By Fred R. Eichelman
Deanna Lund is one actress who didn't start out as a star struck little girl with a yen for Hollywood. As a child in Florida, her only screen idol was Roy Rogers. That was primarily because she was riding in rodeos at the early age of ten. She was interested in Country-Western music and wrote her own songs which would make her more a candidate for Nashville than the film capital.
Her first public performances were in the political arena helping her father run for office. A sportswoman, she was more interested in horses and water sports. Then how did a clean cut kid like this wind up on "the wicked stage"? Some journalists have assumed that because of Deanna's natural beauty and sunny disposition, the road to stardom was strewn with roses. This is a total woman who is very dedicated to learning everything about her craft. Deanna believes in hard work and what she calls "paying your dues".
In school, Deanna first went on stage because her father thought it would help her get over her shyness. She became hooked, though acting as a career didn't seem to be in the cards. He rfather was opposed to the idea, especially the idea of motion pictures. However, after school she entered into a marriage that didn't work and found herself forced into a wide range of occupations. With two babies to support, she had a variety of jobs including a car rental agency, running a modelling school, TV weather, news and sports casting, and appearing in commercials.
In college, she had a role in a Robert Taylor-Chad Everett film 'Johnny Tiger' and appeared in a couple other films. A talent scout, Max Arno, had unsuccessfully tried to recruit her; but now a few years later she felt ready for Hollywood. It took courage to pack up her children and head for a whole new world. In Los Angeles she ran into Arno who helped her chart the new career.
Her first films were learning experiences on the order of 'Dr .Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.' (Fred and his wife first saw Deanna in this. The James Bond craze was at its height and the title was irresistible). Some were well reviewed such as 'Out of Sight' and she had the opportunity of working twice with Elvis Presley. These were unfortunately not the kind of roles that would feed a family and she found herself bicycling back and forth to two jobs at a time. This was far from the image Hollywood had with instant stardom awaiting the newcomer. Deanna was beset with every problem faced by a single mother from inept baby-sitters to life threatening illness.
Anxious to get back home to Florida, she had her agent get her a role in Frank Sinatra's 'Tony Rome' being shot in Miami. While there, she made up her mind that there would be no going back without a guarantee of a major role.
At that time one of the new breed of producers, Irwin Allen, was making his mark with special effect science fiction TV series and movies. Deanna Lund was already known on TV due to appearances on 'Batman' and the 'Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre'. In the works for 20th Century Fox was Allen's 'Land of the Giants'. 'Tony Rome' was a Fox film and Allen saw the dailies which made her a cinch for a part without even an audition. Deanna had a hard time believing it was true when her agent called her and was still skeptical when she arrived in Hollywood to meet Allen for the first time. Though normally ash blonde, she was a red head in 'Tony Rome', thus she became red-headed Valerie Ames Scott in 'Giants'.
'Land of the Giants' had the task of making viewers suspend their disbelief long enough to watch seven castaways survive on a world of hostile giants. Deanna's task was to flesh out and give substance to the role of a shallow rich girl. During the two years the show was on air, her character was viewed by many as the most evolved and interesting. Despite week after week of enduring such perils as hanging by a rope over flames, several times having an ape carry her off, being taped to tables and dropped into specimen jars, she managed to pull it off. By the end of the series, Deanna Lund was one of the most popular actresses on television and she was more than just a screaming victim. She was now an accomplished and recognized performer. The author (Fred) himself was using the show in the classroom and in a few years would be involving her personally in education. After the series was cancelled, she married co-star Don Matheson. Their daughter Michele Matheson is an accomplished actress herself.
With 'Giants' behind her, Deanna made a number of appearances in shows such as 'The Waltons' and 'The Incredible Hulk' as well as movies made for television. Her greatest impact for the next few years was in soap operas, 'General Hospital' and 'One Life to Live'. For many actresses, that would be more than enough. For Deanna, it was to be evidence that nothing could be taken for granted.
If the Deanna Lund story is ever made into a book, it would be one of courage, perseverance and renewal. There were problems ahead, not the least of which was a mugging that nearly took her life. She could have been mentally and emotionally scarred for life and the fight to restore herself was an event that truly would be considered an inspiration.
Deanna's film career took off again in the eighties with a most notable female lead in the Jerry Lewis classic 'Hardly Working'. This plus two with Burt Reynolds was made in Florida, fast becoming the 'Film Capital East'. She also made films within dependent producers. One of the latter, 'Girl Talk', has not been released in the U.S., but has had a cult following in colleges and universities. More recently, Deanna has returned to TV films, with one exceptional role as a police woman in 'Red Wind'.
More important is that Deanna Lund is becoming a renaissance person. Seven years ago, she attended her first convention and within a couple of years there was put together one of the largest fan groups in America, 'The Friends of Deanna Lund'. She found the love she received such that she wanted to return it by giving of herself as a drama teacher. Her drama classes have become very popular. She was encouraged to spearhead a program in Virginia called 'Rising Star' which involves film festivals and workshops on film making and acting. This has led to her teaching drama in California and planning both a drama book and video.
Of late the name Deanna Lund has also been associated with writing. Her first novel, 'Valerie in Giantland' has sold out as a fan publication, and has now been produced in a professional format. She has also been writing columns for fanzines and recently appeared on the editorial page of a prestigious Southern newspaper.
In one sense, Deanna has gone back to her roots and is performing her song and other music in churches and at various conventions where she is a much sought after guest. There is a sweet spirituality, a sense of humour and a keen empathy that makes both her students and co-workers want to deliver their best. You see, she's been there. She means it when she says, "If you want to succeed in any endeavour then you have to want it more than anything else in the world. If that is what you want, then follow your dream." In the late sixties she was just a TV heroine, in the nineties Deanna Lund has become a heroine for real.