In an interview, Bo Derek shared some thoughts on her life and the horse racing industry in general, with
ThoroughbredStyle: Most people were probably first intro-duced to Bo Derek in the movie ‘10’. Do you think of it as your big break?
Bo Derek: It was; I had done two jobs before that, but ‘10’ was definitely to most people my first movie. Before that I had done some modeling and advertisements. My father was a PR advertising man for diﬀerent companies from Kawasaki Motorcycles, Hobie Cat Sailboats, Windsurfers, and things like that. So I was doing some of his modeling. Actually, the whole family did.
TS: What originally prompted you to get into acting?
Bo: It’s funny but it just came to me. I was growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and my mother worked for Ann Margret as a personal assistant, and hairdresser. It was so ‘corny’; I was backstage one night, and an agent friend of Ann Margret’s came in, I think I was 15 or 16 at the time, and he asked if I wanted to be in movies. I said ‘sure’, obviously not knowing what was involved. Th e business just came to me. It’s actually kind of crazy how it all happened.
TS: How did you get the name Bo?
Bo: I just made it up.
TS: Can you tell us your real name?
Bo: Mary Cathleen.
TS: One of your recent television appearances was on The Drew Carey Show. What is he like to work with? He comes across as being pretty easy going, is this true?
Bo: Drew is wonderful, professional, and created a fun set for me to join for a week. We also went on a USO tour together to entertain the troops in South Korea.
TS: Are you still acting, or would you consider yourself retired now and going in a diﬀerent direction?
Bo: Since ‘10’, I’ve worked oﬀ and on, on several successful movies, Tommy Boy for one, and some television, also some movie producing. It just slows down I guess. That is just the nature of the business. When my work slowed down, I kept busy doing a lot of other things. And now the Horse Racing Board definitely keeps me busy. I was recently appointed to the Racing Commissioners Board at the same time as television producer and sportswriter, David Israel.
TS: The California Horse Racing Board have a lot on their agenda, correct?
Bo: They do. And I have to hurry and catch up and learn a lot. Every day I get plenty of e-mails, which keeps me up to date. Richard (Chairman Richard Shapiro) is good at keeping me informed. Also press releases and articles in the trade papers have helped bring me up to speed as well.
TS: How often does the Board meet?
Bo: At present once a month.
TS: Do you have any kind of a philosophy or diﬀerent objectives that you’re hoping to accomplish being a Commissioner on the Board?
Bo: First, I love the sport of horse racing. I’m horse crazy. I was born that way. So as I said, I have a lot to learn and I just hope to be able to support this sport and make it better. And I am going to learn as I go along. We have a great Board; I’m certainly not coming in to change anything.
TS: Is appointing people from different lifestyle segments the direction the Board wants to go in?
Bo: When the Governor’s office told me what they were looking for, my initial reaction was I don’t have Thoroughbreds; they are not my area of expertise! But I guess they want a Board that represents everyone, so I would represent the fans probably more than anyone.
TS: Do you know Arnold personally?
Bo: I’ve met him a few times but I don’t know him very well. I love his movies and I love him as a Governor.
TS: Are you voting for McCain in the election?
Bo: I am. I’ve worked with McCain on ‘the Hill’ a little bit on the issue of stopping horse slaughter for human consumption overseas. I’ve worked with him for five years and he’s always been really helpful. I’m not a radical Republican though. I think we are pretty much a country split 45-45, and 10 in the middle. I am very near the middle.
TS: In between the movie ‘10’ and where you are now, what benchmarks would you like people to know about?
Bo: Everyone knows too much about me anyway. I’ve never really even thought about that, what I want people to know about me. I would just prefer they not know anything. That boundary has already been crossed. I seem to not spend enough time at home, with my horses, dogs and my family. I have been working as US Special Envoy of the Secretary of State for Wildlife Trafficking Issues, which keeps me very busy.
TS: What is the object of that?
Bo: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking is huge, second to drugs, and in some studies, it’s bigger than illegal arms trafficking. And you have the same people trafficking endangered wildlife as you do traffic in drugs, arms and even human trafficking. It’s a big problem and being Special Envoy I travel in order to increase awareness and take strides to eliminate the Illegal Wildlife trade. I think the easiest way to bring the numbers down on wildlife trafficking, which ranges anywhere from 10 to 20 billion, would be to try and change and influence peoples personal habits in consuming these products made from endangered wildlife. China is number one in consumption but the US is number two. We want to be able to stop that one really quick. At least bring it down to manageable numbers where some of the species can survive.
TS: That is a very big point for public interest.
Bo: We just did some great Public Service Announcements with Harrison Ford. By using pop culture icons like him, I believe we can certainly influence what people consume.
TS: How can one get more information on the cause?
Bo: You can go to www.wildaid.org. That is a non-government organization that I am on the Board of, that works with the State Department. There are a lot of Public Service Announcements from Asian pop icons and others like Harrison Ford, that I think will have a big impact. I also keep very busy working with disabled veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. I Chair five athletic sporting competitions every year, and they serve as part of the rehabilitation efforts for the disabled vets. We have winter games, summer games, wheelchair games, and actually, these are all bigger than the actual Paralympics, with more competitors.
TS: It sounds like you spend a lot of your time devoting your attention to worthy causes.
Bo: Yes and I don’t really mean to be, and I don’t like the idea of actors/activists, because we generally don’t have the credentials. But when you run into someone at a dinner and you admire the work they are you doing, and they ask, Will you help us? it’s hard to say no. The horse slaughter issue is an example. A friend from DC called me and said, ‘Do you know that American horses are being slaughtered’ and I said, No, that is ridiculous; we don’t use horsemeat in dog food or for anything here anymore. He explained that it’s all being shipped overseas, and the slaughterhouses are all owned by foreign companies, and that it actually costs US taxpayers to inspect these plants. I said that I would get involved and that was five years ago. It’s been a long hard fight.
TS: Who are your closest allies in the cause?
Bo: Virtually all the breed organizations. The Thoroughbred racing industry as a whole have been very supportive. The Quarter horse industry, not at all.
TS: Let’s talk about your Iberian horses. We understand you live on a ranch and breed Iberians?
Bo: Yes, that’s the politically correct way to refer to them. They are Andalusians, from Spain and Lusitanos from Portugal, although the bloodlines are very similar. I take a lot of heat from breeder friends when I lump them together. Actually they were originally bred to fight bulls in the bullrings. They are a very athletic and exciting breed.
TS: Do you breed them for show?
Bo: For my own personal pleasure. I used to breed them to sell but I couldn’t stand the thought of what happens to them, two or three owners down the line. The first time I saw one of my colts, it was in an advertisement in a horse trader newspaper. I was upset instantly; it was a big problem for me. So now I just breed for pleasure and I have a big family with plenty of nieces who are also horse crazy, so I can breed horses, then keep an eye on them. With family, I am pretty well assured that they are going to get the best of care.
TS: How did you get interested in Thoroughbreds then?
Bo: I think Mickey Rooney movies probably, from when I was a little girl. I love the atmosphere surrounding racing and I love the horses, and I have met some really wonderful people in racing.
TS: Do you go out to the track, if so, which ones?
Bo: I do whenever I can. I think Santa Anita is really beautiful and I love Del Mar.
TS: We’ve heard you are interested in Formula One Racing as well?
Bo: Yes, my brother and I enjoy it quite a bit, and I have some girlfriends who enjoy it also. I usually try to go to a couple of races a year.
TS: California has concerns with Steroids, and problems with synthetic tracks, like Santa Anita faced earlier this year. Also, there are concerns with the Standardbred racing and breeding programs. Are these issues going to attract your attention in the future, or will your involvement be with other issues facing the racing industry?
Bo: All of them warrant attention but I think the steroids issue is probably the most serious presently. Just like the human athletics. we have to keep on top of the “doping” issue, and make it a play fair field for everyone. I know some owners who had found out that their trainers were using steroids on their horses for instance, but the trainers had no choice if they wanted to remain competitive. It’s very similar to human athletics.
TS: Does the Commission have a position?
Bo: I’m very proud that my state has taken the lead on this issue and, as of September 4th became steroid free. Milk shaking and all kinds of “doping” are highly regulated, and from what I understand, we have the best testing in the world. I’d like everyone to know, the fans, the bettors, everyone.
TS: In your opinion, what does racing need to do to get back to the glory years? What does racing have to do to bring back the popularity.
Bo: I think many fans have lost faith with sport. It’s difficult to enjoy a day at the races when, in the back of your mind you wonder if there might be doping of the horses or the jockeys might have safety concerns, or the track surfaces might be harmful to the horses and a number of issues we have all been reading about lately. Now that I am on the racing board I can tell you that these problems are all being addressed. I am very optimistic.
TS: How about horse ownership? How do we make horse racing more attractive so that people will want to become owners?
Bo: I hate to sound like a broken record, but when people feel good about the sport again, it’s just a matter of time before the next super horse or brilliant jockey comes along and captures the public’s hearts. The personal stories around horse racing are irresistible and I believe ownership will naturally follow.
TS: What are the similarities between the entertainment industry and horse racing?
Bo: Horse racing is an escape for me so I avoid comparing them.
TS: Do you see any movies in your future?
Bo: Oh sure.
TS: Who is your favorite actor?
Bo: Denzel Washington.
TS: Who is the one individual who influenced you the most in your career or life in general?
Bo: My Husband John Derek.