By Tony Cagala
DEL MAR — She’s impersonated a 20th century San Francisco madam, produced and cast films, modeled for greeting cards, was a massage therapist, a hypnotherapist — and that’s only just the beginning.
“I’m not sure what it is, or where it started, but I feel life is like a highway under construction,” Jacquie Schmall said. “We get up in the morning and we come down this little highway, its familiar, and suddenly there’s an off ramp. Oh, I wonder where it goes.
“Some people would say, ‘Eh, I’m busy, that’s OK, my highway’s fine.’ I go to every off ramp. I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I learn how to garden, or I learn how to paint, or I learn how to act. And I keep going on the off ramps…And here I am, and I keep starting things.”
Schmall has a self-described eccentric background. She came to California from Connecticut when she was 53 after seeing an open door, leading to choices that she had never had before.
“I was brought up as an only-child to be neat, to be clean; and I got married and had kids and never really evolved. And then I came to California and I met all the hippies and all the guys left over from Haight-Ashbury.”
During her time in Northern California, she discovered Sally Stanford, a San Francisco madam in the 1900s who later became mayor of Sausalito. Schmall began impersonating the sharp-tongued Stanford, appearing in parades and private parties. Schmall said Standford became a hero of hers because of her strong personality.
“She was eccentric and colorful, and today most of us don’t want to do that,” Schmall said.
Schmall has also modeled for a series of greeting cards called, “Oh Jackie!” which was later turned into a book called, “Who’s Counting? Jackie’s Guide to Staying Young and Having Fun.” She got her start modeling after appearing in a credit card ad.
Schmall, who turned 78 on July 20, has been living in Del Mar for a year. One of her artwork designs will be featured as the cover of a book of poetry called, “Deeper into the pond,” the result of a contest she entered and won.
She produces artwork using what she’s termed “rainbow geometry,” which she describes as the light that bounces off of all of us and produces an emotional response. Her artwork has been featured in Crepes and Corks.
She said she could go around painting pictures of trees and ducks and things, but instead opts to explore the imagination, helping to expose the joy out of the ordinary.
“I love the idea of helping people to see their own lives,” she said. “Especially children, they’re wide-open to try things, and the fact that they should be seen and not heard, I think, is way out of date. I think children should be heard, because they see things…in such a pretty way. They’re such a joy to be with — they can be annoying on the other end of things, for sure.”
A people observer, Schmall said that the art of conversation is dwindling, too.
Conversation is not about talking, conversation is about listening,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of loneliness in this country; I think the computers and technology have made us feel isolated. I think Facebook is not the answer; I’ve got 101 friends on Facebook — I don’t even know more than 20 of them.”
She was frightened one day when she “Googled” her name and saw how many pages there were with her name on them.
“I’m afraid to write anything. Why does it do that?”
While Schmall does enjoy her free time in Del Mar, she is still looking to participate within community.
“I think the average person may look at only young people, and I think that’s a mistake. I think there’s some of us, may not be young, but we are still able to extend the skills that are needed at the time,” she said.
But for the time being, Schmall said she is enjoying the highway she’s on just now. More information may be found on her Facebook page or on her blog at http://jacquie-pleasecallmelater.blogspot.com/2011/06/paintings-by-jacquie.html.
By Tony Cagala