Ruth Pointer of The Pointer Sisters will be in the Phoenix area this month. She’s promoting her new book, “Still So Excited: My Life as a Pointer Sister, co-written by Marshall Terrill, a public information specialist at Arizona State University. She will also headline ASU’s Project Humanities spring 2016 campaign kickoff “Humanity 101: Creating a Movement,” scheduled for February 11. Pointer will discuss her book and her speech at ASU.
Ted Simons: The Pointer Sisters were among the most successful music acts in the 1970s and early 1980s. If you were anywhere near a radio or TV you shared the same space with the singing group's distinctive energy and sound. Ruth Pointer's life as one of "The Pointer Sisters", is chronicled in a new book, titled "Still So Excited." She's in the Valley to talk about her new book and to headline ASU's "Project Humanities" Spring 2016 campaign kickoff, "Humanity 101: Creating a Movement." We welcome Ruth Pointer.
Ruth Pointer: Oh, thank you so much.
Ted Simons: What do you think when you see that?
Ruth Pointer: I'm thinking, what was I thinking with that big pink rose on the top of my head?
Ted Simons: The book is fantastic. For those of us who remember, you guys really were everywhere. Did it come up; did it feel like an overnight thing to you?
Ruth Pointer: It did feel like that, even though we knew that wasn't really the case, but it did feel like that.
Ted Simons: As far as having that kind of success, how did you handle it? If you read the book we kind of know how you handled it. You tell us.
Ruth Pointer: Well, we were very naive. We grew up in a very religious home, both parents were ministers. There were a lot of restrictions and a lot of things we just weren't exposed to as far as the real world. And when you're thrown out there in the real world it might be -- I know that we were a little too trusting of everybody, and expecting everybody to be honest with you and tell you the truth and tell you what's real. We soon found out that was not real.
Ted Simons: And the music business will change that tune pretty quickly.
Ruth Pointer: Real fast.
Ted Simons: I know you wrote in the book you were so insulated and your parents were so protective you really do think that made a difference when you became an adult. It's almost like you guys were set free.
Ruth Pointer: Yeah, we were. I know I was. I mean, I wanted to try and do everything I thought my friends were doing, and have the fun I thought they were having. And it turned into a monster, you know, because it wasn't what I expected it to be.
Ted Simons: I want to get to some of those darker days in a second here. But when did -- I know your sisters got started before you.
Ruth Pointer: Yes.
Ted Simons: When did you know? When did they know? When did everyone know you guys are good?
Ruth Pointer: Well, you know, I always knew we were good. And when my sisters Bonnie, June and Anita started singing backup, and they were sorta in the whole scene, Fillmore West and around, and during the late â€˜60s, I would go and watch them. I would think, wow, yeah, this is -- even though we did sing in the church and I knew we sounded good, it never occurred to me to be a professional at the time. When I saw them headed in that direction, wow, we've really got something here we didn't know we had.
Ted Simons: And when things got good, things kind of got a little bad, as well.
Ruth Pointer: Yeah.
Ted Simons: As far as abuse and stuff like this. So bad you wrote about this, it still bothers you to this day how that church community reacted to your dad. Quickly, talk to us about that.
Ruth Pointer: Things got bad because we were naive. I ended up having a child out of wedlock and the church didn't like it. And they sent around a petition actually to get my dad out of the church and eventually they did and it really broke his heart. Because we were so trusting of what we were being taught at that time, that you know, God will supply all your need he and take it to the Lord in prayer and everything's going to be wonderful. That's what we thought. That's what I thought, anyway, that living a Christian life was going make everything all right. And my perception of everything all right was everything going my way!
Ted Simons: Well, that's true. And it is interesting, at one point in the book, you are very stark in saying that you hope your children will understand and forgive you for being the kind of parent you originally were.
Ruth Pointer: Yeah.
Ted Simons: You weren't a very good parent, huh?
Ruth Pointer: I don't think so. I was not there. You know, how good can you be if you're not present? And even when I was present I was high, and didn't want to be bothered. Couldn't answer those everyday questions I know now that children have. I have twins, 22 years old that I raised myself, along with a lot of help. It really exposed me to a lot of little questions. My daughter is in college and called to ask me about cooking some chicken that's frozen. Just little details that all of a sudden are so real to me.
Ted Simons: Does it feel like that person back in the â€˜70s is the same person sitting here now? Do you feel like the same person?
Ruth Pointer: No.
Ted Simons: Isn't that interesting?
Ruth Pointer: It is interesting.
Ted Simons: When you watch video like we just showed, is that the same person?
Ruth Pointer: I really don't know. I hadn't thought of it that way. I would hope she was in there somewhere trying to get out.
Ted Simons: Before she did get out and before the redemption, it's a great story. 30-plus years clean and sober?
Ruth Pointer: Yes, yes.
Ted Simons: The Carol Burnett Show, the Mike Douglas Show, Flip Wilson.
Ruth Pointer: Helen Reddy.
Ted Simons: There you are with Carol Burnett. You guys were everywhere, with Richard Pryor, you were everywhere. When it was happening did you hang on to anything or was it just flying by?
Ruth Pointer: It was flying by, believe me. We were so naive and inexperienced and it was coming at us so fast. We were doing these television shows between touring. And in between recording albums. All of that was going on at the same time. I look at other groups and I see them taking time out to record an album. They go to Hawaii, they go to islands to record an album, we never had those luxuries. You gotta get this done in three weeks! And we did.
Ted Simons: Were you having fun?
Ruth Pointer: We were having fun, too. We tried to anyway. I can't say it was all bad.
Ted Simons: When did the bad times surpass the fun?
Ruth Pointer: The bad times surpassed the fun when my body started to give out. And I got sick, you know, from just beating up my body and not taking care of myself physically. When you're using drugs no one tells you that you're going to not really take care of your health. You just think you're having fun, you know, and things just go along as you wish they would. But you're not eating properly, not exercising, not keeping appointments at doctors and taking care of yourself. And those things went out the window. I didn't even think about that. Next thing I knew, I had viral meningitis, I didn't know where it came from.
Ted Simons: Was that the low point?
Ruth Pointer: Very low point, I was on the road when it happened. We had to cancel shows. Your immune system is beat up.
Ted Simons: If that had happened 10 years prior would that has been the low point? Did you have to hit from it a variety of angles to change?
Ruth Pointer: I really don't know, I really don't know. I just know that when it hit I was looking at things a little different. I don't know that it would have changed anything, you know, because I do recall several times feeling like I made it to -- I needed to do change some things. One of my issues was weight gain. Which I know is a big issue for women. And that's what got me started was taking barbiturates.
Ted Simons: This is a fascinating read, the music industry and your life or just music in general, but it's also a family story.
Ruth Pointer: Yeah.
Ted Simons: When you were writing this, was it difficult to write things about sisters? Some of your sisters had rough goes, as well.
Ruth Pointer: Yes, it was difficult. And I have to say that I didn't really go into elaborating on anyone else's life but my own. I love my sisters and I didn't want to do anything to disappoint them or hurt them. We had a great time together and we have a great relationship, you know. We've had a great career and I love them so much that I just wanted to write about myself, you know?
Ted Simons: And now we're looking at kind of the latest or one of the later versions there. Who are we looking at there?
Ruth Pointer: That's my granddaughter on my left, you know, my left on the picture is Anita, my sister. On my right in the picture is my granddaughter Sedako. Tells me I'm old!
Ted Simons: A granddaughter of a Pointer Sister! What do you want folks to take -- when you read this, I know what I got from this. What do you want people to take from this?
Ruth Pointer: I want people to understand, you know, it's a tough world out there. I see young people going, you ask what do they want to be and they say, we want to be famous, I want to be famous. It's so much more than what they expect, it's so much more than what they expect. I mean, I do have to say there are some perks to it. You can get a nice reservation at a restaurant and you can get in the front of some lines and things like that. But it also comes with this down side. Your privacy is taken away in some aspects. People write things about you that aren't true.
Ted Simons: I'm sure. You wanted this book to get out before someone starts pulling that stuff. And job well done.
Ruth Pointer: Thank you.
Ted Simons: And congratulations on a great career. Sound like you're living life quite well.
Ruth Pointer: I am.
Ted Simons: And you're here for this creating a movement for Humanity 101.
Ruth Pointer: I don't know that much about it, other than what I've found out since I've been here with Neal Lester, the host. It's something worth going forward with, what I see they do with homeless people, really giving back to the community. I'm happy to be a part of that.
Ted Simons: It's good to meet you, great to have you on the show, best of luck.
Ruth Pointer: Thank you!
Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.