Long-time Parkite found fame in Hollywood
December 28, 2007
Betty Brown made history two months ago when she became the first woman pilot to fly a hot air balloon in Israel. The event drew a gaggle of TV, radio and print reporters, who clamored to interview her. Brown handled the flurry of attention with her usual flair and aplomb. It was easy for a woman who has spent much of her adult life in the media and entertainment spotlight. This long-time, adventurous Parkite has come far from her humble, mid-western roots. It’s a story that could have been written in Hollywood. In fact, it was.
Brown was born in Asbury, Mo., a thriving village of 132 people three miles from the family farm. She was one of Raymond and Marie Bendure-Brown’s six children. Her earliest memories are of "endless green fields, forests and slow-moving rivers to play in."
She began first grade at the tender age of four at the two-room school house in Asbury. "My eighth grade graduating class consisted of eight kids," says Brown. "I was the only girl on the boy’s track team and competed with them in running, high jump and pole vault. All I really wanted was ballet lessons, but they weren’t geographically available."
Brown’s father didn’t believe in "modern living." "We were brought up without indoor plumbing, electricity or a telephone. I thought this was a hardship at the time, but it probably contributed to a more creative childhood," she says.
Not surprisingly, Brown became a voracious reader. She describes a pivotal event when she was just eight years old. "One day at a local farm auction, father purchased a library containing a complete set of Eugene O’Neill’s plays and a Shakespeare collection. I played every role in every play that summer, sitting under an apple tree with no audience at all. I had no idea what I was saying but I sure had fun. That’s when I first believed I would become an actor."
"I became obsessively curious about the arts and wanted to learn everything," Brown continues. She went on to take art and drama classes, garnering parts in all of her high school plays. She also taught herself to play the guitar and piano. "I had to walk a mile to my grandmother’s house to play the piano. I just loved it."
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After graduation, Brown set sail for California to study Theatre Arts at San Diego State University. "All I had was a bus ticket, a guitar and a backpack, but I was determined to go," she says. At SDSU she acted in and directed many university productions. "I remember casting and directing Julie Kavner in two plays at school. Kavner went on to have a great career and is best known as the voice of Marge in ‘The Simpsons.’"
Brown, the little farm girl from Missouri, broke into television and the Hollywood scene when a friend sent her picture to the producer of "Laugh-In," a popular TV comedy/musical-variety show in the early 1970s. "I was hired as a recurring dancer on the show and juggled college with the show for its last season. It was ironic because I had never taken dance lessons. The money from that show allowed me to finish college," she says.
After joining the Screen Actors Guild, the union for TV and film actors, Brown learned she couldn’t use her given name because it was already taken. She became "Betty Ann Carr" on stage and screen from that point on.
Since she’d worked as a professional dancer on "Laugh-In," Brown decided it was time to take those dance lessons she’d dreamed of. She studied with renowned choreographer Uchi Sugiamo for the next seven years.
Brown landed the first TV acting job she auditioned for when she was cast in the role of the sheriff’s dispatcher in Glenn Ford’s "Cades County" series. In 1976 she was cast as "Monica Bell," a folk-singer in the daytime soap," Return to Peyton Place."
Brown also discovered Park City in the 1970s. "I learned to ski at Mammoth Mountain, but it was a 12-hour roundtrip drive," she explains. "When I figured out that Park City was just an hour-and-a-half plane ride and a short drive away, I started coming here to ski. I leased a place at "The Bucket" on Main Street and fell totally in love with the town."
"It was perfect," she says. "With several daily flights to Los Angeles, I could hang out in Park City and still fly down to my place in L.A. to work and go to auditions."
She continued to act, direct and write through the 1970s. She received recognition from famed film maker Roman Polanski when she produced, directed and co-wrote a 20-minute short film called "The Battle." The film was exhibited at the Venice Fox-Loehman theatres, preceding film performances by the likes of Robert Redford and Gene Hackman.
Over the next few years, Brown merged her Park City and Hollywood lifestyles. After the "Return to Peyton Place" series ended, she appeared in several other popular TV series, including "Switch," "Police Story," "Matt Helm" and "Grizzly Adams" [shot on location near Park City]. She also had roles in "Cancel My Reservation," with Bob Hope and Anne Archer, "Hangar 18" with Robert Vaughn and several other films.
Brown invested more time and money in Utah, obtaining her Utah real estate license in 1978. "As Park City grew in popularity, a lot of my southern California friends asked me to help them find properties here," she explains.
Several events occurred in 1982 that changed Brown’s career course for a few years. "First there was the Writer’s Guild strike, followed by the Screen Actors Guild strike, followed by Directors Guild strike, followed by the Producers strike. "Suddenly, I was out of work," she says. "That gave me the time to become involved in emerging real estate developments in Deer Valley, which was my financial savior during the strikes."
After the strikes ended by the mid-’80s, Brown landed a role as "Officer Fox" in "T.J. Hooker," a TV series starring William Shatner and Heather Locklear. The series ended in the late ’80s. Soon afterward, Brown switched her home base to Park City. She began a gradual transition out of Hollywood when she married Park City local Mike Bauwens in 1988.
Brown also got her Utah real estate broker’s license in 1986. She went on to create Brown and Company of Park City and began developing her business in earnest. In the 1990s she developed projects with Lindsey Wagner, TV’s original bionic woman. Today, she limits her involvement in the entertainment industry to developing new projects for film and television. Balancing work with recreational flying and traveling over the past 19 years, she’s crafted a dynamic, adventurous lifestyle.
Brown learned to fly hot air balloons in the 1980s and has become an accomplished commercial pilot with hundreds of hours. She’s logged flights in many countries, including Israel, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Japan and Mexico. "Flying over the Pyramid of the Sun near Mexico City on the Vernal Equinox every March has been a real thrill," says Brown. Her favorite flights are for charities like the Children’s Miracle Network and local causes.
Brown has been a member of the Park City Board of Realtors since 1980 and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2003. In 2006, she was elected President of the Board, which today numbers over 1100 members. She was also honored as Park City Realtor of the Year in ’06.
Brown reflects with great fondness on her 30-year association with Park City. "The sense of community here has always been very important to me. I love living in a place where everyone has nearby access to skiing, hiking and biking trails, night life and an international airport," she concludes.
It’s been quite a ride so far for the little girl from rural Missouri who dreamed of being an actor. Talent, hard work, perseverance and a little luck have guided Brown through a Hollywood career and a highly successful real estate business which continues today. It’s a rare thing when someone lives out her childhood dreams. Then again, Betty Brown is a rare woman.
Favorite things: skiing, scuba diving, horseback riding, flying
Favorite foods: halibut, ceviche. "I’ll try anything edible."
Favorite authors: John Steinbeck and Jon Krakauer. "I’m re-reading ‘East of Eden’ now."
Favorite performers/music: All music, from Tracy Chapman to Beverly Sills to Carrie Underwood.