Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
Actress Bonnie Hunt is familiar to anyone who has watched her classic films, such as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Jumanji,” etc. She wrote, directed, and co-starred in the beloved movie “Return to Me,” and has voiced numerous characters in Pixar movies, including Dolly in the “Toy Story” franchise. She has also been the pioneering creative force behind numerous TV sitcoms, as well as the daily talk show “The Bonnie Hunt Show.” And most recently, she co-starred in the Emmy nominated mini-series “Escape at Dannemora.” But it all began for Bonnie in her hometown of Chicago, growing up in a Catholic family where she honed her storytelling talents by observing her dad Bob, mom Alice, and six brothers and sisters.
During a recent interview on “Christopher Closeup,” Bonnie told me, “When you grow up in a blue collar neighborhood, there’s those summer nights on the front porch of the house and everybody stopping by and talking. You see the storyteller…and a lot of times it was my dad telling a story and everybody listening and hanging on to every word and laughing. You see how healing and comforting and joyful it is, and you go to bed as a kid feeling the power of that.”
Watching “The Andy Griffith Show” as a family was also influential because Bonnie got to see her parents relax, laugh, and forget their troubles while enjoying a story to which they could relate and learn something from characters who were “genuine, dimensional, and charming.” TV and movies were not just fun diversions, she discovered, but they could be “cathartic and comforting.”
Family was the center of Bonnie’s life back then. Her father Bob worked two or three jobs to get all the bills paid, while her mom Alice took care of the kids. At the heart of everything were love and faith. “I still envy my Mom’s faith,” said Bonnie, “because it’s unwavering and beautiful. It’s a wonderful thing to have as a guide in your life.”
Alice Hunt also made sure to instill good values in Bonnie and her siblings by making a list of guidelines she called “The Teen Creed.” Each child, before his or her 13th birthday, was given a card with the following list, which they had to memorize – and which Bonnie recited during our interview because she still uses these guidelines to make personal and business decisions: 1) Don’t let your parents down; they brought you up. 2) Be humble enough to obey; you may give orders some day. 3) Choose companions with care; you become what they are. 4) Guard your thoughts; what you think, you are. 5) Choose only a date who would make a good mate. 6) Be master of your habits or they will master you. 7) Don’t be a show-off when you drive; drive with safety and arrive. 8) Don’t let the crowd pressure you. 9) Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
And on the front of the card, Alice wrote “Do everything with love and respect.” Bonnie recalled her mom saying, “I can’t be with you all the time. You’re going to have to make your own decisions and choices. Use these guidelines. If you look around you and you’re not impressed with the people you’re with, you’re in the wrong crowd.”
Bonnie’s father influenced her life tremendously as well. That’s why it was so devastating when he died suddenly at age 50. How did Bonnie handle that tragedy? I’ll share that story in my next column.
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