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Reel History of the Valley: Bart Simpson is Just the Beginning

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If you hear Nancy Cartwright’s name and immediately think of her as Bart Simpson’s voice from The Simpsons TV show, you don’t know the half of it. 

Cartwright may have been the voice of the irrepressible Bart since 1987, but the woman behind the voice has also been recognized many times over for her work with children, her public speaking, and her volunteerism and philanthropy in the San Fernando Valley.  She is also an artist, civic leader, and film producer.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Cartwright moved to Hollywood in 1978 and to the Valley in 1986, renting a house on Whitsett Avenue in North Hollywood. With a couple of moves in between, she purchased her current Northridge home in 1996. 

Cartwright has brought her own sense of eclectic style to her one-acre retreat. Prior to being subdivided into several suburban houses, what is today Nancy Cartwright’s home was the farmhouse of a 27-acre alfalfa and eucalyptus spread. It had been owned by Maxine Andrews of the singing Andrews Sisters.

The 1947 Connecticut-style farmhouse, with its beamed ceilings, has offices for her many interests and involvements, and its own Pickleball court, an avocation which Cartwright has taken to in a big way. But perhaps most memorable to visitors and attendees at one of her many fundraisers is Milk Dud, the life-size fiberglass cow that graces her front yard.

“I love the Valley because I know my neighbors. I loved that I could teach my kids how to ride their bicycles here; it’s got a slight Midwest feel to it. It’s not Hollywood,” she says.

One of her favorite activities is creating a series of paintings of freedom fighters, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Audrey Hepburn, Anne Frank, and Sojourner Truth. Using a technique of painting acrylic on Lucite, she is working toward 24 paintings of 18”x24” each, which will eventually find a permanent home in a museum.

And then there’s her personal charitable project, Happy House, established in 2004 by Cartwright with a mission of helping build better families and teach children how to make the right choices in life. There currently are Happy House chapters in Northridge, Mission Hills, Pacoima and Norwalk, with, she says, more on the way.

Cartwright is also passionate about her educational campaign, Know More About Drugs. In 2019, she rented 300 billboard bus wraps throughout Los Angeles to help spread awareness.

She has been the Honorary Mayor of Northridge since 2005, and loves serving as the public relations face of her community.

She recalls that in 2009, “During the election cycle, a local newspaper mentioned me as the mayor – leaving out “honorary” – of Northridge. I received a call directly from our city’s mayor, Anthony Villaraigosa, asking if I was planning to run against him!” She ends the story with her trademark hearty laugh.

She was the co-writer and executive producer of a feature film, In Search of Fellini, based on her own fascination with the Italian writer-director. The Internet Movie Database summarizes the plot: “A shy small-town Ohio girl who loves movies but dislikes reality, discovers the delightfully bizarre films of Federico Fellini and sets off on a strange, beautiful journey across Italy to find him.” Cartwright, with a slightly mischievous tone, says that 70% of the film protagonist’s adventures really happened to her in Italy.

The Oct. 27, 2020, issue of Daily Variety announced Cartwright’s latest co-venture, Borrego, a feature film under the CRE84U banner, a production company she co-founded with three partners: Monica Gil-Rodriguez, and Jaime and Carolina Aymerich. The film, shot in Spain, is about a young botanist who moves to a small desert town and is kidnapped by an inexperienced drug mule after his plane crashes in the desert.

Cartwright smiles as she recalls that there are no cacti in Spain so they had to find fake cacti…quite a challenge.

And all of that activity doesn’t include her voiceover and animation work for TV projects outside of The Simpsons, or her full slate of philanthropic activities for Make-A-Wish Foundation and other organizations that focus on helping children, such as Famous Fone Friends, The Way to Happiness Foundation and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. She was honored with the Fernando Award in 2013, an acknowledgment of her years of volunteerism in the San Fernando Valley.

The woman who has successfully combined show business success with community involvement says, “You don’t have to  to be on TV to be a leader in your own community. You can be a leader and create the art of your life as a carpenter, a housewife…and put in your own creativity.”

Martin Cooper, President of Cooper Communications, supervised public relations for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 10 years; held executive positions with Disney and Universal Studios; and served as Chairman of the Board of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. He is a Fernando Award Honoree and Past Chairman of VICA. An award-winning author, he has written four books, two of them on the San Fernando Valley. He is currently researching his next book on the Valley.;;