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.