The Simple Things
Dina Eastwood Prefers Substance Over Style
BY Brett Wilbur • PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLI ULDALL
Dina Eastwood is running late. She calls to explain: “Clint hasn’t been home in a week and just walked in the door, we’ve got one kid who just called because she needs a ride, and I’ve got a herniated disk in my back and I need to go to Long’s to get a prescription.”
An hour later, when she arrives at Tehama—the Carmel Valley golf club and property her husband developed—she is full of apologies.
Eastwood has recently returned from attending the Academy Awards with her husband, who was up for best picture and best director for his critically acclaimed, “Letters From Iwo Jima.” The film won for best sound editing.
“It’s different than ‘Million Dollar Baby,’” Eastwood says,“when you’re high all night with win, win, win. I was counting the hours until we were done with it. Because I need to get back into reality: get back into getting kids to school on time, because the mother shop doesn’t stop.”
Eastwood has been a KSBW TV news anchor, a movie actress and a “Candid Camera” host. She’s currently PTA president at her daughter’s school, a magazine writer and on the boards of multiple nonprofits. But she insists she’s not worthy of a magazine cover.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asks. “You might be making a big mistake. It’s not too late to change your mind.”
Later, Eastwood sat down with Carmel Magazine to talk over lunch.
Carmel Magazine: I’m wondering about all those components in your life and how you juggle them.
Dina Eastwood: I don’t do it very well. I was an hour late to this! I’m just a crap planner.
CM: Do you say yes too much?
DE: No, not anymore. But when I do start spinning out complaining, I do an awful lot of pinching [myself] that I don’t have to go to a job anymore. Not that I wouldn’t like that. Because I loved working. And you might think I’m blowing smoke. But you can focus what you’re doing when you’re going to work. I’m so much more organized when I do sit in [and do the 5pm news] at KSBW.
CM: I’m interested in all the charity work you do.
DE: Mmm… it just looks like I do more because I’m married to Clint. I don’t really do any more than most other people who are involved do. I really don’t.
CM: Are there some particular groups you are involved in right now?
DE: Definitely the PTA, and I’m on the ACTION COUNCIL [of Monterey County] and I’m kind of taking my little year off from Freedom Fields [a group that removes landmines] but I’m still considered a board member. And BioBanc, [a company that stores white blood cells] I’m going to be on the nonprofit arm of that. I’m really active on some boards and not active on others. The problem is I get a lot more credit for them than the people who actually do all the work. That’s very uncomfortable for me. I don’t like it at all.
CM: Is there a certain type of cause you feel most passionate about?
DE: I like to do goods and services. Clint likes to do music and arts. I’m more like, ‘No no no, delousing kids, backpacks.’ He’s on State Parks, the Jazz Festival, AT&T, California Movie Commission. The volume of requests can be overwhelming. See, people assume they can’t get Clint so they do go to me.
CM: So you help out with a lot of local fundraising events?
DE: They do assume that if I come, he’ll come. Well, no shit! It does not offend me the slightest that they ask me thinking they’re going to get Clint. It’s my husband, I’m so proud, so it doesn’t bother me at all. But I tend to react sometimes at the volume. We’re hosting a few biggies [soon] and I already have a stomachache.
CM: Do you have to give some things up?
DE: If my income even counted 10 percent to our household, I would work. I love working.
CM: If you don’t have that going-to-work side, what do you do to feel stimulated?
DE: I must volunteer on nonprofit projects to feel fulfilled, and I started taking classes at MPC last year to get my interior design certificate. Because I am a person who is going to fill every single hour of the day, and yes, I complain about it every hour of the day.
Being married to Clint is almost a full-time job, just trying to keep up with him. I also try to be a very present mom. But I don’t want to make myself look too good because I didn’t take either kid to school this morning. Being somebody who’s been in the workforce since age 15, I do realize I’m very lucky that I don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time of day.
CM:What did you do at age 15?
DE: I was working at McDonald’s, teaching gymnastics, and cleaning apartments.
CM: I hear you say things like, ‘I watch what I spend.’
DE: It is a value to me and it is a value for Clint. I love purses and shoes as much as anybody else but we do most of our shopping at Marshall’s, Ross and Mervyn’s. Clint is extremely non-flippant with money. He’s a Depression-era baby.
CM: Did you grow up with both of your parents?
DE: I grew up with my mom. My dad was [also very much a part of my life.] My mom was 19, and my dad was 21 when they had me. My parents are very, very cool. I have a brother who is 38, and I’m 41.
CM: How is it going to all those Academy Awards type things…is the Dina I’m seeing now the same Dina who goes to these events?
DE: Yeah! In fact, people call me afterwards and say, ‘You have to quit taking pictures on the red carpet or waving or making peace signs.’
CM: You said you’re not used to having someone doing your hair and makeup for you.
DE: Clint doesn’t appreciate dressing up, hair being done, nails, hates makeup. So I don’t have to do any of that stuff because I’d only be doing it for him and he doesn’t care.
CM: Is it hard to have breaks from each other, when Clint is off making movies?
DE: Breaks are great for every marriage. The longest we go [apart] is maybe 10 days. When you travel with Clint, it’s a one-week trip and three cities. He works from the second we arrive until the second we leave.
CM:What do you value about your relationship?
DE: He’s the least pretentious person I’ve ever met. And I love that he’s so conscientious about nature and letting things remain as they are. You look at Tehama and it’s built into the land. Now there will be detractors who will say, ‘Well you built a damn golf course.’ That’s true. But they replanted oak trees and moved them instead of tearing them down. This is a very ungroomed course. It’s xeroscaped. It’s all native everything and it’s not one of those fake-o places that has flowers on the fairway. He’s like that with animals and nature. When Morgan [our 10-year-old] was a little girl she liked to go in our yard to look at the flowers and he’d say, “Please don’t pick the flowers, let them live.”
CM: That’s cute.
DE: He’s one of those people who takes bugs outside. I call him Saint Francis of Assisi. I wonder if it’s because he gets so much attention from humans, and I think he’s self-conscious about getting so much attention, that I wonder if he fixates on animals because he gets to give all the attention.
CM: How much time do you have to play golf together?
DE: He gets irritated that I do other things that preclude me from enjoying the fact that we have a golf club. He manages to make time for it, but he’s also not leaving at 2:45 sharp to pick up the kids.
CM: How many kids are there between the two of you?
DE: There’s eight kids. I had three young stepchildren when we got married and they’ve all lived with us off and on.
CM: I want to ask you about public schools because I know how much you value them.
DE: My dad was a public school teacher for 30 years. I went through public schools. We are so happy at [our daughter’s public school], but our other daughter is at a local private school,and it is wonderful, too. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college so sometimes I have a hard time adjusting to the notion of paying tuition for elementary school.
CM: So you put yourself through college?
DE: At Arizona State, I rode a 10-speed ten miles to my job. I couldn’t afford to stay, so I came home and graduated from San Francisco State in radio and television.
CM: What was your childhood like?
DE: I’ve had the same best friends since first grade with the exception of one. We were latchkey kids but it made me know how to deal with being home alone. Big deal. I have no pity party from my childhood. My mom worked 50 hours a week selling appliances so we were home until 9 at night all alone. And that’s life.
CM: There is something to be said for having a taste of all experiences. I worry sometimes about the ‘Carmel Bubble.’
DE: I call it the Carmel Bubble too. I had the same experience in the suburbs [of Fremont, Calif.]. I was the darkest kid at my elementary school. I used to get called ‘nigger’ in grade school. I had a real problem with my looks until I was about 20. Now everyone is mixed. It’s no big deal. My dad is black and Japanese. And my mom’s Irish, German and English. I was the poor kid in the rich school.
CM: What did that do for you?
DE: Appreciate things more now. And I tend to have judgment on showiness of money. But I trip out on how I don’t see it at [my daughter’s Carmel-area school]. I would never feel looked down upon because I’m not wearing makeup and I’m wearing sweatpants and an unmatched shirt. It’s very kickback compared to what I thought it would it be.
Dina gets up for a moment and Clint comes over to the table and starts eating the remains of her salad.
CLINT ON DINA
CM: Your wife is so self-effacing. She said, ‘It’s not too late to change your mind. You might be making a big mistake putting me on the cover.’
Clint Eastwood: I don’t think you’re making a mistake but she is self-effacing. When we first met, ‘Unforgiven’ had just come out, in 1992, so she was doing an interview with me…
Dina calls out: I’ll be right there! Clint calls back: Don’t worry, I’ve taken over here.
So anyway, we got along really well and I guess we flirted a little bit because she took the film back to KSBW and one of her associates said, ‘You’re going to marry him.’ Then we were attending a function out at Spanish Bay and [one of the hosts] said, ‘Do you mind sitting with Dina Ruiz?’ I said, “No! Not at all!” We ended up holding hands and doing all that kind of nonsense and then we started dating and we’re still dating.
CM: What was so appealing about her?
CE: Oh, I don’t know. The big doe eyes. She’s a very forthright kind of person. It’s one of those things you can’t put your finger on because it’s pheromones or something. So we got married, and we had a child, and we’re still together. Eleven years.