Interpreting 'A Sign From Nature'

May 4, 1998

From their ranch overlooking California's Paradise Cove and Santa Monica Mountains, actor Edward Albert and his English-born wife, Kate, have lost count of the times they have fought the fierce wildfires that annually threaten the homesteads of residents in this picturesque area.

Driven by high winds off the Pacific Ocean, the flames can form 50-foot high walls of fire, capable of engulfing homes in seconds. "It's really become a way of life, and I have set up some very involved fire fighting systems all over the ranch," said Albert during a recent interview at Baylor University. So far, losses at his ranch have been confined to just one storage building, which was destroyed in a 1982 fire.

The son of veteran actor Eddie Albert of "Green Acres" fame, Albert recalled a fire in 1996 when more than 60 homes were destroyed. But he says he and his wife were prepared for the fire after receiving what he terms "a sign from nature."

He said on the day of the fire he was standing quietly in a corner of his 12-acre ranch, marvelling at the beauty of the dawn and offering a silent prayer. "I turned to enjoy the dawn coming up behind me, and there, just a few feet away, motionless in the wind above a ridge was an enormous bird. It was a great white heron, the first I had ever seen there.

"I remember he had little burnt orange eyes and his body was the purest white you can imagine. The whole side of his body facing the sun was bright red. Suddenly, his wings started beating, and -- in my mind -- with every wing beat came the words 'life, death,' 'life, death.' I said, 'OK. Thank you.' It felt like an hour, but we must have faced each other for maybe no longer than 60 seconds, and then he veered off.

"I took that as a warning, and we started preparing to evacuate the animals. The fire didn't start until three and a half hours after that. And by then we had already got the evacuation going. I don't know if it was chance, or luck or me being a weird Malibu type, but -- whatever -- I took it seriously."

Albert, who was recently nominated as California Native American State Commissioner, said, "The Indians would say this was quite normal. You behave and live in a proper way and nature responds. And you're sensitive to that response."

Visiting Baylor to lecture to students in the university's theater department, Albert acted his first film role at the age of 11. He has appeared in numerous television shows such as "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman," "Walker, Texas Ranger," and "Murder She Wrote."

He has acted in more than 50 feature films and numerous television shows and was a series regular in "Falcon Crest" and "Beauty and the Beast" and has a recurring role in the soap opera "Port Charles." He is a past recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press' Golden Globe for Best Actor, the Golden Eagle for Best Actor in both film and television and the Broadcast Media Award for Television.

Albert advised the students that they should "become a human being" before embarking on an acting career. "The most important thing is you, and your life as a human being. You can't isolate that."

He urged them to build a cash cushion to sustain them without work for at least six months. "Don't tell everybody that you are going off to become a big star," he said. "Tell them that you're going to check it out. If something pops and you do well, fine. If not, you're not left sitting in New York or LA, freezing and starving, because you're too embarrassed to go home."

Looking for more news from Baylor University?