Jane Summer with Lancelot.

Some people drop names to impress you. Others can’t help it.

Jane Summer, 73, unconsciously drops names like Clint Eastwood and Janeane Garofalo. When you grow up in a company town, and the “company” is the film and television industry, you can’t help it.

Summer started her career, after only six months of college, at Creative Management Associates, working with producers like Barry Diller and Leonard Goldberg. She went on to read scripts for well-known agent Mike Medavoy, who had become vice president of motion pictures for CMA, and she subsequently met film greats like director/writer Michelangelo Antonioni, and stars like Donald Sutherland and Rosie Grier.

Born in Providence, R.I., Summer was raised in Beverly Hills from the age of 2, along with her older sister.

“We moved to Doheny Drive,” she says, “right around the corner from Chasen’s,” then a famous Beverly Hills restaurant. “My dad used to play cards with Dave Chasen. I remember back in those days, we could buy a pickle for 5 cents at the deli on Beverly Drive, and ride our bikes to school. The milkman and the vegetable man would come around, and of course there was the Helms Bakery bread truck.

“It was a different time and a charming place to grow up. You saw stars and others on the streets and in the restaurants. When you grow up there, you know people in the industry. It wasn’t a big deal, just part of the hometown experience

“My mom was very beautiful and talented. She was an actor and ballerina whose father ran a carnival. My dad was from an upper-class wealthy family that didn’t approve. My dad had a furniture store, and then he bought a Cadillac car lot. I remember when he got a 1954 turquoise El Dorado with a leather top and seats! We belonged to the Sand and Sea Club in Santa Monica, the only beach club which would accept Jews at that time.

“My family fell apart when I was 8, but throughout all the drama and trauma, he never walked away. My dad had a great sense of humor. I learned about perseverance from him.”

From the ages of 11 to 16, Summer lived at Vista Del Mar, a Jewish agency that provides residential care and education, along with other services. “I had good influences there,” says Summer. “I may not have been privileged, but I grew up in a privileged environment, which saved me and sent me on my way. It was definitely an interesting part of my life.”

Summer moved back in with her father from ages 16 to 18—and then was on her own. She left the talent agency when it merged with another company and became ICM.

“I had a great friend who worked for (agent and producer) Freddie Fields. She then went to work for the Cousteau family, and I ended up taking her job as Philippe Cousteau’s assistant—setting up productions, helping the crew get equipment, and things like housesitting. When they moved their headquarters, since I had been doing writing, I had a friend who introduced me to Los Angeles Magazine, and from there, I went to Playboy Magazine, where I worked as an assistant story editor. The story editor then was Mimi Roth, whose son, Eric, wrote (the screenplay for) Forrest Gump.

“When Playboy closed its Los Angeles offices, I met someone who worked for the Smothers Brothers. I just had beginner’s luck. After 10 years of doing public relations, I went out on my own, because it turned out I was good at creating a story and selling it for media coverage. I worked with restaurants—and the irony is I don’t cook at all.

“I’d had a short marriage earlier that I left at 40 with a dog and a bed. Around that same time, I met my husband, Bruce, who was a restaurant reviewer. His wife had died, and I asked him, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ He said, ‘Yes, you can come out to Malibu and walk my dog. He’s very lonely.’ I drove out on a Sunday, and it turned out we knew so many people in common. Bruce and I were married for 12 years. He died in 2006.”

By 2011, Summer’s business had diminished as a result of social media.

“I’m basically very introverted. I had to be extroverted in my business, but I didn’t want to be constantly ‘out there’ anymore,” she says. “I started working when I was 13, after school, and I’ve always worked, no matter what was going on in my life. It’s just that I began to realize I wanted to change my life.”

In 2014, Summer relocated to Palm Springs for two years before settling in Palm Desert.

“My friend was going to school (here in the valley) and told me I could possibly get a scholarship,” she says. “I’ve been attending College of the Desert part-time working toward a liberal-arts degree, focusing on things like creative writing, theater arts, the history of jazz and art classes. This semester, I may take some time off. I don’t necessarily want to stay in school and complete a degree, but I know it’s good for me, and it’s always bothered me that I never finished school.

“Sometimes, I think maybe it’s time to go back to work. I do take care of dogs for people; I call my place Casa Dog Mom. And, of course, there’s my (dog) Lancelot. I’d like to get more involved in politics, with everything that’s going on. I just know I’m not finished yet.”

Summer has traveled to London, Paris, Canada and Mexico, and all around the United States. If money wasn’t an issue, she says, she would want to go everywhere.

“I speak some French, and would love to live in Paris,” she says. “I want to see Spain and Italy, and it would be great to be able to take an around-the-world cruise. I really regret that based on how I grew up, I’ve always been somewhat fearful.”

What is something people would be surprised to know about her?

“I love to sing,” Summer says, with her face lighting up. “I’m really good at it. I took voice classes, and this is what I should have done my whole life—be a chanteuse. One day, maybe I’ll muster up the courage.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at Anita@LovableLiberal.com. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

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Anita Rufus

Anita Rufus is an award-winning columnist and talk radio host, known as “The Lovable Liberal.” She has a law degree, a master’s in education, and was a business executive before committing herself...