by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, February, 2006 and the Boston City Paper 7/2007
She was the first love of my life; the first girl I wanted to marry. But it was not meant to be; she was 24, I was 11. Her name is Joanna Cameron, and you might remember her as the stunningly beautiful “Isis” on the 1970s Saturday morning TV show, “The Secrets of Isis.”
Isis was the story of a wise and very likable high school teacher, Andrea Thomas. She was one of those instructors who went the extra mile for her students. While on an archaeological expedition, she discovered an amulet that would grant her the powers and abilities of the Goddess Isis. Andrea used these powers to right wrongs and defend the helpless and downtrodden. There was no violence, and every episode came with a moral — it’s important to ask for help, don’t take foolish chances, believe in yourself, everyone has special gifts, and so on.
The live action series was a huge hit for two seasons and inspired legions of young male fans like myself to tune in each week and watch as the beautiful Isis helped young people solve their problems and stopped evil-dooers. It wasn’t just that Joanna was so beautiful — she was the teacher everyone wished they could have — a true confidant, a friend, an adult with all the answers.
So the years passed, and one Christmas my sister found bootleg copies of Isis on eBay for me. Watching the show some twenty-five years later was incredible and brought back so many warm memories. What surprised me was that besides the clothing styles, the show was not dated and held up very well, and the morality tales played out in each episode were just as relevant to kids today.
I bring all this up because a while back I got a chance to meet my childhood idol. Joanna Cameron would be making one of her very few public appearances at a sci-fi convention the following week.
I thought about this all week — to go or not to go — But even the night before, I kept thinking — this is Joanna Cameron. This is ISIS. If there was ever a person I idolized in my life, it was Joanna Cameron. She barely ever does conventions, and now she would be appearing nearby (well, 30 miles away nearby).
I knew I would regret not going.
So I went! Two days after my 40th birthday, I was about to meet an idol. My hero. (My first love!)
The “Super Mega Fest” convention was smaller than Star Trek conventions I’ve been to but had a decent sized dealer’s room. No schedule was provided about speaking, but as soon as I entered I realized that all the stars were already at tables signing autographs — and then I spotted her – Joanna Cameron.
Breathe. Breathe. Be cool. Stop shaking.
“Joanna, hi, my name is Robert Gillis. I’m very happy to meet you. On the way up, I told myself I was determined to stay calm and not get nervous.”
She smiled at that. She put me at ease. I hope she didn’t notice my legs were shaking.
Nearly thirty years after Isis, Joanna Cameron is still so beautiful. She’s aged so gracefully and it’s amazing how you just look at her and see Isis. I told her my name and shook her hand, and told her that as a kid when times were tough or lonely I saw her as a friend every Saturday, and what a tremendous role model she was. I thanked her for writing back to me so many times back then, and we talked about she likes answering fan mail.
We talked about ISIS and I asked if it would be on DVD — she was actually collecting signatures for that purpose,and would love to do a commentary or opening/closing. As I signed, she explained that the original series owner finally “got it out of his garage” and sold it, so there is a possibility of a DVD.
She also said she’s love to see a new ISIS today with today’s technology. “We shot on a shoestring,” she told me.
She had a great photo of her as Andrea Thomas that I bought, and the little trading cards as well. She signed, “Bobby, you’re the best” and offered to sign the other two I brought along as well — these were pictures I’d gotten from CBS almost 30 years ago. She liked the Isis “flying shot” I had and said, “It doesn’t show the damn boots!” She went on to explain that she hated the “damn boots” and that they designed the Isis doll before the series even aired (marketing even back then!) and she hated the boots. I laughed and said I was amazed how Isis would always come running down the road, chasing the runaway truck or whatever, in those boots.
She told me that she did ALL of her own stunts for Isis, and usually shot the Isis part on Fridays — there was a lot of work with the costume, makeup and hair so they did all of her scenes as “Isis” on the same day. They did a show a week.
I joked that I probably asked her to marry her when I wrote the letters and she smiled at that. I told her I’m happy now, married. She asked what my wife thought of me coming up today and I told her she understood. (In truth, I don’t think Sue understood at all, but what wife understands her husband’s first love was a female superhero endowed by the goddess Isis?)
I told her that I didn’t want to monopolize her time but she said not to worry; she said she’s not a big draw like some of the others, which really surprised me. The only long lines were for Anthony Daniels from Star Wars (he looks like C3P0) and Erica Durance, “Smallville’s” Lois Lane.
I asked Joanna if people recognize her all the time and she said not really, but some people do. I asked her what she’s been up to — I knew she’d been in the nursing field. Itold her of my experiences working in an Intensive Care Nursery. She did 12 years of home health care and found it very challenging and strenuous. Much of it involved hospice, and she said that it got difficult after some time — you need something inside you to do that. I told her I understood, that although he hadn’t been in hospice I told her about Dad, who’d died of cancer when I was 19.
After that, she got her marketing degree, and lives in Hawaii and manages two hotels. She says it’s a better way of taking care of people — for example, some German tourists came in recently, all long pants and shirts, pale. Three days later they’re in shorts, tanned and happy — she almost didn’t recognize them. She likes helping people this way. Making their lives better.
She’s still beautiful and I told her so. She’s also in terrific health. She says that to stay looking good you have to exercise. She is an avid long distance bicycler and loves to golf. Physical fitness is very important to her.
I asked a gentleman to take pictur
es of us that came out great, and I even gave her a hug and thanked her again, very much. She thanked me, too.
To see Joanna and person and actually have the opportunity to speak with her, one on one, for me, still has a dreamlike quality. She is such a wonderful role model, such a gifted person, such a giving, kind woman, and my hero.
I know that Joanna Cameron is just a person, an actor in a TV show, but she was always such a special part of my childhood, and such a wonderful role model. To finally meet her, give her hug, and talk to her, well, it’s just a dream come true. I admire her for her philosophy of taking care of people. She did that as a fictional character on a TV show and gave lessons and morality tales. As a nurse, she provided one-on-one care to dying people and gave them love and dignity, and now she helps people to learn to relax and relieve their stress. What an inspiration.
Sometimes our role models disappoint us when we meet them or get to know them better. Meeting mine was just the opposite. Thirty years after “Isis,” I admire and respect Joanna Cameron more than ever for all she’s done and continues to do, and of course, there’s still that eleven year old in me that gets to say, “Oh, my God! I met Isis! I met Isis!”
UPDATE: I’ve received some very nice emails from folks who enjoyed this column and have their own memories of growing up watching Isis. Several have asked if I have an address for Joanna, and actually, I do.A marvelous website called the Unofficial Isis Appreciation page at:
is the best Isis web site I have ever seen. The site is filled with Isis images, episode information, interviews, and behind the scenes trivia. I HIGHLY recommend this web site.
The Unofficial Isis Appreciation page reports that Joanna Cameron reads the site and has provided this address for people to send her mail:
P.O. Box 1208
Kapaau, Hawaii 96755
the site reports that this is a special address that was set up to handle Joanna’s fan mail.
I HIGHLY recommend this web site.
UPDATE 2007: Isis came to DVD July 24, 2007! CLICK HERE TO GO TO AMAZON.COM for the DVD set
UPDATE 2010: Ken Lara of Hawaii is a professional photographer and friend of Joanna Cameron, and received her blessing to offer to let me use these pictures here. They were taken by Ken at Joanna’s 2009 birthday party. I am exceptionally grateful to the generosity of both Ken (whose web site I will add here once completed) and as always, to the lovely Joanna, who continues to be such an inspiration to me. As a TV “super hero,” as an exceptional actress, as a hospice nurse, and now as a hotel manager, Joanna takes care of people — she is a beautiful person inside and out — and I am so grateful that I got to meet her. Thank you to both Ken and Joanna for allowing me to use these images … (Photo credit Ken Lara/Kendale Photography)
UPDATE 2011: From Bob: This particular column has garnered more emails and response than any other posted here. I never realized how many people shared my love for “The Secrets of Isis” and admiration for Joanna Cameron.
One of the show’s most ardent fans is “The Other Isis” who said it would ok to post her email here. She and her family visited the Halloween capital of the world, Salem, Massachusetts, in October 2011, and after many months of hard work she created an “Isis” costume that is authentic down to the minutest detail. I was so impressed by the results I asked for, and she gave me, permission to post them here. She is a true fan of Isis!
If you have any information about the specifics of the Isis costume, or would just like to join a circle of Isis/Joanna Cameron fans, send an email to “The Other Isis” — she’s an awesome person and would love to talk Isis with you! Email: email@example.com
Just for fun I did a little Photoshop work to put “The Other Isis” in a more appropriate setting:
“The other Isis” sent images she took of Reseda High School, location filming area for the “Isis” High School when she visited Reseda in 2011: