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Roger Smith

At home with Ann-Margret

The shoes and the cats have their own rooms.

"Now I'm going to take it easy for a while", Ann-Margret says. " I have worked hard and need some rest".

Her husband, Roger Smith, looks at me, and smiles.

I know just what he thinks. He knows that A-M isn't lazy. Even though she's quite small, she's a living dynamo, and the best thing she knows is to satisfy an audience with her singing and dancing. And she's so powerful and explosive, that if you havn't seen her perform, you have no idea what this means.

She sparkles and shines, excels in song and dance, 2 shows each night, seven nights a week, when she's performing in Las Vegas. And before that, rehearsing 8 hours a day for a month. Between shows she needs oxygen to receive the neccessary moisture her throat needs in the dry Vegas air.

"If you're in show business only for the attention, he or she should quit right now", she says. "People just doesn't understand what it takes, blood, sweat and tears".

I ask her what bothers her the most, being a star.

"To read all lies written by people who have never met me, or even bothered to search for the truth. That hurts."

After what has happened, who could blame her. And her home isn't open to just any journalist, she is very private.

Luckily, I'm welcomed as a friend. I have known Ann-Margret since she was a shy newcomer in Hollywood. She would often visit our home in Hollywood, arriving on her bike, sneaking a peak over the garden wall, to make sure no outsider was around. When we moved to Hawaii, she used to visit every summer, and thoroughly enjoyed the beach and swimming in the ocean outside our house. We respected her privacy, and she always felt secure around us.

Hawaii was also where she went after her accident in Lake Tahoe, when she wanted to hide from the outside world. She had fallen and broken an arm, crushed her cheek, and was unconscious for 5 days, after Roger himself flew an airplane to the hospital in Los Angeles. For 8 weeks she had her cheek wired and the only thing she could eat were soup, finely ground meat and liquid pizza. She lost 20 pounds, but today, there's not a single scar visible.

Ann-Margret sure has come a long way since she left Valsöbyn in the county of Jamtland. She grew up outside Chicago, went to American school, but she hasn't forgotten her Swedish. Her dad, Gustav, worked as an electrician and her mother Anna, was a cleaning lady. They did everything they possibly could to support their daughter and her song- and dancelessons. And she has never forgotten. In every interview, in every talk show, in every speech, she thanks them.

Since the family moved to Hollywood, and A-M started her climb to fame, there was never a chance that her parents would be too watchful. On the contrary, they kept in the background. When A-M had made it in 1963, she bought them their first own house in classy Beverly Hills.

Ann-Margret shortened her name so her parents wouldn't be ashamed of her if she failed. Luckily she made it all the way to the top before she lost her father a few years ago.

She has visited her old home in Valsjöbyn several times, the last time accompanied by her husband, who had never been to Sweden. When I asked her how many relatives she has in Valsjöbyn, she laughs: "Oh, I believe half the village!"

Ann-Margret first was discovered while singing at the Sahara in Las Vegas. She got a contract with 20th Century Fox in Hollywood, and at the same time was a big hit at the Academy Awards.

Columbia cast her in "Bye Bye Birdie", after that, nothing was ever the same again. Unfortunately, she had signed a contract with an agent who did her more harm than good, and she had to do one bad movie part after the other, until she finally had to buy herself out of the contract, to get better parts.

She then did a film with Elvis and other musicals, and continued to rise and shine. Within a few years whe was one of the best payed actors in Hollywood.

Hur husband, Roger Smith, himself an actor, gave up his career to manage hers. They have been married 9 years and are verry happy.

He now has control of her career as her manager, along with a lawyer, a press agent and a secretary. He also produces her shows, and he knows music, dance, lighting, decoration and casting.

To stage a "super-show" in Las Vegas isn't easy. A lot of money is invested in costumes, choreography, musicians etc.

Roger takes her in a private jet between Hollywood and Las Vegas, and also makes sure she does her daily excersizing and holds her diet. Everything is in his hands and he always gives her good advice.

Her breakthrough as a serious actress came in the film "Carnal Knowledge", where she starred with Jack Nicholson. She has filmed and appeared on stage in London, Paris, Rome, Beirut, the Orient, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Burma. She went twice to Vietnam to entertain US troops during the war.

Ann-Margret and Roger have a happy life together. They prefer a cosy evening at home to the wild nightlife of Hollywood. They bought Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's in Laurel canyon, which they have since redecorated, renovated and made it into a gorgeous home. There's tennis courts, swimming pool and a separate house for Roger's children from his first marriage. In the huge garage they keep their expensive cars and motorcycles and Roger's jeep. They have their own screening room, both for 16 and 35 mm film, a music room, a gym for Ann-Margret, an English pub in the cellar, a storage room for her furs, a special room just for her 200 pairs of shoes, a kitchen better than most restaurant kitchens, there's even a room for their seven cats!

How Swedish is Ann-Margret today? Well, she still speaks good Swedish, she always mentions Sweden in her shows, she often sings "Violer Till Mor" on stage in Vegas, she still sends her Swedish relatives Christmas Cards, and she has many Swedish pieces of furniture in her home. The way she says "Hej då!" has been picked up by her friends.

Roger always has to have the latest in technology. When you drive through the gates to their house, you're seen on their CCTV. They have an electric fence, and Ann-Margret gets her water for her bath just by pushing a button. The kitchen, which is run by a hired couple, have electric ovens, charcoal grills and all other mod cons that can be bought for money. All doors and windows are have alarms connected to local police and fire department. There's a music stereo in every room.

Ann-Margret is the only star who have been awarded a Golden Globe three times. This year she was also awarded Star of The Year in Las Vegas, another award in a long line of others she has received.


By Leonard Clairmont


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