Jami Gertz: The Hot Mom and The Painted Turtle
“Being a working mom is not easy. You have to be willing to screw up at every level,” jokes Jami Gertz, actress and a founder of The Painted Turtle, a camp for children with serious illnesses. “I’d read articles about actresses who made it sound so easy to balance it all. I finally realized they were full-of-it!”
Jami makes efforts to keep her sons (ages 14, 11, 7) shielded from the public eye. She says, “As a mom, I always feel I have to protect them. I talk about them because they are the most important things in my life but they are private people. I won’t use them for my own press.”
Still, she says that her boys were excited to join her for the premiere of her current movie “Keeping Up With the Steins”,’ a comedic family film directed by Scott Marshall, whose father, Gary Marshall plays a role. Gertz calls it a nice change from the usual summer blockbusters.
Jami says, “My sons were so excited to be picked up in the limo and be part of everything. I think they are proud of me. They see me doing what I love. They get it.”
Her sons haven’t expressed an interest in following in their mother’s footsteps, though. She says, “We are a regular sports-oriented family. The NBA is much more enticing to them than being in show business. They’d rather play for the Lakers.”
Jami believes her sons being witness to her husband’s career in finance versus the instability of her showbiz career dissuades them from romanticizing the Entertainment industry. “They see a work ethic in both of us. But, they also see that my husband is more in control of his future, and I am more reliant on other sources for my career.”
Another meaningful element in Jami’s life is her involvement with The Painted Turtle. The idea came up while she was talking with her good friend, Page Adler. “Page and I knew each other from Chicago. We had our first children a few months apart. And, we had both been campers. Midwest kids got to summer camp. There is something very special about being away from your parents for the first time, sleeping under the stars, hiking and canoeing.”
“It took $19 million to build The Painted Turtle. We have a good hospital called the “Well Shell.” The kids are taken care of by world-class doctors. We can do dialysis. And, usually someone is around playing banjo.”
Jami says that each week features a particular disease, explaining, “The kids don’t feel as isolated because they have a shared experience. They are all in the same boat. Every summer, we take the sickest kids first.”
Family Camp Weekends are when parents and siblings can come. Jami explains that often the �well’ kid in a family feels left out because the sick kid gets all the attention. On family weekends, the whole family can come. She says, “The great medical facilities are a relief for the parents, too, who don’t have to think about caring for their young ones on their own for a weekend. They have a great time.”
The Painted Turtle raises $4 million per year to keep going. The money comes from friends, businesses, private donations and fund-raising events. Jami says that she personally sends out mailers imploring people to “send a kid to camp for a month.” It takes $1500 for one camper.
Gertz says she is impressed with the generosity of people in the US, gushing, “We are so lucky Americans are impressive with what they’re willing to give. We get bashed too much. And, so many young people in this country give so much. They’re not all gang bangers. Each summer we also have wonderful young people who dedicate themselves to being counselors.”
Jami defines Hot Mom status this way: “Being a Hot Mom means being respected as a mom and a woman. And, the key to being a Hot Mom is having a sense of humor about yourself and all the crazy situations that arise. If you can laugh, you can get through it. In our house, we laugh a lot. I also think a Hot Mom is someone who can connect with what’s current in her kids’ world. I love music and I love to dance. My son will call me over to show me a song because he thinks I’ll like it. Of course, before I can be their friend, I have to be their mom. But I can still know who Deathcab For Cutie is!”
With her current movie gaining popularity, she is not resting on her laurels. Jami says she is “looking for the next gig” but emphasizes that she is not obsessed with work. She says her career has had staying power because she accepts roles solely if she likes the character. Ultimately, though, her advice is practical. “If you can feed your family, give them an education, then you are a success.”
For more information on The Painted Turtle, go to: thepaintedturtle or call 310-451-1353.
Interview by Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, HMC Editor