Local icon Doris Day is busy—busy overseeing the rescue of animals, busy visiting with her loved ones and busy tending to the mail. “Answering the mail, alone, could be a full-time job!” she says. “I’m always floored that so many people from all over the world still remember me after all these years out of the entertainment spotlight and take the time to write such lovely letters.”
As Day approaches her 96th birthday in April, she keeps herself occupied doing what she loves most: remaining dedicated to the welfare of her beloved animals and staying in close touch with her devoted fan base. Day, speaking to Carmel Magazine before her birthday bonanza at the end of March, oozes affection for her admirers. Ever humble, she marvels at their never-ending dedication. “I adore my fans,” she says. “I receive such lovely letters from all over the world from 90-plus-year-olds to 9-year-olds, whose great-grandparents introduced them to my work. I’m in tears when they tell me how my movies and music have touched their lives.”
Our beloved local legend has touched too many lives to count. Millions swooned as this record-setting show woman kicked-off her luminous career in the 1940s. Day remains one of the most prolific singers and biggest box office draws of all time. The year 2018 brings some incredible anniversaries regarding Day’s work: Her first film, “Romance on the High Seas,” was released a startling seventy years ago, in 1948. Her final film, “With Six You Get Eggroll,” was made in 1968, and its 50th anniversary will be part of Day’s birthday celebration happening in Carmel.
Most importantly to her, Day has saved hundreds of thousands of four-legged friends. She launched the Doris Day Animal Foundation in 1978 and hasn’t let go of the reigns. “As most people know by now, the cause closest to my heart is making this a better world for animals and the people who love them,” she says. “My Doris Day Animal Foundation (DDAF) is a grant-giving charity that supports other nonprofit organizations across the country that directly care for, rehabilitate and re-home animals. The Doris Day Animal League is a lobbying organization in Washington, DC that works with legislature to pass laws that protect animals. The homeless pet population has decreased significantly since I founded DDAF 40 years ago, but there is still so much work to be done.”
Day uses her long-time hometown of Carmel as an example of puppy progress. She says things have changed greatly, and for the better since she started coming to Carmel decades ago, and of course, she accepts no credit for being one of the catalysts in creating our local “dog culture.”
“I’m happy that there seem to be more and more dogs walking around with their people,” she says. “That’s one thing that’s changed since I moved up here. When I first started coming to Carmel regularly in the late ’70s, I had a hard time trying to find a place to stay with my dogs, because the hotels didn’t allow them. After I moved here and went into partnership with Denny LeVett and the Cypress Inn, I insisted that dogs be allowed. And look at Carmel now—it’s wonderful!” In fact, Day and her efforts have made Carmel one of the most notably dog-friendly cities in America, and according to the travel site Trip Advisor, one of the best in the entire world.
A recent portrait of Day shows her more silver than blond, but with her signature bob-haircut still as coiffed as ever, and her unmistakable twinkling blue eyes more alive than people half her age. Her face is full and healthy looking. And if you log onto her website www.dorisday.com, you’ll hear an audio message from her that will make you feel as she is speaking to you personally. She credits her pals—fur and no fur—with keeping her vivaciousness and happiness at a constant high. “My friends make me laugh,” she says. “My four-leggers make me laugh…I laugh a lot—it’s good for what ails you!”
Those who’ve starred alongside Day in film and television recall that laughter, noting Day as an easy-going, elegant woman.
“Working with Doris Day is one of the highlights of my life and career,” says one of her former co-stars, actor Bernie Kopell. “It’s miraculous that this golden-voiced, beautiful lady achieved the rare status of top 10 singer, then evolved into a top 10 motion picture superstar as well. No one in the world has risen to such breathtaking heights, starring opposite Clark Gable, Sinatra, Jimmy Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Rock Hudson, Jim Garner, even Cary Grant. I asked her how she did this. She said, ‘I don’t know—it was just fun.””
Kopel also marveled at how Day’s pets were a focal point, on and off set, before it was fashionable. “Her TV show set was always full of her pet doggies. Somehow, they knew not to bark or make noise during filming. She has dedicated her life to caring and protecting these loving animals that give us such joy and comfort.”
Day’s 96th birthday blow-out will be held around Carmel. The three-day event will feature an array of former co-stars from her projects, including “With Six You Get Eggroll.” Several celebrities are confirmed, and the grand dame herself brags about the caliber of party-goers. “There’s a wonderful group that comes to Carmel every year from as far as Germany, the UK and Australia to celebrate my birthday and help raise money for the animals,” she notes. “It’s been growing every year since DDAF started holding our annual fundraisers up here around my birthday. They all get together at the Cypress Inn and have a good time. This year, our fundraiser is going to be a doozy, and I hope all of my local friends and neighbors come, too—everyone is welcome!”
Whether we celebrate Day at the Cypress Inn, or visit her on her website, we can all benefit from her sage advice on longevity mixed with happiness. “I’ve been blessed with good health, so I’m lucky,” she says. “But I do believe it’s important to surround yourself with whatever makes you happy, and care about something greater than you.”
Doris Day’s birthday party will be held the weekend of March 29-31. Go to www.ddaf.org for more information.