Goldie Jean Studlendgehawn was born on November 21, 1945 and raised in the Maryland suburbs. She began her career as one of the cast members on the 1960s comedy show "Laugh-In," won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in "Cactus Flower," and soon became one of the most popular film actresses of the 1970s. By the 1980s, she had transformed herself into a movie producer; through the 1990s and beyond, she starred in such comedies as "The First Wives Club" and, most recently, "The Banger Sisters." Her daughter is actress Kate Hudson.

Last week Goldie spoke with Beliefnet senior editor Deborah Caldwell about her Jewish and Christian upbringing, her adult path as a Buddhist, how she forgives paparazzi for taking ugly photographs of her, and the first time she made love with actor Kurt Russell, her partner of 22 years. Read the complete interview and listen to Goldie talk about:

  • Her Fear of Dying
  • Being Jewish
  • Jesus
  • Israel
  • Detachment
  • Making Love
  • Kurt Russell's Spirituality
  • Her Destiny

  • I want to take you back to your childhood. You've said that your abrupt awareness of the Cold War-the possibility of nuclear annihilation-made you want to connect with God. Could you tell that story?

    I was in sixth grade and we were going to see a film. And we thought it was going to be how they grow corn in Iowa. The lights went out, and this old 16 mm film came on and there was a big clock. And the clock counted down from 9-8-7-6-5-4 and so on and when it hit zero, there was this incredible explosion and the clock broke and shifted back and forth and then this panning of human pain, destruction, injury, fear, screaming, children, mothers losing their children. It was staged--but for a 12-year-old mind, it was a realization that you were not on stable ground, that life was tenuous and because of the Cold War which we were hearing about, it said, this is what will happen if there is an enemy attack. I was a sensitive child, so I responded to it in a way that raised my heart rate, created an unbelievable sense of destabilization. I felt tremendous fear. I wanted to throw up, and I was shaking visibly. Children in this movie were ducking under desks and watching windows being blown out and lights flashing and people were saying, "Do not look to the light" and "Cover your head."

    My reality shifted completely. I realized that life at that moment had changed for me in a very negative way; I asked the teacher if I could go home for lunch so I ran home and said, "Mommy, we're all going to die. We're going to be killed in an enemy attack." She tried to appeal to my level of analysis, and said, "Now here's Russia and here we are and you realize that what's stopping this war and why it would never happen is because these two people do not want to annihilate each other. Because our bombs actually are faster and better than theirs, so if in fact they do press something, and we press something, everybody's going to die and nobody wants to die and these people aren't going to do this."

    Listen   Goldie on her fear of dying
    She made me a cup of tea, and she picked up the phone and called the school and went completely insane. She said, "How dare you show our children these things?" As the years went on, I was consistently frightened by this and there were times I wouldn't go to school when I knew there was going to be an air raid drill because of what the sound did to my psyche. When I realized this fear, this uncertainty, this potential of dying, I guess I needed something greater to hold onto than what we can see, touch, and smell-and that was the spiritual aspect of God, the nature of God and his relationship to humans.

    It was my clear wish to be happy, and I think that wish came from the idea that I was suddenly made unhappy by this event and realized that I wanted to go back to my natural state of happiness. I wanted to find a way to get myself out of it. So I started reading the Bible. My mother loved the Bible.

    The Hebrew Bible or the Christian Bible?

    We had the Old Testament and the New Testament.

    I know your mother was Jewish-was your father also Jewish?

    My father was Presbyterian.

    But you identify as Jewish?

    Listen   Goldie on being Jewish
    Well, when you have a Jewish mother who has a very strong Jewish family, it's very ethnic in its practices. Eating brisket, the food and the family and the interconnectedness for better or worse. The intertwining of the family is a big part of the Jewish way of life. whereas the Presbyterians are whiter. They don't have the same sense of family, although I have a very big and strong family on my dad's side. But it's not quite the same. It's like being Greek or Italian, you know what I mean, having this kind of ethnicity. So clearly my father's belief system was not wrapped around anything other than his own philosophical nature. He wasn't anyone who blindly had faith; he was a searcher, a seeker, and a philosopher.

    "But my mother loved Jesus-she was just a complete Jesus freak."
    Read more on page 2 >>

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  • I was struck by the fact that, even back then, you celebrated Christmas and you had a friend who helped you say the rosary-yet you identified as Jewish.

    I know! My best friend was Catholic and that also is a very strong pull. And because she was my best friend, I used to go to church with her all the time.

    So you had a multifaith childhood.

    Definitely. I also went to the Presbyterian church. And it was so great not to be stopped, you see. A parent can say, "You're Jewish, you don't get to do that. This is our faith, you don't get to learn about it." But my mother loved Jesus-she was just a complete Jesus freak.

    She was?

    Oh, and I am too-that's another interesting thing.


    Listen   Goldie on
    He went to the desert; he sat quietly. He sat so quietly that he heard the voice of God. He heard the truth. He felt the truth. He was able to receive the truth because he emptied himself and he had the ability to do it. Perhaps that was his specialness, or part of it.

    Why was your mother so into Jesus?

    Because she felt he was an extraordinary man. She didn't believe, of course, that he was the son of God. But she believed that he was one of the great humans, superhumans, on the planet.

    That was a long time ago to have been Jewish and to believe that.

    I know. My mother was the kind of person who was very much part of her tribe and very much a satellite of her tribe. She was the girl who left her family at the age of 17 and went to Washington. My mother was orphaned at three and then was brought up by my aunt Goldie. So, yes she belonged, but there was a part of her that didn't.

    How do you incorporate Judaism and Christianity in your spiritual practice?

    I've been practicing modalities of Eastern philosophy since about 1972. What I've learned through my meditation is a sense of equanimity, a sense of all things being equal. Then I went to Israel--and when I went to Israel, I had a very, very strong epiphany. Every now and then, I will light a candle; I will light candles for my mother on the High Holidays and my father and my relatives. I haven't been to the synagogue, at least not recently.

    Listen   Goldie on
    And when I went to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I started to look at their society, I started to look at their people, I started to look at the ways in which they lived and what mattered to them as a society, as a people, what is their natural inclination in building a good society. Mothers and grandmothers took care of the preschoolers and created afterschool programs, where children can go after school to get them off the streets. These were incredible nurturing qualities, right down to making sure they had hot food. I looked at this and I finally realized, "Oh my God, now I see myself. Now I know why I sit and I watch my children eat and I'm sitting over them, watching them eat and wanting them to be happy because I'm feeding them." That's when I realized that was my DNA.

    I integrate that knowledge into my spiritual practice. But who you are has not much to do with what you are becoming, because the qualities you bring to any faith--whether it's honed by family, religion, or lack of religion whatever it is--you bring it to wherever you're going. The idea of faith itself, that you believe or you don't believe in certain things, will continue no matter what faith you are in. You will learn to question all. So do I bring it to my practice? No, I don't bring Judaism necessarily into my Buddhist thought, because all that I have been is there already.

    Is that the same for the Christian half of you?

    Yes. The interesting part of my spiritual life is studying as much as you can. Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism and Shamanism and Judaism, Christianity--you try to learn what the precepts are, what the religion is, and ultimately, it's based in the same thought, it's based in the same outcome, you know.

    (Whispers) It just has a different façade.

    We go into religion in order to feel warmer in our hearts, more connected to others, more connected to something greater and to have a sense of peace. I think all religions try to do that, but they corrupt themselves. I like Buddhist thought because it breaks that down; it teaches you how to view your thoughts rather than be your thoughts. We live in this crazy world, full of jobs, and we have to be there, be-be-be--it's a very demanding, taxing world. The result of meditating is watching your thoughts, detachment from your own precepts of what is right and wrong, things that frustrate you, that you can't grasp and want to grasp onto.

    How do you manage to stop grasping, especially in Hollywood?

    Well, you don't detach. But your mind has the capability of detaching. Those are two different things.

    Listen   Goldie on detachment
    You find yourself attached to your own image; and you find yourself attached to other people's images. The trick is to become aware of these attachments and to become aware of the impermanence of them. The view of yourself is ever-changing because you're growing older, your body is changing, your face is changing, everything is changing-but you have a tendency, or want to have a tendency, to grasp onto youth, to grasp onto the ability to always look beautiful. And so the way to do it is to to release yourself from that because its outcomes are very damaging. So if in fact I see an ugly picture of myself, which I've seen many-


    I have-and it's like a stake in my heart.


    It's horrible-yet one day you're going to be very old and you're going to die and you're not going to look like this. So what are we thinking? But on the other hand, you're known to look a certain way, which makes the pain even worse. Paparazzi will try to get the most controversial picture of you in a compromising position because that's how they're going to sell it. So, yes, you understand that they've got tons of pages to fill and that they get money for that. Generations of reasons and whys and wherefores, you can figure that out--but when that picture comes out where they've got the lens inside the wrinkles of your eyes, and you say, "Oh my God, this is the scariest picture I've ever seen. How could they be so cruel?" And yet I do look that way in that picture, so that becomes reality.

    In order to detach from that, I suppose what I do personally is I think of how it happened, I remember the person who took the picture. First, I feel complete sadness because this is what the world has come to. I look at it in a higher overview, taking myself out of the equation and feeling compassion for everyone in this position. Rather than saying "me," I say "we"; rather than saying "that bad man," I say "this paparazzi mentality" has to be stopped somehow. I try to get underneath the feeling and try to create a shift so instead of going to the "me-me" destructive feelings, I pull myself up, look at the whole picture, and then I walk away and I'm fine.

    In your meditation, can you say, "I forgive him or her"?

    I make that one of my practices; I think that's an intentional meditation in itself. I sit down quietly, take a deep breath, try to quiet my mind, quiet my breathing, and now bring the people in front of me who have created pain for me, and then bless them and put light around them and watch them drift away with love.

    I find the exercise of visualizing light around people very difficult. Do you?

    It's a part of your brain that can be developed. You just need to work that area and lighten it up and it comes with practice. But the intention is what's important, and if you stay in the intention of forgiveness, then you can achieve it. Forgiveness has been easy for me, though I've been practicing for quite a long time. But I am not somebody who holds onto anger or grudges.

    For instance, you go through a divorce. There is so much built-up anger because you have spent so much time saying the things you wanted to say, losing yourselves in the relationship, the person screwing around on you, being untrue, feeling bamboozled, whatever, and you end up holding onto this frustration especially if you've got children. I went through that.

    "And then the police said, 'Oh Goldie, we didn't know you were here.'"
    Read more on page 3 >>

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  • But I didn't want my children to experience this negativity because it wasn't theirs to experience. And I witnessed a lot of mothers speaking against the fathers of their children and no matter what you go through, there was something that ran up my spine and an inner voice would say, "Wait a minute, are you doing this for you so you have allies, or are you doing this for them? Because if you're doing this for them, you're destroying them. Because no matter what you feel about this man, they will always love him."

    When I went through my issues in regards to that, as hard as it was, I made sure I didn't speak badly about him. In fact, when my son Oliver was little I wrote him a letter because he needs to know why I fell in love with his father (Bill Hudson). And I told him everything that was beautiful about his father, that he made me laugh, that he was fun, that he was a great dad when he was there, that he had talent and an ability to create things out of nothing. I just felt that he needed to know the value of his father, because children identify with their parents no matter how bad they are. So if you have left your husband or your husband has left you, bypass your anger; try to understand it, for yourself, and deal with it-but don't transfer it to your children.

    Tell me about your first meeting, and what sounds like an immediate and intense connection, with Kurt Russell. Did it feel like spiritual experience?

    No, not at all. When I first met Kurt, he came in to audition for "Swing Shift," one of many guys who came through that door. He'd just come off "Silkwood" which is a really good movie and he really did not want to read. He said, "I'm a terrible reader but I would like to meet you" and we sat down with the director. We had similar friends and coincidental experiences. His mother was the person I went to when I got my first job at Disney when I was a dancer. His two best friends were two guys in the industry (first assistant directors) whom I also was friends with. And I loved who he was. He was so real. And so basic. And completely at ease with himself. And I will say he was definitely my type, physically. But that's not what hit me. What hit me was his comfort with himself. His ability to be so honest-and he wasn't womanizing at all. He was like a buddy, and I thought, "God this guy is so cute and he's got no stuff." It didn't have that "Oh my God I can't wait, oh my heart's pounding, oh I'm sweating under my arms" feel about it. And all I can say is, watch out for those signs because they are a sure disaster. (Laughs)

    But you did jump him. (Laughs)

    I did jump him.

    I love that story.

    But not until we started working together, and I started building this connection to him. Watching him with my children. Watching how he worked. Watching how he approached his job. Watching how he approached his own son out of his broken marriage. Seeing this incredible parent, this love, this inner stability-and then he was so damn handsome and so cute and so everything that it all rolled up into one moment after our very first date.

    How long did that take, to get to the first date?

    Hmmm.it could have taken 2 weeks, 3 weeks, something like that. And it was a date with the pretension to go out to learn to dance and do the jitterbug, which we didn't even have to do in the movie. He ended up taking me to the Playboy Club, which had a big band but no dancing. And we talked and talked and talked and talked and talked and then when the night was over, we had nowhere to go. I was living in my mother's apartment because my house had been flooded at the beach and my new house being remodeled. He was living with his sister because-

    Wait, a minute, aren't you guys movie stars?

    Exactly! We had no place to go-it was a riot. So we then said, "What do we do now?" Everything was closing. We thought, "Well, we could get a beer and go up to Mulholland Drive or something." And I said, "You know, why don't I show you my new house? I'm redoing it, but I'll show you where I live." I walked in through the back door, and then I got so excited that I jumped on his back like a kid and said, "Isn't this great?!"

    Listen   Goldie on making love
    He just was blown away. It was like I was attacking him. Then we went upstairs and I showed him the whole house--we walked around and and we're in the bedroom and it was dark-and that was it. We just, in that moment in time, had the most beautiful lovemaking experience-and as fate would have it, in the exact same spot as our bed was when we conceived (our son) Wyatt.

    And after it was finished we went and sat on the top steps, the two of us, and I said, "Well, let's pretend we live here now and what would we do? What would be the first move after the act of love?" And he said, "I think I would go downstairs and get some cookies." And I said, "Me too." At which point the police came because I had broken into the house. I guess the alarm went off, or something triggered it-it was a silent alarm. The police came in and saw us sitting there, me with my jeans half-zipped up and I looked down and said, "Oh, this is my house." And then the police said, "Oh Goldie, we didn't know you were here." I said, "I'm just showing him around." I was so embarrassed!

    I'll bet they were more embarrassed.

    I'm sure they were. Anyway, they were awfully cute and they left. We didn't want to leave each other, and at the end of the next day we ended up checking into the Holiday Inn. We just checked in to the Holiday Inn. The whole thing was just too much fun. And then when I had to leave that weekend, he dropped me off back at my mom's.

    How old were your kids then?

    Katie was three and Oliver was five.

    What I thought was that I would never find a man who loved my children as much as I did. And I actually did--my prayers were answered.

    Does Kurt have a spiritual practice?

    His is being out in nature. He can sit out and look at the lake for hours. It's an interesting mind; it's not very tumultuous.

    So do you have an "interfaith" relationship?

    Listen   Goldie on Kurt Russell's spirituality
    He respects mine and I respect his-but there again, that's not important because you realize it's all a subjective belief system. I don't think "Well, I can't be with somebody who doesn't believe what I do, or I can't share my spirituality." Your spirituality is shared by your actions and your interconnectedness with your family and everybody else. It's not conceptual. What's going to make you whole is your self-reflection and examination of yourself.

    I guess if he has such tranquil mind, then your need to search is a probably a good match.

    It is a good match. I've often thought about it. What if Kurt was a guy who was spiritual and was always searching? I would probably go mad!

    You've talked about your car accident and near-death at age 19 which, you say, gave you a destiny because you believe you were sent back from the other side. What do you think your destiny is?

    Listen   Goldie on her destiny
    What I'm learning is it doesn't matter any longer what celebrity you have, it's what you do that matters. So I would say that for the rest of my life, everything I do has to be with a mode of ethics, good intentions, for a better result for the people closest to me and to the world around me. I'm learning that it doesn't matter who you are, but that particular intention can help change one person, your family, your community, your schools, all of these things-and when you do put this out, great changes happen. It's not overnight and you can't expect quick results. It may not shift to our whole dream in this lifetime, maybe not even in the next lifetime, but if you stop believing that you can make a difference, then you're not doing a service to our future.

    So, I guess it's taking yourself out of yourself and the "woe is me" and the "mea culpa" and "why me." Take the "me" out of it for a minute and go up that 100,000 feet up and look down, and say, "I'm just a tiny part of this wheel, but I know that if I can just spread the light out, I'll make a difference."

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