Not a 'South Park' Casualty

By Steve Ryfle, Hollywood.com

Mary Kay Bergman
Mary Kay Bergman
HOLLYWOOD, June 14, 2000 -- Dino Andrade remembers his wife as an ebullient personality, a talented actress who performed all the female character voices on "South Park," and his closest and dearest personal friend.

What he doesn't remember is a clue -- any inkling, any shred of information or evidence that could have helped him stop Mary Kay Bergman from shooting herself to death at age 38 in November.

Seven months after his wife's suicide, Andrade is on a mission. Bergman, he believes, suffered from an acute mental illness that she kept hidden -- even from him -- for years.

Now, Andrade wants to help other actors and Hollywood types who likewise might be heading down potentially suicidal paths, and set them straight.

"A lot of these folks will keep their condition a secret because they feel their reputation is on the line," Andrade, 36, an independent filmmaker, tells Hollywood.com in his first at-length interview since his wife's death.

A few months ago, Andrade established the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund, an adjunct to the Greater Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center that would have a hotline, counseling and crisis intervention services for the entertainment industry.

The association would give complete anonymity to entertainment pros, so they won't have to fear seeing their names in supermarket tabloids.

Kyle's Mom
Kyle's Mom
He believes that actors, in particular, are apt to hide mental health issues behind well-trained masks, just as Bergman did.

Bergman, who graduated from Hollywood High School, was blessed with a gift for mimicry and got into voice-over work after she was discovered while performing karaoke at a party.

She was the voice of a half-dozen female "South Park" characters (including Kyle's battle ax of a mom), but she also did lots of voice-over work for animated films, video games and feature films. She worked a lot for Disney (her voice was featured in "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," among others) and she was also heard in "The Iron Giant." One of her few onscreen roles is in "Bob's Video," a yet-unreleased movie directed by Andrade, her husband of nine years.

To give you an idea of her versatility, Bergman performed an unprecedented 16 different voices in the film "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," including nine different voices in the song "Blame Canada."

Despite a few news reports published around the time of Bergman's death, Andrade insists that his wife was not a "Hollywood casualty" driven to suicide by the cutthroat entertainment industry.

"She had this business by the balls," he says. "Unfortunately, she was ill."

Andrade now believes his wife suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a disease for which she was neither diagnosed nor treated. After Bergman died, Andrade says he found herbal mood medications that she had hidden in their home. "She was determined to fight it on her own," he says.

To her family and friends, and even her doctor, it appeared that Bergman was merely stressed out because of overwork. She and her husband planned a vacation, but what they didn't know was that Bergman really needed therapy and drug treatment to rid her of the irrational fears and demons of an advanced condition, Andrade says.

"I think she was dealing with this for years, hiding behind the voices of other people," he says. "The one mystery we'll never know is why she kept it a secret."

Shortly after this year's Academy Awards, Andrade took out a full-page ad in Variety, paying tribute to Bergman and imploring all in Hollywood who suffer from mental anguish to seek help. The feedback was immediate and supportive, he says.

"I don't want my Mary Kay's death to be a waste," Andrade says. "And already, I know that it is not. When we ran that advertisement, people called and said they were ill and they would seek help.

"That's what's giving me the strength to carry on with this, to reach others who are suffering but afraid to get help."

(Contributions to the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund, Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, 4760 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, Calif., 90230.)