KELLY MEYER is barreling down PCH in a massive black Ford pickup truck sputtering fumes that smell like French fries.
It isn’t exactly the sort of vehicle you’d expect the wife of a powerful studio executive to choose as her ride of choice. But for Meyer (spouse of NBC Universal’s Ron Meyer) it’s perfect: It has a rack for her surfboard and a fuel tank filled with environmentally friendly biodiesel, bought from a local Malibu station that has perfected the art of turning grease into a gas substitute.
She drives from her children’s elementary school, where she’s overseeing a project to convert the classrooms to solar power, down the coast to Venice, where she and developer Tom Schey just finished construction on the Project 7 Ten environmental showcase house (built completely with sustainable materials and now open for tours).
While she drives, her cellphone rings constantly. Her kids want to talk about after-school play dates, her friends want to exchange celebrity gossip (always lots in Malibu these days), and a who’s who list of other Hollywood wives want to discuss a trip to Washington, D.C., next week to lobby Congress for new environmental laws.
A native of Colorado, Meyer -- who has laugh lines in the corners of her eyes that a Rocky Mountain-skier-turned-California-surfer wouldn’t dream of asking a plastic surgeon to remove -- keeps track of her appointments on a long to-do list tucked inside her tote bag.
She jokes: “I’m just a little PTA mom.” Hardly.
Hollywood celebrities and executives are often credited for raising public awareness on important issues -- such as AIDS and famine relief in Africa. But when it comes to the industry’s green movement, Hollywood wives have been the driving force.
Laurie David (soon to be ex-wife of Larry David) was, of course, the ringleader. She started reading about global warming years ago and decided -- after watching the SUV trend take hold -- that she had to act. She called her friend Elizabeth Wiatt, wife of super-agent Jim Wiatt, and together they formed the National Resources Defense Council Action Committee.
They got all their friends involved: Gigi Grazer (married to Brian Grazer), Gwen McCaw (wife of John McCaw of McCaw Communications), actress Heather Thomas (wife of entertainment lawyer Skip Brittenham), Colleen Bell, Sofie Howard and Meyer. The group held fundraisers and traveled to D.C. (All the husbands got involved as well.)
No one was going to ignore them. (Want to know why Al Gore is now the international green poster boy? It’s because David discovered his global warming slide show and wouldn’t rest until Hollywood had made a documentary about his efforts.)
Meyer -- who spends her mornings surfing off Malibu’s beaches -- understood the urgency.
“I responded on a gut level,” she said. “I was worried about what kind of world we’re leaving for our children.”
She put together efforts to educate schoolchildren, including her own, about the importance of recycling and conservation. “It all starts by example, right?” she said. She urged lawmakers to pass legislation to protect the coastline.
“She goes to Sacramento, she goes to Washington, she beats down doors,” said husband Ron.
About a year ago, Meyer got a call from a friend in actress and producer Rita Wilson’s office: Would she like to team up in building an environmental case study house with Schey, a Los Angeles developer who had been inspired by Gore’s movie?
It seemed like the perfect opportunity to show that “green” construction could also be innovative and stylish. “We really wanted to take it to another level by building a house that’s architecturally interesting and inspiring,” she said.
Schey purchased a tear-down at 710 Milwood Ave. in Venice and Meyer started pulling together sponsors for the new house. Kohler agreed to donate all the fixtures, GE gave energy-efficient appliances. The designs were finalized: They would use reclaimed concrete as the foundation and denim for the insulation, and recycled glass in all the bathrooms. Rainwater would be used to irrigate the landscape and solar panels would be placed on the roof.
The house (more information at www.project7ten.com) will be open through Oct. 28 for tours. After that it will be sold to raise money for a variety of other environmental causes.
The house opening was kicked off with a party Tuesday evening. Elizabeth Wiatt said she was impressed. “It’s a living example of what can be done in a chic, affordable way,” she said.
Meyer demurs. “I just want to give people as many examples as possible of what they can do to make a difference in the environment. Do I think any one thing is the answer? No. But it all connects.”
Her phone rings gain.
This time it’s producer/director Irwin Winkler calling to congratulate Meyer on the opening of the house. Only in Hollywood.