About Jane Bay

A Story about Life, Death, and Rebirth

A Journey to the Roof of the World


Forget geography, Florida is not the South. But with a mama from North Carolina and a daddy who hailed from Georgia, I grew up thinking I was a Southern belle.

My mother's people were cotton and tobacco farmers based not far from Raleigh where I spent most of the summers of my childhood. My daddy never graduated from high school. At the age of seventeen, he took a job as a soda jerk at a Rexall drugstore in a small town in central Florida where I was born at the onset of the Second World War. By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Daddy owned the store and was practicing pharmacology.

Not long after my thirteenth birthday, and several years before his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, I met Elvis Presley while he was touring in Florida with the Grand Ole Opry. I got hooked on rock ‘n roll, and my life was changed forever.

My high school years were dedicated to being popular. I was an editor on the school newspaper, a cheerleader, president of my high school sorority, won almost every popularity contest my Senior year, and was voted the girl most likely to end up in Hollywood. I went to college with the specific intention of getting my Mrs. degree, but got caught up in the civil rights movement in the early 60's, dropped out of college, and moved to California where I immediately joined the ACLU, much to the chagrin of my parents.

I took a job as a secretary at NBC in Burbank where I was working when President Kennedy was assassinated. A few years later, I landed a job working for the head of Columbia Pictures studio in Hollywood. I was at Columbia during the heyday of such films as Easy Rider, The Manchurian Candidate, and A Man For All Seasons, and got the equivalent of a Ph.D. in filmmaking. The prophecy from high school had come true after all.

I was working at Columbia when Martin Luther King and then Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Not long after, I became actively involved in the anti-war movement protesting America’s involvement in Vietnam. The age of innocence was over.

Following the Democratic Convention in 1968, I moonlighted with Jerry Brown at the beginning of his political career when he ran for the Junior College Board in LA. The following year, I left the film industry to manage his statewide campaign office when he ran for Secretary of State, and worked on his subsequent campaign for Governor in 1974. Not wanting to work in government, however, I returned to show biz.

I had met Frank Pierson, writer-producer-director (who wrote Cool Hand Luke and Cat Ballou; wrote and directed Dog Day Afternoon) when I was working at Columbia, and hitched up with him as a production assistant on an ill-fated but absolutely wonderful and wacky TV series starring James Garner (pre-Rockford Files) as a non-violent anti-gun Sheriff in the Southwest.

I had also become involved in the Women’s Movement, and organized “Women’s Consciousness Raising” groups, inspired by Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, while still working in Hollywood. Yet, after several years of disappointing assignments as a story editor for one movie producer and office manager for another, I became disheartened with opportunities for women in the film industry. I also felt that women were taking on the worst qualities of masculine aggressive behavior to break through the glass ceiling, and I just didn’t have the stomach for it.

During the summer of 1977, shortly after the first Star Wars movie was released, I took off for New Mexico to rethink my career path high up in the Sangre de Christo Mountains. I fell in love with the Land of Enchantment but found no viable means of earning a living there, and reluctantly returned to California not knowing what the future would hold.

Serendipitously, I called my friend, Tom Pollock, who was George Lucas’ attorney at the time. (Tom and I had gone to the Academy Awards the year American Graffiti was nominated and I met George briefly that night). Tom mentioned he had recently talked to George who was looking for someone to help him set up and manage his office in Marin County, California.

A few days later I met with George at a small office he had at Universal Studios. He asked if I would be happy working in a small town in Northern California, away from all the drama of Hollywood, not knowing that I was already planning to leave all of that behind. Much to my surprise, George hired me on the spot, and I moved to San Anselmo a few weeks later. Over twenty-nine years later, I still wake up in the morning excited about going to work.

In 1978, the Dalai Lama arrived in the U.S. for the first time, and happened to come to the Seminary in San Anselmo, very near my office. I was almost crushed among the crowd of people who went to see him, but that moment of being in the presence of His Holiness sparked a flame in my heart that ignited my mind and led to an exploration of Tibetan Buddhism a few years later.

The story of that journey is recounted in my first book PRECIOUS JEWELS OF TIBET – A Journey to the Roof of the World. It was written on weekends during the three years between my first and second visits to Tibet. I had never thought that I would become a writer, and that I would actually get my first book published, but the process of writing PRECIOUS JEWELS was a great catharsis in my life. I found my own voice and the means to express the creative impulse.

In 1991, I was formally introduced to the Dalai Lama at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and subsequently began a study of Tibetan Buddhism, having taken nine teachings from His Holiness in various cities around the U.S. in the intervening years. I have also attended many fundraising events and public talks where the Dalai Lama has spoken.

My new book, LOVE & LOSS – A Story About Life, Death, and Rebirth was born out of grief over the loss of my beloved adopted Tibetan daughter, Namgyal Youdon. It is the story of my relationship with Namgyal and the consequences of her life and death on my life.

For months after Namgyal died, I was unable to talk openly about the sorrow I held in my heart, but I found I could express the depths of my emotions by writing about my experiences. Writing created a safe place, a sanctuary, a container to hold the pain I felt inside.

LOVE & LOSS is written as an “Email Diary,” a book of letters based on emails I sent out shortly after Namgyal died, and the replies I received from dear friends, from Namgyal’s brothers before and after her death, one who is in Tibet and the other in India, and emails that Namgyal and I exchanged during the last two years of her life.

Each chapter begins with my narrative, a story about what was happening at that particular time during the grieving process. Interwoven throughout the book are letters from friends all over the world with words of wisdom and compassion from many different faiths: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sufi, Native American, as well as Buddhist.

When Namgyal died, I could never have imagined that I would be able to come to the end of mourning, celebrating the gifts of grief I had received by loving and losing her.

Jane Bay lives in Marin County, California where she worked with George Lucas at Lucasfilm for thirty-five years. Jane retired from Lucasfilm in October 2012 and is now pursuing her life as a full time writer. She is currently working on a new book, a memoir entitled GROWING UP SOUTHERN – Stories from the Attic of Childhood Memories. Her next book will be an anthology of short stories called The Magic of New Mexico about her experiences on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations, and the Pueblos along the Rio Grande River. Jane is also active in the campaign to save Tibet. www.JaneBay.com

©2006 Jane Bay - All Rights Reserved