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
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
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
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
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
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