Fashion & Beauty

Betty Buckley: “I Forgot to Get My Cutting Horse”

m120415182015-1Betty and Smart Skat Cat at home on her ranch today.

Once upon a time, an aspiring young singer arrived in New York City. That very same day, she auditioned for—and won the part of—Martha Jefferson in the new musical 1776. Her name was Betty Lynn Buckley. It was late January of 1969, and, whether she realized it or not, Broadway history was being made.

Buckley’s story is the stuff of show business dreams. Her immediate success was followed by leading roles in Pippin, CATS (for which she won a Tony), Edwin Drood, Sunset Boulevard (Olivier nomination), and Triumph of Love (Tony nomination). She was the sympathetic gym teacher onscreen in the film of Steven King’s Carrie, and later onstage in the musical of Carrie she played the mad Mother Margaret. And she’s had decades of featured roles on TV, from the stepmother Abby in Eight Is Enough to two seasons as ex-activist Suzanne on HBO’s gritty Oz. She’s recorded sixteen albums of her own, not including several cast albums (you can read about her latest, the hauntingly beautiful Ghostlight, here) and performed countless concerts in storied venues around the world. In 2012, Buckley was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. (One is tempted to say, “It was about time!”)

New York magazine once described Buckley as “The Voice of Broadway.” But, even given all the plum roles, awards, and accolades, there was something missing.

Growing up in Texas, Buckley had ridden in horse shows and junior rodeos. She’d always wanted to have a cutting horse. Cutting is an intense equestrian sport that dates back to the Old West, in which a horse and rider must separate a single cow from a herd. It’s a fast-paced exercise in agility and coordination, which you can admire at Cutting Horse shows worldwide or on YouTube—unless, like Buckley, you have more ambitious goals.

2003_Superstakes_FinalsPurple Badger and Betty competing in the 2003 Super Stakes Finals.

“That was a real dream of mine,” she remembers. “I wanted to be successful in show business so I could have cutting horses and learn how to ride them and show them.” Despite her glamorous life in show biz, she maintained her membership in the National Cutting Horse Association and stayed up to date with the top horses and trainers. But it was many years before she was able to turn that dream into reality.

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  • Jeanne Trammell Reed January 30, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Betty….although you and I were friends years ago at AHHS, I haven’t seen you since; though I’ve always kept up with you and always proud of your achievements! My bond with you was through my love for horses, dogs & cats! You invited me a couple of times to ride with you at the GD Stables where you kept your horse. So that was our connection! Looking forward to hearing from you. I really enjoyed the above article; it touched so close to home, it brought tears to my eyes!