By Libby Motika
Palisades News Contributor
“All of a sudden, goddess Athena sprang out of Zeus’ head. She was already an adult, wearing armor with a shield in her hands and uttering warlike cries!”
It would seem that Palisadian Nancy Klopper was invested at birth with the seeds of justice and compassion that would later manifest in her professional career and community activism.
As a casting director, she organized the members of the Casting Society of America, who had hitherto lacked the security of health and retirement benefits, to fight for union affiliation and ultimately gain membership in Teamster’s Local 397.
In Pacific Palisades, Klopper tackled the issue of homelessness by participating in organizing the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness.
The community council honored Klopper with its Pride of the Palisades award for her efforts with the Task Force and particularly for working to help the mentally ill Norwegian woman,“Pretty Blonde,”reunite with her family.
One person wrote in nominating Klopper, “She jumped into action and researched every avenue that might bring peace and safety to a young woman before it was too late.”
Klopper told the News that she sources her deeply felt instinct to “to do good,” from her parents.
“My mother was (and is still!) very, very fierce,” she said. “I watched her step up on more than one occasion to ‘Do the right thing,’ even when it is incredibly difficult. “My father, who was pretty strict, was all about ethics, and morals and values. These are things he talked about all the time. So I think perhaps the combination of these two examples has played a part in my wanting to bring justice to the world.”
Klopper grew up in Cleveland and came out to Los Angeles after high school to work in Hollywood.
“I knew I didn’t want to go to college, I wasn’t a very good student,” she said. “I loved earning my own money and my interest in Hollywood was a thing. I liked the idea of production.”
Hired as a temporary assistant by casting director Lynn Stalmaster (“In the Heat of the Nigh,” “Coming Home,” “Tootsie” and “The Right Stuff,” Klopper found her niche. What was to be a one-day temp job lasted six years.
Under her own name, she has cast an impressive number of films, including “Ray” (2004) with Jamie Foxx, “Risky Business” (1983) with Tom Cruise, “The River Wild” (1994) with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon, and An Officer and a Gentleman (1982).
Klopper took a detour to work with Norman Lear on developing movies, and when she returned to casting, she became aware of how undervalued the casting professionals were. While the Casting Society of America was a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, members were on their own; theirs was an association with no health benefits, pension or retirement provisions. All the established Hollywood unions had rejected them.
“We needed to unionize,” said Klopper, who formed a core group that went into action. The struggle lasted five years until finally they prevailed in 2006. All of the 450 members are now Teamsters.
When the Pacific Palisades Community Council began to talk about the town’s home- less population, and when Klopper started to see homelessness on the streets, she acted. “I wanted to be part of a program to develop helpful steps in organizing the Task Force.”
The PPTFH, started in 2014, established specific committees including fundraising, communication and enforcement.
Klopper joined the fundraising committee and found ironically that the response to her request to people in the industry was disheartening. “The money I raised came from the community—churches, American Legion, homeowners associations and St. John’s Health Center.”
Now a smooth-running operation, the Task Force deploys volunteers in strategic areas of Pacific Palisades. All members are in communication with one another, sharing texts and video. The effort includes talking to homeless individuals, offering resources and housing vouchers and keeping track of them on the Task Force database.
Klopper’s work with Pretty Blond touched on her tenacity and endless curiosity.
The small attractive woman had been wandering around the Palisades with clear signs of mental disturbance by day and bivouacking in the bluffs. Alarmed for her safety, Klopper followed her for months and began what turned out to be a protracted effort to get her into help. Working with the Task Force, she weathered the bureaucratic red tape of the Mental Health Unit’s misdiagnosis of Pretty Blonde’s mental status, which put the young woman’s life in further jeopardy.
“I just wanted to be able to reunite her with her family,” which required months of negotiating with the police and hospitals on behalf of the Norwegian’s wellbeing.
“My work with the Task Force has been fascinating, life altering,” Klopper said. “I never expected my involvement to be so deep, so intense.”
She was honored at the Citizen of the Year dinner on December 14 at Gladstone’s.