The Flashback Interview: Kim Hopkins
I was first introduced to Kim Hopkins when I saw her suggested as a Facebook friend. Taken by her beauty, I checked out IMDB, and found myself very fascinated by her work. Kim Hopkins has been working in the entertainment industry since she was a child. Whether working as a model, an actress, or a teacher, Kim has had an amazing life. You may have seen her in movies like Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie and The Hollywood Knights, or as the youngest of The Mighty Carson Art Players on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, but she’s still working it in multiple fields to this day. We spoke on Tuesday, December 17th, 2019, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know her.
Say hello to Kim Hopkins!
Johnny: Hi, Kim. Johnny Caps here, calling for our interview.
Kim: Hi! How are you?
Johnny: I’m doing good. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
Kim: Oh, my pleasure. I’m looking forward to this.
Johnny: Alright. I have my questions ready to go, starting with this: You started out as a model, and you still occasionally model to this day, so who have been your favorite designers to work for, and what have been some of the most outrageous fashions you’ve worn, especially in the 70s and 80s?
Kim: Let’s see. Well, I haven’t actually worked with any major designers, and most of my modeling was swimwear, cosmetics and editorial or fashion in magazines. They used all my body parts individually, and they used them altogether!
Kim: I did do a fashion show in Encino, and it was kind of interesting. I don’t know what you would call it. It was really bizarre. Everything was black and everything was skin-tight. They actually braided my hair around my neck to the front into a necklace and cut my bangs very severely, and we went out to some crazy music. That was probably the most fun I ever had doing that. Also, runway in Japan, the clothing was OUTRAGEOUS.
Johnny: Very cool. Of all the places you’ve modeled, what was your favorite location to go to?
Kim: My favorite location? I’m going to have to go, again, with Japan. We modeled fur coats at Mt. Fuji with bikinis under them. Japan, overall, is just one of my favorite places to be. The people were wonderful. We worked really hard there. We would get picked up at 6:00 in the morning and wouldn’t be home until midnight. They just shuttled us from one job to the next. We were under contract for about $30,000 a month in either ’79 or ’80, so it was a lot of money, but it was a lot of work, and Japan is just amazing.
Johnny: Very cool. When it does come to your modeling, there’s this, if I may be so bold, very sexy picture of you in lingerie posing on a Ferrari. What’s the story behind that shoot?
Kim: (Laughing) Everybody loves that picture! That was Dick Broun who shot that, and it was a shoot for a Ferrari poster. I had done a Malibu Grand Prix poster with him, and he wanted to do a Ferrari poster, so that’s what we shot. That was actually from the proofs he gave to them for it, so we did that, actually, in a friend’s yard with their car. We pitched it to them, and then we actually did the poster.
Johnny: Very cool, and you looked great in it, if I may be so bold.
Kim: (Laughing) Thank you. Yeah. I wasn’t bad-looking when I was 20.
Johnny: I have to ask. What led you to acting?
Kim: I think it was just a natural progression. I was hired for 40 Pounds Of Trouble with Tony Curtis, and I couldn’t cry at the time. I think I wandered around with that script taped to the outside of my suitcase for years as a little girl. Occasionally, they tried to get me to cry. They even asked me, “What if your mommy wasn’t around anymore? Where is she?’. I said, “My mommy’s right there” (laughing). I wasn’t really up for it then, and then I believe The Hollywood Knights was the first film that I actually did. I thought it was a modeling interview, and it turned out it was with Floyd Mutrux, who was the director of the film. He asked me if I could act. I said yes, and I went through the process, and I was hired as one of the original 11 cast members, which was in Variety. When it was edited, though, I didn’t end up with much on screen time in the film (laughing). I had a much bigger role. I even sang a song. I was disappointed at the time, but I got paid and I still get residual checks, so I figured, “What the heck?” (laughing).
Johnny: Alright. Were you able to see your deleted scenes, or do you think they might have been thrown out?
Kim: No, I did see some of them. Floyd actually called me in to editing. He said, “This looks so great. You’re going to be so happy”. He was very excited, but there were a lot of characters in that film. I’m actually still friends with quite a few people from that film, like Stuart Pankin and Sandy Helberg and Dawn Clark. We’re still in touch, so I made some really great lifelong friends on that film. It’s the same thing with Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie. I did more, but I have the edited footage from the Cheech & Chong film, though.
Johnny: Alright. I’ll get to working with Cheech & Chong soon, but first, I did want to ask: You played Young Xaviera in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood. I’ve interviewed several Cannon Films veterans, and opinions on Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus have been mixed to negative, so what was your experience in working with them?
Kim: Well, first, I auditioned for a larger role in that film, and turned it down when I found out Adam West was going to be participating in it because I had grown up watching him as Batman, so I didn’t want to be involved in it, just because of what I read in the script. I got a phone call that said, “Welcome aboard!”, and I said, “Welcome aboard what?”. They said, “The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood”, and I said, “No. I’m actually not working on that”. They said, “No, we switched you to Young Xaviera”. That was fine with me. The director of that film wanted me to have my top off, and I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I was wearing something sheer. I worked with wardrobe because I wasn’t going to be topless, and they actually stopped the set and said I had to take off my top. I said no, and he said, “You’ll never work again in Hollywood”. He said Julie Andrews did it, and I said, “Her husband was directing it”. He brought up Bo Derek, and I said, “Bo Derek (in my opinion at the time) was not an actor. I’m not going to do it”. He basically was going to fire me, but then, for some reason, they didn’t and we finished it. The director himself I wasn’t pleased with, but Cannon Films themselves, I didn’t have a problem with at all. In fact, I did several things for them and I had a great time. Everybody has their own experiences. I haven’t really had bad experiences except for those things, which happened on almost every film I worked on. “You’re topless in the scene”. “No, I’m not!”. “Okay”. It was an issue back then. Other than that, I think every experience I’ve had has been really good. I have nothing bad to say about Cannon Films.
Johnny: Alright. Well, when it comes to The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, it featured roles from several comedy veterans, including Richard Deacon, Edie Adams and the aforementioned Adam West. Did you meet any of them, and if so, what lessons did you learn from them about comedic acting?
Kim: I did meet Adam briefly, but I don’t think I got a chance to actually learn anything from him. Most of my comedic acting I learned from my father and my stepfather. They were both comedians and comedic actors, and working on sets.
Johnny: Alright. To go from The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood to Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, as I’m sure you listened to their albums when you were younger, what was it like to work alongside them?
Kim: Oh, my god. They were amazing. In fact, I just ran into Tommy about a month ago. He is so adorable. They were wonderful. They were into improv back then. In fact, The Groundlings were on the set for the scene I shot with them on the soundstage. Gary Austin, who was the founder of The Groundlings, was in that scene. They were just wonderful. Tommy as a director was a dream, and I told him when I saw him recently that he was one of my favorite directors to work with. He was so actor-friendly, and open to let you do what you wanted to do within what they needed. They were amazing. They were fun. The wrap party was fun. They were really great.
Johnny: Very cool. As you’ve kept in touch with Tommy Chong, and as you yourself would eventually become a director, did he have any advice for you on making that leap?
Kim: No, I actually didn’t discuss that with Tommy. I discussed it with Richard Rush, who did The Stunt Man, and he’s been a mentor for me in my directing and my writing and my acting. I’m actually working with him currently. He helped me on my short film I did, which is going to become a feature film.
Johnny: Alright. I’ll actually be asking more about that film later on…
Johnny: …But staying with acting, you also acted alongside Johnny Carson as probably the youngest of The Mighty Carson Art Players on The Tonight Show, so what was it like to work alongside one of the greatest talk show hosts of all time?
Kim: (Laughing) Oh, Johnny was very funny, and he was also very firm about how he wanted things done. I adored Johnny Carson, and I loved those times working on The Tonight Show. The director, Bobby Quinn, and I became good friends, and I actually dated the person who did my makeup for a while, a really big makeup artist, Bruce Grayson. He does The Oscars and he’s worked with the Clintons. He’s amazing. He told me where my wrinkles would be back then. The Mighty Carson Art Players was probably one of the highlights of my life. It was just amazing working with him.
Johnny: Well, I’m glad it worked out so well. I mean, I was born in 1982, so Carson was off the air by the time I was nine years old, but I’ve caught up with his work, and he was probably…No, not probably, definitely one of the best talk show hosts. I mean, unfortunately, nowadays talk show hosts seem more concentrated on gameplay and shtick than they are on interviewing talents. It’s just kind of disappointing, but it does lead to my next question: Were you ever considered for appearances on the Leno, O’Brien or Fallon Tonight Shows, or did you leave that behind when Johnny did?
Kim: I pretty much left that behind when Johnny was gone. I mean, there were a couple of times when my agent submitted me for a couple of things, but it was just tasteless, I think. Back then, the things I did with Johnny, The Parting Of The Golden Arches, Family Feud with Richard Dawson, they were fun things. They were funny and they were clean (laughing).
Johnny: It’s disappointing. I wish I was able to catch Carson in his prime. Unfortunately, nowadays we have Jimmy Fallon, and to me, basically he’s everything I don’t want to be when it comes to interviewing because he doesn’t really do interviews. He just does shtick. That’s really all he does, and it’s just disappointing.
Kim: I’ve only watched Jimmy Fallon once, and I won’t say I’m not a fan of his, but I didn’t enjoy the show I watched, and I haven’t watched it again. I love Jimmy Kimmel. I just adore Jimmy Kimmel. I think he speaks from his heart, and I think he genuinely interviews people to get information and have fun, and let them have fun, too. It’s not all shtick. I don’t watch Conan O’Brien. If I’m going to stay up late, I’m going to watch something valuable to me.
Johnny: That makes a lot of sense. To stay with you, of course, you’ve spent much of the past several decades teaching acting, still doing so to this day, so what’s been the most rewarding part of teaching?
Kim: I genuinely love helping actors grow their careers. I love watching them get in contact with themselves and understand that tone needs to be real and organic and in the moment. That’s why I call my acting class Live In The Moment, because it’s a hard place to get to, so I just really love watching them get in touch with themselves and their emotions, and bringing their emotions to the character. I also really love watching them at work, so I don’t just teach them acting, and I wouldn’t say I teach them acting. I just help them get in touch with their inner selves and bring that into the character, but I also teach them how to brand themselves and market themselves, and get out there and reach out to directors and producers and casting directors and writers that they want to work with, so they can have the career they want to have, instead of just waiting for something to happen. A lot of times they’ll say, “I need to lose weight” or “I need a different headshot”. I tell them, “No. If you want your dream, you have to pursue it now”, so I’ll hold their hand, and that’s very gratifying to me to see them take those leaps and get their career going. Even if it’s just a play, or one line on a show they really want to be on, it makes me feel so happy and good inside. I just get, really, joy from helping them.
Johnny: That’s fantastic to hear. It’s always good to be able to help people. Speaking of which, I’m on the autism spectrum as I deal with Asperger’s Syndrome. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of help with my social skills, I know there are many on the spectrum who have difficulty with them, so do you think acting lessons can help people on the autism spectrum as a way to learn social skills?
Kim: Absolutely. In fact, right now I have a young man in my class, Abijah, who is 11 years old. His mother, Eupora, is an actress, and I’ll send you the video of the monologue that I wrote for her. Her son is the spectrum, and he said he wanted to act. She asked, “Can I bring him to the class?”, and I said, “Absolutely!”. She brought him into class, and she was afraid he wouldn’t memorize and wouldn’t know what to do, but he really wanted to get up in front. He likes me. He’s cute. I think he has a little crush on me. I said, “Come up here, get in front of the class, and do some acting for me”. He recited an entire Bugs Bunny episode verbatim. He was a little quiet, and I had to ask him to speak up, but all of us were just enthralled by this kid. He was so happy and so proud of himself. He sat down, but then he went back up again, and I said, “Come on up”. I can’t even tell you. It made my heart sing to see him up there, and he wants to come to class every week, so he does come to class, and he gets up and does something every week. As far as acting, yes, I think it can be very helpful. There are Down Syndrome children and adults working in television and film now, and people thought that would never happen. I think it’s really important to get them into any kind of art that can help them open up.
Johnny: That’s a very noble thing, and hearing your story of helping that child really makes me feel good. I mean, I came of age in an era where the teachers really didn’t have any clue about how to deal with autism spectrum disorders, and it was just very disappointing. I’m glad that kids on the spectrum are now able to get the help they need, and I’m glad that there are people like you who are able to provide them with the guidance they need. It’s really a good thing, and I’m thankful for that.
Kim: Well, thank you, but I feel fortunate that I get to be a part of his life. I really do. I mean, when that kid hugs me, there’s nothing better. Have you seen the film A Boy Called Po directed by John Asher?
Johnny: I can’t say I have, but on your recommendation, I’ll track it down.
Kim: He’s a friend of mine, and his son has autism. He directed a beautiful film, and I think you would really enjoy it.
Johnny: I’ll track it down. Thank you for the recommendation.
Kim: I just want to tell a quick story. My son must have been about 10, so it was 1996. There was a casting director named Otto Felix, who is no longer with us, and he called me one day. I have a little bit of an aversion to acting classes myself, but he called me and asked, “Do you want to come to my acting class? It’s Handicapped Artists, Performers And Partners, Inc. (HAPPI)”. I said, “Sure”. He said, “We need some able-bodied people to work with our handicapped artists. I really want to get them working”. I said, “Sure, I’ll come in”. I went in, and it was probably one of the most amazing classes. I stayed in that class for as long as I could. There were quadriplegics, paraplegics, blind people, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, just about anything you could think of, and they were the most incredible people to work with, especially the blind people. There were three blind people in the class. A lot of people think acting is about ego seeing yourself on screen, and they would never be able to see themselves, so for me, that was the purest love of acting. They were all very talented. Unfortunately, Otto died young and the class ended up disbanding, but I dated this man, Tommy Hollenstein, who is now a very well-renowned artist who’d been a quadriplegic for a few years at the time, out of that class. It brought a whole new light for me in appreciating people as they are, and not looking at their disabilities or their abilities. Every month, I offer two handicapped artists and two veterans free class for a month, so they can come in, and if there aren’t two more people, then they can continue on because I think it’s so important for those people to enjoy acting, too.
Johnny: Pardon me for stumbling over my words. I just find that to be very noble and inspiring, and that’s very kind of you because the differently-abled certainly do need all the support they can get. Hearing that is beautiful, and I’m glad that you do it. The late Roger Ebert once said that he viewed the movies as “a machine that generates empathy”. I think the acting is a big part of that, and I find you to be a very empathetic individual.
Kim: Oh, you’re sweet. I mean, I am who I am, and I do it because that’s me, and I love everyone. I mean, I just wish that more people would see things the way I do.
Johnny: The world could certainly use that.
Kim: It’s a tough world. It’s a really tough world these days, and in this business, it’s a lot about looks and age. I think those things are so unimportant.
Johnny: Definitely. To go to my next question: Many of your credits these past two decades have been short films, so what have these short films provided for you that feature-length films have not?
Kim: A lot of the short films that I did were passion projects for friends. I took myself out of the business, acting and modeling, doing television, because I was disappointed. It was a really big problem for me because I was a talented actor and I took it very seriously, and it bothered me a great deal that every time I went to a set or an audition, it was “Take off your top” or “We want to see you naked”. Yes, I had a gorgeous body when I was younger, but that wasn’t what I was selling. I was selling my talent, and so I kept taking myself out of the business and doing other things, hoping that when I came back in five or ten years, being a little older, that they wouldn’t ask for that, but it kept happening, even until, like, 50. There was a film I auditioned for, and it was a great script, but there was this scene where this character, that I was going to play when they offered me the job, was going to have a sexual experience with a guy who was 20 years old. She would get naked, and I said, “I won’t get naked. I have a son and I have a family, and I just don’t want to do that”. They said, “Well, we’ll put you behind glass”, and I said, “NO! I can tell that you really don’t want to see me naked right now, but secondly, I don’t think it’s necessary”. The short films gave me an opportunity to act and help friends out, and do projects that were meaningful to me and to them. That’s really why I did them. I couldn’t tell if mainstream was ready for me, so I just really started focusing on my acting about two or three months ago. I mean, going mainstream, and working on going back into television and film, and doing commercials.
Johnny: Alright. Well, speaking of short films, as mentioned earlier, you have directed and co-written your own short called Animals, which you’re going to work on turning into a feature-length movie, so what’s the story behind that film, and what was your favorite part of creating it?
Kim: The story behind it is that I was originally going to write a scene to create a reel for myself for going back to work acting. When I got involved in writing it, I decided that I was going to make it into a feature film because the story turned out to be so good. I went to New York Film Academy film school. Most of the things I had done had been comedy, and I really wanted something dramatic. Once I got involved in the writing, I decided that a psychological thriller would be more something I was interested in doing. I actually did audition Roberta Bassin, who was in Barfly opposite Mickey Rourke. She came into the room to read for me, and she said, “Kim, I know I shouldn’t say this, but I think that you should do this role”. (Laughing) She auditioned for me, but I think her intuition was correct. I did write it for myself, and I did enjoy her audition, but I wrote it for myself. I originally just wanted to direct it after I got it altogether. The process? All of it was amazing. Producing it, directing it, casting it…I wrote it, I starred in it. It was a lot of hard work to do that short, but it was just passion that drove me through the whole thing, and every single part of it was incredible. I loved it, and I did get three million dollars invested to do the feature film. I’ve got to come up with about three or four million more to do it.
Johnny: Well, break a leg when it comes to that.
Kim: (Laughing) Thank you. Everyone who’s seen it says, “Why’d she do that? What happens next?”. Well, (laughing) you’re going to have to wait for the film to find out.
Johnny: Alright, so to go to my next question: In addition to your entertainment industry work and your modeling, you also work on helping people achieve better health, whether through exercise or dieting. Is that an outgrowth of your work as a model, or was it inspired by something else?
Kim: It wasn’t inspired by modeling or acting. It was just something that I kind of fell into. When I got pregnant with my son, I actually gained quite a bit of weight. I gained 103 pounds, I think, total by the time I had him, but I had gained 40 pounds in about three months, so modeling and acting were out of the question (laughing). I couldn’t really do anything, so I decided I wanted to do something else, and I’ve always enjoyed helping people. I was a candy-striper in middle school, and helped in assisted living homes when I was 14, 15 and 16 years old. I really do enjoy the elderly a lot. I knew that it would be something related to that, so I went to massage school and became a massage therapist, and then I got my certification for personal training and nutrition. I really loved doing massages. I like helping people feel better and helping people get healthy, so I think it was just a natural progression of who I am as a person. I tell every actor I meet, even if they’re an older actor just starting, that you have to have something you’re really passionate about and something you can make money at when you’re not working, because the chances of becoming a huge star at this are not that great. I try to encourage people to do something that they love, and I really love helping people. I really love seeing people feel good, so I think those were just things that were meant to be a part of my life, and still are.
Johnny: Very cool. To go to my next question, relating to keeping in good health, I think you look beautiful to this day, so what do you do to look as great as you do?
Kim: (Laughing) You’re so cute. How very sweet of you. What do I do? Well, I can tell you what my morning routine is. I wake up in the morning, and the first thing I do is I write in a gratitude journal, and then I meditate, and then I go for a 35 minute brisk walk. I then come home and make myself a green smoothie. I do a program called WildFit. It’s started as a 90 day challenge that basically takes everything out of your diet, except for green vegetables and lean meats, but not much of that. I did that for 90 days, and it changed my life and the way I eat, so I have a very super-healthy diet now. It’s recent. It’s only been the last five months, but I’ve always been a workout fanatic. I’ve worked out my whole life, and I think I’m a happy person. I’m just a really, really happy, happy person. (Laughing) People ask, “Why are you always smiling?”. I don’t know because I’m such a happy person, and I think that more than anything, being happy from the inside, makes you look better on the outside. I do appreciate the compliment.
Johnny: Oh, no problem. To go to my next question: To jump back to show business, you also perform stand-up comedy, so who have been your biggest influences as a stand-up?
Kim: (Laughing) Well, Richard Pryor, my dad, George Hopkins, and George Carlin, of course. I love George Carlin. He was amazing. That’s pretty much it. Those are the people I admire. It was a fun thing. My mother brought me a Groupon, and she said, “You’ve never tried stand-up”. I said, “Okay, I’ll go”, so I went to a four-week class, and wrote something about a few days before I actually did The Laugh Factory for the first time. I invited way too many casting directors and producers to come see me, and then I got nervous before I went on (laughing). I also did not to talk to my father before I did this. It was videotaped and it’s actually online somewhere. I sent the video to my father who, at that time, had gone blind from macular degeneration. I wouldn’t say he was the kindest person if you did something he didn’t like, he could be very brash about his response, so I was a little nervous about him hearing what I had done. I sent him the video, he and his wife watched it, and he called me back. I was really nervous, I have to tell you. I was extremely nervous, and he said, “Who knew? You’re my beauty. You’re my model. You’re my actress. You’re funny! Your timing is great! You’re unbelievable. Why didn’t you tell me?”. I was like, “Oh, my god”. I was so excited that my dad was happy with what I did, and that he thought my timing was so great. I was just in heaven, and for the next two years, my dad and I bonded over that. Every time I’ve done stand-up since then, I feel like he’s with me. I love my dad. I’m sad that he’s gone, but I’m glad that I got to enjoy that with him towards the end. He was probably the most influential. I watched him do stand-up my whole life. I mean, he was headlining in Vegas, and I would be way down in the front row, and then I would be backstage with him. I actually met Frank Sinatra and Eartha Kitt. I saw him at The Ice House in Pasadena as a little girl, so it would have to be my dad, I have to say.
Johnny: That’s very cool, and before I go to my final question, I do have to ask: What do you recall about meeting Sinatra?
Kim: Oh, well, he was gorgeous (laughing). I’ve never really been awestruck by anyone. I mean, I was young when I met him, but his eyes were just amazing. He was so kind, and he was just lovely. He was lovely, but he was bigger than life to me. I mean, I heard him singing, and I still listen to Sinatra a lot because I just loved him, so it was a moment in my life I will never forget.
Johnny: That’s fantastic.
Johnny: To go to my final question, it is also related to stand-up. I asked this of adult film star-turned-comedienne Alia Janine when I interviewed her in 2015, so I’d like to ask it of you as well: Have you ever considered crowd-funding an album of your stand-up comedy?
Kim: No (laughing). Nope, never even thought of that. That’s an interesting question. I never thought of that.
Johnny: Well, I do hope it is something you consider. I did see some of your stand-up comedy on YouTube, and you are very funny. I hope that eventually you’ll develop enough material that you can put together an album. I’d definitely buy it.
Kim: Oh, you’re so sweet. Well, you know what? I’m going to think about it now because you brought it up. I know my mom and my dad, or maybe it was my stepdad, did a comedy album. I wonder if I still have that somewhere. I probably do. I’m going to look around, and if I can get that made into a CD, I’ll do that and then I’ll send that along to you, too. I will definitely consider that. That’s a great idea.
Johnny: I’m glad I was able to suggest it. Well, that does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this.
Kim: Thank you so much, Johnny. I really had a great time talking to you.
Johnny: I had a great time talking to you as well. I hope you have a fantastic afternoon and a wonderful holiday season.
Kim: Thank you. You, too. Take care.
Johnny: Likewise. Talk to you soon.
Kim: Okay. Bye bye.
I would again like to thank Kim Hopkins for taking the time out of her schedule to talk to me. For more about her life and work, you can visit her official website, which has links to all of her social media.
Stay tuned to the Flashback Interview as you’ll soon be seeing a second interview with Debra Lamb, whom I first interviewed in 2017. We covered a lot of new ground in this interview, so stay tuned.