Harbor Style Harbor Style March 2018 : Page 58
The Sunshine Lady talks about her Hollywood career, love of music and dancing and, of course, the love of her life. Adeline Leonard Seakwood 58 | H ARBOR STYLE
Adeline Leonard Seakwood
Nancy J. Semon
The Sunshine Lady talks about her Hollywood career, love of music and dancing and, of course, the love of her life.<br /> <br /> Adeline Leonard Seakwood is a former New Yorker who had a distinguished career in the television and movie industry, working as a production office coordinator. She also had a long-lasting romantic marriage with her l a t e husband, Herbert Seakwood, a former major in the US Marine Corps, who she talks about every day. Now in her 90s, Seakwood remains active in Punta Gorda, where she and Herb moved to more than two decades ago.<br /> <br /> Meeting her for the first time, it is difficult to believe that Seakwood has lived beyond nine decades. Her compassion for others and her active lifestyle are not only inspirational but downright awesome! For besides wearing multiple hats in Punta Gorda, where she is a volunteer and helps others whenever she can, she is often spotted at fundraisers and restaurants, usually with a posse that includes her daughter, Nanette Leonard. She dances. She composes music. She plays the piano. And oh, can she ever dance.<br /> <br /> You realize when you first meet Seakwood that she has led an exciting and interesting life. Her eyes sparkle, she has seemingly boundless energy, and yes, there is the dancing. The first time I got to spend time with her was at a local fundraiser. Al Holland, his sister Verceal Whitaker and other professional musicians played. When Whitaker got up to sing a disco classic, Seakwood was on her feet and commanded the dance floor. Like in the discos of the 70s when the crowd could form a circle around a particularly good dancer, so was the case here. We all gather ‘round and made a space for Seakwood as she discodanced to the song “I Will Survive.”<br /> <br /> And at least one word in that song - “survive” - is what she seems to do best. For at the age of 95 (she hit that milestone on January 27), Seakwood has had her share of ups and downs, and many lifechanging events, the most recent being the loss of her husband and love of her life, Herb. Not one to give up on life, she channeled her energies into remembering Herb and helping others in her community. For giving is what she does best, and with an abundance of energy that must have been handed out to her at birth, Seakwood manages to accomplish more in one day than people much, much younger.<br /> <br /> “My sweet husband said to me, ‘You have the energy of two people,’” she laughed. I thought perhaps she has the energy of three people; Seakwood is, indeed, a force of nature.<br /> <br /> I knew a little about her prior to our interview. For many years she worked as a production office coordinator for major films and television shows in New York, plus she appeared as an extra and minor actor in some major films, such as the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest. But what she revealed to me during our interview was simply fascinating. I sat down with her in her Punta Gorda home that is adorned with various photos from different eras. Many of the photos depict her with many Hollywood icons. One could not help but notice photos of a younger Seakwood with some of the world’s most famous actors: Cary Grant, Robert Redford, Patty Duke, Peter Falk, Michael J. Fox, Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, Christopher Reeve and more. But that part of her life came later; I asked her to start at the beginning.<br /> <br /> Like Herb, Seakwood’s father also noticed that she had an abundance of energy, she said. Her father and mother both adored her. Mother Mae “wrote, produced, directed and acted in her off-off Broadway play,” Seakwood related. At the tender age of 5, she appeared in her mother’s production. “I never had any stage fright,” she proclaimed. Her sister Paulette was a professional accordionist, and “my first job was in a [northeast] mountain resort.” Seakwood sang and played the guitar with accordionist Paulette, performing “the popular music of the day.”<br /> <br /> Following school, Seakwood became a John Robert Powers Agency model, daughter Leonard revealed. (Powers was an American actor and founder of a New York City-based modeling agency bearing his name. He represented models who aspired to success in the Hollywood film industry.) Seakwood’s beauty led to movie roles both as an extra and bit player. Those films are considered classics today.<br /> <br /> One anecdote about North by Northwest perhaps should be included in a book on Hollywood films. Seakwood recalled that there was a major strike in the industry while Alfred Hitchcock was directing North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. “One hundred extras or more were needed” for that film, she recalled. Hitchcock gave her a minor role in which she would “take a cab away from Cary Grant.” Since “an extra makes nothing, I was thrilled,” she said. However, the director thought that Seakwood was “too pretty,” and so for her it was back to being an extra. She was placed in an elevator behind Grant and near three older people. “I was very upset; Cary Grant was standing right in front of me,” blocking her from the camera. “I leaned over and whispered to him, ‘My mother will never forgive you...’” The gentleman that he was, Grant stepped aside and for a few moments, Seakwood can be seen behind him in that memorable elevator scene.<br /> <br /> On the last day of shooting Three Days of the Condor, starring Robert Redford, there was a change in the script and Seakwood was asked to go to the location where they were shooting in New York City with the changes. Redford was but just one actor who she interacted with during film and television productions.<br /> <br /> As time went by, Seakwood married her first husband; then later, she was alone and raising her two daughters. She worked as a production office coordinator for many films and TV series such as Matlock (1988), Trading Places (1983), Annie (1982), Ragtime (1981),Wolfen (1981), Superman (1978), Three Days of the Condor (1975), Death Wish (1974), Godspell (1973), The Boys in the Band (1970), The Trials of O’Brien TV series (1965) in which she had an on-screen recurring role as a secretary to Falk, and The Patty Duke Show in which she was production secretary for numerous episodes. You can read more about Seakwood and her achievements by going to the IMDb website where her full credits are listed.<br /> <br /> The production office coordinator is the person who is “the center of the wheel, controlling all the spokes – roles of the director, producer and production manager, etc.,” Leonard explained. In the early days, that job was titled “production secretary,” but it was so much more than that. Seakwood sought to change both the title to production office coordinator and to unionize. Hence, her union, Local 161, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, honored Seakwood in January 2008 by giving her a Lifetime Achievement Award. Today, the union is comprised of script supervisors, production office coordinators, assistant production coordinators, production accountants and payroll accounts – all who work in feature films, commercials, television, documentaries and educational productions. She showed me the plaque bearing her name from a thankful union.<br /> <br /> Since she was so well-voiced in the motion picture and television industry, Seakwood at one point in her career was asked to teach her craft at the New School in New York City.<br /> <br /> But I’m pretty sure, according to what she told me, that the one thing that mattered to her most over the years – besides the birth of her daughters – was meeting Herb. It was during her journey in the entertainment field that they met. Herb was a prominent attorney who she first met when her best friend Norma asked if she would take dictation for him at his New York office, she remembered. The job paid $2.50 an hour, but the problem was that Seakwood didn’t take stenography. She wrote the 14-page letter in longhand, impressing Herb, who commented on the matter, she said. Some 13 years later, she said, her mother’s aunt needed a will and she asked Norma whether she thought Herb would prepare it for her. Not knowing any other attorney other than Herb, Norma asked him. Over the years their paths crossed again, and, eventually, Seakwood and Herb dated and fell in love. “We were madly in love for 36 years,” she said, a statement she repeated more than once during our interview.<br /> <br /> After she and Herb arrived in Punta Gorda some 28 years ago, Seakwood knew that she had to keep busy. “I didn’t know a person,” she said, but she soon met Dolores Lazarus who invited her into her home. “I was so thrilled,” Seakwood said. She also met Marion Haberman in those early days, and the three became friends and formed the Three Tones. They sang and entertained at nursing homes. Some time later, her sister came to Punta Gorda and became a resident in a local assisted care living facility.<br /> <br /> Seakwood also befriended Beth Magnin, who was manager of the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association. Magnin asked her to be the Sunshine Lady, a title and volunteer position she cherishes to this day. If you live in Punta Gorda Isles and belong to the PGICA, you receive a copy of the monthly magazine, The Commentator. In each issue there is an ad with her photo, identifying her as the Sunshine Lady, with her phone number and email, urging you to “Call Adeline if you know of anyone who is ill, has lost a loved one or is just in need of a word of encouragement.”<br /> <br /> Also through the Civic Association, Seakwood is a worker and a greeter at the Isles Girls and Guys estate sales, an assistance program helping PGI residents price their belongings and clear out their homes. She also immersed herself in other community endeavors, such as working for her local voter registration office, and after Hurricane Charley, she helped others and got involved in community recovery from the storm. And then there is her song-writing: “I wrote 25 love songs for my husband,” she revealed, adding yet again, “we were madly in love for 36 years.”<br /> <br /> Pictures of Herb are displayed throughout her home. Leonard said her mother and Herb would often cuddle on the sofa and hold hands, and it was apparent that they were truly in love and romantic after all those years. Seakwood tears up when she talks about Herb, and her apparent love of him has never faded but seems to have grown stronger since his passing in 2016.<br /> <br /> Seakwood headed over to her piano and showed me her songbook. It has more than two dozen songs – all devoted to the man in her life, Herb. She plays by ear and sat down to play “Count on Me,” one of her original compositions. Other songs are “I Can’t Get Enough of You,” “You Make the Difference in My Life,” “You are the Love of My Life,” “Stay Close to Me”...all songs centered around her beloved Herb.<br /> <br /> This past winter, visitors and guests to 88 Keys at the Wyvern stopped to listen to beautiful music played by none-other than Seakwood. She was with her daughter and a group of friends when she spotted the beautiful baby grand piano and couldn’t resist. A crowd gathered around her, thinking she was the hotel’s paid pianist. Little did they know that this talented woman can’t read music, plays by ear, and her words and music are her very own. On that day, Seakwood played some classical music; Leonard videotaped the performance with her cell phone. The onlookers no doubt also didn’t realize that the beautiful woman at the piano can be seen in movies and television shows, if only on the screen briefly, and that she has worked with some of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry. What many of us do realize, however, is that Punta Gorda is blessed to have Seakwood living among us, spreading cheer and encouragement wherever she goes.<br /> <br /> So what’s next for this lovely lady? As we were concluding our interview, Leonard revealed that she was throwing a surprise party for her mom at the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association building towards the end of January. While the event had not yet occurred as this was being written, you can be sure that there was music, and Seakwood was dancing!<br />
Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Adeline+Leonard+Seakwood/3007945/474815/article.html.