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Billie Heller was born in Redondo Beach to parents who were steeped in the American tradition of joining fraternal service organizations as a part of their duty to the community. Moving to Los Angeles, Billie often accompanied her parents to Democratic Party meetings, where she got her first exposure to the rough and tumble of electoral politics.
She went to UCLA and was active in social and political activities on the campus, including booking the dance bands and other acts that entertained the student population. Through this brush with the entertainment industry, she met her future husband, talent manager Seymour Heller.
For the next forty years, her political life vied with her work life as she partnered with Seymour Heller to manage the concert and club pianist and showman, Liberace.
A couple of her early political influences were Helen Gahagan Douglas, the first woman elected to Congress from California, and the effective and revered Congressman, Jerry Voorhis, successfully red-baited by Richard Nixon in one of the most infamous McCarthy Era campaigns on record.
Billie became an effective organizer working through groups such as Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen. Nader and his staff introduced her to other groups such as the Grey Panthers and OWL, the Older Woman’s League, who were seeking a foothold in Los Angeles. Billie was instrumental in helping launch local chapters of those groups.
An early champion of women’s rights, before the resurgent feminist movement had a foothold, Billie became interested in the fledgling rights of women around the world. Working through the United Nations, Billie was an early advocate the UN Resolution know as CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. She has worked tirelessly for its passage in the Congress of the United States, learning to lobby on behalf of the simply stated and eloquent declaration of women’s rights, and running an advocacy organization for its passage out of her Beverly Hills home.Return to Selected Video Excerpts