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Linda Blair: Committed to animals, nature

Linda BlairActress Linda Blair is on a quest -- and not just for the spirits on the Fox Family Channel show she hosts, "Scariest Places on Earth."

When not on camera, she concentrates on the animal rights movement, such as her work with Animal Imaging, an outpatient, referral-only center for sick animals in Los Angeles; her Web sites and; her book, Going Vegan and taking care of her own animals and foster animals.

She is very proud of receiving PETA's 1999 Humanitarian award and the Animal Rights 2001 Celebrity Advocate of the Year. Blair feels that these awards are more a reflection of her than her Golden Globe or nomination for the Academy Award. Blair is very talkative, but the one thing she prefers not to talk about is the role for which most people remember her in "The Exorcist."

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Bankrate: What are some of your latest projects?
Linda Blair: Well, I've been working on my Web sites. It took me three years to get the name You know how that goes.

B: Did somebody try to make you buy your own name back?
LB: You know I wouldn't do that. I worked through my lawyer. I am advocating alternative health issues and animal rights. One of my shows on Fox, "Scariest Places on Earth," started off as a Halloween special. It's being knocked off left, right and center, but I guess that's flattering. We go to different castles, look at paranormal activity all over the world. My shows are with the Fox Family channel, so they're about integrity, family.

B: The Animal Imaging Center is exciting. But there are many celebrities who have attempted to open these kind of centers, but it's hideously expensive. How is it funded?
LB: I don't get into the funding issues. I had to drive to San Diego once for my dog's MRI, he has epilepsy. That's how I got involved, to have something locally. I recommend pet insurance! I am so glad that we can take medicine to the next step, whether companion or exotic animal.

B: You have started lecturing on pet-theft awareness as a result of your dog being stolen. How would you advise others on overcoming loss?
LB: One single person makes a difference. Losing a companion animal is like losing our children, family. People in the animal movement help with healing. I'm different than most people: I got to go on TV, flyers, the radio. I still never saw my dog again, and I still have to live with that. There was enough publicity, that they know, whoever stole Sheba. I lecture against using animals for medical research, many are stolen pets. If you don't do something, you can't get it done.

B: Do you buy fancy outfits for your pets?
LB: God, no. In the animal rights movement, we don't decorate our dogs; it lowers their self esteem. I do have a whippet who had a little coat. He was in Connecticut in the winter and got cold. My dogs eat vegetarian meals, Nature's Recipe. I don't wear leather, cashmere, silk. I get manmade fabric toys for my dogs and ropes. I also get bigger animal-free "bones." I foster cats, and because they won't always be in my home, they aren't on a vegetarian diet.

B: What was your most lucrative acting gig?
LB: I don't talk about that. "The Exorcist" gave me opportunities, though.

B: What is a splurge for you?
LB: Food-wise, I shop from for vegan brownies and cookies that are "to live for." She's a friend. I talk about her on the radio.

B: What do you consider a waste of money?
LB: I'm not a materialistic person. I shop at places like Payless Shoes for manmade, cute cotton shoes. I don't spend on designer names. My mother was a seamstress; I have dabbled in the clothing business. But I found that it was really hard to keep getting things made in the U.S. That's important to me, I'm an American. Also, I'm concerned about overseas labor, with women and children, so I backed off that. I grew up modeling. I like to take the dogs every day to a park area; we enjoy the outdoors. I garden. I also work with Pacific Coast Dog Rescue. We just got a new Web site, I'm remodeling it. I'm not remodeling my house, please!

I have also been looking for a sanctuary for animals for five to eight years. I'm looking in California, I've grown to love it, and my contacts are here. I am also looking in upper New York. I want to help "downed animals" -- cows, sheep and chickens that are left for dead. I want people to be able to meet a cow. I have had chickens on and off all my life. Mad Cow disease helped me to make this decision. We know it's here, I have a lot of inside information. But you have to be cautious with the food disparagement laws.

B: You have been doing a lot of radio interviews lately, haven't you?
LB: Yes, I have been doing the campaign for my show. It has been going for weeks on end. It can been pretty grueling.

B: When you were starting out in films, were you part of any "studio system"?
LB: No, we had an agent. I had no acting school, I got started through modeling. I got a reputation for being an easy-working child. I was working constantly. It was hard work, and I was still in public school. My mother would take me to New York. I was a good student.
[Dog barking in background]
And you were wondering! This is my life.

-- Posted: Aug. 16, 2001

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