OCEAN PARK — The plan for the day was simple, just treat it like any other.
And so that is what Mae LaBorde set out to do when she got out of bed one recent morning, going about her regular daily regime, first brushing her teeth, next drinking a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and then making the bed.
Except this particular morning was unlike any other, the door bell constantly buzzing, more flowers delivered, and the phone constantly ringing, another call of well wishes.
As the coffee table began filling with flowers and the stack of cards sitting on the ottoman grew taller, it soon became apparent that it was indeed LaBorde’s 100th birthday.
“I feel old,” the Santa Monican joked from her home last Wednesday.
But apparently not too old to go on an audition the very next day.
Hitting the century mark on May 13 put LaBorde in a relatively small and unique subset of the American population. Even more unique is the smaller class of citizens to which she belongs — centenarians who are still professional actors.
It was about five years ago that LaBorde received a call from a friend, who with a note of urgency in her voice, said there was an opening for a part in a Sears commercial and asked if she could come in that day for an audition.
The thought of acting hadn’t entered LaBorde’s mind for nearly 80 years, her last role coming in a high school play.
But curious, LaBorde went in and read the lines for the part, informed by the casting agent that a call would come the next day.
“Maybe they were short of people but the next morning they called and said you got the part,” LaBorde said. “It was fun and exciting to think that I was in a commercial.”
Today a picture of a television set showing the commercial sits on a buffet in the living room, surrounded by photos of her late husband and daughter, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.
While the Sears spot got LaBorde’s foot in the door, it wasn’t until a story by L.A. Times Columnist Steve Lopez that put the silver-haired actress’ name out in the industry and got veteran agent Sherri Spillane knocking on her door.
“I went to meet her and was just amazed,” Spillane, who is the head agent at Webb Talent Agency, said. “I couldn’t believe that she was that bright and that positive at that age and just ready for a whole new career.”
After LaBorde gave a tea leaf reading at that initial meeting, Spillane took on her oldest client and started sending her out on auditions, booking parts on Lexus and Chase Bank commercials.
Then came roles on television shows and films, from “MADtv” to “Blue Collar TV” to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Her film credits include “Pineapple Express” and “The Heartbreak Kid.”
But her favorite job to date is the 13 appearances on “Talk Show with Spike Feresten” on which she has acted in numerous skits, including most famously, a comical piece about the DTV transition, which became a viral hit and earned her the “Hulu Award” for having the most viewed video on the site after which it is named.
Out of the pile of birthday cards sitting in the living room, the one that perhaps stands out the most came with a dozen roses sent by Spike Feresten, who wrote “You are the funniest centenarian I know.”
“That is coming from a stand-up comedian,” LaBorde said, smiling fondly at the card. “I was kind of proud of that.”
The oldest of three children, born to a father who was a strawberry farmer and a mother who was a homemaker, LaBorde moved from Fresno to Los Angeles in the midst of the Great Depression shortly after graduating from high school, living with her cousin while she worked at S.H. Kress & Co., a department store.
It was on the red electric trains during her commute from home in Venice to work in Downtown Los Angeles where LaBorde met her future husband, Nicholas, a conductor 17 years her senior.
He would always tip his hat, and hand her a copy of the day’s newspaper for LaBorde to read during the rides, attempting to make conversation with his passenger.
Then one day, Nicholas finally asked LaBorde about her plans for the following Sunday.
When that day rolled around, LaBorde was en route when she spotted Nicholas on Rose Avenue, dressed in a suit and wearing a Stetson hat.
“Our team is going to play baseball on the way to Pomona,” he explained. “I thought I would pick you up and take you there.”
“Anything to take two trains to go out to Pomona,” LaBorde thought at the time.
On the way there, Nicholas proposed.
They opted to date for six months thereafter and eventually married, staying together until Nicholas died at the age of 88. They had a daughter, Shirley, who died of breast cancer at 45.
Today, LaBorde shows the obvious signs of old age, relying on a cane to walk and admittedly being bad at remembering names.
“I notice each morning as I get up, I feel a little bit older,” she said.
But there’s plenty of youth left, thanks to a healthy diet and active lifestyle, which includes participation in Borderline Neighborhood gatherings, the Santa Monica Historical Society’s speakers bureau, and the Santa Monica College General Advisory Board.
She was honored by the community on Sunday at the Santa Monica YMCA where the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum threw a birthday party. A smaller family celebration was held a week before.
“I just live daily and people will ask me what is your secret to longevity,” she said. “I’ll tell them that … it’s good nourishing food, and a sense of humor.
“If I make a mistake or drop something, I laugh at myself.”