Growing up in an upper-middle-class family, Valerie Bertinelli told the press she had "a charmed life." In the TV world, America watched Valerie Bertinelli grown from teenager into a woman on 'One Day At A Time' (1975-1984), the sitcom developed by Norman Lear. "About the fourth year (1978-79), that's when I started getting really good. I've decided to never say never when it comes to my career. Nothing in my career has been planned. Things just happen to come along. I’ve been very lucky. I'll say this (in 1985): if I did do another series, it would be a half-hour comedy on film, not videotape." 

The daughter of a General Motors executive who had to move around the country - from Michigan to Oklahoma, Delaware to Van Nuys in California, Valerie Bertinelli believed she made it in Hollywood because "I think one reason is that I started later than most of them. I was about 11 when I began acting and didn't get on 'One Day' until I was 15, so I was never really a little, cute and precious kid for the audience. I also was fortunate in the kind of roles I took after 'One Day' – and I thank my manager for that. He really guided my career very well." 

In 1981, Valerie Bertinelli played a rich woman who had trouble with reading and writing in the TV movie, 'The Princess and the Cabbie'. Robert Desiderio (who appeared on 'Knots Landing' in the 1988-89 season) played a self-taught cab driver trying to educate her. However her father opposed the arrangement and wanted to hide her away by smothering her with luxuries then marry her off to the son of a friend. 

Written by Edward Pomerantz and directed by Glenn Jordan, Valerie Bertinelli said at the time, "I like it because it was such a nice throwback to the '40s. It's really a nice love story that deals with something that hasn't been dealt with on television – dyslexia. It has no bedroom scenes. It's a classy little film. Finally, a movie without love in the title." 

In 1982, Valerie Bertinelli starred in 'I Was A Mail Order Bride'. It was her fourth TV movie, but her first co-production at CBS through her own company, Tuxedo Ltd. Directed by Marvin Chomsky, Valerie Bertinelli played bachelor girl, Kate Tosconi, a Chicago feature writer. Kate was on an investigative reporting assignment to find out about the men who sought marriage by Federal Express. To do the story, she advertised herself as a bridal candidate in a mail-order-bride magazine. 

Ted Wass played a recently divorced Los Angeles lawyer replying to the ad. Associated Press noted, "It was almost as if scriptwriter Stephen Vito didn't know how to finish the film, so he chose a nonsensical legal proceeding and then a cliché-ridden train scene that would have worked only in a men's cologne ad. At least Cary Grant's movies – see 'I was A Male War Bride' (1949) – satisfied in the end." 

In 1984, Valerie Bertinelli played a nun in love with a priest and decided to leave the covent in the TV movie, 'Shattered Vows'. The movie was based on Mary Gilligan Wong's book, 'Nun: A Personal Memoir'. Mary Gilligan Wong made known, "I told Valerie that of 10 nuns she might have had in school, four would have left the order, three would be supportive, two would have died and one would object. They are really period pieces (the book and the TV movie) about an era that will never be again. 

"I disguised the order as the Sisters of Blessing. It was really the Sisters of Providence in Indiana. I was there (from 1961 to 1968) to see the end of the old training and the beginning of the new ways after Vatican II. I entered the convent at 18 with 66 other girls. However, I had gone to a preparatory high school at 14. Only nine of those who went in when I did are still in the order (in 1984). 

"Once we leave, we don't want to feel nunny. We tend to not talk about our experience. We'd been so cloistered for so long, we didn't know how to do things. In dealing with others, we lived in fear of revealing our past because we didn't know how they might react. The movie is a coming-to-terms story, a coming-of-age story. It is much broader than just a nun's story. I came to realize God doesn't want your guilt; God doesn't want you here unless you are willing to be here." 

For the part, Valerie Bertinelli voiced, "All I did was think back on my childhood and talk to Mary to prepare for this role." Once Valerie decided to do the TV movie, she took Mary to a concert in San Diego. "When Mary came back stage after the concert with a can of beer and bummed a cigarette, Edward (Van Halen) knocked me on the shoulder and said, 'You're not going to have any trouble playing this part.'" 

In 1985, then 25, Valerie Bertinelli played a woman who witnessed her brother-in-law participated in a gang rape but was pressured by her husband and in-laws to stay silent in order to protect the family. 'Silent Witness' was produced by Robert Greenwald who also produced the TV movie, 'The Burning Bed' starring Farrah Fawcett. "Yes, one of the reasons I took this was because it was such a challenge and a stretch."

Valerie made the point, "I have nothing in my life to relate to this, so I really had to work at creating a character. And she grows. By seeing such a terrible crime happen and by making all the wrong decisions, she finally gets to the right decision and sticks by it. She decides to stop being a victim. By the end of the film, she's definitely standing up for what she believes is right. Even faced with her husband leaving, she stands by her decision. I just couldn’t turn it down. It was so well-written. Believe me, scripts like this don't come along that often." 

In 1989, Valerie Bertinelli starred in 'Taken Away', a TV movie co-produced by Marlo Thomas. "Marlo called me and said it was important to do this. I cried my eyes out when I was done with it. I'd never been affected that much ... I said, 'I can't do this (role). I'm not emotionally ready.' They had to convince me. There's no decent day care for working people. These women are not bad mothers. They're doing the best they can. 

"This woman I play – Stephanie Monroe – represents so many other women in similar circumstances, that it's frightening. For me, looking in from the outside, it's shocking that these things happen. For the Stephanies in our country who experience it, it's a nightmare. That's why I'm glad to talk about the film – not just because it's something I've done as an actress – but because it's something people should see to realize what is happening in this country to so many women and to so many children. 

"What follows is an unbelievable, but not uncommon, string of events. Stephanie can’t see her child. Her daughter is placed in protective custody, Stephanie could lose her. And, basically, it’s all because she’s poor, one of the many working poor single mothers in our country. But what happens in real life is where you find the real drama, something a lot of working mothers know very well. 

"Many of them who will watch this movie have already experienced something like this, and others probably feel that they can be next. But none of this should happen to anyone … If you take a child out of his or her home when nothing is wrong, you may well be creating an abusive situation that didn't exist before. There may be abuse in the foster home or in the shelter or juvenile hall. Of course, most foster parents are fine people and most shelters are run well. 

"However, even in those instances – if a child from a loving, non-abusive home is put into one of these places, the emotional shock itself would be a cruel experience to go through. Oh, Lord ... I would hope that the film lets people know that we need legislation to provide good child care, for one. I'd also like people to be aware that everything ultimate falls on the poor. Whatever problems we have in the country, the poor have the worst of it and usualy get little, if any help. Particularly poor women. 

"We have to stop finger-pointing – telling women that it's their fault that things go wrong in their families or that they should somehow do better with the little they have. Most of these women are working and trying to stay off welfare and raise their children. The least we can do is give the children decent care while they’re at work. Because she was poor (she doesn’t have the choice of deciding very much about her own life). The poor usually have to live with choices made for them." 

'The Tribune' 1989: What about critics of the system who say everything would be fine if these women just stayed home and took care of their children the way they did in the old days?

Valerie Bertinelli: Because they can't afford to stay home. I don't want this to sound as if it were men-bashing or anything, but the fact is, it's the men who left them with the children and they have to make the best of it with very little help from anyone.

Valerie also told the press the pressures on various counseling services such as planned parenthood "to which many of these women go because they need advice about family planning" was counterproductive. "Women need information so that they can make informed choices about having children or not having children. Also, we can’t forget that many of these people are children themselves; we have a country in which children have children.

"If you can't personally support these institutions, at least let those women who feel they need their services feel free to go to them. I'm sorry if I sounded so, well, all burned up about things. But there's so much we can do as a society to help people and all we seem to want to do is, as I said before, point fingers. Isn't it time we started making some changes?

"Ideally, in the home. But if that's not possible, then in the school. None of us would be anywhere without good teachers and it's a shame that we don't recognize that fact and pay teachers so that we get the best and the brightest people to come into the profession. After all, these are the people who can determine what kind of future our children will have, and through our children, what kind of future our country will have."

Of her role on 'One Day At A Time', Valerie Bertinelli stated, "I think Barbara is 85-90% me. I was only 15 when I started the show and I wasn't doing character work, so I played me. So she is very much like me. It's a very realistic view of growing up, very true to life. I think everything is really there. I took the classes (drama lessons) at first just to overcome my shyness. Then I thought it would be fun to see myself on TV by doing just one commercial. So I did a commercial and it was fun.

"But my parents didn't want me to become an actress. They had heard all the stories about sex and booze and drugs in Hollywood. And I agred with them. I was only 12 and didn't want to be a part of all the terrible things I heard. Once you've seen yourself on the screen, the acting bug bites you and I went to an interview for a role in the pilot of a new TV situation comedy series. I'd never acted before in my life. They called me back for four interviews.

"On the final one I was told to wait in an outer office with three other girls. Then the secretary came out and asked the other three to leave. I was flabbergasted. I guess they cast me because I was bright and cheerful and cute and tomboyish. A lot of the things I'd heard are true. I've seen and heard some things that are really scary and awful. Some of them really happen in this town and in this business. But not to me. I have my own type of sophistication.

"It may not be the glamorous kind of Hollywood polish. But I don't play the dumb brunette either, I go my own way and lead my own life. Some people may think I'm square, but that doesn't bother me at all. I have to live with myself and my own standards. I'm not saying they're better or worse than anyone else's. So far, I've never come across any man with a casting couch. If I did, I'd slap his face. Anyhow, I've never been desperate for a job because I never had to support myself."

At 17, "I have a long way to go. I know that. But I'm happy working in a series. It's a fabulous learning experience for me. And it's an easy way to grow up in this town, learning to take care of myself and looking forward to being independent. When I talk about wanting to be more independent, my dad tells me I'm 17 going on 30 – but doesn't every dad say that about his daughter?

"Actually I am pretty independent because I like taking care of things myself, such as my car payments, insurance bills, charge card statements and balancing my checkbook. I like being able to take care of my money and know where its going. As long as I have the money, my dad thinks it's a good investment for me to buy a new car every year."

In 1977, Valerie Bertinelli finished her junior year of high school. By attending classes with non-professional students, "is what bring me back down to earth. I'm pretty level-headed for my age because I have responsibilities of work, but I still am only 17 and I'm a completely normal teenager. I can be silly at times, a little obnoxious, too. I haven't been to many show business parties and the few times I have, I've felt terribly young being surrounded by older people. I don't drink and don't think it's very attractive when teenage girls smoke. I like being 17 (in 1977), I don't want to grow up too fast. I'm taking life one year at a time."

As a strict Roman Catholic, Valerie Bertinelli reportedly subscribed to Debby Boone's philosophy of celibacy before marriage. "I live at home with my mother and father and the things I object to (drinking - except 7-Up, smoking, swearing, fooling around) haven't affected me. I have my own friends who think the way I do. I don't try to please anybody by going along with some of the things they do. But I have had a really normal life for the person I am and for the life I am living."

At 21 looking back, "Talk about blossoming in front of so many millions of people! This is growing up, that's all it is. You know there's a big difference between 15 and 21. There's a lot of growing up that goes on there. Of course, some parts haven't grown yet, and I wonder if they ever will." Some 400 college students voted for Valerie's character to remain a virgin at the age of 19.

"No, no, (it's not surprising) because it's nice to have someone to look up to, you know, to say, 'Well, I don't want to do it, she doesn't do it, so I can not do it, too.' Sure it's realistic. There's lots of 20-year-olds who haven't. I haven't (although she was going out with guitarist Eddie Van Halen at the time). I'm still a virgin (until she married at 21 in April 1981) - oh, don't put that down. I'm just going to make a fool of myself.

"I went up for 'The Blue Lagoon' but I didn't want to do that because of the nudity. I don't do nudity. I'm too much of a private person to let that much go as an actress. I hope films are moving back the other way. I will never do a nude role. Basically, I'm a shy person. Anyway, what's nudity needed for? Look at all the classic movies, like 'Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Gone With The Wind' that did fine without it.

"You know, all I can think about is how I totally lucked out with this job and the good money I get that lets me buy the things I want. It's just so nice to be starting off this young (then age 17). It doesn't bother me when I'm asked for my autograph or when people ask me questions. I try not to be rude or conceited because I hate to put down the people I'm trying to entertain. You know, though, whenever I get fan mail I wonder, 'Why are they writing me? Why me?' Because I don't feel like anybody. I'm just Valerie Bertinelli."

In 2008, then 47, Valerie Bertinelli released her autobiography, "I don't throw anybody under the bus here. The one I'm hardest on is me, and I wanted to make that clear to Ed (Van Halen). I said, 'It's not about hurting you or hurting anybody else.'" In the book Valerie Bertinelli discussed losing her virginity at 16, shared a lesbian kiss, cocaine use and infidelity.   

'USA Today': You write about placing more blame on one of your ex-husband's other women than you did on him. Why the double standard? 

Valerie Bertinelli: To this day, I really am much more angry at her than I ever would be at him. I don't mean that all men can't (be faithful), but a lot of them can't. There are a lot of great men out there; I happen to be with one right now (Tom Vitale). I just think as women, we need to stick together, and we don't need to be (sleeping with) another woman's man. I'd been to this woman's house pregnant. There's nothing more wrong. 

'USA Today': Now that (son) Wolfie (turned 17 in 2008) is playing with Van Halen, are you worried about him falling down the same addictive path as his dad? 

Valerie Bertinelli: Actually, I think quite the opposite has happened. He has seen what it has done to his father, and he knows what his father's like when he's not drinking. He knows how drugs and alcohol change his personality so dramatically, so that has been a helpful tool. Along with my words, actions have a poweful impact.

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