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From Kamloops to Hawaii, and a kiss for George Clooney

Barbara Lee Southern and her roadster. (Courtesy Barbara Lee Southern website)

I had a nice chat this week with a friend from the past.

Since I was in Kamloops, and she was in Honolulu, we avoided talking about the weather.

But we did do some catching up. You might remember Barb Duggan, who lived here for several years and, among other things, penned the report for the TNRD that led to the establishment of the Thompson Nicola Film Commission.

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” was her advice to the regional directors, and they took that advice.

You will be surprised, however, to find out what she’s been doing lately.

If you happened to read the early chapters of my Behind Closed Doors — Life At City Hall series on the Armchair Mayor blog, you’ll know I described Barb as the most organized person I’ve ever met.

I got to know her when she was working on the film report, and found out about her background in politics, including running campaigns at the senator and congressman level in the U.S., winning almost ever election she managed.

When I needed someone to organize my first mayoral campaign, I went to Barb. Without bragging, I’d have to say the Mel for Mayor campaign of 1999 was probably the best-run mayoral campaign Kamloops has ever seen, due in very large part to Barb.

Several years ago, she reverted to her previous surname of Southern and left Kamloops to return to Hawaii, where, of course, she got involved in a campaign to elect a governor.

A series of coincidences and non-concidences, however, conspired to take Barb in a different direction.

She’d acquired an Alpha Romeo roadster from her son, who was about to get married. His future wife’s mother came to Hawaii to get acquainted.

Aside from being a flight attendant, the son’s new in-law also happens to be a very good photographer. For fun, she and Barb spent a day driving around in the roadster and taking pictures.

The photos of Barb turned out so well they ended up being sent to some talent agents and before you know it Barbara Lee Southern was modeling for TV commercials, catalogues, and department store ads.

She’d always had an interest in acting, having done a few stage roles years before, so she started taking acting lessons from a coach named Wayne Ward.

Don’t get ahead of me here. Hollywood movie director/producer Alexander Payne — who has in his list of credits such films as the acclaimed Sideways and TV series like Hung — came to town. Ward invited him to speak to his acting class. Payne agreed. Barb was there.

Awhile later, Barb was invited to audition for a part as the mother-in-law of the lead actor in a film Payne was going to shoot in Hawaii. She got the part.

Which is why, when The Descendants finally makes it to a Kamloops movie theatre, you’ll be able to see the woman who got the film industry started in Kamloops kissing George Clooney in Hawaii.

“It was on the cheek,” she confesses. “But I can honestly say I kissed George Clooney.”

What’s Clooney like? “He’s like a kid — very young at heart.”

The film, by the way, is expected to be nominated for several Academy Awards.

About Mel Rothenburger (8896 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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