LaWanda Page didn't allow her success on Sanford and Son to spoil her
Image credit: The Everett Collection
LaWanda Page promised the people she loved most that she wouldn't become one of those big-headed, disconnected actresses. Even her success as Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son (1972) couldn't change her mind.
According to a 1974 interview with Star-Phoenix, Page still lived in the same place she did before her success on Sanford and Son, and she said she had no plans of moving to a Hollywood mansion anytime soon.
"Why honey, for me to get a big head, to change at this time in my life would be foolish," Page said. "It wouldn't be me. It's like where I live in the ghetto. That's where I've lived my whole life and where I was discovered for the show. Why would I want to move?"
While the series may not have caused Page to change her outlook on life, it certainly changed everything about the way she looked at her career. Until Tandem Productions producer Aaron Rueben found her performing stand-up comedy in a Los Angeles nightclub, she'd never known the life of a TV star. In fact, Page didn't even have acting experience.
"I went out there before the audience and I was determined to do well," Page said. "And I did. But now I'm just myself up there as Aunt Esther. I'm not actin', or trying to be funny. I'm just being me."
That type of authenticity is part of the reason her character became so popular onscreen. Page offered a refreshing comedy style, and she was strong-willed both on Sanford and Son and in real life. The audience's reaction proved that she was funny even without trying to be.
However, Page was not greedy about her new fame and success. She wasn't concerned about money, cars or a new place to live. She was content as is. Despite lucrative offers from all types of impressive clubs she had dreamed of performing comedy in someday, Page stuck to Sanford and Son.
According to the interview, she had two reasons for sticking with the series instead of stand-up comedy. First, Page felt her stand-up comedy was too "blue" or explicit compared to her new all-American TV image. Second, Page said she just couldn't leave behind what she loved.
At the time of this interview, Page was taking care of her elderly mother and wanted to continue to support her. Her mother, friends and co-stars were enough commitment and motivation to last her a while.
"I never want to let anybody down if they're counting on me — not Mama, not Redd, not Aaron Rueben, or the audience either," Page said. "I've always played the fool, and now I'm getting paid for it."
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