Thursday, June 28, 2012

‘Two Heads’ Memoir: Faith-Strengthened and Sweet

Chris LaddI’ve known Chris Ladd for several years; we met during a gathering of actors represented by the Talent Trek agency, and I’ve had the privilege of serving with him on the Screen Actors Guild Nashville Branch Council and now on the initial SAG-AFTRA Nashville Local Board. From that first encounter through today I’ve known Chris as a fellow “big man” with a very big heart.

He’s just published a short sweet-natured memoir called Two Heads Are Better Than One: A Story of Success in a Life with Christ through LifeWay’s CrossBooks imprint. And just like its author, there’s a mix of humility and humor that begins with the dust jacket and threads throughout the volume – that jacket displays a title that gives credit to the Son of God while also sporting a picture of a beaming Chris with his beloved cocker spaniel Laddie resting his head on Chris’ head.

We all know the street-corner-praying hypocrites that make a big show of their religion for others; we may even come to see that surface sanctimoniousness in ourselves because it’s so easy to say the words and much harder to live them every day. Chris knows that; he’s the first (in person and in his book) to admit his flaws. I can say I’ve crossed paths with very few people that appear to consistently practice what they preach from moment to moment, hour to hour and day to day. Chris, though, is one of those rare individuals.

It would have been so easy and understandable for Chris to have taken a different path; his parents divorced when he was only five and life for him as for others has had plenty of struggles. But in surrendering himself to Christ, Chris found a way to survive the lows and celebrate the highs while understanding our human existence is merely prelude to a larger life: One of the verses he quotes more than once in Two Heads essentially serves as his mantra – “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” That passage from Philippians 1:21 puts the life and writing of this faithful servant in its proper context.

Through that context Chris tells us about his life in the same easy-going style that I’ve heard him use when speaking to others. Sometimes what he talks about is tough to relate, like his mother’s battle with cancer, and sometimes it’s funny, like his anecdote about not being the only actor on set of TV’s Barnaby Jones who really wanted to call the gentlemanly Buddy Ebsen “Jed” after his famous character on the long-running comedy The Beverly Hillbillies.

Chris has worked in many fields besides acting; he’s produced records and spun them as a disc jockey; he’s been a salesman and an ambulance driver. His various professional walks have brought him into contact with many people, and some of them figure prominently in his story: Doris “Cousin Tuny” Freeman, a West Tennessee television personality that Chris first met when he appeared on her show as a child, has gone on to be “like a second mom to me” and provides the book’s foreword; now-deceased country music singer/comedians Jim and Jon Hager, Grand Ole Opry member Billy Walker and soulful singer Dobie Gray; and country music living legends like Jim Ed Brown and Jan Howard.

Those well-known folks aren’t mentioned in a self-serving “name-dropping” fashion; they’re noted with affection and respect by a man who’s long been a true friend to them and so many others. There are also loving tributes to the four-legged companions Chris has had over the years; from Shane and Lad to Buddy and Laddie, each has found place in his spacious heart. I’ve often thought one could tell a great deal about someone from the way they treated animals and children; between his care for dogs and such endeavors as his work for cerebral palsy, his shining character is readily revealed.

Chris also examines the destructive force of greed, the health care morass and the need for honesty in his memoir. His thoughts about each mirror the man who writes them – straightforward and grounded in a true desire for peace and harmony with God and His creation.

It’s been a blessing to read the words of this kind and gentle soul just as it’s been a blessing to know him personally. Get a copy of Two Heads Are Better Than One and I think you’ll quickly find all I’ve written about this force for good is true.

Chris Ladd’s book is available now from several sellers; offers it in various formats, including hardback, paperback and Kindle (click here for the paperback version).