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Kelly Lynch - 21st Century Fox

When you hear the name Kelly Lynch, you might think of movies like “Roadhouse”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Cocktail” or the classic “Drugstore Cowboy” or her more current work in Sofia Coppola’s just released “On The Rocks” or in television hits like “Magic City” or “Mr. Mercedes”.  But there’s a lot more to Lynch than her Hollywood legacy. Come on a little time travel with us, back to November ‘19, pre-pandemic, when we had the opportunity to do a photo session at Kelly’s stunning mid-century modern John Lautner House in the Hollywood hills above The Canyon, as we dressed her up in our vintage kimonos and jeans, flowy bohemian dresses and jumpsuits and other favorite pieces. Kelly was a gracious host, welcoming us into her home and giving us a survey of its rich history. The mid-century architecture and 360 degree views steal the show, but we also caught a life-sized photo of Kelly shot by the late great Peter Beard at a Vanity Fair Oscar party, sculptures by their friend Robert Graham, a semi-working vintage built in Seeburg jukebox, and a real soda fountain among many other marvels.

 

photo mural: Bruce Weber

 

“‘Make them think I’m in on the joke and don’t cry.’ That was my introduction to show business.” 

After the shoot we had a chance to learn about how she got here. It all started with a Minneapolis auto show in the 1970’s: “My aunt Heidi, a local celebrity beauty, was booked as a promo model for the show, but realized she was double-booked that day so she called to ask if I could fill in for her.  I’d never modeled a day in my life or been in front of an audience but I was totally in awe of her and it sounded so exciting to be in her shoes for a day so I said yes! Heidi tells me that ‘Grandma will drop you off at the venue, a man will give you a script and you’ll say something and that’s all there is to it.’ Next thing you know I’m there and the guy in charge takes one look at me and is noticeably upset. Heidi was a curvy 21 yr. old and I was an incredibly skinny and tomboyish 13. He hands me a strapless dress that I haven’t yet developed the equipment to hold up. Someone pins it tight in back to keep it from falling off and the man gives me a script to memorize about the new Plymouth Volare.  It’s all happening too fast. I’m told to get up on this rotating stage where the car is and ‘Just lean back on the hood in a sexy pose and say your script in a sexy voice.’ I was supposed to have learned the entire script but all I could remember was the last line ‘The Volare – the car of the future, the past and the present’. As the stage rotated I just kept repeating that dopey line. Then one of the pins came undone and I had to hold the dress up with one hand, with the microphone in the other. Now I’m in full panic and can’t even get the entire sentence out and keep repeating  ‘It’s the Volare!’ over and over. At that point a small crowd has formed and people are laughing and throwing things at me - empty cans of Coke, wrappers from burgers. Others thought it was a full comedy routine so I decided to go with that.  

 

After high school Kelly had a stint as a dance instructor with the, at the time, world-renowned Arthur Murray Dance Studios. “I saw how it changed people's lives, especially for men. All women love to dance. “To give a man the ability to lead a woman on a dance floor is to give him a bar of gold.” “Every girl will want to dance with him”.

She enjoyed her time there. “It was a bit like how I feel now when I'm really on it as an actor – to connect and show humanity to people, to be in a world where we feel like we're all in this together, you know? I almost feel like teaching someone how to dance was the best thing I ever did for anybody.”

“To give a man the ability to lead a woman on a dance floor is to give him a bar of gold.” “Every girl will want to dance with him”.

Although she and her husband, Mitch Glazer (producer and writer - Scrooged, Lost in Translation), met in a very Hollywood way - a lunch in Beverly Hills arranged by legendary super agent Sue Mengers - they really bonded over their passion for muscle cars. A self-described motor head herself, Kelly thinks back to her first visit to Mitch’s house. “We started dating just shortly after that lunch. I had a 1964 Chevy Malibu SS convertible, candy apple red, white interior, white roof, 8-track. The first time I drove over to his house I don't think he knew I had this car.  I parked right next to his '69 GTO convertible. It was kind of funny.” A muscle car love fest.

Photos: Dean C.

 

It might come as a surprise that Lynch held on to her love of cars after suffering major injuries to her legs from a head on collision just before her 20th birthday. She was a flight attendant at the time and was driving home to her apartment from a visit with her mother when “I saw headlights where I knew they shouldn't be, coming right at me. There was a ravine on the left of me and on the right was another car. So I just let go of the steering wheel and crossed my arms in front of me in the brace position I learned from being a flight attendant. Saved my life,” Kelly remembers. Despite suffering fractures to both legs and being told they would most likely need to be amputated, after almost a year in the hospital with multiple surgeries and tons of physical therapy she made a full recovery. “When I did Charlie's Angels years later with Cameron Diaz, we had to do this huge fight scene almost to the death. We were both being trained and choreographed by the Chinese martial arts team who did The Matrix. Cameron's a scrapper and so am I. We tried to throw our punches and kicks for camera the best we could but after watching playback decided we had to take it up a notch. So we both went for it and ended up doing full contact Kung Fu! It was like ‘Go ahead, you can really hit me.’ And there we were throwing kicks and punches at each other almost full force. I love that girl! We had a blast. I sent the orthopedic doctor who saved my legs a videotape of the film and said, "Thanks to you, I'm doing incredibly hard martial arts moves opposite a true force of nature, so...thank you.”

The time spent alone in a hospital bed, gave her the opportunity to think things over “As a young person you're like a pinball.  When you look back on your life you see the patterns and good decisions you made but at the time you're often just thinking about surviving. Things get thrown at you and you just have to do what you can do. You're not always aware that you're making important decisions at the time, you’re mainly just reacting. But I thought, if I ever walk again, if they can save my legs, I don't want to go into the family restaurant business. I want to be an actor.”

“As soon as I was able to walk without a cane, I flew to New York with $400 in my pocket on a quest to find a great acting teacher. A few weeks after arriving a man who said he was from a modeling agency saw me in an elevator, handed me his card and said to give him a call.  He seemed a bit shady but ‘He’ ended up being John Casablancas, the notorious owner of the Elite model agency. After two months of almost starving and stealing food from the local Korean market, I decided to give the agency a call. That began an adventure in the world of photography, fashion and acting that still continues.  I am fortunate to have lived my dream thanks to many great teachers and coaches and yes, even shady Casablancas, but Sandy Meisner was the teacher who made me an actor.”



Kelly and her husband Mitch discovered a mutual passion for mid-century architecture in California and bought their first restoration project in the 90s. We’re talking passion to the point of basically pioneering the revival of that style in popular culture. In the 70s and 80s, mid-century houses were falling into disrepair - the minimal and modern look just wasn’t in demand. But Kelly and Mitch helped breathe new life into it. “What happened was in '92, we bought a beautiful Richard Neutra house near Lone Pine, California and restored it. It was our weekend place. Anna Wintour the new editor at Vogue magazine heard about the house and had Bruce Weber shoot a beautiful piece that ran in the magazine around '94. That story got a lot of attention and kind of heralded this mid-century movement”, Kelly shares. “There’s a beautiful documentary about our home called ‘The Oyler House/ Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat’.

Next up was the 1998 purchase and two year restoration of their mid-century John Lautner home on a promontory in the Hollywood Hills above Bronson Canyon. Since then they have both been interviewed about their love and respect for mid-century architecture in various documentaries and specials on the subject. “I got very involved with historic preservation. When we hear there's a house in jeopardy, we try to find a buyer who doesn't want to tear it down to build a McMansion, but wants to preserve it, maybe restore it, and hopefully live in it.” Mid Century Modern Rescue!


Photo: Dean C.

“I think southern California has the greatest collection of residential architecture in the world.” She says.

In the world? We ask. “Residential architecture, not grand palaces and public spaces. The greatest modern architects built houses here, from Frank Lloyd Wright, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Neutra, Schindler…, it goes on and on. Wallace Neff, the beautiful Spanish houses of the 20s, Greene and Greene…”

Most recently a cool Bart Prince house in Malibu was in jeopardy of being torn down and replaced by “a faux-Tuscan mansion that would have blocked everyone’s view.” Kelly helped persuade the new owner to keep the original structure. “This is America. Yes, you can do pretty much what you want here, but what we're saying is ‘Think about it. Do you really want to be the guy who tears a great, historic or architecturally significant house down?’ Not every house needs to be or deserves to be saved but some of them are worth having a conversation about.” Kelly adds.

“Part of the reason I'm an actor is because I can't decide what I want to be when I grow up.”

 

She’s played quite a few iconic roles, like Sam Rockwell’s evil sidekick in Charlie’s Angels and an addict femme fatale in Drugstore Cowboy. But Kelly is picky with her roles now. “Part of what's different about casting me now is that I turned 60 this year. I'm happy to play my age, because I love being my age and I have the references and the life I’ve had.” She keeps busy with projects and causes ranging from fashion and architectural preservation, to her popular Instagram site @LACaKe, a lifestyle company she founded with friend Carlota Espinosa. “I keep myself really busy and I'm also a wife and mom. So a project has to be enough to pull me out of my real life, which is fantastic. I’m currently working on a groovy travel podcast with some amazing people which I’m super excited to share!”

“I've worked with the most incredible people, some of the kindest and some of the most brilliant people, whether they're directors, DPs, actors, writers, photographers. I've just been really, really lucky. If it was all over, I'd be like, "Hey, I was just some crippled kid from Minnesota and this is what I've done. I cannot believe it! I'm just so lucky to still be on this planet!


“I'm a much more relaxed person at this age. I'm like, ‘I get it.’”

 

Kelly on The Canyon

We asked Kelly her thoughts about The Canyon. “It’s just a great feeling in there - so relaxed and easy, like you’re hanging out. I always feel every time I stop in like there’s something here for me that I'm going to love. And I think it's really important that you're going to love and want to wear what you buy forever. It’s not fast fashion, it's not super expensive designer goods, either. It's a place for that sweater I'm always going to love, those classic jeans I'm always going to love. When you walk into the store, you're in the [70’s] vibe but it's not like you're walking back in time. It's like a baton has been passed.”

“You can't go back, you know? And really, who wants to? It’s a good thing to learn from the past and remember what was cool and what informs what, whether it's music or fashion or whatever, the roots of things. Over time our eye changes and how we live changes and what we like changes and so fashion and the times must change as well.”

 All pics by @amydickerson except where noted!