I first met Carol in the early 70s, when we were in our twenties, during our freshman year at the Yale School of Drama. Before you think there was anything romantic between us, let me stop you right there—there wasn’t. We were friends; a little like oil and water, but we both loved to make people laugh. A lot of great talent was in that first year acting class, but Carol was different from the other women—more opinionated and rebellious, less circumspect and more New York Jewish. From the very beginning I could sense the polarity inside her. Underneath, she was as soft as a cotton puffball, yet she had a sophisticated, cutting sense of humor that was as sharp as a chef’s best knife. It sliced you right down to the bone but underneath you could sense her extraordinary warmth. It made her multi-layered. And surprising.
Ms. Schlanger was no shy wallflower. No…she was an entire garden of every imaginable color and texture. That picture of her on the cover when she was twenty-three and lit up like a million watts, is exactly how I remember her…so lovely.
I always knew Carol had an incredible way with language. She ap- proached a text and improvised with a riveting charm and intelligence that made you sit up and listen. In the summer of our second year, we were both cast in a political review at the New York Public Theater (the Joseph Papp). I remember that her American Housewife soliloquy, which she also wrote, always got a standing ovation. The audience loved her. She was so real and vulnerable.
I didn’t know her as the hippie she describes in her memoir. In a few uproarious scenes she tells how she morphed into one after she met Clint, a big, gentle Texan she’d fallen in love with and for whom she left New York, abandoned acting and followed into the woods. That man was an artist, both steady and calm…while Carol, OMG she had this amazing energy that came through in her laugh. It was inescapable. You could hear it in a neighborhood in another city. As the great Mildred Dunnock (the original Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman) once said of Carol in her evaluation of Carol’s acting: “Carol loved life more than she loved the theater.” However, it was that zest for living that launched her on her great adventure into the back-to-the land alternative lifestyle that’s the basis for her compelling story.
We lost touch for a few years—while Carol was running around half-naked, hunting and gathering, I was working in television—fully clothed. Until I read her Chapter 33, “On Heaven’s Door,” I wasn’t aware that my TV and film work had been a touchstone for her to re- connect with her love of acting. As she tells it, the first time she saw me as Fonzie in Happy Days (on a tiny television that operated off a truck battery because her hand-built house had no electricity) what was buried inside her resurfaced. Watching my character with his swagger and upside-down charm ignite the live audience, brought the thrill of performance back to her. For an actor, there’s nothing like that human-to-human charge. I’m so very glad my work inspired her to move forward with her life and reestablish her career. Who knew?
Now, Carol and I talk about three times a year about our family, our kids and our grandkids. With the publication of Hippie Woman Wild our connection has been heightened and has reminded me that our forty-year friendship is a rare treasure. Her book transported me to a time and place that was pivotal for my baby-boomer genera- tion. Because I am dyslexic I am a slow, and not exactly avid reader, but I was fascinated to discover through Carol, what it was like being a hip- pie in the woods back then and what that meant for a young, idealistic and formally urban woman. Carol presents her natural world in a way that put me right there with her—I could hear the wind, inhale the fresh air and see the stars at night.
If Carol asked me, and she has, I would characterize her writing as sometimes shocking but consistently multi-leveled and hysterical. Her authentic voice is a little twisted with an undercurrent of laugh-out- loud humor. She can’t say a sentence—she can’t write a sentence—with- out making you laugh. And there is always truth in what she says and writes because it is built on the foundation of the human condition and is never without it. She is so real about who she is and what her struggles are in different and conflicting worlds.
Carol marches to the beat of a different drummer that not every- one can hear. It is her gift but also can get her into big trouble. It did at Yale. But I’ll let her tell you about that herself.
I’ve left the best thing I can say to you about Hippie Woman Wild to the last: The sexy parts are just that—sexy, bawdy and outrageous. What a woman!
I’m proud of Carol. I love her book and I hope you will, too.