Front row: Barbara Hall, Donna Hardie Henderson, Denise Hardie Monette, Kimberly Ryan Clifton.
Second Row: Karen Hall, Diane Ryan Shelton, Dale Hardie Sparks.
Back: Col. H. Bryant Wilbourne.
Look at her. On the front row on the left. The tiny cute one. The one who looked up from her book just long enough to take a picture. And then there's me. The goofy one in the black dress on the other end. The one who plopped down about the time the camera clicked.
The one with her underpants showing.
And there you have it. Our lives in a picture. Barbara…the organized one. The thinker, the prodigy. And me. Getting through life by the seat of my pants.
But, you’ve read my column enough to know that already. So, let me take this month to do a little bragging about my cousin, Barbara Hall. The Executive Producer of two CBS TV shows, Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia. The author of seven novels. The musician who's published her own original CD. Winner of numerous awards for writing.
The girl from Chatham.
That's right. Chatham, Virginia. Population 1,300 and growing. Now, make no mistake. It's a charming little town but generally not the first place you think of to launch an illustrious career.
But she did. And to be even-handed here, so did her sister, Karen Hall. No doubt she also deserves her own feature as her career parallels Barbara's as a producer, screenwriter, novelist and columnist. She can boast seven Emmy nominations, not to mention a list of awards as long as my arm.
We're cousins. Our mothers are sisters. When you add their brother into the mix, a family reunion meant eight rambunctious grandchildren all within a few years of each other…seven of whom were giggling girls running through the house with reckless abandon. Getting together was always an exciting time. We played and laughed with no other thought than having fun. As you can imagine, the poor adults had a tough time talking over us. Which is why they usually ran us outdoors. Come to think of it, I also remember that my grandfather always popped a nitroglycerin pill under his tongue when we opened the front door.
But of all our visits, the one I remember best has Barbara standing in the living room front and center…passionately pantomiming Andy Kim's “Be My Baby.” While in the background, her choreographed cousins twirled huge purple tissue paper flowers in time with the music. It was Thanksgiving. It was our annual talent show.
Which only proved that none of us had any.
But Barbara's talent shows daily. As the Executive Producer of CBS's hit series, Judging Amy and its newest show, Joan of Arcadia, she's gone well beyond choreographing her cousins' dance routines.
She choreographs the song and dance for the actors, directors, and all of the other hundreds of people it takes to make a show successful.
There's an old joke that says that TV is called a medium because it's not well done. Whoever said it hadn't seen Barbara's work. But don't just take my word for how good she is. Her colleagues agree. She's received the Humanitas Award, the Viewers for Quality Television Award, the TV Critics Award, a Writers Guild Award nomination, and three Emmy nominations.
Before Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, she was a consulting producer on Chicago Hope and Northern Exposure as well as being co-executive producer on I'll Fly Away and a co-producer on Moonlighting. Earlier, she was the story editor for Newhart and A Year in the Life.
As if that's not enough, she also published seven novels: Summons to New Orleans, Close to Home, A Better Place, Dixie Storms, Fool's Hill, House Across the Cove and Skeeball and the Secret of the Universe. Her current novel, Company, is in pre-production at Simon and Schuster.
Her creativity seems to have no bounds. She also wrote, produced and performed original music for her folk band, ThEnablers. It's a lot to take in, isn't it. But that's only the Barbara I read about in the papers or online.
The Barbara I know is the one who walked with me from her Davis Drive home to buy bubble gum at Pink Winn's service station. And if we promised her mom we'd stay on the sidewalk, we could also walk downtown to Woodfin's Pharmacy to get a milkshake. In LA, she's Barbara…the mover and the shaker. The executive producer, the novelist and the musician.
But back home, she's just Barbara. One of the eight cousins.
The persuasive one who got me to dance around with a gigantic paper flower. That's the kind of memory that will wake you up at night.
Which is actually worse than a picture with your underpants showing.
Meet Barbara on November 5, 2003, at 3:45 p.m. as she presents “Manners and Writing: Long Day's Journey into Culture Shock,” for The Wednesday Club. Find out what it was like to make the transition from Pittsylvania County to Pacific Palisades.
Copyright © 2003 Kimberly R. Clifton.