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Kelly Preston Hollywood Actor

By Yu Shing Ting

She left Honolulu to find fame and fortune in Hollywood, but somehow Hawaii has never left Kelly Preston.

The world knows her as Kelly Preston, but for those who grew up with the Hollywood star, she’s local girl Kelly Palzis — homegrown from East Oahu.

“I’m about 1/32 Hawaiian,” explains Preston, who is also English, Irish, German and Scottish. “So just a teeny teeny bit of Hawaiian. I have the flat feet and curly hair and good tanning skin.I stay pretty pale just from working, but I can get really tan.”

Right now she’s in pale mode, filming Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat with co-stars Mike Myers (as The Cat), Alec Baldwin, Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin.

“And the first assistant director, Aldric Porter, is also from Hawaii,” adds Preston, obviously proud of her native roots. In the movie, Preston plays the mom of two kids (just like in real life) who are alone at home one day when “The Cat” pays a visit. The film is expected to be released in November 2003.

Preston was born and raised in Hawaii, and attended Kahala and Aina Haina elementary schools. She also lived in Iraq for a year, followed by two years in Australia.

“I was actually born Kelly Smith,” she explains during an interview from her trailer at Universal Studios. “My real dad passed away, and then my dad whom I consider to be my dad, Peter Palzis, adopted me when I was 3, so it was Kelly Palzis.”

After graduating from Punahou School in 1980, Preston moved to Los Angeles where she studied drama and theater at USC and later at UCLA. With her talent and beauty she was quick to win that first audition, but getting people to pronounce and spell her name wasn’t as easy.

“I was just sick of it,” recalls Preston. “I was doing a little part in this movie Christine years ago, a John Carpenter film, and sitting around the set with a bunch of actors. I just said, ‘So I’m going to change my name. I’m going to keep my initials and change my last name. What do you think?’

“We all thought of about eight or 10 names, Preston was one of them and I said — that’s it! It took 20 minutes and then we went on and did the next scene.”

With over 40 television and film credits, Preston has had the chance to work with great actors, including Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, Kevin Costner in For Love of the Game, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins.

But her favorite was … ?

“My husband, of course. Even before we got married he was one of my favorite actors. I loved him! I loved Welcome Back Kotter, and when I’d seen Saturday Night Fever I was just blown away. It was an amazing movie. So brilliant,” gushes John Travolta’s wife of 11 years. “Of course it was a film that changed an era.”

After watching the movie, in fact, Preston and her mom signed up for disco lessons. But even more intriguing was a vision she had of the white-suited disco hustler dancing into her life one day.

“It was when we were living in Australia and my parents had gotten separated,” recalls Preston. “I was about 15 and we were walking out of the movie theater and I saw a poster of him. Then I had this flash, ‘Oh my god!’ I didn’t know that I was going to marry him, but I knew that at some point I would know him.”

Today the happily married couple maintain homes in Los Angeles, Maine and on Oahu with their two keiki — Jett, 10, and Ella Bleu, 2. They’re also building a house in Florida, located in a planned “flying” community that’s a perfect fit for Travolta’s huge passion for jets.

“The property has a big runway on it,” explains Preston. “It’s surrounded by a community where everybody will own a plane and will be able to fly into. It’s pretty amazing.”

The family divides most of their time between Los Angeles and Maine. But of all their dwellings, Preston says Hawaii is definitely her home.

“I love Hawaii so much,” says Preston, who returns here two to three times a year. “It’s my favorite place in the world. We have a little beach house on Oahu and I just love it. My family, parents, all my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins live there, and I see them when I come home. It’s always the family — ohana.”

Preston’s dad is a retired personnel manager; and mom, Linda Carlson, is a retired executive director of a mental health center. Half-brother Chris Palzis is a screenwriter in Los Angeles.

Family is a top priority for the charismatic Preston. She loves being a mom and talks of having another little one. But at the moment the Travolta clan has its hands full with many different projects. Travolta just wrapped up a film called BasicN— a military thriller co-starring Samuel L. Jackson. After Preston completes Dr. Seuss, she hopes to open a school in Los Angeles.

“I’d love to have a third child,” says Preston, who turned 40 this month. “Right now I’m wanting to work, but I would absolutely love to have another baby. I love being pregnant. My family, my husband and my kids are the best things in my life.”

An activist in children’s environmental health issues, she has been working for more than a year to establish a Delphi school on L.A.’s west side. She’s a strong believer in protecting children from toxic chemicals in the home, school and environment. She also made a video, Not Under My Roof — Protecting Your Baby From Toxins At Home, with Olivia Newton-John.

“It’s going to be a perfect school,” says Preston, who is the national spokeswoman and on the board of directors for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC). “A school with a really strong curriculum, heavy on the arts. And then a perfect school where it’s non-toxic, non-chemical, non-pesticide, at least 50 percent organic cafeteria and a great scholarship program.” Plans are to open it next year, starting with kindergarten to third grade, then gradually add more levels up to eighth grade.

Preston will be honored Nov. 2 for her involvement in children’s causes, and inducted into the Miami Children’s Hospital hall of fame.

“She’s done a wonderful job acting,” says Linda Carlson, “but what I’m most proud of is what kind of mother she is — loving and devoted.”

Jett is being home-schooled by a tutor and Ella Bleu is with her nanny. But the two Travolta tykes often get to visit Mommy at her quarters on the set, whenever she’s filming.

“Ella is going to be coming in about an hour and a half,” says Preston, “and she’s going to stay the rest of the day with me. I have a bunch of toys in my trailer.”

Preston may have found success in Hollywood, but it was in Hawaii that the stunning blond actress first appeared in commercials for companies such as Sunkist, McDonald’s and Diet Pepsi.

“I did lots of drinks, a lot of soda and also a lot of Japanese commercials,” she recalls. “I did everything from nail polish to chocolates, clothing and Sony Walkmans. It was around (that time) that I decided to go into acting. I thought ‘You know what? I really love this.’”

With the help of her Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card, which she earned doing those Hawaii commercials, and an agent in California, she was sent to her first audition and won a role on the soap opera Capitol.

“I’ve had a lot of favorite experiences,” says Preston of her career. “I loved Jerry Maguire. I loved working on it. I just think Cameron Crowe is amazing, and I love the character I played. She was so much fun.

“It was also a turning point in my career when I just really decided that I really wanted to only do big projects. So that’s definitely one of my favorites, and also Citizen Ruth with Laura Dern.”

Preston hopes to make it back to Hawaii — the place that holds so many sweet childhood memories for her — before the end of the year.

“My favorite was family barbecues and going out to Bellows beach and having picnics out there,” she says. “And Boogie boarding with the whole family and friends. There are just so many great memories.

“My grandmother Nani would drive us by the shower trees on Kalanianaole Highway and she would always point them out and say ‘Look at how gorgeous they are. They’re in full bloom.’ Or my mom and dad would take us mud-sliding in Nuuanu.”

Preston has also been quoted in national magazines on how she misses local treats such as Leonard’s malassadas and Matsumoto’s shave-ice.

And according to her mom, Kelly was just as charming as a keiki. “My favorite memory is when we were living in Iraq,” says Carlson. “She was about 5 and she went to answer the door. Her two little Arab friends were there, and she says to them, enthusiastically, ‘Come in Arabs.’ That always makes me laugh.

“Another time she and her brother talked me into believing that all I had to do was walk up to the counter at McDonald’s and go ‘bok, bok,’ flap my arms like a chicken, say ‘three McChicken burgers please,’ and they’d give me a free burger. The guy was just staring at me, and I turned around and they were laughing. They really pulled a fast one on me.”

Kelly lives an active life, and loves scuba diving, sky diving, horseback riding and just about anything to do with the ocean. Her regular workout routine is yoga three times a week and a little treadmill every day: “And I do have a 2-year-old.”

While working in the entertainment world can mean long hours, family separations and a lot of flying, Preston admits that there are too many wonderful things about it to complain.

“I love what I do,” says Preston, euphorically. “We’re able to maintain a real life — and obviously our lives are amazing — but it’s also real down-to-earth.”

Part of that happiness and success comes from the controversial Church of Scientology, which has attracted many celebrities including Preston, Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, Jenna Elfman and Lisa Marie Presley.

“It has something for everything in your life,” explains Preston, “to make every aspect better. You can handle any stops in your life or things that hold you back. Everybody’s got a baggage for different things, and you can completely have those disappear and just be so amazingly happy and alive and strong; and kind of be really whatever you want. Whatever you can imagine, you can be, you can have, you can do.”

Back in Tinseltown, meanwhile, Preston has a couple more films coming out soon. A View from the Top — a comedy about flight attendants with Gwyneth Paltrow, Rob Lowe, Christina Applegate and Mike Myers — is due out in January. And American Girl (working title) is due out next summer.

Posted: October 21, 2002 @ 12:00 AM HST

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