During a rare but memorable visit to Pittsburgh in May 1979, Shirley Temple Black was as willing to flash her famous dimples as her robust opinions about then-President Jimmy Carter.
"I think he's a kind man, I think he tries very hard, and I think he's completely inept," the onetime child star said during a news conference before a lecture in the "American Experience" series at the University of Pittsburgh's Gardner Steel Conference Center. Her talk was titled "Rights and Obligations: Our Gordian Knot."
Then 51 years old and long retired from acting -- although with a touch of the dramatic in the five fresh daisies tucked into her dark hair -- Mrs. Black was a Republican who today would give Twitter followers and talk-show hosts fresh fodder.
At the time, she was against the draft and in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment, gun control, solar energy and the right to choose abortion. She had been accompanied to Pittsburgh by her husband, Charles, who would precede her in death. Mrs. Black indulged in a cigarette but only after the cameras stopped rolling, lest she set a bad example.
Asked how she might react if Mr. Carter were re-elected, she exclaimed in genteel horror: "Good heavens! I think I'd move out of the country!"
She was joking, of course, since politics and international relations often took her out of the country. "The No. 1 job of my whole life was being ambassador to Ghana," she said. "If I had had my druthers, I'd have joined the foreign service when I was 20 years old."
Mrs. Black would go on to become President George H.W. Bush's ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.
When the Screen Actors Guild honored Mrs. Black, a breast cancer survivor who had been forthcoming about her illness, with the Life Achievement Award in 2006, it was for her career achievement and humanitarian accomplishments.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: email@example.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies. First Published February 11, 2014 11:53 AM