“I remember sitting in the kitchen with my wife, reading over a production I was working on, when I got a letter in the mail. I opened it up and there was my Screen Actor’s Guild membership card. I looked at that card and broke down in tears. Because at that moment I knew I had become a professional actor…..”
Michael Connolly is one of the newest residents to join the Stellar Care community. His poise and diction not only bring a distinguished tone to the dining hall and common areas, but also carries with it a professional history that is as rich and deep as his natural speaking voice. It’s a voice that has graced the stage and screen and has been heard in over 1000 different commercials during his professional career.
“Actors hardly make any money, so doing voice-overs for commercials here and there was a good way for us to survive financially. For two years I was the official voice for the Toyota car company.”
Mr. Connolly knew at a very early age that he was headed for a life in the theatre. After getting his first standing ovation in kindergarten for a solo performance of Away In A Manger, he knew there was something special about performing. From kindergarten to college he kept his feet ‘on the boards’ and went on to perform with several theatre companies in New York, New Orleans and California. His most memorable performance was that of Cassius in Julius Caesar, in which the L.A. Times said his performance was, “The best in the cast..” and went on to place his name alongside Laurence Olivier.
“I did a production of Cyrano that I was pretty proud of, but to see my name next to Olivier…that was special.”
His movie and television credits include Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks, Silk Stalkings and a reoccurring role on the t.v. series Renegade starring Lorenzo Lamas, where he played the ‘No good’ police Chief, Harlan Hanson. But work in the entertainment industry doesn’t always happen on the stage.
“You can write down just about anyone’s name in Hollywood and I’ve worked with them. I got to work with Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Belafonte, George Burns, John Wayne…the list goes on. I was the Production Manager for UCLA and all the big names came through our place. I was there for about 7 years when I started to feel the job was no longer challenging. My boss at the time sensed I was wanting a change and called me into his office to let me know of an opening in San Diego for the Convention Performing Arts Center. They were looking for a General Manager and an Assistant General Manager
– two positions I felt I wasn’t qualified for. My experience in these areas was minimal. I had done a little work for the opening of the LA Convention Center, a big Hollywood opening, but nothing like what they were looking for. So I went ahead and took the exams for both positions. I was up against 125 other applicants. Some time had passed and I get a card in the mail offering me the position of General Manger – asking if I could be in San Diego in 2 months. So we moved.”
Working in the entertainment world isn’t for the faint-of- heart. The nature of the industry lends itself to constant moving and job changes, making particulars such as dates, timeframes and names of venues fade into the background of a much bigger story. Where the narrative struggles, the eyes always tell the truth. And Mr. Connolly’s eyes don’t lie when talking about the other love of his life, Pamela, his wife of 47 years and no stranger to the theatrical community herself.
“She is the best damn set designer..and you had better get that quote straight, ‘the best damn set designer.’ She worked for the Old Town Opera House and was head of the Drama Department at UCSD. She can sing, act….and even has a cookbook published. One time shortly after we were first married I was working at UCLA and came home and found her crying. I said, ‘Honey, what’s wrong?’ She went on to tell me that she was unhappy just being a housewife. She got to see me come and go from work and wanted to work outside the house. So I said to her, ‘Get a job.’ About a month later after looking for work, out of nowhere, an ex-drama teacher we both had in college called and offered her a job working as a technical director. She was thrilled. She’s multi-talented and a tremendous support to me. She gets it. We support each other.”
While the money was constantly tight in the Connolly household, he and Pamela relied (and continue to rely) on each other’s unyielding support. Through great breakthroughs, sour business deals and while watching the landscape of the entertainment industry slowly shift to a new generation, they stood by each other’s side for 47 years.
“The industry eventually changed into something I didn’t recognize. It folded. But I’ve had a very fulfilling career.”
Pamela and Mr. Connolly can frequently be seen together, having coffee during one of her many visits to Stellar Care. Continuing a bond tempered by time and that has transcended any turbulence their respective careers may have endured. They now sit and chat several days a week, outlining the second act of their partnership.
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