absolutely floored” when she found out she was being honored by The Village. “It really belongs to other people, who really do the boots-on-the-ground work.”
Carlson grew up in the Midwest, in a suburb of Minneapolis, and came to New York City to attend the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, which put her in the city in the 1960’s.
“Coming to New York to me was like Nirvana. I so loved it. There was so much going on,” she says, recalling living in the East Village in that storied decade, right down the street from venues like The Fillmore East.
Her first job was ushering at The Public Theater, and her first show was the original production of the legendary musical “Hair” in 1967.
Carlson says she would “sit in the lobby [of the theater while working there] and do homework and there were these paintings of soup cans.”
That’s right—those were original Warhol paintings that provided the homework ambiance.
In late 1970s, Carlson got the lead in a series in Los Angeles and headed west, where she worked in TV and movies long and fruitfully.
But Carlson says she missed snow, the seasons and New York City.
“I liked Los Angeles,” she says. “I had a wonderful career there. I did quite well and made nice money—and then I was done.”
Along the way, however, she made sure to give back, inspired by a family that had made education a priority. “I realized that many young women do not have the same kind of family support and I wanted to do something about it,” Carlson says in the Village release about her honor.
On the phone, she recalls having become familiar while in Manhattan with the 52nd Street Project, the theater program that works with at-risk children. A friend of hers did something similar on the West Coast and she got involved with that, creating scholarships and eventually moving her philanthropic efforts to other entities.
“She established the Abbott-Carlson Scholarship and initially provided scholarships for high school graduates on the West Coast,” the Village says. “When she moved to Connecticut, she wanted to partner with a nonprofit closer to her new home.”
Carlson learned of The Village and connected. “I immediately knew that the girls served by The Village were the girls I wanted to support because they had overcome many challenges and had the discipline to succeed,” Carlson says in The Village release. “And I wanted to help girls who might not be the typical candidates for academic scholarships—girls who might slip through the cracks.”
The cracks are as dangerous as always, but now, thanks to Carlson and her work with The Village, there’s incrementally less slipping each year.
"Murder One" Actress Honored for Hartford Scholarships That Empower Young Women