“Dinner is served.” is the line that began Kate Linder’s nearly four decades-long career as a daytime television star on the much loved Young and the Restless. Linder’s love for acting began as a child with skits in history class and followed her to higher education, which was filled with dramatic studies and stage roles.
While shooting her career role as Ester Valentine, Linder found time to take on film roles and dedicate herself to service. Linder joined the USO, visiting troops around the world and championed causes such as ALS research.
With all her accomplishments and accolades, Linder doesn’t let it go to her head. She stays grounded by making periodic visits to the “friendly skies”, in service once again, as a flight attendant for United Airlines, much to the surprise of passenger fans.
Recently, ABILITY Magazine visited with Kate Linder to talk about her service, grand prix racing and what she values in life. She shared her ups and downs and milestones, like her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Without further delay, “Dinner is served.”
Cooper: How did you get involved with the Lou Gehrig’s Disease and the— ALS Association?
Kate Linder: I’m the celebrity spokesperson for the ALS Association. That all came about because my brother-in-law was diagnosed with ALS. I had heard a little bit about it, but I didn’t know a whole lot. There was an actor from Guiding Light who had it, so I had heard. But once he was diagnosed with it, I really got involved. And then I decided—this disease is absolutely horrific.
You’re totally trapped in your own body, and your brain works, and his certainly did. It worked very well, but nothing else did work. I said, “I have to do something about this.” Even after he passed away, I still remained because I know there’s a cure out there. It’s just that they just haven’t found it yet. It’s so horrific. They call it an “orphan disease” because they say not many people have it. But that’s not entirely true. The deal is that once you have ALS, you don’t survive. So the numbers are down, as opposed to someone who might have cancer or some other kind of disease that you might be able to live and function. But with ALS you can’t.
There was a man I met who’d had ALS for quite a number of years, who had told me, “It doesn’t matter how many breaths you take in this lifetime, but rather what you do with those breaths.” I so agree with that, so I continue and will be going with every breath I have until we find a cure for this horrific disease.
Cooper: It also looks also like you’re using your breaths for some other purposes as well.
Kate Linder: Right. I try to give back as much as I can. If everyone just gave back a little bit, just imagine where we’d all be, in a better place. It’s so difficult now for everyone. It’s a hard time. It’s a hard time especially for charities as well. So I try to do as much as I can.
Cooper: I read that you’re also doing some things with the homeless and the LA Mission?
Linder: Well, yeah. I have done events for them for years. I’m always down there serving at Thanksgiving, Christmas time and Easter. I really like those events because we serve them. They don’t have to stand in line. We stand in line. We cook the food and serve them. And like I said, times are rough, times are hard for everyone. So if I can help out in any way, that’s what I try to do. You never know when you might be, God forbid, having to deal with that kind of situation. And a lot of people do have to deal with it. So I do a lot for that. And now especially, here in Los Angeles with the homeless, and I know other parts of the country with the homeless.
Cooper: The numbers keep growing.
Linder: It’s heartbreaking. We have to fix it. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I certainly want to try to help fix it. It’s just not good.
Cooper: It’s happening all over. Partly because the real estate values have gone through the roof again. And then you have mental health issues that are not being provided for, to people who can’t afford care or don’t know how to get into the system to get support. I know the LA Mayor Garcetti has been working on some things, getting some push back, but I think he’s trying to make a difference.
Linder: I agree with that.
Cooper: I noticed in your bio that you mentioned working at United Airlines. Can you talk a little bit about your friendly skies?
Linder: I became a flight attendant because I needed a job that would have some money coming in so I could do my career. That’s basically what I did, and I’m kind of superstitious. I’ve juggled them both for so long now that I just keep going. I still do fly. I don’t fly as much as I did in the beginning, but I still do it.
It’s kind of interesting because I run into a lot of people who —there are a lot of viewers of the show. Some people know and they’re going, “Oh, my God, it’s Esther!” And then a lot of people don’t. I’ve had some incredible stories.
I had this one couple, this woman came up and she said, “Oh, my God, you’re Esther on The Young and the Restless!” And he pulled me aside and said, “I’ll pay you $50 fifty bucks if you say it’s not you.” And I said, “What?” And he said, “Well, she said that was you, and I bet her a $100 hundred dollars that there was no way you would be here doing this.” And I said, “But you’d only pay me $50?”
Cooper: (laughs) Seventy-five, maybe!
Linder: (laughs) Right. But it’s been great: stories and running into a lot of people , a lot of people from other countries. Once, a guy got on the plane and he was from Turkey. He said to me, “Oh, you’re my mother!” And I said, “You know, I can’t remember a lot of things, but I remember I never had you!” And he said, “No, no, no, my mother does your voice-over in Turkey!”
Cooper: Oh, funny!
Linder: That’s so cool!
Cooper: And he’s gone home to tell the story to his mother!
Linder: Right! It’s really interesting because you can’t forget who you are when you’re doing a job like that. I’ve watched a lot of people come and go, and here I am. One day I’m on the set, and the next day I’m talking to you. And the day after I’m serving coffee at 35,000 feet. It puts it all in perspective.
Cooper: Would it be a pun if I said it grounds you?
Linder: Right! I say that!
Cooper: Oh, you do? It’s an easy pun.
Linder: It helps me stay grounded for sure.
Cooper: You’ve been doing that for so long, did you ever meet or know of Eileen Sweeney?
Linder: Eileen Sweeney?
Cooper: She was out of Chicago; she was in civic affairs at United Airlines and also worked with the United Foundation.
Linder: The name sounds familiar.
Cooper: It was a while ago. I think she’s your mother.
Cooper: We have a nonprofit, and Eileen brought United Airlines into our fold and allowed us to be part of the charity program that enabled our volunteers to fly around the country to do the work that we were doing.
How did you meet Peggy Lane?
Linder: I’ve known her for some time. We both are active in SAG-AFTRA, and I know she was doing a project called Donna on the Go. She asked me if I’d like to be part of it, and I said yes. So we did, and that’s how it all came about.
Cooper: What part do you play in Donna on the Go?
Linder: Donna’s sister.
Cooper: Do you play a flight attendant?
Linder: (laughs) No. Peggy is an ace. I have a lot of respect for her, and Donna as well. They don’t give up, they keep going. Donna’s so amazing, and so is Peggy. She’s done so much for the whole community. It’s really worthwhile. They’re great together. They’ve got a great process going.
Cooper: Can you talk about the work that you did visiting the troops?
Linder: Oh, yeah, my gosh. That was so amazing as well. I went to Afghanistan, Pakistan, all the –stans, Korea, the DMZ. When I was seeing pictures that they were showing when Trump was over there in the DMZ, I just went, “Oh, my God! I was there! I was right there!”
Cooper: The blue UN buildings?
Linder: Yeah, standing there and looking at them, knowing that at any time someone could just walk across.
Linder: It was frightening. And then I was at Guantánamo Bay and in the prison.
Cooper: What did you do there?
Linder: I visited the prison. I didn’t know what they were calling me. I wouldn’t want to know, let’s put it that way. But I was at Guantánamo Bay because we were there for the troops. We were in a parade. It was around the holidays. And when I was in Afghanistan, Korea and the DMZ, that was during Thanksgiving. It was just amazing to be able to be part of that.
We did meet-and-greets. In Korea it was wild. They would say, “Hey, my wife watches the show. Can you talk to her?” And they’d get her on the phone. And I’m standing there in Korea talking to everyone. It was an incredible experience. Because at that point, it doesn’t matter whether you were for the war, against the war, whatever. But I was definitely for all the young men and women who were there so we could be here, so you and I could be talking to each other, doing this article. It was an amazing experience that I will never, ever forget.
Cooper: I know you’re traveling a lot, but does that allow you to spend any time in these different locations? Have you been able to go to South Korea and just visit?
Linder: No, I haven’t. But then again, I haven’t had any flights there, but I have not had the time.
Cooper: I can imagine. It’s a challenge when you’re busy to be able to do that.
Cooper: You also raced at the Toyota Grand Prix?
Linder: Yeah! (laughs) That was wild, too. I was so excited. Number one, that I lived through it— (laughs)
Linder: And number two, my car finished the race and didn’t have a scratch on it. I was really happy. I never forgot that. This was at a time when Bruce Jenner was in. They had all the people who had won the Toyota Grand Prix and a few of us who had never raced.
Cooper: Oh, you were against the good drivers?
Linder: Yeah, that’s why it was wild. That’s why I was so happy I lived. I’ll never forget. I came up, I saw a wall and I thought, “Oh, I better stop and back up.” And then I went, “No, this is a race., I am not stopping!” It was an amazing thing to do. I went to race car driving school.
Cooper: You did that before you raced? Oh, good.
Linder: Yeah, they put us in school, which was good. We weren’t on the streets. We were on the same course as the Indie cars. In fact, the day we were out there practicing, the Indie cars were out there too. And they teach you to hold your lane. If you look in the mirror and you can see these cars are coming up behind you and you’re supposed to keep going straight, and they could go around you.
Cooper: Absolutely! That’s so dangerous if you look in your mirror. Let them do what they’re going to do. I’m glad they teach you that.
Linder: Yeah, you keep going straight. I’m just going, “Oh, God, please let me survive!”
Cooper: Just throw that back mirror out the window.
Linder: (laughs) Yeah, right!
Cooper: Did you race against Bruce? He was really competitive.
Linder: Yeah, I beat him because he went into the wall.
Cooper: (laughs) Oh!?
Linder: We didn’t have Bruce any more at that point.
Cooper: We interviewed him back in the day when most people knew him because of the Olympics. He was doing some mountain biking, and he was still really competitive. I’m sure she’s still competitive.
Linder: Yeah. He was not happy about crashing.
Cooper: Yeah, I imagine he would not be. Do you know who won that race?
Linder: I think it was Alfonso.
Cooper: Do you know where you came in?
Linder: I wasn’t last.
Cooper: Bruce was last.
Linder: (laughs) I wasn’t last, but I was toward the end. But that was okay because my car didn’t have one scratch on it, and I was happy.
Cooper: To be able to finish a race without crashes or hitting anything is absolutely a victory in and of itself.
Linder: That was the first year they had any women in it, and anybody from daytime TV for sure. Karen Lawrence was in the race as well, and here were all these people who had won before—it was fabulous. I’m really glad I got to do that.
Cooper: Can you talk about hosting teas?
Linder: I started doing this—in fact, I just got back from an event in Vancouver. I’ve been doing it for 22 years. It all started because of a gentleman, Robin Wyss. I would do events for him in Canada.
One day we were having breakfast, and all these people were coming up and talking to me, and he was watching all this. He works for the Canucks. At the time, he was doing things with a lot of different hockey players. And he said, “I don’t get it. I go to all these things all the time, and no one says anything or comes up.” I said, “You know what? You’re missing the boat.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “If you want to raise money for charity, The Young and the Restless is hugely popular. It’s the number one show.”
In Canada it was on twice a day. I think they showed today’s show during the day and at night they show tomorrow’s show. He said, “OK, well, if it was your event, what would you do?” I said, “I know exactly what I would do. Because my character serves tea, I would have a high tea. I’d make it very classy and not have it be an evening event. We would have Young and Restless people come up, and we could do really well.” And he said, “OK, you’re on.”
The first one we did was in Victoria, at the Queens Park Hospital. It was really successful, so we started doing one in Victoria. Then we were doing one in Vancouver. And then I asked some people from March of Dimes at an event, so we started talking about it. They said, “We’d like to do this.”
So I put them in touch with Robin, and for eight years now, we’ve been doing one in Toronto. That’s in December. On December 8th, for March of Dimes, and then we have one in Calgary in April, also for March of Dimes. But this last one that I just did in Vancouver, we changed it up a bit and made it an evening event. So it was a dinner. It was the first time we had done that, and it was extremely successful.
We raised over $80,000. It always sells out, but this one was really sold out. People were coming and trying to get tickets to get in the day of the event, and there just weren’t more seats available. And my task-mates are so great. They’re not paid. None of us are paid, and they give up their weekends—it’s a great event.
Cooper: Do they fly United?
Linder: (laughs) No! One of our sponsors is Alaska, so we fly on that.
Cooper: I didn’t know if you were going to say Air Canada.
Linder: Unfortunately, Alaska does not fly to Toronto, so we fly Air Canada for that.
Cooper: Have you been to Calgary?
Linder: I have.
Cooper: To Banff?
Linder: I have. It’s really beautiful.
Cooper: It’s so nice up there. I’m glad you’re staying and visiting some nice places when you travel.
Linder: I don’t usually get to see much because I’m working, but I had a little bit of time.
Cooper: What’s on your current calendar?
Linder: I’m the Grand Marshall for the Lupus Walk this year. That will be on September 28th.
Cooper: Where will it be?
Linder: It’s a walk that takes place at LA Live. The walk is in the evening, which I find really fascinating because people with lupus are bothered by the sun and the heat. So I think it’s great. This is the second time I’ve done this. I’m excited about that. I was also the Grand Marshall for the Long Beach Pride Parade a couple of months ago.
Cooper: It sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate. With United, you at any time put your hat in the mix and say, “I want to grab a flight, put me in”?
Linder: I could, I do fly. I did just the other day. It was interesting because when I found out I was getting my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I found out while I was on a flight. I thought, “Oh, my gosh!” Things had come full circle.
I was going to Denver, and it was during the week. I usually fly on weekends. I didn’t tell anyone that I was going, so I thought I’d better check my messages. So I was listening to my messages, and there was a message from Johnny Grant. Do you know I don’t know if you know who he was?
Linder: Oh, he was an incredible man. I did the USO tours with him as well. That was really special. Anyway, I’m listening to my messages, and I hear him saying, “Kate, I’m leaving a message because about the star on the Walk of Fame, Congratulations!” And I thought, “Why is he congratulating me?” Then I thought, “Oh, I know, The Young and the Restless just won the Emmy. That’s really sweet of him to be saying that.” But then he went on and said, “You are receiving a star on the Walk of Fame.” I was, of course, totally blown away. I couldn’t believe it. Then I tried to get a hold of my publicist, my manager and my family to tell them.
Cooper: You didn’t call me?
Linder: If I’d known you then I would have! We’ll have to do it again! (Laughter) That was amazing. I’m so grateful to The Young and the Restless because they have given me the opportunity to give back. I wouldn’t even be there, or anywhere.
Cooper: So you were in the air?
Linder: No, we had landed in Denver. All the passengers were getting off, and the other passengers were getting on. I found this out while they were cleaning the airplane. And I’m telling people, and they’re going crazy. And the captain was going, “What is going on here?” Somebody told him. So after we took off, going back to LA, he made an announcement—
Cooper: Oh, great, that was what I was hoping!
Linder: He said, “You know, someone who is your purser today, I don’t know if you know, but she’s getting a star on the Walk of Fame.” So it was announced to everyone in the air. I thought, “This is a trip.” I found that out while I was doing that.
Cooper: Good for him for making that announcement. I’m sure people were confused, like, “Why do flight attendants get one?”
Linder: (laughs) Yeah!
Cooper: I know a little bit of this history, but just to pull it back to your acting, since it’s been such a big part of your life. Can you, in the short time we have left, and we only have another ten hours—
Cooper: —talk about your start in acting?
Linder: Acting is all I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to be the things little girls wanted to be: a teacher, a nurse, a flight attendant. I didn’t want to be anything but an actress. My family was supportive, but they didn’t have a clue how to make any of that happen. I became a flight attendant because I needed a job that would bring money in but that I could have time off. And it would be easier to pursue that. That’s why that happened.
Cooper: Did the acting come about in your mind because of you were watching movies or TV? Was there something that triggered it?
Linder: I did plays. I think the first one thing I did was in seventh grade. I can still remember. It was called “Antic Spring.” I played the role of Blossom. Doing that, I knew that was what I wanted. I’m a dancer. I started out in theater as a dancer and singer. I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do. And then, The Young and the Restless. I had gone in on a general interview with the casting director, Tom Palmley. He, unfortunately, passed away.
Cooper: How did you know about the casting?
Linder: In fact, SAG had a committee, and I’m still in touch with the woman who made all this happen. They had a committee where they would set up general interviews with casting directors. She had set this up, and I went in there and talked to them and left them a tape of some of my work.
Cooper: So, at this point, you’re not in SAG?
Linder: I was. I had done other acting here and there. Young and Restless was my first long-term job. Anyway, I left them a tape of my work and then I went home. I said, “You know, this is not going to happen.”
The assistant casting director at the time, she called me and said, “Tom’s finished with your tape. You can come and pick it up.” I said, “OK, well, I’ll be down in a couple of days.” And she said, “OK. It was really strange because he usually doesn’t do this, but after you left, he went right in and looked at it.” And I said, “Oh, OK.” And he called me a couple of days later and said, “Look, I have this rule. It’s really, really simple. If you blink, you’ll miss it. But I’m looking for something else for you on this show.”
Usually, if you do a small role like that, then forget it. He said, “I’m looking at something else for you, if you want to do this.” And I said, “Yeah, I do.” So I was hired, and it was only supposed to be for one day. I didn’t have a name or anything. And then after I finished, I was walking off and the producer, looked at me and said, “Are you available tomorrow?” And I said, “Yeah.” And then they started calling me back.
In the beginning, my character didn’t have a name. I was playing the maid [with] Jeannie Cooper , who was the matriarch of the show. The script would be coming down and it would say “maid.” They kept calling me back.
And then one day we were rehearsing lines like they were written. And when we went to tape, she started calling me “Esther”. An that’s how the character got her name, Esther. And then we had a national contest for the last name, and it was Valentine. My husband, who unfortunately has passed away?we were married on Valentine’s Day, so I thought Valentine is one of my lucky days. So Bell said, “You can have it.” There was Valentine or Diamond or one other, and I thought, “I’ll take Valentine.”
Linder: And it was great acting. My very first line was something that my family never heard, which was “Dinner is served.” Nobody ever heard that in my family.
Cooper: (laughs) So when you’re in the air and you say, “Dinner is served,” it means something different to you?
Linder: (laughs) Yeah, right! It was really great. I’ve been able to do other things as well, like make films. I was in Cotillion ’65. We just did a film that’s not out yet. Hopefully it’ll come out soon.
Cooper: And that’s will be a major release film?
Linder: We’ll see. And there’s some other things coming up. I love Young and Restless. I worked today.
Cooper: What’s your average work week like?
Linder: It depends on what’s going on in the story line.
Cooper: I saw in your bio that you’re doing some work with SAG-AFTRA.
Linder: I’m on the board, and there are elections coming up again. I’m running again for the board. I try to help out there. I was governor for four years of the Television Academy, and I really enjoyed that as well. It keeps me busy. That’s a good thing.
Cooper: I think this was a great interview. How do you think it’s gone so far?
Linder: I think it’s great. I think you’re great!
Cooper: (laughs) Ok let’s switch gears and you start asking questions about me.
Linder: (laughs) Sure.
Cooper: Oh, I have a question: Did I see a picture of you and a dog?
Linder: If you look at it again, you’ll see it’s a duster. And that’s because I’m dusting off my Star of Fame. (laughs)
Cooper: Oops, I didn’t look too closely.
Linder: A lot of people say, “Oh, you had a little doggie.” No, no. And actually, that duster is very special to me because it was Johnny Grant’s. He passed away right before I was getting the star.
Cooper: Oh, so he called to you congratulating you, but you didn’t get to be with him that day?
Linder: No. In fact, it was so weird because he was out to lunch with some people, who told me this afterwards. They were talking about my star because it was coming up. And he said, “Oh, I’m so excited for Kate’s star. This will be really good.” They were going on about it. So they finished lunch, and he went upstairs to his room. He lived at the Roosevelt Hotel. He sat down in his chair, and he died.
We were at a friend’s house that night, and they had the TV on without the sound. And I kept seeing his picture, and I thought, “What’s going on?” Oh, my God, I was devastated that he had passed away. That’s what that picture is about. It’s a duster because of my character, and it belonged to him. That is why I used it.
Cooper: That’s a nice remembrance of him and why you have that duster that looks like a puppy.
Linder: I don’t think anyone’s ever heard that story.
Cooper: You heard it here, folks!
Linder: (laughs) Right!