Oprah: You began to feel. When did you know that the show had hit a nerve with the public?
Sally: When I practically got mobbed at a fashion show! I flew to San Francisco—and remember, I had never been on an airplane. Flying was different then; you had to have a travel outfit, and my mother and I wore hats with gloves. Anyway, at the fashion show, hundreds of fans showed up. When I went out to talk to them, I remember feeling so lonely for friends, for my peers.
Oprah: It's so odd to hear that. From my living room, I could only imagine the fabulous life you must have been leading, and it turns out that you were lonely.
Sally: That's my flaw. I've grown used to being lonely over the years, so I don't seek to change it. But aren't there many people who are lonely?
Oprah: I think so. "Lonely" would be the word I'd use to describe myself as a kid, but now I treasure my alone time.
Sally: I do, too. You can't get me out of my bedroom.
Oprah: So after Gidget, you came back as the Flying Nun.
Sally: Once Gidget was canceled, the producers came up with this flying nun show to get me on the air again. I didn't want to do it. I was trying to figure out who I was, but I knew who I wasn't: a flying nun. I was almost 19, and my sexuality needed to be explored. My real father was Catholic, and I had issues with all religions. So I said no, which I thought was incredibly brave. But my stepfather said, "Don't get on your high horse. If you don't take this part, you may never work again." The assumption was that I wasn't good enough. At the time, I wasn't old enough, strong enough, or sophisticated enough to tell him that he was wrong.
Oprah: That was from his viewpoint—as a stuntman who didn't have steady work.
Sally: Exactly. But I listened to him. I was so blind. It was one of the times in my life when fear made the decision for me, and when fear makes the decision, it's a mistake. That job was three long, hard years, and The Flying Nun became a huge joke. Bob Hope and all the other comics poked fun at it. I couldn't tell the difference between jokes about Sister Bertrille, my character, and jokes about me. It was deeply humiliating. I felt denigrated as a person.
Oprah: That makes me want to cry.
Sally: I'm sure it didn't seem so tragic to others; many people must have looked at my life and thought I was quite fortunate. But I felt lousy about myself—and as you now know, I didn't come from a place where I had a lot of self-confidence. And then during the show, I married Steven Craig and became pregnant. You can only imagine what a pregnant flying nun looked like.
Oprah: Of course, of course.
Sally: I was a walking sight gag. But I wasn't embarrassed by the fact that I was pregnant. In fact, something in me started to take care of myself in a way that I hadn't been able to before. I started to change and heal. I grew up and moved out of the fog. And ultimately, the experience of being on the series gave me tremendous strength. It made me want to be a real actor, no matter what. When you hold your feet to the fire long enough, you realize just how much you don't like that fire. It hurts like holy hell.
We Hear You!