Fame & Fortune: Stefanie Powers

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Stefanie Powers has been thrilling audiences for over 50 years with her looks and talent.

Although she appeared in feature films, including “Stagecoach,” “The Interns” and “McLintock!,” it’s her small-screen credits that have brought her worldwide recognition: “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Deceptions,” “The Burden of Proof” and, of course, the ’80s hit, “Hart to Hart.”

At age 15, Powers, who was born in Hollywood, was signed to a movie deal with Columbia Pictures. She married actor Gary Lockwood in 1966, a union that lasted six years. In 1974, Stefanie formed a friendship with actor William Holden that later blossomed into a romance. Holden was passionate about wildlife conservation, co-founding the Mount Kenya Game Ranch in Africa, a game preserve and animal orphanage. After he died in 1981, the William Holden Wildlife Foundation was created in his memory to further animal conservation education and efforts.

It was her relationship with Holden that would carve out a legacy for the actress. She has become president of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation and director of the Mount Kenya Game Ranch, which is now part of the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy.

Bankrate: Not only are you still involved with your acting and the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, but you consult with American zoos. How do you keep everything going?

Stefanie Powers: Every once in a while, all these things come crashing together and you’re obviously going to have those moments if you involve yourself with a lot of things. I just keep going.

I feel very privileged to have been on the tail end of the “star system.” I began to work at 15, and when I was put under contract at Columbia, they still believed in “grooming” their young hopefuls. That process allowed me to learn how movies were made, since the studio was my playground.

In many ways, the experience of working with such movie greats as John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Bing Crosby, Lana Turner, Lee Remick and others helped to give me a sense of the importance of balancing career and life. I even became friends with Tallulah Bankhead and Helen Hayes, who once said to me “When the makeup comes off, you still have to go home to your life; make sure it’s as satisfying as the one you left at the dressing table.”

Bankrate: I know you are active with both environmental concerns and with animal concerns. What’s the main objective of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation?

Stefanie Powers: Our focus is animal preservation, but in order to do that, we have to deal with human beings. Animals are not in danger except by humans. So the first focus in awareness is alternatives to destruction of habitat, which we teach at our education center. Our main education center copes with 10,000 students a year and we have an outreach program that currently copes with another four schools with 600 students in each. It’s a very costly focus.

Bankrate: What’s the biggest lesson you can teach about animal preservation?

Stefanie Powers: There isn’t one single lesson. It’s understanding renewable resources and providing for it. I know there’s a commercial venture afoot in the world suggesting that we should keep our lives in ozone balance. So if you recycle your waste, you can create your own compost from biodegradable waste; if you can plant vegetation to produce oxygen to continually circumvent the damage that you are personally doing — it’s being conscious of that as an individual.

By saying it’s too big an issue for any one person to affect, that’s false and just being lazy.

Bankrate: Are you conscious of this when shopping in stores and going about your daily life?

Stefanie Powers: Yes. I teach all of that in Africa. Although as much as possible, it’s the use of common sense in the way in which your household functions, because we waste so much just in scratch paper. We reuse every single paper that comes in the house as much as possible. That’s being cost effective too: The notion of taking your own bags to the market so you’re not contributing to the loss of more trees. I boycott the newspaper. I don’t buy them because I believe they should be made from recycled paper. And until they are, I’m not going to buy them.

Bankrate: I remember you hosted a PBS series about finance three years ago. How did that come about?

Stefanie Powers: The show was to try to demystify the financial world, which has been held up as being this private club of the good ol’ boys who were making all the decisions. And by the way, it still is. It was very important to realize that before the crash that happened about seven to eight years ago, the previous 10 years was an incredibly successful period. The ground was so fertile, all you had to do was throw seeds on it and they would grow, especially with all the techno stocks that were out there then.

There are still opportunities, but one must have a good hard look at what your priorities and expectations are — the priorities of an 18-year-old compared to someone who is just getting married, or someone who is retiring. Everyone’s priorities are very different.

Bankrate: Any other advice?

Stefanie Powers: We’re living in a fabulous time. There’s so much to learn. Get financially savvy — it increases your independence and boosts your self-confidence more than anything. And read. I’m always reading about three books simultaneously. I think that we, as a society, don’t read enough. All the lessons for the present are in the past.

Photo courtesy Retna Ltd.