People, listen up: we are going to attempt to conduct this inner-view with Susan Olsen without once mentioning the C word. Okay? Can you handle?
She’s grown up now, the curls are out, the plaids are gone, the lisp is corrected and the attitude is political, attitudinal, and controversial. Deal.
These days, she’s co-starring in a very popular online series called Child of the Seventies, which pays much respect to those beloved sitcoms of yesteryear. Currently in its fourth season, it goes a little something like this: Carlo Perdente (Michael Vaccaro, who is also writer and director) moves to LA, works as a personal assistant to TV has-been KiKi Lawrence (Ann Walker), and tangles with two out-there talent managers, as can only be played by real-life TV writer Bruce Vilanch and our Susan.
Susan also co-hosts the LA-based Two Chicks Talkin’ Politics (along with Sheena Metal), where they honestly, straight-ahead talk about subjects political and otherwise. Brace yourself.
In our Everybody’s interview, Susan discusses her love of animals (and her animal activism), the current state of social media “group think” and political correctness (she doesn’t subscribe), and her son, who suffers from Asbergers Syndrome.
Here’s the story:
What the hell is it about the Seventies?
Beats me! I love the Fifties and Sixties, but I didn’t like the Seventies during the Seventies. I remember watching Laugh In and two female cast members were wearing matching polyester leisure suits and I thought “this must be the ugliest time in human history.” But I suppose the plastic essence of the era is what makes it super campy and fun.
Can a Seventies icon (namely you) actually be a child of the Seventies, when all of us Seventies children are looking up to you as an icon?
I’m not so sure that I am a child of the Seventies. I think I am more a child of the Sixties. By the time the Seventies hit, I had a full-time job!
While I was still a child, I was a working professional and very critical of the era. It seemed to me that entertainment had taken a nose dive. I Love Lucy was [and still is] my favorite show. There seemed to be more “eye candy” without substance [in the Seventies]. The great writing from shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and The Dick Van Dyke Show had been replaced with pure solicitation for cheap laughs.
Can you tell that as a child I was a total buzz kill? I was super serious as a kid. I’m so much more childlike now than I was then. Thank GOD!
Describe your Child of the ’70s character, a talent agent named Nickel. What do you love about her?
Pretty much nothing, which is why I love her.
She’s a jerk! It’s always fun to play that but I would really like to get into a time machine and redo the first scenes. I signed on to the project only because I would get to be Bruce Vilanche’s boss and I get to yell at him. I wish that I had developed Nickel from the get-go. Oh well.
I only signed on to work with Bruce. I love Bruce! Working with him was one of the good things about doing The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, which was declared the fourth-worst show in television history by TV Guide. (Amazing to me is that they found three other shows they deemed even worse than ours).
Bruce is clearly a genius to me. I swear you could smell his brains the minute he walked on the set. Back then, at the tender age of 15, I loved the writers and they seemed to like me too. I was aware that these were super-cool men who were writing schlock because it was their job, but they were really creative, wonderful guys. My kind of guys!
But I digress — I tend to do that. The chance to work with Bruce and cuss him out was too good to pass up. I just wish I had taken the character more seriously. There are so many things I would have done differently. After I did the initial scenes, I watched the first season and went, “Oh shit! This is a good show! What a wonderful cast! I want more!”
So I proposed to Michael Vaccaro that Nickel should propose to Siobhan. Siobhan is played by my radio partner, Sheena Metal. Any chance to work with Sheena some more is always a good thing! In all my years in the business of show, Sheena is the most drama-free, pure vessel of art who I have ever worked with. She is an angel! She is forever a breath of fresh air.
But I must confess, we are not lovers! I’m not gay! I was really amused by the fact that most of the cast thought that we are really together. I’m straight as an arrow!
But my compassion for all sexual variances is at the core of me. I grew up with a TV dad [Robert Reed] who could not allow himself to have the love of his life because it was not accepted. This will always haunt me. Bob was such a great man and would have been far happier if he could have had the love life that he needed. Any time I can support my LGBT friends, I want to, but I’ve found so much politicizing in the atmosphere that I am sad to say that I am wary.
How did the youngest one in curls become so politicized and opinionated? It’s cool, but it’s also shocking and unexpected.
When I got my first radio gig on KLSX [The Ober and Olsen Show, partnered with the late Ken Ober], we followed Howard Stern in Los Angeles every morning. We were forbidden to talk about anything political.
I suppose that started a desire in me. Give me a rule and the first place my brain goes to is how to break it. I have never been a political person but social justice is really a passion in me. I think there may be some truth in “genetic memory.” I am a seventh-generation granddaughter of a woman who was hanged in Salem for being a witch. Her prosecution is a fire that burns inside my soul. But that wasn’t what drove me over the edge:
In 2010, I read the Qu’ran. Doh! And now I can’t unread it.
I began an odyssey of studying the Qu’ran and hadith and Islam in general. There is an affinity to the Middle East that is inexplicably in me. Music in a harmonic minor scale has always grabbed my very soul. I’ve had a chance to travel and the warmth of the people [there] is intoxicating.
I was hoping to find that same kinship in Islam. I did not. Why is there such a concerted effort to divert any honest inquiry? There has to be some strange collusion between those in the West who want to destroy liberty for their own gains and those in the East who feel that America must be destroyed because it is evil. Whoever is responsible, there is a chipping away at individual freedom, and our own people are fine with it! We might as well draw a chalk outline around the corpse of freedom and simply lay down in it. This is what we are willing to do because we would rather have a scimitar at our necks than appear to be “racist.” This looks like mental illness but it is cultural Marxism.
Learning about Islam was like I put on new glasses and everything looked different. Please note: I am saying “Islam;” I am not saying “Muslims.” I am most definitely against the ideology called “Islam;” I am not against Muslims. They are the first victims of Islam.
Our leaders have been lying to us. We have switched sides in the war on terror and the population has been numbed into silence. Young people would rather complain about “microagression” than see how our constitution is being ignored. We are being told what to think more than we ever have been and people are going along. “To Serve Man” is a cook book!
Come on, people! This once great nation was founded on protecting the smallest minority there is: The individual! Collectivism is now what’s on the menu and that delicious smell is your freedom cooking away. Human rights should be at the core of this debate. The Left used to be the folks who acred about human rights; now they are the thought police. And the Right has become a religious cult.
I rarely cast a vote for president. I must admit though that in 2008, I was happy to vote for Obama, but due to work, got to the polls too late to cast my vote. I cried when he was elected. I grew up during the Watts riots and my grandmother taught me white guilt at an early age. I was so happy to have a black president — yeah he’s only half black. I was really hoping that racism was truly behind us. My joy was short-lived as he revealed himself to be a race baiter and BFFs with the Muslim Brotherhood.
As a former child star, shouldn’t you be dead or on drugs or melting down in public in a dramatic way?
Nope, not my style. Way too cliché! I loved drugs and always thought I used them to my advantage. I’m sure I’m kidding myself about that but the point is that they never took me.
I’ve never been to rehab but life has taught me to not be smug. I’m lucky; I just always knew when the party stopped being fun.
Your strong opinions, which you share on social media, are unsettling, but in a good way. When posting a strong opinion, do you ever think twice before hitting “send?”
Yes, but if I have thought twice, it’s OK. It’s when I don’t think twice that it’s a problem. I get a little scared that the government will come after me. I’m flexing my freedom of speech because it will be gone soon. If things continue in the direction they are going, I could serve time for the things I say.
Do you ever experience remorse for sharing a strong and possibly unpopular opinion?
Absolutely! I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m an empath and hurting is not OK but sometimes can’t be avoided. Lots of my opinions are unpopular. I’m getting used to that. I really try to see the other side.
This was one of my gravest crimes in my first days in talk radio. I would be spouting some opinion and my partner, Ken Ober, would be arguing with me and someone would call in and say, “But Susan, did you ever look at it this way?” And they would present another attitude and I would realize that I was wrong. Then I would say that I was wrong. If looks [from Ken Ober] could kill, I would have died in 1995.
“You dropped your position!” Ken would yell at me when we went to commercials.
“But I was wrong! I could not hold my position; I was clearly wrong!”
“You can never concede that you are wrong! There goes the show!”
To me, the show would be far more dynamic if we all could learn something. I hated the fact that Ken and I could not talk about real topics. We actually got notes that said things like “Burp on the air more often, Howard [Stern] does that.”
And then what?
“Talk about sex!”
Ugh! It was very fun, but frustrating, and I adored Kenny. I miss him a lot.
What’s the deal with this new attitude of politically correct “group think?” Have we ever experienced a time where free speech (in particular, an opinion that goes against the grain) is so instantly hated and not tolerated and instantly chastised? Why is everybody so quick to chime in and react with righteous indignation and attempt to sound “highly evolved,” and “super tolerant?” Ya know?
This will be the death of us. It’s cultural Marxism and its purpose is to polarize and divide us. This way we won’t band together and do something about our leaders who are trying to take away our power. I don’t know that I agree with right wingers — and I’m always accused of being one — thinking that this is a Communist plot to destroy Western civilization, but we do have some very influential people who see America as an obstacle to some global utopia. People like George Soros really do want to destroy America and frankly, I think Obama does too.
You’ve expressed a desire to appear on TV with Bill Maher. This should happen. How do we get it to happen?
Hmmm , maybe we could tie him to a chair until he agrees… I’m thinking of the Robert DeNiro movie King of Comedy.
My dream for you: to conduct an interview and write an article about you where the C-word is never mentioned. How would you feel about that?
I don’t think either of us has uttered that word yet. Mission accomplished! Bravo!
Like cats much?
It’s complicated… I’m probably more of a dog person and, as a child, I was one of those insane girls who screamed when she saw a horse, like she had just seen a rock star. Horses were my obsession but they are too expensive and can’t sleep in your room.
I got into volunteering at the local shelter in the “Bottle Baby” program. I was supposed to foster parent kittens and puppies. I never got a litter of puppies. The abandoned babies were all kittens. It’s a terrible problem! Cats are on the verge of becoming vermin and that’s completely our fault. We developed the domestic dog and cat. They don’t exist in the wild. It is unconscionable that any be born without a home.
Animal welfare is mostly about educating people to do the right things and respect other life forms as sentient beings. I no longer foster parent so I don’t have a house full of cats any more. If I had more room, I might do it again, but I would rather go to the root of the problem. I believe in doing TNR (trap neuter release) on the colonies of strays and just educating people on how important it is to spay and neuter. And yes, I like them! They are crazy critters! Every one of them is insane in their own unique way. I’ve raised 64 foster kittens and all are such individuals. I suffer from Ellie May Clampett syndrome; I love all critters!
How’s the boy?
He’s 19, has two jobs so he’s on his way towards independence. But it’s been a rough road for him and me. He has mild Aspergers Syndrome and some mental illness. He’s very creative and handsome. My biggest desire is to see him find his place in this world. I’d like to spread the rumor that he is the love child of me and Malcolm McDowell.
Find out more about Child of the Seventies here.
Listen to Susan’s radio talk show here.