The Celebrity Collectors 

The Landers sisters, Audrey and Judy, are avid collectors:
Audrey of crystal pieces, Judy of angel figurines.

By Ken Hall

Judy Landers has always been a spiritual person, but the day she decided to get serious about angels was a day she needed some angels in her life. It was the early '80s and she'd signed on to do a segment for Circus of the Stars, a television program that featured celebrities doing big-top stunts. Judy's act involved the flying trapeze, and she'd trained hard over a period of months.

"It was a high wire act, done 42 feet in the air," Landers recalled, "and all through the training process there were nets and air bags. But when we got to Las Vegas for the taping, the producers said there was no room for nets or bags. And I said, 'What are you nuts? Do you want me to die?' They completely understood, and even offered to pay me if I decided not to go through with it."

But Judy had trained all that time, and was confident she could do the stunt, even without any support below her. Still, she decided to draw on a higher source for comfort and protection. "I prayed for angels to keep me safe," she said. "I've always believed in angels and the great power they have. I believe they're in our lives all the time. I did the stunt, and everything went off as planned."

With her appreciation for angels stronger than ever, Judy decided to begin collecting them in the form of figurines. Today they can be found throughout her house in Sarasota, Fla., which she shares with her husband, former Dodgers' pitcher Tom Niedenfuer, and their daughters Lindsey, 13, and Kristy, 11. "I'd say I've got about 100 angels in the house," Judy said. "They're all so beautiful."

She's got Lladro pieces of ceramic and porcelain, and some Cybis porcelain, too. "I guess some of what I've got has value, but others might not carry any value at all," she said. " I just like the way they look. I've even got pictures of angels hanging on the walls that were drawn by my daughters. Tons more pictures they drew have been stashed away in drawers. They're all precious to me."

Probably the grandest expression of Judy's love for angels may be found on the 35' ceilings in her living and dining rooms. There, she commissioned artists to lie on their backs atop scaffolding (just like Michelangelo, when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) to adorn her own ceilings with angels, all of them gold. "It's quite spectacular," she said. "They did a really wonderful job."

Judy's sister, Audrey (best known for her portrayal of Afton Cooper in the hit TV show Dallas), is a collector in her own right. "It started when I was very young," she recalled. "My mother (Ruth Landers, who has served as manager for both girls' careers) used to travel quite a bit to Europe (as a printing industry executive). Instead of bringing me back stuffed toys, she'd buy me crystal."

Audrey was born with a soft spot in her heart for beautiful and delicate things to begin with, so crystal pieces were just fine by her. Every trip, Ruth would bring back Baccarat and Daum from France, Rosenthal and Meissen from Germany, or Lladro from Spain. As her collection grew, so did her passion for acquiring pieces herself. Before long, Lalique and Cybis crystal crept into the mix.

"Then my mom started me on Norman Rockwell limited-edition figurines," Audrey said. "They're porcelain, and every one is from a cover of the Saturday Evening Post. I've got just about every one, 25 in all." Her Lalique pieces include vases, antique perfume bottles, ice buckets, art deco bookends, and a panther that's missing a foot (it was lost in the California 'quake of 1994).

In fact, many pieces were lost in that earthquake, which has made Audrey that much more dedicated to her collection today. "It was heartbreaking all that was shattered, and in just a brief few moments," she said. That won't be a problem now, unless Sarasota is on a fault line -- Audrey lives there, too! (with her husband, Don Berkowitz, and their twin 9-year-old boys, Daniel and Adam).

She proudly displays her crystal figures -- about 100 in all -- in open hutches, for all to see and touch. "I'm very lucky, because my boys are active, but they just know not to damage or play with the crystal," she said. And much of it gets used: the Rosenthal dishware, the Meissen china, the Baccarat stemware, the fine flatware -- "I use them all to decorate my dining table," Audrey said.

Speaking of Meissen (which is very old and hard to find), Audrey actually got much of what she owns from the government of what used to be East Germany! She's a popular singer in Europe, with numerous gold and platinum CD's to her credit, but when she toured in East Germany years ago, she was offered Meissen, more or less as a gift in lieu of payment, and she willingly accepted!

Audrey and Judy Landers were born in Philadelphia and raised in upstate New York, in Rockland County. Audrey got the performing bug first, making her professional show business debut at age 12, singing a song she wrote called "The Apple Don't Fall Far From the Tree." The tune charted as a country-western single, and Audrey's career as a musician-actress was launched.

While still a teenager, Audrey acted on the daytime drama Somerset. At the same time, she studied music composition at Juilliard School in New York and majored in psychology at Columbia University (she eventually earned a pre-medicine degree). At 20, she moved to Los Angeles and began her six-year run on Dallas. Numerous film, TV and made-for-TV movie credits would follow.

Remarkably, Audrey has never released a CD of her music in the United States, but she continues to perform in Europe and release music for her many fans there. To date she has collected 10 gold singles, four gold albums and two platinum albums. She is currently working on a new album for EMI. It may be that her singing career here began and ended with a song she penned at age 12.

Judy was uninterested in show business as a child and focused on gymnastics, at which she excelled. Then one day, at 16, she approached her mother and announced that she, too, would like to get started in acting. "She got a couple of small parts in TV shows that Audrey had been in," Ruth said, "and we enrolled her at the American Academy in New York, which Audrey had also gone to."

Her first audition was for a made-for-TV movie titled Whatever Happened to the Class of '65? She got the part, which led to a shot as a regular on a TV series -- Vegas, with Robert Urich. She got that role, too, and suddenly there were two Landers sisters with flourishing acting careers! Other TV shows in which she had starring roles included B.J. and the Bear and Madame's Place.

The Landerses are especially proud of a project that features them as writers and stars: the PBS children's show The Huggabug Club. The musical-educational series debuted in 1996 (Ruth produced and funded the effort). Audrey and Judy have written 50 half-hour episodes and 250 songs. "The show was created as a labor of love for our children by us and our mom," Audrey said.

Like many PBS kids' shows, The Huggabug Club had a national touring show, which Judy and Audrey performed in on a sometime basis. They were Living in Los Angeles at the time, but had thoughts of leaving L.A. and downshifting their lives just a bit. "When the show played in Sarasota a few years ago, we all just kind of looked at each other and said, 'We love this place!', Judy said.

So now, Florida is the girls' base of operations. Mom, too. Projects in the works include a family adventure film (which Audrey described as "Survivor meets Fantasy Island in a family setting"); a soap opera in which the characters live a lavish lifestyle, "but there's trouble in paradise," Judy pointed out; and some screenplays. In each case, Judy and Audrey write, and Mom produces.

Fans of Judy and Audrey Landers may write to the stars c/o Landers Productions, 4048 Las Palmas Way, Sarasota, FL 34238.

2002


Audrey (left) and Judy Landers were born in Philadelphia, Pa., and raised in upstate New York.

This lovely two-foot Lladro statue is in Audrey's home in Sarasota. She bought the piece in Spain.

Judy commissioned an artist to paint -- Michelangelo style -- angels on her dining room ceiling.

Audrey shows off some of her Laldro and other porcelain pieces in a beautiful display cabinet.

"I've got about 100 angels scattered throughout the house," Judy said. "I love every one of them."

 

 

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