From singer to actor
Originally from Nebraska, Marty Winkler is the ninth of 14 children. From the beginning she was destined to stand out from the crowd, performing her own work in public for the first time at age 13. The envy of many who relegated their interests to hobbies and after-work avocations, Winkler, 61, parlayed her passion into a music career. She has performed nationwide, everything from jazz to opera and is most at home in the spotlight. With an exuberant personality and fearless drive, she enjoyed success as a singer, songwriter and voice teacher. When she moved to New York as a young woman, she was one of the rare few that got off to a good start. “I had a job, a place to live and a gig in the first week,” says Winkler.
But, by 2005, at the start of a second marriage and smitten with the Classic City, Winkler and husband, journalist and author Noel Holston, left Long Island to build a home together in Athens. It was in the middle of relocating that Holston suggested she try acting.
“He said, ‘You’re like the It Girl. Have you ever thought you should be a serious actor?’” With that seed planted, Winkler made a leap into a new kind of entertaining. Her motivation?
“After 40 plus years I had reached a point where I didn’t like having to do marketing, what I really like is the performing,” says Winkler. “I don’t want to promote and make phone calls. Some of the love for doing music was gone because it was too hard.”
And while acting isn’t easy, Winkler says it’s different from a singing career where “you have to have a team – an agent and a manager. And in acting, I don’t have to have a duo or trio – I can submit an audition tape all by myself.”
In 2012, Winkler and Holster both took a series of classes in the film program offered by the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Her acting instructor had advised her to “offer to be background twice for free. Just doing background you’ll learn a lot. After two times, tell them they have to pay you.”
Winkler describes background as “walking furniture.” It’s a non-speaking role that involves a lot of walking back and forth for multiple takes, and a lot of waiting around. And Winkler did learn. “Never look at the camera. Know where the cameras are. And don’t wear distracting clothes.”
Now Winkler has gone beyond the walking furniture stage. She has had some significant roles in independent films being produced in north Georgia.
Along with the work of learning lines and delivering lines, acting is also a process. Winkler is registered with three different casting websites in Atlanta where she lists her profile, head shots, audition tape, film excerpts, and skills. “I know judo; I’ve played volleyball; I know my way around a kitchen, I can shoot a gun – in the world of acting, all of that counts as skills that can be useful in a production.”
She has an agent and she’s created a small studio space in her house where she can record a scene and email it to a casting director. But beyond the technical aspects of acting, Winkler says that success comes from building relationships, being professional, and networking. “Sixty projects a day are filmed in Atlanta. More are filmed here than in LA.”
Her debut as a stage actor was in the lead in the play “Winterglow” at the Morton Theater recently. She says the experience was phenomenal, complete with her first moment of blanking on stage. “It’s like having a car wreck – it’s only two seconds, but it goes on forever.”
One of her advantages, she says, is that she is jumping in at an age when many others are leaving. Launching a second career when others are retiring gives Winkler a freshness and energy that veteran actors may lack. She thinks she has the energy for a third act as well.
“My last big project will be something with the environment. I went to New Zealand four years ago and I fell in love with it. At some point I plan to return and teach people how to sing while I study how they do things environmentally. I’m at that point in my life where I feel like the world has given me so much…I’m in a give-back stage. This is last chapter of my life. It can be a long or short. I’m a breast cancer survivor so I know tomorrow is not promised.”
While some may think starting a second career late in life is too risky, Winkler says, “Do what you want to do – if you’ve gotten to 50, over half of your life is gone. If you have a passion, try it. Don’t put it off.”
From hobby to profession
Blane Marable has called Athens home all his life, and he is enjoying a second career photographing the events, people and places of the community he loves. After 30 years in education, Marable took the skills he learned as a hobby, practiced in the school setting, then shaped them into a thriving business.
As a faculty member for Oconee County High School, Marable spent 20 years in the classroom teaching the sciences. Ten years ago, he wrapped up his education career at the state level before deciding he was ready for a more flexible schedule.
“I always enjoyed photography, and I would photograph students for end-of-the-year slide shows and publicity.” What started as occasional graduation or wedding photos for former students evolved rapidly into a full-time business.
He attributes that to social media, which was just starting about the time he was. The business took off when he began posting photos on Facebook and Instagram. Now his days are filled with weddings, senior photos, events, banquets, UGA events and sports.
“In the Athens community, a lot is happening with weddings and graduation. There is opportunity here for a working photographer to capture moments.”
“My favorite part of the work is weddings. I do engagement photos and then bridal sessions all the way to the day of the wedding.” Following bridal parties as they do hair and make-up throughout the big day, Marable captures the range of emotions with friends and family. “I’m usually the last person to say good-bye to them. I really enjoy getting to know the couple and the family.”
When asked to compare his careers, Marable says he’s enjoyed both and that he sees photography as an outreach of his career in education. “I’ve enjoyed both equally. A lot of the skills I developed working with students has helped in photography.”
Like any new endeavor, Marable says there are challenges to starting something new, and he recommends being well informed before taking the plunge into a second career. “It is a challenge to develop the business portion of it. I’ve taken several continuing education workshops and I continue to take classes to focus on the business part – how to market yourself and set up a business. Developing a successful small business is totally different from education.”
But it’s a challenge that Marable is happy to face, and he is eager to grow this project for years to come. “I’ll continue to develop the business until I decide I need to slow down.”
Property management and a little mothering
Susan Beaumont turned 65 last year, and decided it was time for a change. She had been working out of her house at Lake Oconee following the death of her husband in 2011.
“I was working myself to death and bored,” she says. Ever since her husband had been diagnosed with cancer 20 years before, she had been in educational publishing sales.
But when an opening came up for a house director for Delta Gamma sorority, she discovered she was a perfect fit, with her outgoing personality, and the experience of raising two daughters and renovating a house.
Finishing up her first year, which included a major renovation of the historic house, she describes the position as “a blessing and a privilege.”
Susan Reinhardt, 64, spent her career mostly in the field of education, as a secondary school teacher and then as program director with the UGA College of Agriculture in the Tifton field office. Following the death of her husband and the graduation of the last of her three children, she moved to Athens in 2013. Not ready to retire, four years ago the perfect position came open – house director for Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
“There’s a to-do list every day,” she says, and that keeps her on the move, which she likes.
Ann Winger, 66, began her ‘second act’ with a sorority in Austin, Texas when she divorced at age 49 and found herself with no marketable skills.
“I had not worked in years but I shadowed the outgoing director at UT, and I felt confident developing menus because I had a degree in nutrition and training at the Culinary Institute. The position gave me a roof over my head, food, and the girls kept me going.”
Twelve years ago, she was looking for a change and a new start when she moved to Athens to oversee the Phi Mu sorority.
“It’s getting paid for what I love – managing a household,” says Winger. She says she feels she was called to the position.
On average, most of the 19 sorority house directors are from 55 to 65 years old although several are over 65. The job is typically a second career for a divorcee or widow.
All three women had been in sororities as young women, so they knew the “Greek world.” Although that world has changed. “We dressed for dinner every night; we raised our hands to request seconds,” recalls Beaumont. “I would never have stepped foot in my house mother’s apartment, and she was always dressed to the nines.”
All three women have apartments in their sorority houses, which is included in their compensation package as are meals, and some health benefits. A local corporation board, comprising volunteer alumnae is the governing body of each house except for some that have national oversight.
While they are on-call 24/7, the women say they are rarely awakened in the middle of the night. The students elect officers who are charged with running the organizational and disciplinary aspects of the sorority, with the help of an advisory council of younger alumnae, and the corporation board. It’s primarily sophomores who live in sorority houses so each year, dozens of new students transfer in.
“We’re the go-between for the staff and the girls,” explains Winger. Depending on the size of the house, each house director typically deals with contracted food service, a couple of housekeepers, a maintenance man, and in some instances, a security guard. Daily, there are menus to be planned, food ordered, shopping and sometimes payroll to manage.
Property management has become a large part of the role as the job duties have evolved over the years. Given that many of the houses in Athens are historic, even ante-bellum, the task is not always simple. Reinhardt says her most recent challenge was getting her 1868 house wired to be wifi-compatible.
“Our job is to safeguard the property, oversee security, and keep the girls safe,” explains Winger, noting that serial killer Ted Bundy changed everything in 1978. Today, sorority houses have alarm systems, cameras, or uniformed guards, and sometimes all three.
The group of house directors meets once a month to share issues, concerns or advice. Beyond sharing work issues, “It’s a built-in social group,” says Beaumont. And the job itself “keeps us young,” says Winger.