Photo Flash: Mary McDonough on the road with Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn
Mary McDonough takes "Lessons From The Mountain" to the South with appearances at Gospel Music Hall of Fame at DOLLYWOOD with Dolly Parton, The Country Tonite Theatre with Loretta Lynn and The Opry Shop at The Grand Ole Opry.
Mary McDonough, who may be best known for the role of Erin Walton that she created and played for over a decade on the hits series "The Waltons," has penned an exciting memoir and winner of the ELLA DICKEY LITERACY AWARD, entitled of Lessons From the Mountain: What I Learned From Erin Walton (Kensington Publishers), and taken it on the road. After a reunion with fellow Walton cast members in Los Angeles and then an appearance in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center to sign the book, she headed South with appearances at the Gospel Music Hall of Fame at DOLLYWOOD, where Dolly Parton greeted her with "It seems like I have known you my whole life," followed by The Country Tonite Theatre where the Coalminer's daughter, Miss Loretta Lynn, was over heard to say, "I just love you! You were my favorite Walton," and received an invitation to join her at the ranch, Mary wrapped the tour up at The Opry Shop at The Grand Ole Opry. The one thing each location had in common? Not enough books. Not only did each location sell out the stock on hand, but also sent runners out to secure more from neighboring stores. The only sad note on an otherwise successful tour was Ms. McDonough's highly anticipated appearance scheduled for Sunday, May 22nd, at Barnes & Noble in Fresno that had to be canceled due to a non-disclosed threat towards Ms. McDonough, causing security concerns for the store. As often is the case, when a public personality is involved, there is an inherent need for additional security measures. Not only for the artists themselves, but the public that is gathering as well. Ms. McDonough, who had already arrived in the Fresno area, received word of the cancellation early Sunday morning, responded with "I appreciate the concern by others for my safety." And although she still would have rather made the appearance, added "I have to understand and respect their decision to place priority on their customers safety." Prior to Ms. McDonough's departure from Fresno, she accepted an invitation by Barnes & Noble to stop by and sign books in stock for any patrons that might still wish to acquire a copy of the book, despite the disappointment of the altered schedule.
"If you're a fan of The Waltons, don't miss this book and the chance to re-visit Walton's Mountain."
- Ellen Feld/Feather Quill Reviews.
Ms. McDonough's memoir is the first from the cast of the perfect American family and is a poignant story of growing up on Emmy award-winning series The Waltons, playing the middle sister, Erin. The show is still being shown worldwide and has fans all over the world. At the age of ten, McDonough was cast as Erin Walton in The Homecoming, the movie of the week that inspired the dramatic series and overnight, her life as a normal kid in a working-class, Catholic family changed. As McDonough says, "It was bizarre, fun, tremendous, painful, wonderful and different. It was definitely not a normal way to grow up."
"Mary is a whole lot more than Erin on The Waltons. This book shows how she's handled all the highs and lows with grace."
In the book, McDonough shares intimate, behind-the-scenes memories of Will Geer, Richard Thomas, her two "moms," Patricia Neal and Michael Learned, and all the other Walton cast, crew and guest stars. She discusses what it was like growing up in front of America. In real life she found it difficult to keep friends and as an adolescent she battled depression, insomnia, body image issues and experimented with drugs in an attempt to manage the pressures as she tried to be "Mary-not-Erin" while alternately embracing and rebelling against her good-girl screen persona.
Interesting anecdotes found in the book include: How her very first audition earned her the role that would define a lifetime; Alternately embracing and rebelling against her good-girl screen persona; Life as an adolescent battling depression, insomnia, body image issues and experimented with drugs; How her mother responded to Mary's auditioning for role of Regan in The Exorcist (that went to friend Linda Blair); Becoming a an activist/expert on health issues she personally faced after obtaining silicone implants and being diagnosed with Lupus; as well as recent career roles on Boston Legal, The New Adventures of Old Christine, ER, Will Grace to name a few.
"A fascinating look at what it's like to grow up in front of and beyond the cameras."
-- Eve Plumb
After the series ended, McDonough details how she tried to reinvent herself with artificial help and almost died. Over a period of ten years, McDonough's health deteriorated and she suffered rashes all over her body, headaches, chronic fatigue, sore joints, and severe allergy attacks. Following the birth of her daughter Sydnee, McDonough's health went up and down and she had low-grade fevers and flu-like symptoms for years. She developed ulcers, began losing her hair, and developed lumps in her back and leg. Despite the various medications she was taking nothing seemed to help. After seeing doctor after doctor she was correctly diagnosed with Lupus, a connective tissue disease that affects the immune system.
Following her diagnosis, McDonough went on to become Founding President of Lupus LA and has for the more than fourteen years been a citizen activist for women's health issues. "I know the families - one famous, one real - that I grew up with, the unusual experiences, the good and bad choices made me who I am today. I'm happier than I've ever been, not by trying to forget, but by appreciating and learning that I wouldn't be who I am without my journey over and around that famous mountain," says McDonough.
"... she (Mary) reveals the terrifying challenges that forced her to become more "Erin Brockovich" than "Erin Walton!"
--Alison Arngrim, New York Times Best Selling Author of "Confessions of A Prairie Bitch"
Photos by Jason Gilmore
Photos by Chelsea Claus Photography