Born to Kentucky royalty, granddaughter of the two-time governor, US Senator, and baseball commissioner “Happy” Chandler, who put Jackie Robinson in the big leagues, Erin Chandler’s life promised an idyllic childhood.
Her aunt was an actress. Her family was larger than life and some of the personalities that sprinkled fairy dust across this Camelot included Robert Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis to name but a few.
Erin is an award winning film, TV and stage actress; she is also a writer, producer, director, teacher and publisher. But her life has been tinged with sadness and heartache.
When her father, Dan Chandler, divorced her beautiful, genteel mother, Lynn, moving to Miami, Lake Tahoe and then Las Vegas, life changed for both Erin and her big brother, Chan. Their father’s life was exciting and sparkled with celebrities. He spent much of his career as a casino executive, the king of Caesar’s Palace. For Erin and Chan, the life split between the ordinary with their mother and the extraordinary with their father exacerbated the constant shadow of mental illness and addiction that revolved around her idolized and adored brother, Chan.
“It did seem I was always at an airport with a note safety pinned on me, showing someone which direction to head me toward. I grew to love the freedom and anonymity of airports but I never felt grounded after my parents split up.” The divorce led to life a lived between parental locations. She and Chan were “Constantly jerking back and forth, from interesting celebrities and powerful figures to the people in Lubbock, Texas who I grew up with during the school years from fifth grade until I graduated high school living with my mother and stepfather. I was a popular summer vacation buddy because it was Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, Caesar’s Palace limos, glamorous dinners and dinner companions and free room service that in high school often consisted of ten Mai Thai’s. It was the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, unsupervised and nobody was telling on anybody… except the occasional incarceration!”
Chandler’s beloved brother fought great emotional swings as well as alcohol and drug addictions and died shockingly in an accidental suicide after shooting himself with a gun he’d been shooting around wildly all day and was assumed by his girlfriend to be empty. This tragedy broke the heart of this great southern family and deeply impacted Erin. Reflecting upon this she shares, “It is a tragic circumstance to watch someone or be someone who is constantly dimming their light and true selves with drugs or alcohol, I wish God had left that part out.”
“As an adult, I am just beginning to feel truly grounded at fifty-three years old now that I am back in Kentucky and living a few blocks from my childhood home. I had decades of happiness in adulthood in Los Angeles and North Carolina but never this current peaceful feeling of being grounded.” Chandler explains how writing this book was, “Absolutely… cathartic. I was able to let go of the weight I was carrying from everything I experienced, I got it out of my body and down on paper. The most important thing in writing this was to share the lives of my father and brother. They were extraordinary people, complicated, kind and beyond generous, they lived life on the edge and had big giant lives and literally defined mine until the day they died. They were such huge figures in positive and negative ways for me and there was no room to truly become the woman I am today with them insisting in deafening terms who I was supposed to be.”
Chandler holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University and a Masters in Theatre from UK. Her play June Bug Versus Hurricane was produced at the Lost Studio in Los Angeles. Erin’s work as a stage actress and producer garnered honors such as Best Actress Dramalogue Award for David Rabe’s In the Boom Boom Room. Accolades for film include “Best Ensemble” and “Best Script” – Los Angeles Independent Film Fest for Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel. Other film and TV credits include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Net, Dead Husbands and Chicago Hope. Erin lives in Kentucky, is a professor at BCTC, and teaches playwriting at the Carnegie Center in Lexington. She has recently opened a bookshop in Versailles, Kentucky called Rabbit House Books & Notions where she sells used and new books, holds Writing Workshops and classes.
Chandler’s life reads like a movie and she shares it at the June 27 Weymouth Center Writer-in-Residence Reading, Wednesday, June 27 at 5:30 pm in the Great Room.
The light wine and cheese reception is sponsored by St. Joseph of the Pines. Books will be available for sale by The Country Bookshop. This event is free and open to the public. Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and home to the NC Literary Hall of Fame.