Zibby Owens: Welcome, Jamie. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” This is such a treat.

Jamie Lee Curtis: Apparently, you do because there are a lot of books behind you. There are a lot of rainbow-organized books behind you.

Zibby: Yes. I try to make time and share what I can read with other people who might not have as much.

Jamie: I understand. This is how we do it. We share with other people.

Zibby: You have contributed so much in so many different areas in the artistic world. Your latest endeavor is Letters from Camp, an Audible Original which came out this summer. I wanted to talk a little bit first about that. Tell me how the idea for an Audible Original came about and particularly this show.

Jamie: It’s funny. It’s such a wonderful story that the show was born from such a beautiful moment. I am the proud godmother of three New York-raised children. My friend Lisa Birnbach lives in New York. Her three children obviously live there with her and were educated in New York. I’m the godmother of all of them. My middle godchild, Boco, wrote me a letter from camp when she was twelve years old which she never sent. She wrote it and then put it in her shoebox of cards and then obviously didn’t send it, had my name written on the outside of the envelope. In November of last year, I got a letter in the mail from Lisa. Inside that letter was the letter from Boco, unopened. I opened it up. It was a letter from a twelve-year-old saying, “Dear Godmother Jamie, I made a mistake. I got into trouble. I wish you were here because you would know what to do.” I immediately called Boco who’s twenty-six years old and a comedy writer here in Los Angeles. I said, “Boco, I got your letter from when you were twelve. It’s fantastic. There’s a TV show here.” Originally, we were going to do it as a TV show. As we started talking about it, we found out that the Audible idea, doing a scripted podcast with characters and sound effects just like old radio plays — they call it TV for your ears. It feels like a TV show, but it’s Audible. They bought it and loved it. We made it this summer during COVID. Everybody was remote. It was written in about a month. Then we performed it. Then it was out August 4th. Crazy.

Zibby: Wow, that’s the way to do it.

Jamie: It’s a new world for me, the Audible world. Audible as a company has been fantastic as a partner to really understand that there are people who want content, who want things. This was just a wonderful — it’s super funny. It’s charming. They have been fantastic partners, Audible, in the creation of it. The whole world of Audible, I didn’t know about it. It’s just been so fun. We had such a great cast. It’s got songs in it that are like earworms that get in your head and then you can’t get it out of your head. It’s just been an absolute joy, crazy experience, and super fun.

Zibby: Amazing. When I was listening to the introductory theme song — I spent many years at sleepaway camp. It just took me back to all that time on the bus and singing the camp songs and all the rest. Were you a sleepaway camp girl yourself?

Jamie: I was. As you can maybe tell, I like to compartmentalize. I like things to all work well. For me, trunks at camp were like your own fiefdom. I know some kids hated the idea of a trunk. They had to keep it clean. Everything was all messy. I loved it. I loved that you could roll your T-shirts and line them up. I loved the little soapbox. Remember there was a plastic soapbox?

Zibby: Yes.

Jamie: I loved every aspect of camp. I loved lanyards. I loved the group activities. This show just spoke to my heart and made me remember how wonderful that experience is for people. Honestly, if people have the opportunity to go to camp, I think anybody who had that opportunity — obviously, not everyone had that opportunity. The privileged people that were able to go to camp have that nostalgic feeling of creating a new version of yourself and learning who you are. I think that’s the great benefit of camp.

Zibby: It’s so true. Actually, my son is very into how his room looks. Now he’s growing up. He’s five. He’s like, “I don’t want to have a stepstool as my side table.” Literally yesterday, I was like, “You know what? I think I’m going to get you an old-fashioned camp trunk. I could put it here. You could store all your little treasures.” Anyway, trunks have been on my mind.

Jamie: I’m sorry. You just said something about, your son is very specific about the way his room looks. I might ask you turn over your left shoulder and look at your bookcase.

Zibby: I know. I see where it comes from. He’s my only one of four who actually cares. There you go. Who knew? The fourth time. Letters from Camp is absolutely fantastic and a total throwback and fabulous to listen to. I also wanted to talk about your over a dozen children’s books because I’ve been reading them with my kids. The oldest are thirteen. I’ve been reading them for years. I’m so impressed with the output and the content and the cleverness and the way you make different concepts from self-esteem to the alphabet to everything and being brave and all of it accessible and fun. Tell me about how you started writing children’s books.

Jamie: Thank you, by the way. They are my best thing. They will be the best contribution I make to the universe besides raising my kids, for sure. I never thought I’d write a book. I barely got out of school. I am a well-educated uneducated woman. I spell so poorly. I count on my fingers. I did not receive schooling at all. It’s a miracle that I survived my youth. I never thought I’d write a book. My four-year-old daughter walked into my office one day, apropos of nothing. I was sitting at a desk. She was down the hall. She came marching into my room. I remember she stood there and was delicious in her four-year-old-ness. She went, “When I was little, I wore diapers, but now I use a potty.” Then she marched out of the room. I thought, oh, my goodness, that’s amazing. I wrote down on a piece of paper in front of me, “When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth,” which just made me laugh because she was talking about when she was little the way I talk about when I had long hair and wore it in a shag or when I wore bell bottoms. The good old days that I remember fondly, she was reminiscing about because she had a past even though I only looked at her having a future. She was so little. I never thought that she would look back. I only thought she would look forward.

When you have small children, you’re only looking forward. School, shoes, clothes, food, school, clothes, shoes, food. You’re only looking forward. Where are they going to go to grade school, high school, college? In the writing of that, I wrote down a list of things that she couldn’t do and now she can do. I found that at the end of the list — I wrote three things, and I started to cry. I realized it was a book. It was the last thing I thought I would do. All of a sudden, I was moved by it. I realized it was a book about self-discovery, about self-ownership. I realized it was a book for children. I sold it that day. I sent it via fax. Faxes were new then. That’s how old I am. I remember sending it in curly-q paper to an agent in New York who was my mother-in-law’s best friend. She sent it to HarperCollins, which was actually Harper Row back then. They bought it. Joanna Cotler, who was the head of children’s books, bought the book. That began my career as an author. I had had a book that my daughter Annie loved, we loved, the way parents and children love books, called Annie Bananie. It was written by Leah Komaiko. It was illustrated by Laura Cornell. I said to Harper Row who had published Annie Bananie, “I would like Laura Cornell to draw the pictures.” She and I have been partners since then for thirteen, fourteen books.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. That’s amazing.

Jamie: Last thing in the world I thought I’d do. Last thing in the world. I don’t write them. They come to me. I wait for them. Then they pop into my head almost fully formed. I can barely get them down on the paper. That’s how fast they come.

Zibby: Wow. Your most recent one, Me, Myselfie, & I, that was hilarious, the mom outside taking the selfies in the snow and all that.

Jamie: Obviously as I get older and the children get older, I’m no longer seeing the world from a young child’s perspective. I’m seeing it from our perspective of how we relate to young people and the poison of social media and our self-obsession and our self-altering nature. Even here, I’m sitting here, I have a light over here. I have a light over here. If I didn’t have those lights, it wouldn’t be at all good. I will tell the truth on myself. I do it too. I don’t alter photographs. I don’t throw up a hundred filters and all of a sudden try to look like I’m not sixty-one years old. I think it’s a poison. It was my way of talking about it. I knew if I had made it about kids doing it, nobody would’ve liked it because they would’ve felt that I was making a social statement about them. I think they would’ve been like, well, F off, just go away. Whereas by turning it on the mom, making the mom the one who’s obsessed by it, who can’t stop looking at herself — the faces we make, it’s crazy. It really was my think piece about self-obsession and the opposite of that, which is selflessness, which is what the world needs way more of. It was a little bit of a think piece.

Zibby: Love it. Speaking of the selflessness, tell me more about My Hands in Yours, which is your latest endeavor which, as you know, I just got very excited about myself.

Jamie: It’s very sweet of you to support it. I am sixty-one years old. I am at that point in my life where my motto now is, if not now, when? If not me, who? What am I not doing to create love in the universe? How selfish is my life? I have always supported Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. For years, if you went through a bad thing or if a friend of mine went through a bad thing, I would either buy a little gift and I would send it. I’m a gift-giver. I like gifting. I would write on a card, “I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. I hope she recovers. Remember through it all, my hand in yours,” is what I would say. It was a phrase that I put those four words together to say, I’m not with you, but imagine what it would feel like if you felt my hand in yours. That’s what I want you to feel when I’m not there with you. I’ve been saying that for a long time. I’ve been collecting small sculptures by this artist named Anne Ricketts who makes little tiny beautiful feet that I love to send people and say, remember to be where your feet are. Meaning, get out of your head. Be right where you are in the moment. I’ve been buying and supporting Anne Ricketts for a long time.

I had this thought. What if we made a sculpture of two hands holding — I don’t know if you can see it. Here, let me get some light on it. Oh, my, look at me with my lighting skills. It could fit in your palm. You could hold it like this. It would be two hands holding. I went to Anne and asked her if I could commission her to make them. I explained to her that I was going to donate a hundred percent of the sales to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which is an organization I’ve worked with. I was going to call it My Hand in Yours. I was going to create a marketplace for comfort items for people during times of crisis. This was last year when I thought I would start this project. I thought maybe it would be like an Instagram store or something. I didn’t really know. Then the universe changed. COVID hit. All of a sudden, the need for contact with other people, the need to be able to send someone a gift and say, I am with you during this incredibly hard time, presented itself, and so I started a company. I never thought I’d start a company. I underwrote the company so that a hundred percent of the profits — that means that Anne Ricketts donates all of her time, all of her artistry, all of her sculpting time, all of the preparation. Then they get sent to a foundry where they’re produced. Then she makes sure that each one is perfect, polishes each one, bags each one.

All of that is done for free so that I can sell them and a hundred percent of that sale goes to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Everybody that has participated, Anne Ricketts — my friend Cathy Waterman has created this fantastic hand charm. I don’t know if you can see it. I will tell you, from product testing, I have reached up and grabbed that hand. There’s something so tactile about holding this pendant as I go through my day. Cathy created that. That’s on the website. I have now expanded the website. There are now medallions that you can buy. I wanted to make sure that there were things with different price points. The medallion is twelve dollars. For twelve dollars, you can have it sent to a loved one with a note from you. The money goes to Children’s Hospital. Then the sculptures, obviously, are more money, the pendant, blankets. Soon we’re going to have candles. We’re going to have beautiful objects. It’s objects of comfort in times of crisis. A hundred percent goes to Children’s Hospital. All of a sudden, I have a store. I ship. I’m doing shipping every day. It’s hilarious because I’m not that person, but yet I’ve become that person.

Zibby: I’ll look for you at UPS.

Jamie: You will be receiving it at UPS or USPS. It depends what method you choose, or FedEx. You can choose all of the methodology to getting it to you.

Zibby: You might want to add some pictures of the scale of it, I was on the website earlier, like show it on a person.

Jamie: You mean of the pendant?

Zibby: Just to show how big or small they are. Maybe I did it in too much of a hurry. I didn’t notice somebody wearing it. Anyway, I can check.

Jamie: I will do so. That’s such a good idea. I will get on it. Let me get my people on it.

Zibby: You go. You do that. Why did you pick Children’s Hospital Los Angeles? Do you have a personal connection? Did something happen? Did you use it? Do you just think it’s a great thing?

Jamie: I have been a supporter of Children’s Hospitals throughout the country for a long time. It started when I was making a movie in Pontiac, Illinois. There was a charity put on by the town of Pontiac for a young woman named Lori Tull who was the very first successful heart transplant recipient as a child. She was thirteen years old. It was experimental surgery. The insurance company was not going to pay for it. The town of Pontiac put on a benefit. The movie I was making, we joined the benefit. She and I became friends. When she passed away at nineteen, I made a big donation to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, which was a fantastic institution at the front of that type of surgery, Dr. Starzl. Thomas Starzl is/was really a pioneer in transplant surgery. I worked with them for years. Then when I came back home every time, it felt weird that I would go to Pittsburgh and work on behalf of people in Illinois when in fact I live in California and I have one of the greatest institutions in Los Angeles. I literally just cold-called them one day and said, “Look, I’m doing this work for other places. I would like to start to support Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.” Then it ended up that they were doing bond initiatives to raise money, hospital bonds. I became the spokesperson and started doing the commercials for them. Then I’ve been involved with them since. They’re just a fantastic organization. It’s my hometown, born and raised here in the City of Angels. It was important to me that I give back to them. They get all of my support.

Zibby: I can just imagine the person who picked up the phone that day who was like, “Um, yeah, that’ll work that. We’ll take that donation. Sure, get involved. Why not?”

Jamie: For anybody watching this, you don’t have to do big gestures. One the proudest things that ever happened in my life is that one of my best girlfriends, because of my involvement at Children’s Hospital, decided to volunteer as a cuddler. A cuddler is for all of the premature babies who are in the NICU who do not have their parents or mother or father or grandparents with them. Volunteers are trained and then vetted. Then you go in and literally sit in a chair and they bring you these babies. You rock them and hold them and sing to them. One of my best girlfriends made that her commitment to Children’s Hospital, no fanfare, no big TV ads, but hours and hours and hours of her day where she would hold these little babies. That’s what I’m saying. To people watching and listening, we have to do something. We have to. As human beings, we are not here to look at ourselves on our phones. That is not the reason we’re here. We’re here to manifest our destiny as human beings and create a loving connection in the universe. That’s why we’re here. That’s just why we’re here. Whatever it is, you can do something.

This is a time in our nation, in the world, where we all have to be doing something. I don’t care what it is. Look at what Bette Midler has done in New York City. Look at what Bette Midler has done with her parks projects, reclaiming these old disheveled pieces of property and turned them into local urban gardens and meeting places and transformed the city. That’s just one person going, you know what, I’m going to do that, and all the volunteers and all the people that joined her. That’s what we can do. I hope that’s what we teach our children to do because if we’re not teaching them that, it’s over. Then it’s just anarchy. Then the world will blow up. I do believe that you can make a huge, huge difference in the lives of other people by suiting and showing up and trying to help people. If anybody takes away anything from this besides I do a lot of hand motions, then that would be a good thing.

Zibby: This could actually be part of your My Hand In Yours.

Jamie: I’m going to tell you a quick little story. I’ve been texting with a person about the picture on the chain. Let me just finish that. This is what we call multitasking.

Zibby: I love it. I make a suggestion, it gets implemented during the podcast.

Jamie: Immediately. It should be up on the website before we’re done. Here’s a funny thing. When I was doing Activia yogurt commercials for a very long time, there were hand gestures that we had to use to demonstrate what the product was helping to achieve. I literally had training to learn how to go like this, where you go like this. It’s truth in advertising. Again, it’s not a laxative. It’s a probiotic, but it’s supposed to help you poop better. I had the training where I did this, but then there was all sorts of kerfuffling about what does this really mean? If you go back and look at those commercials — which I loved doing, by the way. The fun part of it was actually meeting people. The second wave of the hand gesture was, we couldn’t do this anymore, so we had to talk about how it made you feel better. The new gesture was this. It was like, when you take this product, you feel lighter and better. I had training in that too. There is a commercial where I’m walking along talking, talking, talking, and then I go like this. Anyway, hand gestures.

Zibby: Behind the scenes of the yogurt. Who knew? My daughter would not forgive me if I didn’t ask you at least one question about Freaky Friday, which is her favorite movie. I just have to ask something. I don’t even have a question. How was it filming that movie? Are you going to be doing any more movies, or are you now firmly in the children’s book, might come again, we might do another Audible Original? What’s coming next? That was a lot of questions.

Jamie: That was like twenty-five questions in one.

Zibby: Sorry about that. Pick one.

Jamie: It’s all right. Watch this weave of answers.

Zibby: I’m ready.

Jamie: I’d still make movies. I just had a Halloween movie. I was in that movie Knives Out last year. We have another Halloween movie to shot. I may go off and make another movie. Yes, I’m in the movie business. I’m in the TV business as I have, now, a company that is trying to produce our own work, part of which is the Letters from Camp podcast, which I believe, fingers crossed, that we will make more of. It was always conceived as a three-summer show. We wanted to avoid teenagers because mean girls are —

Zibby: — Don’t we all?

Jamie: Yes, we want to avoid teenagers, so we wanted to set a show in the summer of Mookie Hooper’s twelfth, thirteen, and fourteenth year. We’re hoping that that happens. Lastly, I loved Freaky Friday. It was a surprise for me. I was in the middle of a book tour. I had a fifteen-year-old daughter of my own and a five-year-old son. An actress pulled out of the movie. I stepped on a moving train, honestly. In three days, I was now pretending to be fifteen and fifty all at the same time. It was fantastic. I think the reason why it’s so good and why it was such a pleasure for me is that I had zero time to prepare for it, zero. On a scale of zero to a hundred, zero, honestly. Three days later, I was shooting. Because of that, I had to just go, okay, whatever, how old am I? Just immediately release my ego and be fifteen. I was living with a fifteen-year-old. I knew many fifteen-year-olds, and so it was very easy for me to do. I think if I’d had a lot of time, I might have gotten very self-conscious about it. In that sense, it was the freest I’ve ever been in my life. Just was like, okay, what am I doing today? Okay. Because of that, I think it was so successful. I was having the time of my life.

Zibby: Amazing. I love that. You can tell. It’s so fun. It was amazing.

Jamie: Because of that movie, I will actually have put into the world of parenting, a phrase that I ad-libbed, which is not my skill. I am not an improvisor. I did improvise because I was living with a fifteen-year-old of my own, shooting at the Palisades High School. My first day of work was at Pali High very near from where I live. When the mom drops her daughter off and the daughter gets out of the car and the mom leans out the window and says “Make good choices” out loud while all of the kids are around her, it may be my proudest moment. It certainly is going to be my legacy from that movie. “Make good choices” will outlive me, I think.

Zibby: If I were going to make a title for this podcast, that would be it. That’s all of what you’ve talked about, in life, in literature, in Audibles, and everything, giving back. It’s all about that.

Jamie: It’s also about, life is for living. We are here such a short time. The older you get, the time gets shorter. It’s time to really focus on making your moment count, whatever it is, be it planting a seed in one of those gardens, be it holding one of those babies at Children’s Hospital where nobody is going to be — it’s not a glitzy gig. You’re not going to get a bunch of kudos. You’re going to feel it inside you. The more I’m a public figure, the more I understand that all of the outside attention, and I get a lot of attention, means honestly nothing. Self-esteem comes doing esteem-able things. That’s why it happens. You don’t get self-esteem because you get a million followers on Instagram. You get self-esteem because you buy groceries for your elderly neighbor and you don’t even tell them it’s you. You leave them a beautiful planted dahlia on your neighbor’s porch without a note. That’s how you get self-esteem. You get it from doing things for other human beings. I hope that we can all live that way until we’re not here anymore. That’s actually my raison d’être, my reason for doing it all. It’s all boiled down to that. I’m really happy to meet you. I hope next time you’re in California, you’ll let me know. We’ll social distance walk or something.

Zibby: I would love that. That sounds great.

Jamie: Cool. Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Of course. Thanks for joining me.

Jamie: Of course. Thank you.

Zibby: I won’t tell your neighbor about the dahlias. I’ll keep it our little secret.

Jamie: Perfect. Thanks, everybody. Be well. stay safe. Bye.

Zibby: Bye.