Celebrity L.A. Parents : In 90-second radio spots, the rich and famous prove that when it comes to raising children, they have the same concerns, triumphs and frustrations as everyone else.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; R. Daniel Foster writes regularly for Valley Life

Being rich and famous doesn't guarantee a person's success as a parent--as revealed in numerous tell-all bestsellers that detail celebrity parental abuse.

But it can get you an interview.

"I don't know why anyone would be interested in me as a parent, but when you invite people into your home over the airwaves, you become kind of a friend," said Ann Jillian, star of the syndicated TV show "It's a Living."

Jillian, who lives in Encino with her husband, Andy Murcia, is one of hundreds of celebrities interviewed by Diana Lynn-Barnes, creator and co-producer of the nationally syndicated CBS Radio feature "Parent Profile." Locally, the 90-second spot, hosted by CBS-TV morning anchor Paula Zahn, airs at 12:25 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on KNX-AM (1070), a division of CBS.

The show, begun in March, 1991, has steadily grown in popularity, being picked up by 39 of the top 50 U. S. radio outlets, according to "Parent Profile" co-producer Brian Seligson.

"It's one of our most popular shows," said Seligson, who works in CBS Radio's New York headquarters. "The climate for these type of consumer-oriented shows, especially with a celebrity hook, has really taken off."

Lynn-Barnes, 42, who lives with her husband, Frank, and two children in Reseda, scripts the program and records interviews with celebrities and parenting experts. Zahn does the "wrap-around"--or opening and closing--comments, introducing the celebrities and paraphrasing experts' comments.

The effect is short, but not always sweet. Lynn-Barnes has a knack for getting celebrities to discuss painful topics. Recent programs featured comedian Phyllis Diller and actress Shelley Fabares. Diller talked about balancing the needs of family and career. Fabares, co-star of the ABC-TV sitcom "Coach," spoke of her role as stepmother and the trials of parenting her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease.

"We can be rich and famous, but when it comes to raising our kids or dealing with our parents as adults, we all go through the same process," Lynn-Barnes said. "We all have the same triumphs, frustration and hopes.

"I wanted to find a way to help people tune in to issues that parents face. I knew they would pay attention to someone they know, rather than a total stranger, like me."

Although anchor Zahn gets the high visibility, "I do all the work," Lynn-Barnes said. "But that's OK, because I'm having all the fun of talking to celebrities and learning about their issues."

Zahn said: "Diana has a good sense of the kind of issues families care about. I've found, from listener feedback, that it really means something to people when Danny DeVito talks about the struggle he faces in creating balance between his work and family life.

"I don't think parenting comes naturally to a lot of people." Zahn said she uses tips from the program to help her raise her 3-year-old daughter, Haley.

"Not everybody has been lucky enough to grow up in a functional family. We all play some old tapes from childhood when we become parents. The more often we can reinforce what is appropriate parenting behavior and what isn't, the better."

Lynn-Barnes began laying groundwork for her radio show in 1985 by writing an advice column, "Parents Hotline," for Burbank-based L.A. Parent magazine. She later syndicated the column to numerous parenting magazines around the country, then began writing celebrity parenting feature articles for newspapers. As she has with many of her contacts, she made a cold call to CBS in 1989 to pitch "Parent Profile," which was soon accepted.

On a recent show, Jillian told of being pregnant at age 42 with her first child, Andrew Joseph Murcia, now 8 months old.

"You suddenly have this little human being to take care of and you wonder, when you're full of exhaustion and fatigue, if you can do it," Jillian said. "You realize you can do it.

"It was great to be interviewed by someone who is also a working mother and who knows the score. Diana's terrific at what she does. She provides a good format for these subjects."

Lynn-Barnes goes far beyond Hollywood enclaves when digging for interviews. Such luminaries as Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.), chef Wolfgang Puck and Olympic gold medalists Peter Vidmar and Dorothy Hamill also have starred in her spots. Some will appear in her book due out this fall, "Celebrity Parenting" (F. Charles Publications), consisting of 15 in-depth celebrity interviews.

Lynn-Barnes' celebrity-rich back yard has yielded numerous interviews, although she regularly scours People, US and various women's magazines for subjects. San Fernando Valley celebrities have included Encino residents Melissa Manchester, Edward James Olmos, and Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows (who spoke as grandparents) and Sherman Oaks residents Dick Van Patten and Shelley Fabares.

Husband and wife, Robby Benson and Karla DeVito (no relation to Danny DeVito), Tarzana residents who appeared together in 1981 in the Broadway musical "Pirates of Penzance," said "Parent Profile" acts as an extended family for those who are searching for advice.

"When we first became parents, no one in our peer group were parents--that's why we need more of these kind of programs," said DeVito, who has appeared on Broadway in "Big River" and "Leader of the Pack." Most recently, Benson was the voice of the Beast in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Their profile aired a year ago, when their daughter, Lyric, was 8. They now also have an infant son, Zephyr.

"It's not like when our parents grew up," DeVito said. "There's no grandmother down the block or relatives around who are having babies all the time. They're not around to give you comfort and advice.

"We're not any kind of great role models, just ordinary parents doing the best we can," she said.

Seated in her office, a converted garage behind her Reseda home, Lynn-Barnes said she started her show "from scratch" and still has to make numerous cold calls to publicists' offices. "I'm very persistent," she said. In her previous career as a pop singer she "didn't know any celebrities, but had a lot of experience with media and public relations. I knew how to approach the process."

Lynn-Barnes' office was a compendium of child-rearing paraphernalia--from a giant bottle of Miracle Bubble solution and her son's artwork to celebrity biographies and books titled "Talking With Your Child in a Troubled World" and "Experts Advise Parents."

At 10 interviews per week--five celebrities and five parenting experts--Lynn-Barnes said her schedule also includes counseling 13 patients, a process that will help her secure a license as a marriage, family and child counselor.

Lynn-Barnes graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in child development from Cal State Northridge and with a master of arts degree in marriage and family counseling from the California Family Study Center in Los Angeles.

Raised in Long Island, N.Y., and Greenwich, Conn., Lynn-Barnes moved to California in 1978, continuing her then-thriving singing career with such orchestras as the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Sacramento Symphony, the Nashville Symphony and the North Carolina Symphony. Her one single, "Candy Kisses," a remake of an old country-Western tune, wasn't an enormous success.

Lynn-Barnes' first career was patterned somewhat after that of her mother, Evelyn Easton, who sang with the summer company of the New York Metropolitan Opera.

"I never even sing in the shower anymore," said Lynn-Barnes, who eventually hopes to replicate her radio format on TV. "I'm enjoying what I'm doing too much now."

It was Lynn-Barnes' son, David Klayman, now 10, "who was the impetus for my new career," she said. "His birth renewed a passion for child development that I've always had. I gave up my singing career to go back to school and so I could be closer to him."

Divorced when David was a year old, Lynn-Barnes finished her schooling and remarried in 1990. She now has a stepson, Aaron, 12, and just gave birth late last month to a girl, Danielle Marissa.

Lynn-Barnes said her personal experience has greatly enhanced her work.

"I've lived parenting from all sides--from being divorced, a single mom, a stepparent and now an older mother who's expecting," she said. "Is there anything left?"

Where to go

What: CBS Radio Show, "Parent Profile" hosted by Paula Zahn.

Hours: 12:25 p.m. Monday through Friday, KNX Radio, 1070 AM.

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