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The Girl in the Red Dress

"I met the gorgeous, red ball gown before I met its owner. Jutta Renz and I were to share a room at a glamorous Hollywood hotel for a weekend filled with film stars, musicians, authors, screen writers, producers, and every other aspect of Hollywood life. There would be a red carpet gala, a one thousand seat dinner party, and entertainment by noted musicians, comedians, and film spokespeople.

I knew that Ms. Renz had 2.3 million books sold in her native Germany, that she had written a musical work, entered into film competition, and that she had introduced muffins into Germany.

She must be an imposing figure, I thought, as I looked at the perfect structure and workmanship of the most fabulous red dress imaginable. As I unpacked, my roommate rushed to meet me, offering me a hug and some of the good sausage and cheese she had somehow managed to find in the heart of Hollywood. Dressed in jeans and running shoes, looking young enough to be my granddaughter, I wondered what in the world we could find to talk about. For two days we met intermittently and, as I worked backstage, I would catch glimpses of Jutta surrounded by friendly, interested people asking questions, sometimes taking notes.

Later, she would show me business cards and ask if I knew the actor or publisher or screen writer who was giving her advice. This was the young woman's first approach to Hollywood and she threw all her energy into it. Her script did not win a prize, but interested the judges enough that they were generous in offering her advice and giving her contacts to follow.

"Don't dream your life, live your dream," Jutta said was her motto. The musical she wrote was something she believed in to the point that she flew halfway around the globe to pursue its success. How interesting that she followed such a far-fetched dream, I thought, but I did not know Jutta.

Reared as the third child of hard-working entrepreneurial parents, Bernhard and Margot Renz, Jutta grew up in a family that demonstrated the value of exerting intelligence, thoroughness, and persistence to achieve success.

She honored and admired her parents for establishing a building supply company that flourished and also grew up seeing their approach to business challenges and opportunities. She inherited a strong business head and grew up immersed in disciplines that promote success.

Obviously, this young woman was not only a dreamer, but a hard worker. I watched with interest. Not everyone can write a musical film script. Jutta Renz majored in music in Briercrest Bible College in Regina, Canada, where she sang the lead roles in musical stage productions. Reviews were good and she enjoyed production nearly as well as singing.

It was in Canada where she discovered muffins, a tasty substitute for the hearty dark bread from home. At that time, Germany did not produce those tasty, often wholesome, little treats and young Jutta saw a natural market. So successfully did she display simple, quick methods of muffin-making on stage and television, that soon Germany needed muffin cookbooks. The beautifully produced books, with their enticing pictures of tea party or lunchbox treats, soon had people enjoying something new and Jutta producing new recipes in one best-selling book after another.

Soon Jutta Renz became known as Miss Muffin and appeared on talk shows and cooking shows throughout Germany and neighboring countries and obtained a worldwide trademark for all Miss Muffin products. Her musical was a natural offshoot of all of the rest of her success, and she had full confidence that her vision would become accomplished. I could see why. Her personality was natural, sincere, and charming. She is interested in people and loves to connect one interesting person to another. She is delighted when this brings about good fortune for each.

The night of the gala I saw Jutta backstage in the red gown. Hollywood hair and makeup had been accomplished, and she stood quietly as three maternal producer's wives placed every fold of the red dress into position. Jutta was not nervous or excited like the beautiful young presenters who would escort movie stars and speakers to the stage. She seemed as comfortable as she was in the universal uniform of jeans and canvas shoes.

I watched as she moved into the lobby and the crowds of important-looking individuals in black suits parted and surveyed her as she serenely approached the red carpet. It was as if she did this every day. The elegant walk, the lovely smile captured people's goodwill. It was almost as though Der Rosen Cavalier were to approach with a bow, take her hand, and lead her into a Strauss waltz.

Instead, she entered the ballroom and found her place among 1,000 other diners. As it happened, we sat together. There were notable film makers from Europe, Canada, Asia, and the United States. To my right were a wonderful couple from East Germany, who had produced an important film I hoped would win.

To Jutta's left sat a disgruntled young critic from the Los Angeles Times, who clearly found the evening not to his liking. He told Jutta that he was a Jewish atheist and had heard her sweetly reply that was not possible. God's chosen people are not atheists, she told him. They continued to talk and most of his remarks were derogatory. We dined in multicourse splendor as we watched film clips, heard announcements, and saw large cash prizes awarded to aspiring and long-admired film makers.

It seemed another world and Jutta engaged herself in every bit of the pageantry. During the party that followed, I saw people drift into her presence, stay and chat for long minutes, and I watched her move through the crowded room like a beautiful red poppy drifting over a dark sea.

She was a bright spot in an often too sophisticated and blase audience. That night she explained to me that her weekend had been like a year's education, generously provided by all manner of highly professional people.

She looked through her business cards and said, 'Mr. and Mrs. Jack Canfield loved my dress and were so nice to me. He says he publishes books.' Indeed, he publishes millions of books, I told her, beginning with Chicken Soup for the Soul.

The next morning, like most others in show business, we reached for the newspaper. Our event had been largely panned, but one paragraph stuck out: the glowing tribute to Miss Muffin.

Patiently Jutta began explaining the benefits of her hard-working weekend I had assumed was merely a dreamer's escape. She may be a dreamer, but Jutta Renz is a woman of faith and knows how to put feet to her faith, feet clad in running shoes.

I await the introduction of Miss Muffin's first animated musical film with great anticipation. I imagine it opening in major theaters worldwide and Miss Muffin herself appearing at times onstage. I will meet her for a premiere in Stuttgart or Paris and will reinforce together the idea that one way dream a life and live that dream. First, of course, I must buy a magical red dress."

Charlotte Hale, author, journalist and speaker, lives in Savannah, GA, USA