Actress finds life still good despite MS
July 23, 2003
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It started out as a tic in her foot. In 1983, actress Teri Garr was living in New York City and noticed that she was tripping during her daily jogs in Central Park. She had it checked, and treated, and checked again. Finally, after 10 years of symptoms, came the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. She revealed the diagnosis last year on "Larry King Live," saying she'd kept it private because she didn't want pity, and "I was afraid I wouldn't get work."
Now an advocate for those with MS - she's a paid MS Lifelines ambassador - Garr was in Milwaukee on Wednesday to speak at the Women Against Multiple Sclerosis Initiative luncheon at the Pfister Hotel. The ambassador program is funded by Serono and Pfizer, marketers of Rebif, an injectable drug Garr takes for MS.
Garr started out as a dancer, appearing in nine Elvis Presley films. Her first speaking part was in the Monkees' 1968 movie "Head," and she gained real notice with the 1974 films "The Conversation" and "Young Frankenstein." In 1982, she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in "Tootsie."
Garr talked about life with MS, Hollywood and memories of Elvis with Journal Sentinel reporter Jan Uebelherr.
Q. If there's one thing you want to get across in terms of public understanding about MS, what would it be?
A. The perception of MS being "MS equals ruined life." Because it doesn't equal ruined life. In many cases, it equals better life, oddly enough. So it doesn't equal ruined life, it equals life goes on.
Q. You said sometimes MS means a better life. How?
A. You get to say, "Hey, there's a sunset. Look how beautiful it is outside." . . . People just rush through life all the time. I think it's human nature, too. You know, you just do. I did.
Q. Describe your life with MS today - are there good days and bad days?
A. You know what? I don't think about MS. I think about my life, and I think about every day. . . . I try not to get up in the morning and go, "How do I feel today?" I just go ahead with my life, and I notice that even if I'm feeling poorly, or depressed, if I get up and walk around a little bit, move around, I'm better.
Q. Why did you decide to reveal that you had MS?
A. Well, you know, there were so many rumors about me having it in L.A., and people would whisper behind my back. They love gossip in Hollywood - so stuff was out there. And I was getting a lot of "How arrre you?" And I finally thought, I hate this, I hate this. And I bet that other people that have MS hate this, too. So I thought, if I can go out there and help one person - not an agent, a person - feel better . . . And you know what happened? I felt better. It's a very weird thing. You help other people, you feel better yourself. I never thought it was true.
Q. You've appeared in nine Elvis Presley movies. Nine. What can you tell us about Elvis?
A. Oh, baby. Plenty.
When I first got a job in a chorus of "West Side Story," I went, "If
this is the farthest I'm ever gonna get, I'll be happy." One of the guys
in the cast choreographed the movie "Viva Las Vegas," so he called us all
down to the audition, and we all got to be in that movie. Elvis was very
nice to all of us dancers, the young girls. He had his Memphis Mafia around
there . . . and they would come to all the other auditions. So anybody
they would see that was in the last movie, they would say, "Hire Terri,
and Kerry, and Marilyn . . ." But he (Elvis) was very nice, and he was
very funny. People don't know that. He was a funny guy and, I think, very
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