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Roger Smith

I Always Need My Mother's Good Luck Wishes!

Two people have an important place in the life of Ann-Margret: Her husband Roger, and her mother, Anna. Everytime Ann-Margret opens a new show, Anna HAS to be there. "She has brought me luck for more than 30 years!" We have visited the Swedish superstar in her lovely home in Beverly Hills.

"Hej, Hej! Sorry I'm late, I'll be right with you, I just have to fix my hair".

Ann-Margret, 41, comes right back after a few minutes. Instead of combing her long hair, she has put on a hat, that matches the brown skirt, brown cardigan and her boots. While waiting, we scan the living room of her and husband Roger's house, Hedgrock, high on a hill in Beverly Hills. The house once belonged to Humphrey Bogart. Noone is let in without reporting on the door phone. At the door is the biggest post box I've ever seen.

Everything is simply designed. Roger is working in the garden, his illness (Myasthenia Gravis) is so bad, he sometimes has to spend several days in a row in bed.

They have designed their house in happy, optimistic colors. The two sofa groups in the big room go in light green, light blue, yellow and white. Several paintings by Ann-Margret's favorite painter, 87-year old Michelle Casella hang on the walls. Little figurines, vases, plates, bowls are everywhere, many of them Swedish. Plants and flowers give extra warmth.

Ann-Margret is in a hurry. She started her day at 7.30 with rehearsals, then a doctor's appointment, singing lessons, lots of phone calls, talking to agents, lawyers etc. She throws herself on the sofa for a well deserved short rest.

Ann-Margret seldom lets journalists in to her home, and it's been a while since someone has photographed her home. She doesn't want to be in the pictures, since she hasn't been made up. This time she opens her home as a thank you to all Swedes who were so nice to her around the time of her taking her show to Stockholm and the China Theatre. And the fact that the Swedish King and Queen invited her, her mother and Roger to the Royal Castle.

"I was so happy in Stockholm, I cried every day", she says. "I have never been so nervous before an opening night. When the audience all rose to their feet, and started clapping, I just wanted to hug them all. I'll never forget Lill-Babs (Swedish singer) at the air port, but the fines memory, of course, is meeting the King and Queen.

"I'm so happy that me and my show was invited to Scandinavia Today in Minneapolis in November, when the King and Queen were there, I just couldn't refuse. All 38 in my party love Sweden, and they all wanted to go, in spite of difficulties in arranging all our calendars. We all sing Happy Birthday in Swedish when it's someone's birthday, and we cheer in a special Swedish way".

Ann-Margret guides us around her living room, showing all her Swedish stuff. Her Swedish is at leastwise as good as before she visited Stockholm.

"Ingrid Bergman is my female idol", she says. "I met her just once, in 1968, and it's one of the highlights of my life. I wish I could have spoken more to her."

Ann-Margret's mother, Anna Olsson, drops by, on her way to a board meeting with the Swedish Mayflower Club. She is also the leader of the famous pickled herring club, who meets once a month. They hug each other and it's clear they love each other very much. "Roger and mother are the two most important persons in my life", she says.

"Mother also means a lot to my career, she has been giving me good luck, ever since she first saw me perform, 30 years ago outside Chicago. She has practically never missed a show since then".

"When I was to fly to Vietnam and perform with Bob Hope, she was late, and we held the plane, just so she could wish me luck. I refused to go without that. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were there, and they had the laugh of their life".

Ann-Margret always keeps her mother updated on her career. She doesn't care that I take notes. The evening gets more and more delightful. She reveals sensational news that Academy Awards winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, has written a Broadway musical, and he wants Ann-Margret to star.

"I want to, I want to", she says. "I have never performed on Broadway, but it means leaving Roger, mother and our home for 1 1/2 years. I don't think I can manage that. Roger needs me. Yesterday I signed up for the TV picture 'Who Will Love My Children'. Can you believe it, me having no own children, playing the mother of ten?"

The film is based on a poor woman, who has cancer and eight months to live. Her last wish is to find decent homes for her children, since her husband is an alcoholic. She finds ten families, and before she dies, she gathers her family and tell them all about the important things in life, such as to go through school, showing respect etc.

Roger comes and goes. He's busy with the garden and other things. Every time a warm smile for Ann-Margret.

"We have known each other for 18 years, and been married for 15", Ann-Margret says. "We're happy, we work well together, we have fun, because we laugh at the same things. Roger is stronger than me, and that pleases me. I have been dependent on a strong man my whole life. Before it was my father, who died in 1973, and the Roger".

The most important thing for Ann-Margret is Roger's health. They always travel together. They accept invitations to parties and openings, but only go if Roger feels well.

"I know what it feels like, being dependent on someone else caring for you, since my fall in Reno in 1972. I fell 7 meters, and almost died. Roger did everything for me. He was in Los Angeles. He had to take a locked Cessna 337, the fog was so thick, you weren't supposed to fly, but he did it anyway, navigating by instruments for his first time in ten years, risking his life for me. He made it and brought me to the specialists at UCLA".

Ann-Margret now feels that it's her turn to care for Roger.

"I'm happiest when Roger and I are alone in our beach house in Malibu", she says. "Rather than Roger living in a dark room at home, we go to the beach and walk for a couple of hours. We can sit on a rock and enjoy the sea, the wind, the birds and forget our troubles."

I ask her what's the worst thing she knows?

"Cruel people, people who are cruel to other people or to animals", she says. "Also, I can't stand lying people and those you cannot trust. As an artist I need that those I work with come well prepared for rehearsals and to film sets. I demand a lot from myself. I take sing and dance lessons every day."

"I become a tiger when I meet people like that. I get so angry, smoke comes out of my ears, and I tell them what I think in a way nobody will forget."

When I meet her, Ann-Margret feels better than she has done for a long time. She has actually had time off for a whole month or more than she has had the last 15 years. She has practically worked non stop since her first film, "Pocketful of Miracles", in 1961, a year after George Burns let her perform in his Las Vegas show. She has made 31 films, the latest is "Lookin' to get out", with Jon Voight. She is the biggest star in Las Vegas, and her TV specials are among the most popular.

She and Roger have invested millions in real estate, office buildings, hotels and many other projects, but when you talk to her, you don't get the feeling that you're talking to a RICH star. You just see her as a nice person, who loves to have people around her. Every Christmas she and Roger invite around 100 friends for the annual Christmas smorgasbord, which her mother is in charge of.

"After my fall in Reno, my love for my friends is important to me. I call them every day, and I visit those who are ill. The accident made me realize that life can end when we least expect it. So it's important to show your love to others, before it's too late.

"I love giving away presents. I start buying Christmas presents in June and I give at least 200, for example I have 38 working for me with my show. My uncle Kalle back home in Sweden always has gifts. I send 400 Christmas cards and I put my name and Roger's on all of them. A card with a printed signature isn't the real thing."

Before we part, Ann-Margret shows me the house.The pool is beside the house and another house for 2 employees. Her private secretary for the last 20 years, is Norma Collins, mother of Bo Derek. Ann-Margret has around 10 people working for her.

The office has dark red wall paper, and is filled with pictures from throughout her and Roger's careers. Roger was a star of his own before they got married, he was in the TV series "77 Sunset Strip". He is also a singer and composer. The dining room area is in yellow, and can seat 10 people. The kitchen is the most Swedish place in the house.There's a table for 4, where they eat most of their meals. The kitchen table is a gift from the city of Östersund, where she in 1968 was made an honorary citizen.

Ann-Margret is Swedish through and through. She almost cries when she tells me what she wants to do with Roger.

"I'd like to drive my Volvo (she has 3, and she has given her mother 2) around Sweden for a whole summer", she says. "I'd show him Lappland, I'd show him Örnsköldsvik, where I first performed in public when I was 5 or 6. Roger and I would spend some time in the Stockholm archipelago, and drive through eastern Sweden and visit the islands of Gotland and Öland, the go up to Östersund and Valsjöbyn, visit uncle Kalle. He taught me to dance, sing and play the accordion, when I was 2. There's no country as beautiful as Sweden. My dream is to show it to Roger", she finishes.


By Lennart Cedrup


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