Doreen: Do you think Mary Kay had the suicidal thoughts for a long time?
Dino: Again, we will never know, but it's quite possible. I know she had always searched for answers about life after death. Throughout her life, questions of heaven and the afterlife always fascinated her.
She was born at Cedars of Lebanon hospital (which doesn't exist anymore), June 5, 1961. Her parents were Jewish, but Mary Kay never practiced the faith. As she tells it, in the early '70's she became fascinated with Christianity; the resurrection of Christ, all of these things. When she became old enough to start exploring her own spirituality, she spent a number of years bouncing from one Christian religion to another, eventually settling on Catholicism, which she converted to - although she was never really devout. She always remained very proud of her Jewish heritage, jokingly referring to herself as a "Catholic Jew." A lot of that could be because it would get a rise out people, she loved doing that. I think part of her search for spirituality was the validation of life after death - she believed in reincarnation, she believed in an afterlife. I don't know if it was because she just had this spiritual sense, or if it was because she hoped there was a better life beyond this one. It could be simply that she was just looking for God. I don't know, it may have nothing to do with it. I do know that she was always a spiritual person.
Nora: We've read that Mary Kay was taking herbal remedies to manage her anxiety, do you know what they were?
Dino: I can't tell you off the top of my head exactly what those were because I got rid of all of them, it was a lot of combinations of things like St. John's wort etc. ... these herbal remedies like "stress-something-or-other." We found them everywhere, in the kitchen, in her nightstand, in the hall closets, in the bathroom, in her car.
Nora: Do you think they helped or hurt the situation?
Dino: In the short-term they probably helped, but In the long run I would say it hurt. It's important to point out that stress is the most common misdiagnosis of advanced GAD, because the fears become so pervasive that you start to suffer from a lot of physical symptoms. Mary Kay was having nausea, muscle aches, dizzy-spells, insomnia ... it's very easy to see how a doctor could misdiagnose such symptoms as stress. As long as Mary Kay walked in with that big beautiful smile of hers, telling the doctor, "Oh, my career is doing fine, I'm so busy and I'm so happy, but I'm having a little trouble sleeping, I've got these stomach aches, can you help me with them?" and not saying what's going on in her head, "I'm really suffering, I'm really depressed" etc. ... who's going to diagnose it as anything other than stress? I had tried to get her to seek therapy, because I thought her priorities were getting out of whack and she just needed to get her head straight. I had no idea her life was in danger. She vehemently refused to seek professional help, again, I believe it was the fear of being labeled mentally ill.
Nora: It's very difficult to admit, it's like admitting weakness.
Dino: Exactly, and Mary Kay wore her heart on her sleeve, I always called her "my delicate sweetie" or "old leaky" because a movie could bring her to tears. But she was also a warrior, that was the other side of her. That had everything to do with why she was keeping it secret, not seeking help, and self-medicating. That's the down side of all of this herbal stuff being readily available.
Nora: It's a temporary fix at best and it can knock other things out of whack.
Dino: Exactly, and she needed proper psychiatric help.
Doreen: The medication alone can't do it, there has to be some counseling.
Nora: To the best of your knowledge, did she express any reservations about being in front of the camera, live, rather than using her voice, being able to hide behind characters? Did that make her nervous about the recognition that would bring?
Dino: Again, she was very much a paradox in that area. The three people that she idolized the most were Gilda Radner, Lucille Ball, and above all else was Carol Burnett. She adored Carol Burnett. Carol went to UCLA, that was why Mary Kay went to UCLA. I believe Carol also went to Hollywood High, which is where Mary Kay graduated in June 1978.
When Carol performed at the Mark Taper Forum, Mary Kay was there. She sent flowers and chocolates backstage, and Carol wrote back thanking her for it. Mary Kay cherished the note Carol sent back. I still have it. She wanted to be another Carol Burnett. She loved that facility for taking on characters and making people laugh. That kind of work in comedy was something she had always wanted to do.
In the infancy of Saturday Night Live, when they were replacing the original cast, auditioning everyone from stand-up comics to actors, etc., Mary Kay was actually one of the finalists. She told me later that she was very glad she didn't get the gig because she would have been too young, and does not believe things would have gone well. So she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her idols, but at the same time, she never thought very much about her looks, and that always preyed upon her. She never thought she was pretty enough for on-camera work. In the end her voice-over career became so time consuming that she had a perfect excuse to not deal with on-camera. In many ways, I think it was wonderful because while her original dream was to be another Carol Burnett, she instead carved her own niche.
On a side note: they did a tribute to Ms. Burnett at the Television Academy. If you go to the Academy you can watch a tape of that tribute. During the Q&A you can see a big beautiful close-up of my Mary Kay asking questions from her seat in the audience mere feet away from Carol.
Nora: If Mary Kay had been asked to sing Blame Canada at the Oscars, would she have been freaked-out at the concept of performing on stage to the crowd and cameras?
Dino: I've heard it so many times that it's too bad she didn't get a chance to sing it, but let's be real. She was very ill at that point, and I don't think she could have handled it. But there was an amazing irony in the fact that Robin Williams performed the song for the show. Aside from being a great admirer of his, a few years earlier, Robin did the film What Dreams May Come, which was about a man who goes on a quest into Hell to get his wife after she has been condemned to eternal damnation for committing suicide. There's a sequence where Robin has to walk across a field of the condemned ... literally walking over their faces. In the most eerie piece of irony, all the female voices in that sequence were performed by Mary Kay - how's that for sending a shiver down your spine? Mary Kay liked the movie a lot, and so did I, but it's very hard for me to watch it now, because of the whole concept of being condemned to Hell for committing suicide. There are still people who believe in those superstitions.
Nora: Isn't that believed in Catholicism?
Dino: Used to be. Not anymore. The Catholic Church has acknowledged that suicide in many cases is the result of mental illness. A lot of people don't know that. The whole idea is ludicrous, that God would punish you for an act committed in the final millisecond of your life while you are incapable of rational thought due to a brain chemical imbalance.
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