Film Courage: Robin, what were some mistakes you made early on coming here [to Los Angeles] and in your career that maybe weren’t horrible mistakes but had you known, you wouldn’t have done. Whether it was spending too much time thinking about this or that or whatever?
Robin Riker: Yeah…okay. There was…at one of my early jobs was on [the TV show] Fantasy Island. I was among a retinue of young women who were surrounding this older man, the guest star of the show. And so we broke for lunch and I had lines (this other woman didn’t have lines).
But we were walking to lunch and she was a goddess! She was so beautiful and very sweet and really lovely. And we were just talking and I liked her right away and she started to tell me about her husband. And immediately I got this overwhelming sense of dread on her behalf…I mean I have chills now even remembering it. And she had been working at a Dairy Queen in Canada or something. And he was older than she and he spotted her and he saw what she was and got her into Playboy and she had a Playboy centerfold spot.
And the more she talked about him, the creepier I felt about this guy. But I mean, we just met each other, what am I going to say about her husband? I mean “You better watch out for him.” And then I learned that she was with my agency. Then about a week or month later maybe, I’m walking with my agent to an audition and he tells me that this woman just got a part in a major motion picture. Now I have been a classically trained actress since I was two years old and she had just blown into town. Now she was a goddess. I have to give you that and Hollywood eats that up. But I was so jealous! I couldn’t believe it. I was just churning with envy inside and resentment! And it felt like…oh it was awful!
About two months after that I was going to New York, I had a play that I was taking to New York that I wanted to shop it around a bit. And I’m walking home and I see a headline you know ‘Beauty Queen Slain!’ And I thought ‘Oh it was some Miss New Jersey or something.’ I didn’t pay any attention. I called my agents to find out what was going on, if I should come in for something. And they said “Oh, we’re just so upset about Dorothy.” And I put on my best…I tried my best to care. And I said “Oh really, why?”
And they said “Didn’t you hear? Her husband just shot her in the face and murdered her because she was drifting away from him.” It was Dorothy Stratten who was the subject of the film STAR 80. And even now…you see…I was so ashamed of myself for begrudging her one moment of celebrity or joy because I had no idea what lay before her and I had no idea what she went through to get that, to get there…to her moment in the sun. And how dare I? How dare I and that was…I was more affected by her death and what it called up in me then I was when my own grandfather died because I was so ashamed of my jealousy.
Film Courage: Did you know I was actually going to bring that story up…I mean I have chills right now. I did not know you were going to go there. I was going to bring up the Dorothy Stratten movie…
Robin Riker: Oh, my God. Really?
Film Courage: This is so….I have chills right now and I was going to talk about that. And I didn’t even know…
Robin Riker: Wow! So when I said the word “Dorothy” you went like [imitates deep breath] like that.
Film Courage: Yeah…it just hit me. I have chills right now.
Robin Riker: Well that was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made and boy did it change me.
Film Courage: I remember seeing the movie and…yeah…it’s very sad.
Robin Riker: And she was such a lovely girl. She was such a genuinely sweet person, you know?
Film Courage: Yeah…I didn’t know her but…
Robin Riker: She wasn’t a climber. She took advantage of the opportunities that came to her and so she should of and so would we all!
Film Courage: Right. We all would, that’s the thing.
Robin Riker: And oh, that little bitter part of me…I just couldn’t…
Film Courage: Well I think as younger women we’re trained to be competitive in some sense or maybe this town [Los Angeles]…I know we talked about this before.
Robin Riker: The culture of this town.
Film Courage: Right. The culture of this town. So I think (unfortunately) it’s somewhat normal. Being in grade school or whenever you can just remember feeling the same way toward someone and I think being honest enough to talk about it is important. I know Marc Maron is always bashed about his talk for being jealous toward something. I actually think it’s healthy that he’s able to admit that, when I think a lot of people feel it. So you just happened to have an experience that is so powerful. Most situations don’t end up that way. Wow! I was literally going to bring that up.
Robin Riker: Mind melt!
Film Courage: And for anyone who doesn’t know the Dorothy Stratten story, I encourage them to look it up just as a way to…
Robin Riker: As a little primer for what can happen.
Film Courage: And comparing outsides…or other people’s outsides to our insides, especially in this town and we never know.
Robin Riker: And when I said a primer of what can happen, I don’t mean the result of what happened to her. But I just mean what can happen to you when you resent and bear jealousy and envy toward someone who has nothing at all to do with you or your life or your trajectory in this life.
Film Courage: I think as time goes on and we go out for things (whatever our chosen pursuit is) and we don’t get them and we see other people get them, it’s just natural that it’s going to happen and we’re going to feel upset. And I think to cycle through it and to be “Okay, I feel it and now I’m going to let it go now.”
Robin Riker: Exactly, feel it. It’s inhuman not to feel it. We have to feel it. But we don’t have to live in it. I mean feel it, live in it and be disappointed (it’s disappointing). But you live to bat another day, you know?
Film Courage: Wow. Yeah. That’s quite a story. Quite a story. Thank you.
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