She was a dynamic actress, gifted in communications skills in every aspect of the radio, film, and TV media. He grew up in the presence of the world’s leading chefs and became the general manager of the Royal Ascot Hotel. Together they created a program which changed the face of the television cooking show. It was the Galloping Gourmet. For years Graham Kerr teamed with his producer wife, Treena to create one of the most exciting shows on television. Behind the set, however, appearances proved deceptive. Graham and Treena watched helplessly while the threads of their lives unraveled strand by strand. Here’s a story of love, hilarity, pain, and unexpected joy told as only those who live behind the scenes could tell it. Galloping or not, you’re in for the ride of your life as this dynamic duo share the true source of their appetite for life. Here is Graham Kerr:
I’m just going to, by way of a quick introduction, introduce my wife Treena to you and then let her go, and if it approaches midnight and she hasn’t stopped, then I’ll take over. We have a special on breakfast around the corner so don’t worry.
I am an American citizen and I need to let you know that Treena is just an American citizen. It’s quite an experience. Probably none of you have ever done it, but let me just tell you one thing you have to do. You have to be fingerprinted. I was fingerprinted in Salem, Oregon and in what looked like a fish tank. It is in the Rotunda building. It was at exactly at 12:15 when I approached for my appointment. There was an enormous policeman with a big black gun, lots of bullets and hand cuffs and all the normal stuff. He said to me, “Stand behind me and let me ink your fingers and you just roll with me.” I thought fair enough.
I’m standing behind him and there’s this big window and then the hooter goes off and all the civil servants come out for their lunch break. And as they’re piling past this enormous window which is the security check point for the Rotunda, they noticed me being fingerprinted. As this group of people recognized me they then started calling other people over. Quite a lot of people had gathered to look at me and I know what they were saying, “What has he done?” As I was rolling with him, I stopped because I was really upset about the whole situation.
He turned and looked over his shoulder and said, “I told you, roll with me. Put your hand with mine and roll with me, otherwise, you’ll make the wrong impression.” I thought, “Buddy, you don’t know what kind of an impression I’m making.” Right in that moment, in the acuteness of my embarrassment, I felt the Lord speak to me and say, “You see it’s really rather like that, Graham. If you’ll put your hand in mine, and roll with me, you’ll make the kind of impression that I want you to make.”
The fact of the matter is, all of you know here tonight, that we’ve all got different fingerprints. All of us have got different testimonies. For one reason or another, the Lord calls upon us at very special times in other people’s lives to share. It may be for encouragement. Whatever it may be, there is a very good reason why Treena and I are here tonight and why He has spoken to us about sharing our lives in the way He has. Because after all, we’ve been twenty years Christian now, and the chances of us sitting here and telling you wonderful stories until maybe next week, is a possibility. So we will touch on certain things.
I’m going to let Treena go now. Treena has a spiritual life that she’ll explain to you. She took off at one moment in time, simply because a group of people prayed for her. And I know that she’s not going to touch down until she touches down in heaven. She’s the long jumper of the family. Now I’m the hop, skip, and jumper of the family. And there’s three definite sequences that happened to me. I’ll let Treena take over with the long jump and then I’ll be back.
Treena: At forty years old I was in quite a mess. We had a very nice public image, but it was phony. Graham was very well known and I was his very unknown, well-known producer behind him. At that time I was very full of resentment, and also I was full of booze, and also I was a drug addict. I wasn’t a very happy person. I was pretty violent. I really didn’t know what on earth life was really about.
One day we had a black maid who came to work for us. She said to me, “Mrs. Kerr, why don’t you give your life to God?” I looked at her and I said, “OK, God, I can’t do anymore so you do something, if you’re there.” When the Lord took me out of the mire it was a December evening on the 17th, 1974.
This black maid whose name was Ruthie said to me, after she’d said to me, “Why don’t you give this to God.” she came back and she said, “Mrs. Kerr, have you ever thought of getting baptized?” I said, “No.” I said, “Anyway, all English people are christened.” And she said, “Well what’s that?” And I said, “Well, you get sprinkled with water and you’re a Christian.” And she said, “I really don’t think that’s quite the way it is, Mrs. Kerr.” And she quoted me something out of Romans which was dying to one’s self and that we had to get dunked under the water. It didn’t say dunked under the water but it sounded like it. And I said, “Well, duckie, that’s very nice, but I don’t believe in this Jesus business.” But as she walked away, a little voice seemed to say in my heart, “Now, Treena, when you have lost your temper (and I was particularly violent), what do you do?”
And always I would go and have a shower, or if there was a swimming pool around I would go and dive in the deep end, probably to drown myself, because I was rather dramatic. So I thought why don’t I go and take the water because I wasn’t happy with myself. I was having very horrible visions. I would drive past somebody and I would see this boy’s head fall off and roll before my car. I would drive across the bridge and we were living in Easton, Maryland at the time, so we’d go across the Annapolis Bridge and I’d see it crumble as I was driving across and screaming cars or crunching. It wasn’t very nice. Also, I didn’t like my bad temper. I didn’t like being mad. Graham will tell you I used to froth at the mouth when I was angry. I would scream and I would like be pulled out of my body and I would watch this creature screaming.
So I thought, “Ok.” And I called Ruthie back and I said, “Ruthie, ok, I’ll get the water. I’ll take the water.” She looked at me and her big brown eyes sparkled and her teeth started to shine and she said,” Hallelujah!” And I said, “It doesn’t mean you’re going to get my money.” ( Because at that time I thought that was what people were after) “I’m just going to take the water.”
Now she lived in Easton, Maryland and she used to go to a church in the Delaware which was about a 100 miles away from Easton. She would leave on Fridays and go there all day Saturdays and all day Sundays and come back on Mondays very up and by the time she’d been with me for a week she was down. I used Jesus’s name all the time but not in the way that she would have it. So she said to me, “Well, when will you do it?” I said, “Well, Graham goes away on Sunday, on Monday I’m going to the movies, what about Tuesday night?” She said, “Alright.” She phoned up a pastor that was very close because she didn’t trust that I could get in a van for a hundred miles to go and get dunked in the water.
Now unbeknownst to me Ruthie had been given instructions by the Lord to pray for this wild lady. Not only did she pray, but the church that she went to prayed and fasted for this crazy white lady. So she called up a pastor that was two miles away and what happened was that the whole of her church came eighty miles to this little church in a place called Bethlehem. They filled this really poor little church that used to have nine people in it normally. They filled it. There were all these beautiful black people and me, and my daughter, and my secretary.
We get to this place and this big black pastor says to me in the study, “Well sister,” (and I’d never been called sister by anybody before) “do you know what you’re doing?” “Well, I’m English,” I said, “Well of course I do. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.” And he said, “Well, you may not get it tonight.” And I said, “I most certainly will.” Because that’s the way us English are. And Ruthie said, “She’s ready for it.” Whatever it was.
I have to say that maybe some of you here that have come to the Lord in a whole different way. Well that’s your problem. This is my problem and this is what happened and this is what changed our lives. The pastor comes down and says something about all the angels in heaven rejoicing over this one sister’s soul and they all started making noises because it was a pretty upbeat church. There were drums and all sorts of things. I thought it was rather neat actually. It was quite fun for me but as they were all praying I thought I better shut my eyes. So I shut my eyes. The last time I’d been in a church was when Graham and I got married and it wasn’t because we knew that we needed to get married before God, but just because I wanted to look beautiful in a church.
Here I am in this black church where there’s quite a noise going on and the pastor’s name was Pastor Friend. Pastor Friend kept on praying and I thought if he doesn’t hurry up I’m going to jump in that water with all my clothes on. He finally finished and I was dressed in a white gown which had been Ruthie’s when she had got baptized and got saved and stuff. I went in this freezing cold water, and I have to tell you, it was extremely cold. Not like for some people I know that get baptized with warm water. This sinner had to have ice cold water. Anyway, I got dunked in this water and I got the giggles. I mean I really wanted to laugh. I was looking at all these people and they were all smiling. There was all these white teeth and big eyes. And the pastor said to me, “Have you received it yet?” and I said, “No, but something very strange happened to me before I got in. I was like thrown on my knees and I could hear myself saying, ‘I’m sorry, Jesus. Forgive me Jesus’.” And he said, “Well, would you like to tarry a while?” “Well,” I said, “What’s tarry?” and he said “That’s waiting for the Holy Ghost.” And I thought I might as well as I was there. So I said, “OK, well what do I do?” Now don’t tell me God does not have a sense of humor. God does. I said, “So what do I do?” and he said, “You kneel down and you say thank you to Jesus for the gift He’s going to give you.” So I knelt down and I said, “Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus (I know I’ve gone out of my head) thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus (I’m going to end up in a mental institution).”
And people were patting me on the head and there was a lot of noise going on. I had my eyes shut and I was sweating and my back ached, and suddenly this light comes on my face. I’ve been in a theater since I was fourteen and I thought to myself, “They’ve turned up the church lights to make me think I’m getting whatever I’m getting.” And I opened my eyes and I saw the most incredible, beautiful man you have ever seen. The most wonderful thing about this man was this glorious smile. It was a smile that seemed to be every relationship in my life which had gone wrong. It was a smile of pure love, a mother’s love, a father’s love, a husband’s love, a children’s love. The most beautiful smile and with that smile and encompassing love. Being loved by this extraordinary beautiful person. It was also amused. I am sure He was amused about what was going on. He moves forward and He puts his hand on my heart and He disappears.
The pastor says, “Have you received anything yet?” And I said, “I don’t know? I’ve just seen somebody.” And he said, “Well that’s all right, you can come back another day.” I get up and I’m hugged and all these black brothers and sisters all come and give me a great hug and welcome me into the flock. I look and my daughter has run away. She’s not there anymore. She had run outside the church. I have to tell you, I believed, at that time, everybody that was black knew what I knew, you know. They were great people. I found out that wasn’t true, they were just normal people like everybody else.
I get home and I pick up a Bible which I’d hidden under the bed. Ruthie had said go out and buy a Bible with red writing in because that is what Jesus said. So I said, “O.K.” And I had gone and bought a cheap Bible and stuck it under the bed because I didn’t want Graham to know about this. He would think I was rather twisted. I got out this Bible and I started to read it and it was like eating for the first time. I saw in Matthew, I think Matthew 11, where it says, “It’s not that which goes in a man that defiles him it’s that which comes out. Which comes out of the heart.” I’d had a nasty mouth. I thought, ‘That means I’ve got to be quiet with Graham.”
I had a little six-year-old at that time, and a fifteen-year-old and a seventeen-year-old, but with the little six-year-old I start talking to her about Jesus. I said, “My Jesus lives in my heart. I know that because when I woke up the other morning I went to the mirror to see if I looked like Ruthie looked like. Not black, but shiny. I heard a little voice say, ‘You’ve got it’.” I had gone up to Tessa my oldest daughter and said, “I’ve got it.” She said, “What do you got?” I said, “I don’t know, but I know I’ve got it.” I threw away all my pills, all the pills I’d hidden. It was like a rainbow going down the toilet. It was just an incredible rainbow of colors of all the pills that I took.