The 80s were a time for wellness videos from all kinds of celebrities. But the best one? Dame Angela Lansbury’s. Sam Brooks found the tape, and dug through it for the gems.
Look, Angela Lansbury is a damn treasure. She’s got five Tonys (those are the Oscars for theatre), she’s been nominated for three Oscars, won six Golden Globes, and has twelve consecutive nominations for an Emmy. She played the damn teapot in Beauty and the Beast. What more could you want from her?
A wellness video, is what somebody in the late 80s decided, and we’re the richer for it. It’s clearly shot in her house for as little money as possible, and nobody has given her any critiques or notes on what she might want to say. They’ve just given her free rein to talk about what she wants, and my god she goes for it. This isn’t some Jane Fonda exercise video. This is someone who has lived a life (one that is incomprehensible to most of us, as we haven’t been famous icons of stage and screen for our entire lives) and now she wants to impart what she has learned to us all.
You can find it on YouTube, but I’ve gleaned the best and most beautiful pearls of wisdom that Dame Angela Lansbury had to give the world in 1988.
“After I get out of the shower, I give myself a mini-massage with aloe lotion. By doing this massage every day I am literally staying in touch with my body, I can’t help but be aware of whether or not I’m in shape. Once you’ve really examined your body, you have faced the moment of truth. Of course, we’re all a product of our genetic heritage and certain things we cannot alter. But I do think that self-acceptance is vital. Give yourself a break, there’s something to like in every body.”
“I take these few moments to focus on the day ahead and think about each demand that will present itself in the coming day, and I visualize myself meeting it easily and well. I remind myself that I’m going to try to live each moment with a sense of peace, harmony and calm. After all, it is the dawn of a new day.”
“About this time I’m about to feel a great sense of release and exhilaration, and with that comes optimism for a good day ahead. I make a concerted effort to banish any destructive attitudes I might have had about the day ahead.”
“Sit as upright as you can, and if it’s more comfortable, try putting a small pillow under your fanny.”
“One English custom is having tea in the afternoon, I may be out for hours, but around four-thirty or five I come in, sit down and enjoy the quiet of a nice cup of tea with a cookie. Just a little one.”
On stretches: “I like to think of these as my way of greeting the dawn.”
“This is my own invention, I call it on-land swimming. It’s actually the breast-stroke.”
“Any good size bath towel will do for this next stretch.”
“I guess we all agree that walking is the greatest exercise in the world. If I’m forced to do something sedentary, such as studying lines or talking on the phone, when I’ve finished, I’ll take a walk around the garden or just down the street, just to get myself moving again. Even a short walk can balance those parts of the day when you have to sit. Thank goodness walking doesn’t require any special gear, just a pair of comfortable shoes and if you live in the sun belt, sunscreen. That’s very important.”
“You know bike riding is a lovely way to get around. For me, it provides one of the greatest feelings of release.”
“You know our feet and ankles take a beating during the course of the day, and circling them like this loosens them and gets the blood circulating.”
“I like it because it reminds me I can exercise control over my legs and it increases my sense of balance. I do have some arthritis, and there are times when it hurts me to walk, but I try not to let it show, and these stretches we’ve just done help me enormously. The standing ones I do whenever the spirit moves me, on set, in my kitchen, anywhere I can swing my arms and legs safely.”
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“About fifteen years ago when I did Mame on Broadway I put on quite a bit of extra weight, all the dancing I did onstage wasn’t enough. I guess it didn’t make up for those big after-theatre suppers I was eating. What helped me to lose the weight more than anything was that I began walking all over New York, and when you walk to lose weight it doesn’t just come off the legs either, you’ll find yourself getting trimmer all over. Before or after a good walk try to stretch out your calf muscles, and they’ll be less likely to cramp up and hurt you later.”
“We’re all the victims of a barrage of health and diet information. Every newspaper or magazine that you pick up tells you don’t do this, do do that. It can be so confusing. I’d like to pass on some of the conclusion that I’ve come to after many years of trying various ways to reach and maintain some kind of ideal weight. I’m comfortable at the weight I am now, but I haven’t always been. A few years ago, after the first season of Murder She Wrote, I got quite sedentary and overweight. Worse still, I kind of sunk into my expanded body and I said to myself, “Well. This is the way I am. I’m of an age now and I’m going to stay this way.”
“Did you know that tea tastes better in a thin cup?”
“Ooh, in the sixties I rocked with the best of them, but as I grew into myself I went back to the movements that helped me to have good posture and move as if I didn’t have a hurting joint in my body, which isn’t always true.”
“I’m only turning to demonstrate this move for the camera.”
“Rest is a great healer and energiser. If you’re feeling under the weather skip a day of exercising. Relaxation and a guilt-free mood will do wonders.”
“I have friends who say they feel guilty if they spend time on themselves exercising. I feel the better you take care of yourself, the more you can bring to your relationships with your husband, your children, your grandchildren, all the people in your life. By being involved in life in a hopeful way you reward yourself, and your enthusiasm is very compelling for others to be around. There are lots of things that I haven’t had a chance yet to do in my life. I have so much to look forward to. And so do you.”
“You know it’s easy to fall into a negative trough saying I can’t do this or that won’t work. I’ve learned a trick that I use: if I do have a negative thought I quickly say to myself, ‘Cancel that! I’m going to expect the best.'”
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“I was never considered a beauty but theatrically I can project the illusion of great glamour, even though I’m not a glamourous woman at all. When I give the illusion of glamour, I’m acting out the quality. I think women who aren’t actresses can learn to emit a sense of glamour. Health, energy, all these qualities that are so attractive and desirable in all women.”
How to Live Theatrically
“Shakespeare said all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players, and isn’t it the truth. Whatever we do in life, we make our daily entrances and our exits – our mental and physical attitudes expressing our opinions and moods to everyone we come in contact with. Here’s an example, I often illustrate a thought with a gesture, such as:
‘Have a piece of chocolate cake!’
‘Won’t you have a seat?’
‘Have a seat.’
Because I truly believe the way we use our body language can make a tremendous difference to other people’s reaction to us. And in some instances it can actually be the difference between success and failure. This technique works in the theatre, so why not apply it to our every day lives? If our bodies and minds can communicate warmth and strength, we’re far more likely to succeed in keeping our heads above water and less likely to get bogged down in some of the garbage and aggravation of every day life.”
“I think femininity and sexuality go hand in hand. It used to be thought that women lose interest in sex after menopause. But we now we know that just isn’t true. Obviously, both you and your partner are different than you were thirty years ago, but if you can accept the inevitable physical and other changes, you can keep romance in your life.
“I believe it’s important for a woman to try and maintain a certain sense of mystery about herself and I think that can continue to any age. It’s so easy to give up or get lazy. It’s worth it to continue to present yourself as a woman of loveliness and dignity, a woman who feels good, and know she’s looking her best. She’ll continue to attract as a feminine sexual person – the right kind of attention doesn’t have to stop unless you want it to.”
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“I love to bake bread. I make one that we call Angie’s Power Loaf. It’s a yeast bread and it’s full of wholegrains and the most marvelous things, and I love the way it makes the kitchen smell.”
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“Sewing is an activity that requires a great deal physically, and I love it. It’s so consuming, I once crippled myself by overdoing it cutting out draperies on the floor. Ha-ha. But if sewing isn’t your bag, I mean there are lots of other things you can do around the house. Like, um, mowing the lawn, or cleaning the car, or home decorating. Refinishing a piece of furniture. Not pictures. Walls. Have you ever tried wallpaper? I did once in a house we used to have in Ireland, ha-ha, on the ceiling.”
“Did you know that in researching the value of everyday activities, doctors have proven that pottery is actually valuable for your health and contributes to your longevity?”
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