Not many people in their 60s perform aerial acrobatics. Regardless of their age, not many people are even capable of pulling themselves up a long silk fabric and gracefully holding poses almost 20 feet in the air, let alone someone two years away from collecting Medicare and Social Security.
Then again, Libby Aubrey is no ordinary woman. At 63, the lifelong actress and dancer is the kind of person that defies aging. She’s the kind of person that when you meet her and find out how old she is, you want to know the secret. Does she use Cindy Crawford’s melon formula? Does she follow Oprah Winfrey?
Aubrey laughs and smiles about all that. She credits her appearance – which could probably pass for 20 years younger – to a positive attitude, a loving spirit, drinking a lot of water and the art of dance. Starting out as a young actress on the East Coast, dancing was a way to stay in shape. And actors that came through conservatory school, as Aubrey did at the Stephens College for Women in Missouri, are expected to act, sing and dance.
“The arts taught me early on that our bodies are our temples,” says Aubrey, who lives in Rancho Palos Verdes. “So I pursued any activity that was fun for me and allowed me to further explore that from a physical point of view.”
Always game for a new challenge, at one point Aubrey competed in velodrome cycling where riders race around a wooden track, slanted for speed, on a single gear and no breaks. At 50, she medaled in national and international competitions.
“I guess I’m a bit of a daredevil,” Aubrey says. “But I still have some breaks in my head. Dancing, though, gave me access to anything. I’ve always asked myself if you can take what you’ve learned in one discipline to help you master another one. Is there an overlapping skill set there? I believe there is.”
She’s practiced nearly every type of dance and yoga at some point in her life as a way to stay fit and limber. When her feet started aching after decades of dancing, Aubrey turned to the skies. She said she always dreamed of flying since she was a little girl growing up in Pennsylvania. Aerial acrobatics, so high above the ground, in some ways fulfills those long lost desires, and it’s an incredible workout, she says.
“When we dance we use the floor,” Aubrey says. “Now all of a sudden everything is about your center. It’s a way of enhancing my ability as a dancer and a performer because it’s all core work and balance.”
Aubrey sat down to talk about life and good health beside a fireplace at Terranea Resort on a recent afternoon. She wore an elegant coat with a fur-lined collar and bright red lipstick. Soft-spoken, Aubrey squints her eyes when she laughs with a kind of movie star quality and grace that can’t help but draw people in. She credits a lot of her good health to a positive attitude even when it’s tough.
“I’ve almost made it a game with myself, if there’s something that rubs me the wrong way and I’ll feel uncomfortable, I’ll find a way to reach beyond that,” she says. “It’s just so much easier and better in life. You have to dig down inside and find that. You have to work for it.”
Following a performance as a teenager at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, talent scouts recruited her for her first college scholarship. It was through five separate performance and academic scholarships that Aubrey earned her higher education.
“I think there’s a lot to be said for a child who studies music, who probably does better at math,” she said. “It was a natural for me.”
Early on, during a period in her life when she was doing a lot of work on fitness commercials, she noticed that women with the best bodies were dancers. For Aubrey, who’s been a member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1976, dancing was also a way of feeling centered not only when it came to acting but life in general.
“I used to go to dance class and see how many turns I could do, and it would tell me how in balance or off balance I was for that day. If you start to look at it as a tool for measuring who you are, the arts really can be a great guideline for that. But I was one of those strange kids who thought it was nearly a religious experience to be in acting.”
Aerial arts, in a sense, have opened up even more of her senses as an artist because of the element of height and fear. It’s one thing to look graceful and yet another to wipe the expression of abject fear off your face, Aubrey says.
“In a way you’re up there and you’re overcoming your fears,” she says. “You’re overcoming a whole new sense of space and time.”
Throughout her life, the arts have been a constant. In the 1980s, Aubrey lived in Beverly Hills and earned her living mostly appearing in commercials and sitcom pilots. Pregnant with her marriage ending in 1991, it looked as though Aubrey was going to be a single mother so she moved back east to be closer to family. But things didn’t turn out the way she planned as her baby died during child birth. The period marked one of the lowest points in Aubrey’s life. And to help pull out of it she devoted herself once again to her crafts.
“One true thing in all the arts is there’s that wonderful creative space when you’re unaware of time,” Aubrey says. “If you have aches and pains you don’t feel them when we’re creatively focused. During that period of time it’s like a healing space. For some people it’s channeling creative spirit. If you have that sense of passion and love of what you do, you can be lucky enough to go to that space and feel free of everything.”
During the height of her work in Hollywood, Aubrey hung out with Pat Proft, who co-wrote “Naked Gun”, “Police Academy” and the “Scary Movie” series, among others. The two met about the time Proft was writing “Police Academy”. He was going into a reading with somebody and Aubrey was in the hall waiting for an audition and the two started talking. Today they remain lifelong friends.
“It’s amazing the amount of different kinds of people she settles into so easily with,” Proft said. “She’s really a gregarious and very smart and fun woman.” It was at lunch at a salad bar with Proft in Pacific Palisades that Libby met Ted Knight from the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Too Close for Comfort, who later helped her get a guest spot on the show.
Lifelong friend Rick Singer met Aubrey at the University of Wisconsin where they were both studying acting. Aubrey was performing in a costume period piece at the time and Singer was backstage. As Libby exited one of her scenes to go off-stage she started to fall down the stairs and Singer caught her.
“As well as a boyfriend, a lover and a friend, I’ve been an admirer of Libby’s for many years,” Singer said. “Sitting in the audience, I had the opportunity to be witness to her grace and beauty and great talent.”
Singer, who also went on to have a career in acting, affectionately calls Aubrey a sexy-genarian, as opposed to a sexagenarian to describe someone in their 60s. Telling a journalist this over iced tea at Terranea, Aubrey is glowing with laughter. Singer says it’s no accident Aubrey looks so incredible for her age.
“You can accidentally look younger I’m sure, or accidentally be more talented than someone else, but there’s a place that really comes from her core and it starts from that of a want and a need and a willingness to be the brightest and prettiest and most graceful,” Singer said.
“We all want to know what that one secret is,” he continued. “The shelves are lined with things trying to promote a secret. But the secret is really more personalize, especially with her, than we know. It begins in that core that she has. That’s the explanation.”