A cloud of dust could barely keep up with the rear tires of a blue Camaro.
In the driver’s seat was a teenaged girl, her knuckles white and her eyes fiercely focused on the road ahead. In the backseat was an orphaned, injured calf that she had just saved from being butchered.
Today that big-hearted renegade is recognized as powerhouse Hollywood Producer, Cindy Cowan.
As I stood outside of the gate of Cowan’s Beverly Hills estate, I peered through the palm trees and vibrant plants engulfing the gate and saw an entrance into an energetic force field of an environment.The gate opened and Cowan greeted me. She was wearing a dress and her presence was calm but focused on the day ahead, answering emails and silencing calls from her phone as we got situated.
We sat near an old piano that was a personal gift to her father from Frank Sinatra in the early seventies, overlooking a paradisiacal backyard that looked more like a Tropical Island than anywhere in Los Angeles. In the middle of a virtual forest was a long pool with a glass-like surface; the only ripples followed a single leaf that fell on this brisk day.
“Coming from Florida I’m used to everything being green. When I designed the backyard I wanted myself and others to feel like they’ve been transported.” There is a wonderful ambiance to her home. The design is the epitome of feng shui, which she had professionally done when she moved in.There is also everything from a huge Buddha, which looks down on us from her backyard, a mezuzah on every door, a salt lamp to dispel negative energy, crystals, and even a jade dragon at her entrance. She laughs when we discuss the wide range of items.
“Who knows what works these days so I remain open to everything. I like to believe and surround myself with anything that is inherently good and brings about positive energy. “Cindy Cowan
For those of you who are not familiar with Cindy Cowan, she launched Initial Entertainment Group (IEG) in 1995, which became a leading film production and foreign sales company that garnered Emmy, Golden Globe, and People’s Choice nominations. But the most noteworthy honor was an Oscar nomination for the groundbreaking and revolutionary film “Traffic.” IEG also won the United Nation Award with the movie “Savior,” starring Dennis Quaid, which was produced alongside Oliver Stone during the middle of the war in Serbia.
With a movie based on such risky and true subject matter, it took courageous producers, such as Cowan and Stone to bring the testament to the big screen, and it paid off.
“What was a movie you made in the past that you often reflect on?” I asked.
Without hesitation, Cowan replied, “Definitely ‘Very Bad Things,’ starring Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater, Jon Favreau, Jeremy Piven, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. It was also Peter Berg’s directorial debut. It was a script nobody wanted, but I championed for. No one had seen a movie like that, especially with a first time director, but it struck a nerve with me and I showed up on the Fox lot, met with Peter Berg, convinced him to give it to me, and luckily I had a company that could finance it at the time.” With a chuckle she added, “My partner thought it might bankrupt us, needless to say it didn’t. That film became the basis of many movies to come, such as ‘The Hangover’ and others.”
BEFORE HOLLYWOOD, CA:
Cowan’s parents, Irving and Marge, who was commonly referred to as the “Queen of Florida,” for her exuberant, magnetizing energy and unparalleled ability to throw a party, owned one of the largest hotels in Hollywood, Florida, called, The Diplomat, and attracted a plethora of A-list celebrities who eventually became family friends. Marge and Irv collected Picasso and Chagall’s, bred racehorses, and co-produced a Broadway musical. In memory of her own mother, Marge established the Hattie Friedland School for the Deaf in Israel for youngsters ages 6 to 21 years old. The Jerusalem-based school admits both Jewish and Arab students — some of whom have developmental disabilities — and is considered an educational model in the Middle East. Cowan identifies her mother as her role model for the values, morals, and ability to live life to the fullest. Sadly, Marge passed away in 2009.
When Cowan was a child, it was very important for Irving and Marge to not let her get too caught up in the fast-paced life of the hotel business and to make a name for herself. So they sent her and her sister to Kentucky where she learned to ride horses. It was there that Cindy went on to become one of the youngest world champion horse back riders in American Saddlebred competition, winning her first world champion title at the young age of 10. It was at this young age that people began to see her determination and drive.
“I know you love horses, did you grow up liking all animals?”
Cowan’s face lights up with memories as she shakes her head with a smile.
“My poor father, I used to come home with any animal I thought needed my help. I had a monkey, a racoon, a skunk, bunnies, birds and often came home with any dog or cat I felt might get euthanized from the pound .”
Then there is the notorious story, told by a close friend of hers, of Cindy fighting to save the life of a baby calf once she realized where it was headed. She convinced the man to sell it to her. Without thinking, she put it into the back of her car and drove it to safety, where it eventually led a full life at her barn. When asked if this was true, Cowan’s intense eyes momentarily grew round. “Nothing was getting in the way of me saving that animal from getting killed.”
This sat in the air for a moment.
I saw the girl she was and the woman she is today: still fierce, fair and loving.
After graduating from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, Cowan went back to Florida and got a job at CBS where she started as an intern and worked her way up to assistant producing for a late night CBS news affiliate. A friend of hers, who was a disco diva at the time, asked if she could put lyrics to her songs because she had an album that was about to close. Originally, Cowan declined because she didn’t have formal training. Her friend insisted, noting that she could write copy so quickly at CBS.
Cowan decided to give it a try. As the process began, Cowan was amazed at her natural ability. “For some reason, I had perfect song structure, I knew where the bridge went, where the chorus went, where the melody lines would go, but I never thought anything would happen with those songs.”
Eventually, they were sent to a man she befriended when studying abroad her junior year in London. He worked at Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). She received a call three weeks later on behalf of a producer who worked with artists such as Rick Astley, Bananarama, Jason Donovan and other top talent in the UK. He asked Cowan if they could take those songs and put them on an album for a singer named, Sinitta, who was currently working with an unknown producer named Simon Cowell. That album went on to be in the Top 10 charts for quite some time.