Aging: Attitude Toward Aging with Marsha Hunt (cont.)

Moderator: Now that you have the opportunity to do whatever you want to do, what are you involved in on a day-to-day basis that keeps you young?

Hunt: I'm a bad example; I can preach better than I practice. I have all kinds of things I want to be doing -- I write songs, and I've written about 50, both words and music. I long for the free time to do some more, because it's a very rewarding, stimulating kind of thing to be doing. I have some more writing to do; all kinds of it. I'm overwhelmed with "the kitchen of life", or the things that are inescapable; the duties, chores, my mail is a handful of stuff to be grappled with day by day. I'm hearing from a lot of the public, and that's rewarding and heartwarming, for people to remember all those movies or stage performances, and a lot of young people are finding out about the movies from so long ago that they watch on cable. They want answers to questions, advice, or for me to sign pictures or trading cards. I'm getting a lovely response to my book, by people reminded of that age or are interested in it. It takes response, and it eats up my day. I'm slowed down because I have macular degeneration -- I'm beginning to look into what can be done about it, but I have blind spots. Everything is slowed down, and I don't get nearly as much done each day as I want to. I have so much memorabilia collected around my home from a very full life, and I need to sort it, file it, throw things away... while this is confessional, I might as well admit, I don't know how to throw things away. The squirrel impulse to just hang on! Because you never know when you might want it! I have to be ruthless going through and filing things. Then of course, there's the garden. I have a beautiful rose garden, and when things pile up on me, head for the garden and everything calms down and gets beautiful again. There's a lot I'd like to do; I want to spend more time with my friends than I seem to have. I've done a great deal of travel, but there's a great deal of the world I haven't seen, and I dream of being able to do that. So maybe in time, when I get disciplined enough, I can do that.

Moderator: Tell us about the Valley Mayor's Fund for the Homeless. What kind of work does this organization do?

Hunt: It's something I started 17 years ago, when Sherman Oaks appointed me honorary mayor -- it's honorary, because we're all part of Los Angeles. I wanted to put the title to some use, rather than just enjoy it. Right around that time, we were learning there were homeless people in the San Fernando Valley, which was amazing because it was a new area that developed after WW2; yet, there were people here turning up in great numbers, who were without any home. So I rounded up all the other honorary mayors that the 3 elected mayors, that of Los Angeles, Burbank, and San Fernando... and we all kind of co-founded the Valley Mayor's Fund for the Homeless. Over the years, we've done quite a bit -- we called attention to the plight of the homeless, and explain how people do become homeless. How they're not the enemy of wrongdoers, but they're victims of the economy. And how they needed to get out of homelessness and onto their feet, but in the meantime, did need shelter and counseling. While we were not equipped to do all those things, we helped organize a number of facilities and shelters in the Valley that have accomplished those things -- then we raised money to help keep those services going. Maybe one place needs a new roof, or can't meet its phone bill -- we fill in where the gaps occur, and we also provide blankets. First few years, it was real blankets, then found it was too heavy for people to lug around. But then we found Mylar, a substance that reflects body heat, wrap yourself in it and keep warm in the coldest weather, and also has a hood. It can be a poncho or a tent, or a blanket. We provided so many thousands of those every winter to homeless people, and we also put out an information card that lists all kinds of services with a phone number of where to call for that kind of service. That includes addiction to drugs or the alcohol, and counseling, and food, shelter, all kinds of referral services. And I guess we've given out a few hundred thousands of those cards; they can fit in anybody's pocket, and the police department uses them and hands them out when they see homeless people, and we leave them in public libraries, junk food corners, places in the park where homeless people are apt to congregate. It's ongoing, and we're not a big outfit; we're entirely volunteer. We don't even pay rent for an office, and all the money we raise goes into the program. We're proud of ourselves, but we're not big or powerful.

Moderator: You worked with the United Nations, giving talks on its Specialized Projects. What was that like? Did it involve travel?

Hunt: It followed travel; I went around the world with my husband in 1955, following a play engagement in Australia. I haven't been the same since; once you circle the globe, and you smell and taste and see and hear all the delicious flavors of the many kinds of people there are, you fall in love with the planet and all its people. I wanted to learn more, and the obvious source of that learning, was the United Nations, which I was totally ignorant about. I had been so busy making movies; I had been shut into sound stages, learning lines, performing, putting on makeup... and then I had time to really explore it, and I became an avid student of the U.N. I quickly found that everyone else around me was as ignorant as I was, and we had better know about this -- one entity trying to knit the human race into a cooperative bunch of governments, so we can get some peace and progress, and even survival while we're spoiling our environment. It's been a fascinating pursuit, and quickly found I was less interested in the political machinations which abound; the U.N. is made up of governments representing, and they compete with each other. What fascinated me was not the political, but the specialization of all the aspects of the human condition and effort and aspiration. The 30-some different specialized agencies of the U.N. which make up the greatest part of the United Nation, concerned with the basics of food and agriculture, world health, education, science, culture, children, environment, population, and then all the technical things like civil aviation and the Postal Union, weather, it goes on and on; every aspect that affects all of us, is attended to with great focus by one particular specialized agency. What they do is bring together the discoveries and progress, problems, of all the member nations and see what can be done about it. The World Health Organization has gotten rid of small pox, and almost malaria except the last of mosquitoes developed an immunity to DDT within just inches of all the last malaria-bearing mosquitoes. The progress that has been made that most people don't hear about -- I have a big quarrel to my country's media. They only pay attention to the UN with a confrontation, or a terrible flare-up and need of peacemakers. The progress, the wonderful things that are going on with these agencies -- that needs telling, and that's what I did for about 25 years. I gave talks, wrote programs, and then the documentaries called "A Call From The Stars." It was about world refugees, and on television, and then was shown in schools, libraries, and so on. What I did was to get 14 top actors, I think you mentioned some of them, and each told a different aspect of the refugee situation worldwide, because 15 years after WW2 ended, there was still 25 million people who were stateless and floating around the planet without no rights, travel papers, no work permits, or permission to exist. So the UN declared it World Refugee Year to embarrass the governments of the world for each to take their fair share of refugees and give them new roots to sink into; new homes and start building their lives again. It was a very exciting pursuit; that was 40 years ago in 1960.

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