Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Karen Lorre has had no less than five separate lifetimes rolled into one. A television actress of considerable reach, Lorre launched her career as a model in the early 1980s as a means to work herself through the University of California, Irvine, where she was studying psychobiology (or “mind-body science”). Lorre’s soft ‘girl-next-door’ look and classic beauty were quickly noticed, first by Playboy Magazine editors, who featured her three times (in 1982, 1983 and 1991), and then by commercial directors.
The buzz generated from those Playboy shoots was genuine and it fueled her jump from modeling into the world of prime-time television. Whenever Lorre attended an audition, directors saw that she was not just another pretty face, but also a serious actress with broad comedy-to-drama range who was able to fit multiple roles. Accordingly, her reel-resume is both eclectic and impressive: Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (1984); Sale of the Century (1985-86); Cheers (1988); The Vineyard (1989); The X-Files (1995); Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1998); NYPD Blue (2000); Dharma & Greg (2000); Malcolm in the Middle (2001); Strip Mall (2001); A Fighting Man (2012); and Khaki & Orange (2015). However, Lorre is probably known best for playing Tina Lord on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, where she out-distanced 300 other prospective actors to take the prize role (Wikipedia).
Aside from her screen work, Lorre has authored two best-selling books (Chronic Pleasure: Use the Law of Attraction to Transform Fatigue and Pain into Vibrant Energy; and Effortless Enchantment: A Memoir of Magic, Magnetism, and Miracles), each focused on ways to touch the self and find the path to conscious contentment. Lorre’s writing has directly led to deep study of the Eastern arts and meditative practices, with these books specifically published to help readers unlock the secrets of the subconsciousness and find peace among the shadows.
Lorre’s Effortless Enchantment is a remarkable memoir/self study in which she chronicles events that tested her resolve and paved the way to transformation. Particularly gripping passages include Lorre’s recounting of being raped as a teenager by a church counselor while on a field trip; the details of her overnight stay at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion; and candid remarks about the real-time effects of her divorce from Hollywood television producer Chuck Lorre.
Ultimately, Effortless Enchantment serves as a tangible statement of hope. Readers will be gripped by Karen Lorre’s bravery as she lets us deep inside the belly of her story, affirming that it is indeed possible to overcome the scars of sexual abuse and become a sentient person again if you’re willing to work to reap the reward.
But Effortless Enchantment is vital for another reason. As Lorre describes multiple molestations, it becomes apparent just how rampant this problem remains. Lorre grew up during a time when child rapes weren’t talked about with the same candor as they are today, and she suffered for years veiled in silence after sexual predators had exploited positions of trust and robbed her innocence.
The effects of violent trauma can be open-ended, with victims often waging war against things like addiction, anxiety, unfocused anger and depression in secret. A predator’s assault usually lasts mere moments, but the memories of that attack haunt forever.
In turn, Lorre wrote Effortless Enchantment to shed light on these issues and educate victims who don’t know what to do next, encouraging them to confront their demons one final time and then erase the images in favor of a complete mind-body rebirth.
The Electric Review sat down one-on-one with Lorre for this interview on November 6, 2020, with the actress eschewing the safety net of a ‘screen persona’ in pursuit of meaningful exchange.
I grew up in Long Beach, California. My mom was Greek, and my Dad was mostly Welsh, French, with a small amount of American Indian mixed in. I have always been proud to say I am at least remotely connected to the Native Americans.
My mom was a school teacher. She often worked as a substitute teacher and sometimes she would even sub at my school. Dad was a teacher as well, and later he became a principal and then an administrator for the Los Angles Unified School district. Later in life, after she left teaching, mom became an IRS agent. My mom was a truly gentle and compassionate person, and she probably ended up being one of the nicest IRS agents ever! I also have a brother, he is a wonderful guy too. We often call him the “Buddha Boy” – he has this great sense of humor.
When I was at U.C. Irvine, I was studying biology and mind-body science. I intended to be a doctor. At the time, I lived with four roommates and a lot of friends would drop by. Many of those people would comment on my looks, telling me, “you are beautiful enough to be in Playboy!” I didn’t believe them, but after hearing it so many times, I felt inspired to see. So one day I called 411 information for the Playboy Magazine number and made an appointment for an interview. A friend drove me to the interview because I did not have my own car at the time. The interview itself took 10 minutes. I was told they would let me know the decision in 6 weeks, but later that day I got a call at home saying they wanted me to model.
At first my mom had a somewhat hysterical reaction – she started to laugh and couldn’t stop. I think she was in disbelief. Eventually she was OK with it. But my dad was very angry. He didn’t speak to me for a year or so after I appeared in the magazine. I understand it – he worked in the school system and that made it difficult on him. But after I was paid for the shoot, I took a portion of the fees I had earned and bought them a vacation in New Zealand. I knew they always dreamed of going there and I wanted to give that gift to them. I wasn’t trying to buy my dad’s forgiveness or change his perspective with the trip, I just wanted to give it to them as a present…
No it wasn’t hard. It actually felt comfortable. I grew up on the beach and was comfortable with my body. And I never regretted it. After the Playboy feature I was noticed by a few commercial directors and got offers to do some commercials. That inspired me to take an acting class. Really, if I had not appeared in the magazine, I don’t think I would have ever been motivated to take that acting class.
I was actually surprised so many people read the magazine. And I was surprised people recognized me though all the make-up they used for those pictures. I was also shocked by things some people said – “Wow! You are so intelligent. I am surprised by that.” Those comments confused me. I was confused by the perception that modeling for Playboy might make people think my intelligence is less than it actually is…
After Playboy I took some acting classes and loved them. I had this tremendous reaction to it – like a bright light was in and around me, and I just wanted more of that feeling. I was so enamored with acting because it allowed me to pair my mind-body-science passion with a creative focus. All of a sudden I was going back and forth between the two [disciplines], wondering what I should do with my life. I eventually asked myself a question: “Which profession would bring me more adventure?” The obvious answer was acting. It’s like the universe pulled me there…
I have studied many different approaches to acting, not specifically Strasberg though. Over the years, I have studied at many different playhouses, exploring different forms [of acting]. For example, one form I enjoy is improvisation – it allows you to immediately transform yourself into the character you’re portraying. Acting allows you to change your energy. When I play different characters, my thought pattern changes and my mind becomes different. My physiology actually shifts depending on how far I get away from my day-to-day self [and into the character being portrayed]…
There are really so many. Audrey Hepburn immediately comes to mind. After I appeared on NYPD Blue, writer David Milch compared me to her and that was one of the greatest compliments anyone has ever paid me. She had such range! I also love Joanne Woodward. I actually watched Woodward direct a play once, and afterward, I went to her backstage and told her how moved I was by her work. She was so sincere and kind and encouraging. And after that moment, I told myself that if I ever become famous I am going to be kind like her.
Absolutely! Soap Operas are great because you are given an inordinate amount of lines to memorize and then you are immediately placed in front of the camera. You have no time to be negative or fearful. It’s a great training ground and gives you fundamental experience. You also have the opportunity to develop long-lasting relationships with the other actors because you are working so much and so closely with these people. Soap Opera work really forced me to deliver and find real discipline.
Brenda Ueland! She wrote a book called If You Want To Write and it changed me. I immediately identified with her and how she spoke about the practice of writing. I also love Rumi and the Persian poet Hafiz.
Well, I have ended up coaching a lot of other ‘coaches’ – doctors and psychologists and psychiatrists – because I have such a varied background. My foundation is in mind-body science , but I also have broad experience as an actor, merging with the psychology of a character. An actor must understand people and how they think and work. I think this is one of the main differences [between Lorre and others]…
Before I wrote the book I had been noticing that I had not been feeling much pain in my life. Instead, I was feeling constant pleasure. And then I injured my hand. Even though I had hurt myself, I didn’t feel much pain. I have been able to shift my mind so thoroughly that I don’t feel any physical pain. But I used to have chronic pain. It would go on and on like an alarm bell. The therapist who worked with me for my hand told me that he was astounded that I wasn’t in any pain. He told me that I had discovered something remarkable and that I should convey it to people [because they need to know what’s possible].
It’s a process. When people consciously try to quiet the mind, it’s impossible. But the mind can be quieted. It’s somewhat of a paradox. I have been able to have a quiet mind all the time by releasing myself from worry and negative emotions. Negative emotion comes from unconscious blocks. We get in loops, and the mind obsesses. But there is another way [Lorre’s program] that can help people find tranquility [bringing] only wonderful thoughts.
This happy person who coaches people is at the core of the actress. The core of who I am is solid. The tranquility is always there.
I had multiple traumas – I was raped and also physically assaulted. I speak about this in my second book Effortless Enchantment: A Memoir of Magic, Magnetism, and Miracles. It took a long time for me to heal. It took a spiritual awakening to dissolve the pain. I was able to do it after I saw the events from a different perspective and then reached a higher consciousness, one which allowed for love. [At that point], I needed to have forgiveness. Today, I just felt and feel love for all those experiences.
I can’t identify just one thing. It’s a myriad of things that prevent true healing. [With such events], a person can’t help but have some level of Post Traumatic Stress. To heal, you must fully submit to the process and untangle the traumas. It comes with reaching a new state of mental freedom. I have been able to help my clients heal, but each person is different and needs a different path [ in order to attain healing].
I fell in love with Chuck immediately, but didn’t have a solid connection with my spirit [at the time]. I had these unhealed traumas that I had not yet confronted. Both of us were going through things we were unable to transcend at the time. Chuck’s the one who decided he wanted a divorce. After the divorce, I was finally able to find a new way. I loved him so much, and lost it. It inspired me to want to get in contact with my spirit.
We actually only worked together once time – on Dharma & Greg. I will always remember one thing he said: “When you’re writing you think it should go A,B, C. But it really goes A, B, Chair…” That comment speaks to how spontaneous the creative process is. But what I really learned from Chuck was unconditional love. I felt real love for the first time with him. And then I lost it. And then I found it again after I healed. Chuck was the impetus for all of that. He might not have known it, but he was…
No, I am not. Since COVID, I haven’t even been out on one audition. But I have found the coaching work I am doing with people more gratifying than ever.
Oh my gosh! So much! I want to be happily married, and I am in the process of doing that. And I would love to see my second book written into a film in which I could star. I still have an appetite to explore the world further. Actually, I feel I am in the beginning of my life exploring my spirit, and I can’t wait to see where this connection will lead next…