- Brandon Hillock: The Actor, Pirate, and Entrepreneur
- Celeb 4 A Day
- Conversation with Chris LaLanne
- Del Shores
- Knuckle Draggers the Movie
- Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rayees
- Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid
- Message in a Jeannie Bottle: My Interview with Mario Della Casa
- My Conversation with Maxie Santillan, Jr.
- My Interview with Alison Arngrim
- My Interview with Angela Cartwright
- My Interview with Arvid Nelson
- My Interview with Jennifer Gimenez
- My Interview with Mary C
- My Interview with Paul J. Alessi
- Propr Attire
- Scarlett Harlott: We Wants the Redhead!
- Squirrel Nut Zippers and all that Redneck Jazz
- Stephen Kramer Glickman
- The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
- The Ghastly Ones
- The Godfather of Fitness; Jack LaLanne
- The Hillywood Show
- WAKE Movie
- Wendy & Lisa
- When History Meets Pop: My Interview with Amy Burvall
- “…Around” with David Spaltro
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
Amy Burvall is a History teacher with a passion for pop music. She’s also a video star on YouTube.
I’ve known Amy, I mean Mrs. Burvall, since our early days in grade school. Take a look at this cute retro picture of us in front of our “Sweden Project” at school. Note the word HISTORY poised above her head. She was the one with the costume ideas. I brought my mom’s Swedish inspired Spritz cookies.
Amy is still displaying her creativity & historical knowledge but these days she’s showcased via the walls of cyberspace with her Historyteachers videos on YouTube. Amy teamed up with friend and fellow teacher, Herb Mahelona to merge video design, pop music, costumes and 80’s eyeliner with World History. The result has teachers, parents, and most importantly students singing historical lyrics to favorite pop tunes.
Here’s my interview with Historyteachers frontwoman, Amy Burvall.
HIH: We hear about the importance of Math, Science, & Language Arts in school but what about History? Why do you think History is a vital subject to explore?
Amy: History is everything! The arts are what makes us human, the maths and sciences help us make sense of the world and our place in it, but all of those are subject to and incorporated into History! In my classes we look at how History affects all of those subjects and how changes in those areas can influence History. Everything is connected, really, and that is the beauty and relevance of it.
HIH: Your enthusiasm for History & passion for pop music come through in every video. Were you always interested in History or did someone or something point you in the direction of becoming a History teacher?
Amy: Yes, I think I’ve always been “into” the past and the fascinating people who populated it. I don’t know if it’s my romantic nature or what. Growing up in SoCal, nothing is really that “old”, but when I travelled to Eastern Canada and later to Europe I was so moved by the History of everything – I remember being 12 in Quebec running my hand against the stone wall of the old city and being overwhelmed by the the sense of History. As for pop music, it’s always been a big part of my life…going far back to listening to my mom’s Mamas and Papas or Beach Boys records, or getting ecstatic with the new Abba album (later it would be Thompson Twins, Blondie, and Culture Club). I never really wanted to be a teacher, per se…but in the end it felt natural, because I love school and learning and come from a family of teachers.
For some reason, I always thought I’d be a newscaster or spy.
HIH: Do you have any ideas or suggestions for teachers on ways they can incorporate your videos in the classroom?
Amy: Sure! The best way is to either use them as a “hook” to spark interest and introduce a unit, or for review of important terms and concepts. If they really want to get into it, they can analyse the topic a bit more and decide what I left out or how I present something and postulate why. For even more higher order thinking they can have their students assess the value and drawbacks of teaching and learning history through music and/or pop culture. That’s a unit I do with my students each year.
HIH: What does your family think about your Historyteachers videos?
Amy: My husband is from Sweden, and he doesn’t get very emotional. That said, I think he is secretly tickled about our endeavors (he’s involved in tech) and as a creative, artistic person, can appreciate what goes into making a quality video. He’s not a big fan of History or ‘80’s music, though. My 6 year old daughter is now worried there will be paparazzi hanging out at our front door waiting for autographs, but she really loves our songs and digs singing them every chance she gets. We play them in the car and she always asks me questions about the lyrics (some a tad inappropriate, like “What’s illegitimacy?”) I think she’s got her friends hooked on them now, so at least they are exposed to some good 80’s New Wave. The first time I appeared in the newspaper pretty much sealed it for my mom (to her that was better than French TV!)
HIH: I know you literally wear many hats in your videos but you also wear many hats in a figurative way being a mother, teacher, and now a video star. Any tricks or ideas for managing job, home, and interests?
Amy: Time is really the enemy. I used to write all my songs while experiencing insomnia due to my chemo treatment for cancer. However, now that I am well again I find it difficult to get everything done for work, plus take care of my family, and pursue this hobby. When I hit a creative wave I just go – just shut myself in my room with my laptop and write away. After that it’s up to scheduling time with my creative partner, Herb, to record and film…then he basically takes over the rest of the production. What’s taken up a lot of time recently is responding to fans and interviews, as well as keeping track of all our press (it has been a whirlwind in the past month). I try not to get too pre-occupied, but it’s so much fun, it’s hard not to. Plus, the pressure is on to create even more.
HIH: Most of your videos are about World History, will we be seeing any American History videos in the future?
Amy: That is a popular query. When we first started with the World History (albeit mostly Western History) vids I started researching similar things on the Internet. I couldn’t really find anything similar to what we were doing (especially geared to high school or college students), but I did find quite a few music-related sources for American History. Surprisingly, so many of our viewers request for or ask if we are ever going to do American History topics. That shocks me a bit- isn’t Schoolhouse Rock good enough? I will never say never, but if anything I’d start with the explorers and perhaps work my way forward from there…I have to really have a passion for the subject and my passion lies in World History.
HIH: Speaking of History, we met each other way back in grade school. Even as a young girl you were artistic and creative with an eye for fashion. Do you create most of the costumes in the videos? What about hair and makeup?
Amy: ha ha Thanks! And you always had the most enviable blonde tresses! That’s the funny thing, I’ve always, no matter where I live, had a “costume closet”. Now it’s getting bigger and bigger! I have certainly purchased items for the videos but really most of the looks come from my own closet or costume collection. The hair is a funny story. Most of the videos we have now were shot when I was going through chemo and thus, bald. I amassed a collection of interesting wigs – most of which appear in the videos! In the ones where you see three of me (Aquinas, Civilization, Martin Luther), I sport 3 different wigs- blonde, brunette, and cherry-cola. Herb said I seemed so different in all of them we decided to name the “characters” after the wigs- and Bambi, Vicki, and Angelica were born! A lot of people really think those are 3 different history teachers. It amuses me greatly. I pretty much do all the make-up and organizing accessories myself – but Herb can make anything look good after messing with the software program. Wasn’t my pseudo-punk look funny in Beowulf? That was lipstick on my cheeks!
HIH: I don’t know if you remember this but when we were kids we did a lot of singing along to Beach Boys music. Do you have any ideas using their tunes to teach a History lesson?
Amy: Of course I remember! But they are the masters! It would take a lot to do those perfect harmonies. If anything I’d like to do “In My Room” or “Do it Again”, just because I love them..but I have NO clue what topic I’d do. I have a running list of songs I’d like to cover and topics I feel affinity for…sometimes the match just comes to me instantaneously. A lot of things have to work- the feel of the music, the tempo, the syllables, etc.
HIH: If you could do a Historyteachers duet with any pop music artist, who would you choose?
Amy: Hands down Debbie Harry, my idol – the ultimate. But if she wasn’t up for it maybe Brian Setzer or Billy Idol.
HIH: In the last couple of months you’ve experienced a blitz of media interest. You’ve been on the news in France, Taiwan, & done numerous interviews online. Has this attention altered the future of Historyteachers in any way?
Amy: Blitzkrieg is more like it! It’s been crazy- and unexpected! I couldn’t believe the French liked us, let alone featured us on TV! The Taiwanese news spot was pretty cool, too. I was worried they’d get touchy about my non-historically accurate costumes but they seemed to not care. I don’t think it’s altered us, except to build our confidence a bit and encourage us to create more –as in new songs/ videos and build our upcoming web site (www.historyteacherz.com) We hope to have all kinds of fun features like bloopers, lesson extensions, behind-the-scenes trivia, and interactive games, plus of course all the videos and lyrics. I am still astonished that a lot of people write that Youtube is blocked in their school disctrict. Who knows, we might even have an ironic tee-shirt line!
Visit http://youtube.com/historyteachers to see more fun History videos.
Be sure to Like the Official Historyteachers page on Facebook, click here.
Photo of Amy Burvall by Cara Pyle.
I was one of the many Little House viewers that grew up with the Prairie girls. I watched and learned with Laura, Mary and Carrie Ingalls, always hoping that Nellie Oleson would learn a thing or two more. Nellie was the girl that everyone loved to hate. Well, hate’s a harsh word and I don’t think Pa Ingalls would like me using it.
Alison Arngrim played the role of Nellie Oleson. She played the role so well it became somewhat of a cultural icon with her devilish smirk, her colossal tantrums, her piercing stare and her annoying scream, “Mother!”
I wanted to find out what Alison is up to these days. Here’s my interview with Alison Arngrim:
HIH: What are a few of your thoughts about growing up on television portraying Nellie Oleson?
Alison: Too many to count! Being the most hated child on television did radically change my life – hence my one woman show: “Confessions of A Prairie Bitch” where I explain it all. I am proud to have been Nellie -but I am really glad people have stopped throwing things at me!
HIH: Like most kids watching Little House on the Prairie, I thought Pa Ingalls was right up there with The Fonz on the coolness meter. What was it like working with Michael Landon?
Alison: Good comparison! He was much less like Pa Ingalls and really more the Fonz! Very, very cool and ever so slightly delinquent! One of the funniest people I ever met. Absolutely brilliant – director, writer, producer – you name it! Charming, kind, smart, crazy, flawed, handsome – mad, bad and dangerous to know!
HIH: Do you still keep in contact with any of your co-stars from Little House on the Prairie?
Alison: Nearly everybody! Between E-mail, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and our almost annual cast reunion parties, we keep up pretty well. Right before I wrote this I was e-mailing Melissa Gilbert. Baby Carrie (Rachel Greenbush) came by the house last week, etc. We are a large extended family.
HIH: How much candy did you actually get to eat from Oleson’s Mercantile?
Alison: Ha! Quite a bit – I was very fond of the peppermint sticks and the prop men let me have them if I asked nicely. But we couldn’t eat the stuff at random – the candy that was out on display was often treated with bug spray to control the enormous rat, mouse, ant and roach problem common on sound stages. Ewww.
HIH: Any favorite moments from the set of Little House on the Prairie that you’d like to share with us?
Alison: About a zillion – some of which I really must save up for my book, (also called “Confessions of A Prairie Bitch”) which will be coming out next spring. My deep friendship with Melissa, while we were playing mortal enemies was particularly fun!
HIH: As Nellie got older she also became nicer. Did you miss the younger Nellie when you read your more pleasant dialogue and scenes each day?
Alison: Yes! I loved Percival, (Steve Tracy) but I kept hoping Nellie would have some sort of psychological break down and “relapse”!
HIH: After Little House you were on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. What shows did you like watching in the 70’s?
Alison: When I was 12, on Friday nights, I would watch The Brady Bunch which I thought was silly, but amusing, The Odd Couple which I thought was GREAT, and being in a progressive household, I was allowed to stay up for Love American Style. I like all the MTM shows – Mary Tyler Moore, Phyllis, Rhoda, etc. and the Norman Lear stuff – Maude, Jefferson’s, etc. I never did like Happy Days or Joanie Loves Chachi. My mom was mad for Columbo so I got into that too.
HIH: “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch” is the name of your stand- up comedy act. I read your one woman show is in French and English. When did you learn French and was the series Little House as popular in France as it was in the United States?
Alison: I found out the first time I went to France in 2002. I now know that Little House is insanely popular everywhere from France to Bangladesh, from Argentina to Israel, from Iraq to Borneo! I am amazed every single day by the people I hear from all over the world. Due to the enormous popularity of Nellie Olsen in France, (but of course, they’d like her, right?), I went back to school and learned to speak reasonably passing French with a slightly less than annoying American accent. (Still working on it!)
HIH: Your husband plays guitar in a band called Catahoula. Do you sing or play any instruments?
Alison: I wish! I do own a saxophone and take lessons very intermittently. (I’m not very good. But I like the sound.) I’m so glad I get to be a groupie for my husband!
HIH: Working with charities such as PROTECT, seems to be a prominent part of your life. What ways can we take action and help out?
Alison: Oh please do visit our site at www.protect.org ! We have changed laws in several states and gotten bills passed in Washington D.C. I would ask people to ask more questions about what the laws really are in their state regarding child predators, child pornography, child abuse, sentencing, statute of limitations, etc. Most people assume that their children are well protected under the law. They’re not really. People think that if someone is caught sexually assaulting a child, that they simply go to jail. They usually don’t. We’re changing that.
To get the latest about Alison and her adventures, check out her website at:
And to learn more about Bob Schoonover and his music, see:
Angela Cartwright is the actress that played Penny & Brigitta. These days she’s a photographer, novelist, artist and occasional actress.
The Danny Thomas Show, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Love Boat, My Three Son’s, Adam-12, Logan’s Run, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Family Feud… going through Angela’s acting resume is like a stroll down pop culture lane.
Of course I had some questions for her. Here’s my interview with Angela Cartwright:
HIH: You were on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour when the Ricardo’s went to Hollywood and the Williams family from Make Room for Daddy rented their house. You were very young but what do you remember from your time on the set with Lucy & Desi?
AC: I remember that was a hilarious show. Lucy loses her voice and she has to mime what happened at the cabin with the Ricardos and Williams families. Lucy had such an expressive face and I loved watching her. She had brilliant comedic timing and was a force to be reckoned with. Even though I was young I remember I really liked Gale Gordon who played the judge. He made me laugh.
HIH: There are quite a few fan made videos on YouTube dedicated to Penny Robinson. How does it feel being part of classics with such a big following such as Lost in Space and The Sound of Music?
AC: It never ceases to amaze me. Lost in Space seemed to arrive on everyone’s television screens at the perfect time. People needed to be swept away and dream of a life in outer space. The way to get there was becoming a reality. It really captured ones imagination. I was lucky enough to go to a real launch at NASA a few years ago. It was an amazing experience. NASA employees told me over and over how Lost in Space inspired them to join the space program… imagine that…Lost In Space inspiring future astronauts.
The Sound of Music enchanted movie goers in a different way. Maybe it was the music, the storyline, the beauty of the film…whatever that magic was, it was universal.
HIH: With all the children at different age levels working on The Sound of Music I imagine there were some fun times filming. Do you have a story you can share with us from your days filming in Austria?
AC: Coming right from The Danny Thomas Show I was thrilled to be working with other children. Heather Menzies (who played Louisa) and I hit it off right away because we both adored the Beatles. We had a club called the HePaulAng Club and we constantly sang Beatle songs on the set. I think the camaraderie among the kids really shows on the screen. We are all still friends today. In fact I just returned from a visit to the Von Trapp Lodge in Stowe, Vermont with four of the movie cast members. What an experience talking with the REAL Trapp family at their beautiful resort located on a mountain that is eerily reminiscent of the Austrian landscape.
HIH: The character Dr. Zachary Smith in Lost in Space was always getting into mischief. What was Jonathon Harris like on the set?
AC: Jonathan was a total professional. He always knew his lines and he worked hard at his role of Dr. Smith. He also had a playful side…every day in the early afternoon he went up in the rafters and threw tootsie roll pops at the crew…It was a sugar pick me up we all looked forward to.
HIH: Bill Mumy played the role of your brother Will Robinson on the show. He’s a musician, writer, producer, and actor now. I read that you were working on a fantasy-adventure novel with him. Is this fact or fiction?
AC: Bill has four CD’s coming out in July, Speechless, Carnival Sky (an all instrumental CD). He produced Sarah Taylor’s new CD The Cure to Everything and another Barnes and Barnes CD for the twisted mind OPBOPACHOP. Bill is a very prolific musician, check out his website for more www.billmumy.com
We started writing the fiction novel a couple of years ago and just recently we decided to rework a few things. Bill and I work well together and our imaginations click. I think it’s a good fictional story that people will really enjoy.
HIH: The science fiction novel Logan’s Run was made into a film and also into a television show. You played the role of Karen4 in one episode. Many child actors don’t stay in the business when they reach adulthood. Did growing up in Hollywood ever feel a bit like the paradise city in the Logan’s Run storyline where life ends at 30?
AC: That’s an interesting point. There is no question the transition from child actor to adult can be really difficult. I think sometimes actors are cast in one kind of role and they have difficulty breaking out of that. Actors should be given more credit… They are ACTORS…they can play many different roles if given the chance.
I was fortunate to have been cast as a New York kid, an Austrian Von Trapp and then a space adventurer. It’s hard for actors today who get locked in a certain kind of role. I know many actors who are chomping at the bit to spread their wings.
HIH: You’re a talented artist & photographer. When did you start creating art and what medium did you use first?
AC: I would have to say photography was the first artistic medium I got hooked on. Over the years it has evolved into embedding my photographs into different mediums. My book Mixed Emulsions – Altered Art Techniques for Photographic Imagery explored that concept. I shoot black and white film images and hand paint them with oils, acrylics, and other mediums. Then I cut them up and create new combinations with my photographs to tell my story.
HIH: You have more than a few websites and one of them is dedicated to your artwork, www.acartwrightstudio.com The subtitle is “home of an unruly artist”. Why do you call yourself an unruly artist?
AC: My photography and my art is constantly evolving and investigating image possibilities. Most recently I have turned my photographs into comfortable, wearable art clothing www.acstudio9.com
It’s just one more artistic avenue I have wanted to travel. So why do I call myself unruly? I like to break the rules to see where it will take me.
HIH: Sarah Fishburn collaborated with you on the book In This House – A Collection of Altered Art Imagery and Collage Techniques and In This Garden – Explorations in Mixed Media Visual Narrative. You also created the Quality Art Zine – Pasticcio Quartz with her. Tell us about your latest book.
AC: Sarah is a great partner in creativity. We both have very different styles but we compliment each other in our passion to make art. In This Garden is a collaborative project involving twelve artists interpreting the word ‘GARDEN’. It’s a follow up to In This House where artists interpreted the word ‘HOME’. It’s amazing to see the diversity and individuality in each artists creations. Give an artist a word to interpret and there will be twelve completely different insights into that word. I love that. The books are also filled with tons of techniques and tips and insights into each of the artists.
Pasticcio Quartz is an ongoing outlet for our thirst for art. It’s a panoply of art from emerging and established artists, books, thoughts, words, tips, quips and lists. The word Pasticcio means a work or style produced by borrowing fragments, ingredients, or motifs from various sources, and that is exactly what it is. We self publish it three times a year and it keeps us in the artistic whirlwind. Art can be intoxicating…isn’t that why we do it?
Visit Amazon.com to purchase Angela’s books, including her latest book, In This Garden.
Like many teens in the 80’s I was a loyal Prince & The Revolution fan. I drew the eyes, lips and side swept hair picture from the Purple Rain album artwork onto every book cover and Pee Chee folder I could find. My zip up hoodie vest was adorned with Prince & The Revolution pins. My bedroom walls were decorated with Prince crawling out of his bathtub and riding his purple motorcycle.
Not only was I infatuated with Prince and the sounds of his music I was intrigued by the two woman in the group, Wendy & Lisa. They added a female vibe and contributed their own musical talent to The Revolution.
I was inspired by their style, confidence and attitude.
In 1986, Wendy & Lisa became a musical duo creating their own albums, a few being Fruit at the Bottom, Eroica & Girl Bros. They also started scoring music for film and television shows such as Heroes, Nurse Jackie, Soul Food and Dangerous Minds.
When I heard Wendy & Lisa had a new album out called White Flags of Winter Chimneys I wanted to learn more about them. Here is my interview with Wendy & Lisa:
HIH: You’ve been friends since childhood. How did you meet and did you hit it off right away?
LISA: We met when we were little kids. Our parents were friends, our fathers met working in the studios in L.A. as session musicians (Part of the Wrecking Crew among other things), and our families became very close. There was an age difference between us, Wendy was probably only 18 months, and I was 4 years old? So obviously I was too sophisticated to socialize with a little rubber chicken like she was!
In truth, I was very close to her older brother and all of us kids went in and out of phase with our ages and interests, but always remained very close.
WENDY: I have no memory of not having Lisa in my life.
HIH: Many people don’t realize that you were musicians in your own right before being part of Prince & The Revolution. You both brought so much musically and creatively to the group. What was the group dynamic like in the early days?
LISA: I joined Prince’s band a few years before Wendy did and I was not aware of the existing dynamic in the band when I came to my first rehearsal in Minneapolis. I had played in a few bands etc…. my own bands mostly, and I had usually been the band “leader”, although it never was much of an issue or power struggle for anyone. Things were a bit different where Prince was concerned. There was a decidedly established hierarchy in place and I put my FOOT in it more than once. Having said that, Prince found me amusing saying, “I like a woman who laughs in the face of danger”. I think that because he thought I was a good musician he forgave me my attitude. He asked me frequently for my ideas and my biggest weakness was my utter cluelessness in regards to ”shaking my ass” on stage.
WENDY: I had studied and played for a very long time before joining the band. As it so happened that when I joined Prince’s band at the time I was really only spending my free time with Lisa so he was able to hear me play. That’s how I got the gig.
HIH: With all the protégé groups Prince was associated with was it difficult after The Revolution ended to be seen as Wendy & Lisa and not Wendy & Lisa from Prince & the Revolution?
LISA: It still is. That will always be there I suppose. I don’t know that I will ever really know the true effect that fact has had on my life and career. It is just the simple fact of my life. It has certainly made me/us a curiosity to people and it gets us in the door, but dealing with the definition and identity of ”Wendy and Lisa” remains a challenge to this day. We sometimes meet with executives that were in high school when Purple Rain came out and they tell us about the marching band that played purple rain, or that their school colors were purple and gold, and how everybody had hair like ours in the yearbook… so, umm…. yeah, that tends to cloud things when we are there to talk about scoring a drama or psychological thriller……!?
WENDY: I’m with Lisa 100%!!
HIH: You’ve had great success scoring for television and movies such as Heroes, Nurse Jackie and Dangerous Minds. What are the benefits and challenges to composing a score for television compared to creating a song for an album?
LISA: The great thing about scoring is the chance to zone in on an emotion or evolution of emotion using sounds and notes.
I find that the most simple approach usually works best. For instance playing one sustaining note and then adding a “major third”, as in the Three Stooges famous singing of, “Hello, Hello, Hello…..HELLO!” Those first two notes are a major third…. this creates a feeling of ‘good’, but if you start with that same single sustaining note and add a dissonant note , as in the famous JAWS theme where two notes a half step apart are played rapidly in succession, this creates a feeling of tension. These two notes are literally beating against each other, therefore literally irritating the human ear! (“Stop! PLEASE!” says the eardrum.)
When writing a song, the biggest challenge, or choice in defining the song is the lyric and/or vocal. The vocal can come right out and say whatever you want to convey. Love, loneliness, or some abstract observation; the choices are unlimited and if one is trying to sell a lot of records, the pressure of writing something that could appeal to the masses is, for me , a guessing game at best.
The Great thing about song writing is that you ARE free to decide where the ”scene” should go. You become the actor, the director, the camera… everything about it is your vision.
WENDY: Yes, Lisa is very right. Scoring is a beautiful and fulfilling way for me to understand and express the narrative of a story. I have always been and will always be a cinefile geek. Scoring has more power than the average ear can hear. I love that it is invisible yet it really drives the subtext or the larger vision of the writer director. Very different then writing a song.
HIH: How do you compose together? Do you both collaborate equally or does one take the lead more often than the other?
LISA: It depends on the project. We definitely have our individual strengths, but we also have worked so much together that we rely on the other one to be part of the thought process regardless of who is physically playing the parts, or writing a musical phrase or lyric. We score scenes in ”real time” while watching the picture, and for instance, while I play a string line or piano part we both watch the scene and Wendy can react and feel what I’m doing while am struggling sometimes just putting my fingers in the right place. We are a four hemisphered brain!
WENDY: We are merged completely.
HIH: What is your method when you get ideas for a song or score? Is it a methodical or whimsical approach?
LISA: There is a choice? There is a decidedly whimsical method to getting in ”the zone” for me. Just ask Wendy! Oh, you did.
WENDY: LOLOLOL… I think it goes back and forth the entire time.
HIH: Are you still in contact with any of the other members from Prince & The Revolution?
LISA: Yes, all of them. We remain close even if it’s just emails for long periods of time. When we see each other it is like “it was only yesterday.”
WENDY: Yes that’s true… we are war buddies… we stay very close. I think I speak to Bobby Z the drummer the most.
HIH: When Purple Rain came out in 1984, my Great Aunt May fell in love with the album and the movie. She was in her 60’s and I was a teenager but we both had a great time dancing to Let’s Go Crazy together. What music do you have fond memories of from your childhood or teenage years?
LISA: That is a HUGE question. Being that my parents were/are both musicians there was a constant flow of music and all kinds of music going on in our house. My brother and sister and I were all trained classically, but also had bands together in various combinations ranging from acoustic folk based, to punk/ new wave rock, Frank Zappa jazz dramedy, to a straight up bubble gum pop band that was produced by Wendy’s father.
I will say this… My Mother ALWAYS loved to dance and in the 60′s she would boogaloo to Jimi Hendrix, and in the 70′s we would all dance in the kitchen to things like Tina Turner’s first solo album, “Nutbush City Limits”, The Pointer Sisters, Rufus, Average White Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Santana… and Aretha Franklin … and then put Stravinsky on and weep to the Fire Bird Suite, or Beethoven’s 7th.
WENDY: My twin sister Susannah and I used to perform shows to our parents and their friends to Aretha Franklins CHAIN OF FOOLS…and the theme to Mission impossible which Our father played on. We used to pretend to hunt each other in slow motion and kill each other at the same time and fall to the floor for applause. I’m not sure what that says about our pathologies but it was cute in a sort of Addams family way.
HIH: I’ve been following you on twitter. What do you think of this direct form of communication with fans?
LISA: I LOVE IT! It has been a relief to me. It has lifted a phobia and a self-consciousness that was learned by years of being literally guarded and kept separate from EVERYONE. When Purple Rain became the success that it did, it changed our lives. We traveled first class, or on private jets, we would go straight off the stage into a waiting van or limo that took us to the hotel where we were lead through secret entrances, through kitchens and into our rooms where we would eat dinner in our rooms, often times pack our bags and get into a bus to drive to the next city. If we did go out to a club or restaurant together we were escorted to a private room, or table that was roped off, surrounded by body guards, and were almost completely unapproachable. In a way, at the time it was necessary, but to a great extent it was more like a strategy or a posture, than a necessity. It is also WAY better and easier than trying to answer fan letters in the mail, or even emails. We tried over the years to do that too, but Twitter is fantastic and fun and instant and also there is great wisdom in the limit of 140 characters per Tweet! (She said as she went on and on………!)
WENDY: I love direct contact. It makes all the difference in the world to find out for yourself what your fans want from you. I’m so in to it!
HIH: Tell us about your latest album White Flags of Winter Chimneys.
LISA: Well, most people ask us why it took ten years to release another Wendy and Lisa album, and I suppose that now by answering that question I have come to understand a little more about the meaning of this record and the experiences that took up that space and blew those pages off the calendar for an entire decade.
“White Flags of Winter Chimneys” is a Joni Mitchell Lyric from the song ‘Heijira”. At first I think we were drawn quite simply to the imagery and mood of the words. After letting the idea sink in for a little while (the idea didn’t come up until near the end of the project and then we wrote the title song), I started to connect with a deeper reason that perhaps we had both keyed in to without realizing it.
This record contains a lot of reflection on a continued feeling and experience of loss in our lives. Our last album was largely a memorial dedicated to Wendy’s brother Jonathan who died in ’96. We were incapacitated for a couple of years before we wrote GIRL BROS in ’98. As we began to heal and redefine ourselves as survivors, our personal relationship started to suffer great strain and eventually we parted as a couple and started living separately for the first time in 20 years.
Less than a year later my brother, David died and that is when I felt that the impossible was becoming the norm. That was in 2004. It was such a horrible blow…… Wendy and I, who had been working hard at remaining partners professionally and healing our broken hearts, were now face to face with another tidal wave to dive under.
With life throwing such cold and powerful storms our way it was hard not to want to just go to sleep. Like having hypothermia, I just wanted to close my eyes.
Funny thing is good things started happening. Professionally Wendy and I were getting great offers and support in the field of scoring, we both met other people and had children, and we both rededicated and pledged to work at keeping the best of ourselves available to each other. Why lose somebody when you don’t have to? We had been a family. Brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers included.
This was the Fire that was burning and sending up a White Flag of surrender, a beacon of warmth into the cold. It was acceptance and trust all wrapped up in a beautiful Lyrical Art Imitating Life Imitating Art.
The songs we finally got to writing all carry this truth. They are all songs about fighting and accepting. ”Beginning at the End”.
It was recorded in a few months in 08. Written and Performed by the two of us, and recorded by our friend and engineer Michael Perfitt.
It was made only because we wanted to make it. We have not had a record deal in 15 years? Maybe more. It is Rock, Folk, Psychedelic, Cinematic, Fun and Personal and… It sounds cool.
WENDY: WOW. Lisa answered for me. Thanks sweetie! Now I can get back to twittering.
Visit wendyandlisa.com and have a listen to tracks from White Flags of Winter Chimneys.
Follow Wendy & Lisa on twitter.
I went to the Newport Beach Film Festival on Friday, April 24th specifically to see the indie film WAKE. I read that Danny Masterson was in the film and being a fan of That 70’s Show I thought it might be fun to see him on the big screen.
While waiting outside before the doors opened I met WAKE director Ellie Kanner, producer Hal Schwartz, actors Danny Masterson, Bijou Phillips and Bijou’s mother Genevieve Waite.
For those of you that love fun music finds check this one out from Genevieve’s 1973 album, Romance Is on the Rise.
Before the screening I asked Danny Masterson a couple questions and took some video of Danny, Bijou Phillips, and director Ellie Kanner talking with the press.
The film WAKE is a dark comedy about Carys, played by Bijou Phillips, desperate to experience emotion she attends funerals of strangers. She meets Tyler, played by Ian Somerhalder, who is mourning his fiancée. Meeting him is the catalyst that sparks her emotions again but she discovers she might not be the only one hiding dark secrets.
Danny Masterson plays her best friend Shane, a mortician, a perfect fit for someone like Carys who values local funeral information. Jayne Seymour plays the role of her estranged mother who thinks Carys is better off eating cookies rather than digging up the past. Lila, played by Marguerite Moreau, adds to the comic relief being the roommate Carys finds annoying and at times helpful.
Sometimes dark comedy can be so abstract I can’t relate to it but this film was funny and well done. Even though Carys is an offbeat character with a strange interest in funerals, watching her journey is comical and poignant. This housewife gives WAKE the movie 4 out of 4 waffles.
“The idea for WAKE came to me when I was in school. I loved the notion that sometimes it’s only in extreme circumstances that we engage and really recognize what’s important to us. A woman who goes to funerals to experience life made a certain sense to me. I wrote a draft of the script then, but wasn’t happy with it and moved on to other projects. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized I still loved the idea at the heart of the movie and decided to give it another shot.” —writer and one of the producers of WAKE, Lennox Wisely.
Find out more about WAKE by visiting http://www.wakemovie.com
Tell them Housewife in Hollywood sent you.
For those of you following along you may remember the name Knuckle Draggers from my interview with actor and producer, Paul J. Alessi.
The World Premiere of his latest movie, Knuckle Draggers, was on Sunday at the Newport Beach Film Festival. I was fortunate enough to get one of the last vacant seats for this sold out show.
“Knuckle Draggers takes a realistic, but comic look at how the behaviors of men and women have evolved very little since the caveman times.” -director Alex Ranarivelo
First let me be honest in saying that after seeing the trailer I thought I might be just a bit too old or too married for a movie about dating and the evolution of man when it comes to relationships. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find out after watching the film that I was wrong. I loved this movie.
With a stellar cast including Ross McCall, Paul J. Alessi, Amie Barsky, Danielle Nicolet, Justin Baldoni, Jennifer Alden, and Omar Gooding this movie wins in the acting department.
The script was comical and heartfelt. I heard laughter from female and male voices from the audience, and although parts of the movie are spent comparing women’s ideas of mates to studies done on monkeys, women enjoyed the film giving kudos to Paul as they left the theater.
The music choices by composer Austin Wintory complimented the scenes and were never overpowering. I liked the way he mixed music with a primitive element and Spanish guitar to make it “ultra romantic”.
Actor & musician Omar Gooding played the role of Russell. Two of his songs, My Shine and Ghetto Star from the album, Tradin’ War Stories, were featured in the movie.
Paul’s passion for this film was evident not only by his on screen performance but the way he worked with the press, cast and crew, also mingling with movie-goers at the World Premiere.
This housewife gives Knuckle Draggers the movie 4 out of 4 waffles.
You can see Knuckle Draggers at another screening Thursday April 30th. Click here for schedule & ticket information at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
On my birthday last year I went to The La Jolla Comedy Store to see Pauly Shore. Pauly was funny but I was more impressed by one of the other stand up comedians of the night, Stephen Kramer Glickman. Not only was Stephen a funny dude he was also a nice guy chatting with me after the show and happily posing with audience members for pictures. He told me a bit about himself and just when I was getting to know him better it was time for his next show. Almost a year later I wanted to reconnect with this talented comedian, musician, actor, idea maker, and sometimes superhero.
Here’s my interview with Stephen Kramer Glickman.
HIH: Lyme Aid is the name of the comedy benefit for your sister who is suffering with Lyme disease. The most recent event was at The Comedy Store in Hollywood with Andy Dick, Jeffrey Ross, Bobby Lee, Mo Collins, John Caparulo, Ian Edwards, and Erin Foley. Any future dates and locations for Lyme Aid?
Stephen: We are currently talking with some very big comics in NYC and San Francisco. The benefits in San Diego and Los Angeles were amazing and my whole family really appreciates it, my sister especially. The benefit in L.A. was at the world famous comedy store on sunset and was one of the craziest nights I’ve ever had. This tux rental shop called “Friar Tux” gave me a free tux for the night. I feel weird in a tux; I look like I ate Hugh Hefner.
HIH: When I saw you perform at the La Jolla Comedy Store I remember your act giving much love to your mom. Are you a mama’s boy or is it all just an act?
Stephen: Naw, it’s real. I talk to my mom everyday and she is amazing. When I was growing up it was just her, my sister and me. My mom battled and beat cancer many years ago and it brought us much closer. I’ve been doing those mom jokes for 5 years now and I still love doing them.
HIH: You played the role of Shrek in the Broadway Staged Reading and the Broadway Workshop of Shrek the Musical in New York City. What was that experience like?
Stephen: It changed my whole life, in every way imaginable. I went from phone operator at the comedy store, to being the star of the biggest budget Broadway show in history, a 44 million dollar budget. I got signed by my manager, I got to live in a penthouse overlooking central park and I got to see any show I wanted to see on Broadway and for a kid that has been doing musical theatre since the 2nd grade it was a dream come true. Every few days I’d sit in the make-up chair for 8 to 10 hours being turned into “Shrek”. I was in rehearsal 6 days a week, 10 hours a day and I loved every minute. I got to work one on one with Jeffrey Katzenberg (CEO of DreamWorks), Sam Mendes (Oscar winning director of Revolutionary Road and American Beauty), Jason Moore (director of Avenue Q), Bill Dimashke (president of DreamWorks animation) as well as working with Tony winners Sutton Foster and Chris Seiber. My favorite person to work with was the actor that played donkey, Dean Edwards (former cast member of Saturday Night Live). He is like family to me and we still talk on a regular basis.
HIH: You were a recurring character on ABC’s Carpoolers starring Jerry O’Connell. Do you prefer being in a production on stage or on set?
Stephen: I love being on set just a bit more. The whole reason I started acting was to get cast some day on TV. TV is the funniest shit ever. Stage acting is very intense and a very joyful experience as well, but TV is fun as hell. I just shot a pilot with Nickelodeon and we got to improvise so much funny stuff. I’m hooked.
HIH: In the DVD/CD/comedy central special “Jeffrey Ross; No Offense- Live from New Jersey” you played Larry the Toll Booth Worker that plays the piano. What came first in your life, music or comedy?
Stephen: Well, music came 1st sort of. My grandmother taught me how to play the piano when I was two years old and I’ve been playing ever since, however the 1st song she taught me was called “c-c-c-catie” a song about a man that has a stuttering problem. Super funny.
HIH: What is the comedy scene like? It seems like many comedians create projects together and help promote one another. Is it one big happy family most of the time?
Stephen: Yeah, you could say that. We are like a big happy family that gets drunk and makes fun of each other. Comedians are probably some of the strangest most screwed up people on the planet, but you get enough of us together, like at a comedy club, and we level each other out. The only people more screwed up than comedians are musical theatre actors. Yikes.
HIH: If you could pick one comedian you admire the most, past or present, which one would it be? I know picking one is always tough but try it.
Stephen: Easy. Mel Brooks. He has been funny forever and I am a huge fan. I mean, the 2000 year old man. Fuck ya!
HIH: Your MySpace Comedy profile has a lot of great videos. You directed some of them and even created your own idea for a show about superheroes. Tell us about that.
Stephen: The show you speak of is “Super True Story” a pilot created by Comedian Nader Modarres and me. We also star in it along with super model, Fabio and Scott Thompson from kids in the hall. It’s the story about two lovable losers that happen to be superheroes and are struggling to find fame, fortune and pay the rent, in a world populated by tons of superheroes. Currently we are in talks with two major networks about it. The show is super funny.
HIH: Speaking of superheroes, are you more of a Marvel or DC kind of guy?
Stephen: I love DC for the costumes but Marvel has the coolest superheroes ever.
HIH: I noticed on your MySpace profile, under the Who I’d Like to Meet section, you wrote “Women that are looking for a young guy that looks old and is also fat.”
What sort of bachelor are you? Do you like your single life or are you looking for love in all the right places?
Stephen: I’m the worst with women. I have dated and hooked up with some of the craziest women in L.A. I am currently looking for a girl that won’t stab me while I’m sleeping. I like being single but I want to meet some cute girl and fall in love. I dated a girl for a while, she was very short and thin and as you know, I’m a huge big guy. We had to walk next to each other when we were walking down the street because if she walked in front of me, it looked like I was hunting her. For now though, I am still enjoying the single life and dating all kinds of women…even a few midgets. Did I say too much?
For Stephen Kramer Glickman’s upcoming gigs visit:
David Spaltro is the writer, and director of “…Around” an independent film about finding home, embracing the fall and perseverance.
“…Around, Embrace the Fall” trailer:
After watching David’s film I wanted to find out more about him and “…Around”. Here’s my interview with David Spaltro.
HIH: In your bio on aroundthefilm.com it says you grew up with a love for film and passion for storytelling. What were some films from back in the day that stood out the most to you?
David: The first time I ever realized films weren’t really happening was 1989′s Batman, waiting on a long line to see the film and the original projector broke and being ushered with all these desperate people to see this film; watching it was the first time I saw that people were making decisions and creating this thing. I also grew up watching scrambled copies of Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom ad-infinitum and had a father that showed me all manner of adult fare. When my parents separated and I saw him on weekends we’d go see a matinee, and when I worked at a mom n’ pop shop video rental place, I had a buffet of all kinds of films to see and started gravitating more towards human stories about people and simple events. Film school then finished that, opening me up to more obscure art films and foreign stuff. Gene Stavis, a great film historian, was my teacher and he showed us real film prints of silent movies and hard to find stuff, really great guy. He still invites some of us over to his place to watch prints of random serials, shorts, and old films you’ve never heard of.
HIH: Was it therapeutic for you turning personal experiences into a fictional story on film?
David: I think when you create any kind of art there’s always a catharsis that happens, regardless of how much of you is in the piece. I’ve always seen that the best work always has deep pieces of you in it in some form, you make it your own and work out your own stuff in it and it resonates higher. This particular project, while there was an overall release and I actually got a strange better understanding of a lot of things by stepping out of it and watching it in such a third person, there was also the brutal masochism of reopening old wounds and watching painful memories over and over and over in editing, mixing, screenings. You get desensitized in some ways and then, after awhile, it starts to hit you again and you see something you never did. It’s not for the squeamish, but I recommend everyone, if you can get to that place, put something personal into your work. It’s better for it and in the end so are you.
HIH: One thing I loved about “…Around” is how the characters with lives that aren’t socially acceptable are the ones that can offer the most insight into Doyle’s situation. Do you look for insightful information from anyone or do you find yourself putting a social filter on some people?
David: I’m pretty filter-less. There’s books smarts and street smarts, and while you can have both, my ear will always go towards life experience over what you read in a book any day. I grew up in Jersey City in the early-mid eighties crack boom and recessions, and what was once a blue-collar, mostly white Irish/Italian area became an influx of all kinds of cultures and minorities. I was given the opportunity to see all these different sides and walks of life and perspectives, foods, and languages which really prepares you for NYC. So, at an early age I guess I’d learned that there are so many sides to stories and you’d be hard-pressed to not find good information if you lay your ears to tracks with just about anyone. I’ve heard some of the worst advice ever come from well-bred, lauded scholars with degrees and years of schooling and some of the most worldly, simplistic and honest bits from people you might not give a second-glance at, who people hold their noses in front of.
HIH: On the film’s official site you have samples of storyboards by artist Jess Levy. After going to film school did you find yourself thinking about daily life as if in a storyboard format? Did it change the way you viewed the world?
David: I always wanted to be a story-teller in some way, and while I loved doodling as a kid and in high-school fancied the notion of being a graphic novelist, drawing was more of a hobby than something I could discipline myself to do and become great at. I think the visual ideas and shots are there in your head, but I’m probably more of an “off-the cuff” guy than “plan it all out meticulously”. It was necessary for some of the more shot-heavy days on “…Around”, to know what we were all doing and Jess was a great help. Someone like Jess is just so gifted and precise and also quick, is probably a far-better simply visual story-teller than myself where I’d rely on words and people. She definitely helped bring out some of the best in my visual ideas for the scenes she boarded.
HIH: I thought the film was cast well and I could feel the chemistry between the characters Doyle and Allyson. How important is casting in a film if the director and story are strong?
David: Very important. I think people believe you can get away with things if one or multiple things are so strong and it’s a cheat. You can save a film from being a disaster with great acting or writing or cinematography, but if you want to do something really well then not only do you try to have the best of things but you have to make them mesh into a whole. That’s the real trick and I guess goal of all of us out there, to bring all the toys together and make something that works in harmony. Rob Evans and Molly Ryman are two amazingly talented and friendly people, very dedicated to their work, and each brought something completely different to their roles that just connected. Rob was able to connect with the pain and hidden suffering as well as gravitas of my way of being broody, charming and completely retarded at the same time. Molly was able to bring her sweet and good-natured energy, comic timing and empathy while still layering Allyson and making her a 3-d person, rather than just “the girlfriend”. They loved the story and cared about their characters, they found things to relate to and it shows I think. That kind of stuff is essential when you build up a trust with them and yourself as the director, to go places that are hard or revealing and try and really say something that hasn’t been said before.
HIH: The idea of being homeless has always caused a lot of emotion for me. I don’t know why I’ve never been able to turn away without a thought when I see a homeless person. Because of this I’ve often wondered what my plan would be if I was put in that situation. How has your experience changed the way you see the homeless in America?
David: I’ve always seen them as people, with backgrounds and stories. Some threw their lives away, some fell on hard times and gave up, some are mentally disabled and were lost through the system; but they all exist and have stories. Where I grew up at the time I grew up I saw it a lot, and yeah–you’d have to be pretty heartless and jaded to just look away all the time and never let it even tug at your insides, even if you don’t give a dollar or dwell on it. In major cities, like NYC, you see it all the time and everywhere and you do build up a bit of a hardened facade because it’ll just overwhelm you, you can’t give away a dollar to everyone or save the world. And that’s not the point. I think if people stopped thinking in the grand scheme of things. I also feel that the film isn’t just about actual homelessness, but the idea of “home”–what that really is beyond just a four walls and a roof, as well as finding it, losing it and the transitional phase we all go through at some point in our lives.
HIH: “…Around” has an eclectic soundtrack with music by The Black Hollies, Takka Takka, and Summer Hagen just to name a few. What was it like choosing music for the film?
David: It was a bit serendipitous. Music is a big part of my life, I was in a few Nirvana cover bands–dare me to do “Come as You Are” and I’ve always got head phones on, especially when writing. When I edit I throw in songs, ones that might not even stay in, just to find a ryhthym. Our original sound guy who mixed on-set screwed us on a deal to have him do post, he was supposed to do score and add music as well. While working to get the money to do a second-mix and find the right person for the job, I started writing my favorite local indie-bands about getting music in the film, being a NY story and all, and they were kindly receptive. All amazing people to deal with and really great artists. It’s funny because they’re involved in such a big personal thing in my life and I’m a giant geek fan of their work, so it’s a nice treat. We also got some great score and additional music from our second sound mixer Carlos “Storm” Martinez and Vita Tanga at CreativeMixing.com that really added the final layer to bring out the best in the scenes. So, while I’ll never compose a Christmas card about it to him, the bad sound mix instead of just a mediocre one enabled us to come out with a much better film for it.
HIH: If you couldn’t write another film would you be content writing anything else such as novels, short stories, or for television?
David: I’ve always wanted to write the great novel and have done some short-story writing when I was younger. Then you read old works and journals and you’re like, “Christ, what pathetic, whining sixteen-year old misfit wrote thi–oh, right. Me.” I toyed with the idea of “…Around” as a novel but I love collaborating with all the people on set and in post-production. Nothing I love more than getting into a writing groove, but it’s lonely to be sitting in front of a pad and pen by yourself for too long. I like more hands. I think if I had a good idea I’d be a good show-runner on TV as I love dialogue and acting and long, plodding stories that might be better to stretch over 13 episodes than two hours. There’s been talk and interest on an “…Around” TV-show, sort of chronicling the four years, but I’m hesitant of opening that door and ending up with a messed up Felicity-Gossip Girl-CW hybrid… that eats small children and lives in the cellar.
HIH: With all the filming you did in New York, I imagine there are some great adventures from the set. Can you give us one?
David: We were moving three times a day all over the place, building sets over night, locations falling through, running and gunning illegally, facing down Iranian dictators at Columbia University, crashing production vans; but my personal favorite was a night we shot the final scene between Doyle and Allyson in Union Square. It was a crowded Friday night, supposed to rain but thankfully didn’t, and we do a long master take of them in a two and a half minute scene. In NYC other than people being jaded or busy or seeing productions all the time, no one ever stops or interrupts, but on this night I called “cut” and I heard my AD Grant DeSimone repeat it, and all this applause erupts. I see Rob and Molly get kind of red and gush, I turn to the script-supervisor confused and as I look back I’d say somewhere between fifty and sixty-five people had crowded around and were applauding, even yelling “great scene”. I’ve never seen or felt anything like that happen and I felt so glad for the actor s and the crew and all of us killing ourselves on this impossible mission. That was the real catharsis. I slept soundly on the floor (the prop master still had my bed in storage) and will remember that always.
HIH: Do you have any more stories to tell on the big screen?
David: I think so. I don’t know if it’ll ever be the same as “…Around” and the experience, but I have some more stuff I’d like to do if I’m lucky enough to get another “crack at bat”. I have a project I’m finishing up now called “Things I Don’t Understand” I’m planning to start shopping around for financing and shoot in Brooklyn in late-January ’10 and, if possible, reunite some of the cast of “…Around”. I’m also developing/writing a bunch of scripts to just sell and always looking for new stories. I’ve always wanted to do an adaptation of the book “Sex and Rockets” which is the true story Jack Parsons who isn’t remembered in history, even though he pretty much developed rockets and rocket fuel technology because he was also a practicing Satanist who believed he was the anti-christ, blew himself up trying to summon the devil, and had his money and wife stolen by L. Ron Hubbard. It’s a really dark and twisted true story that I think could be quite a great film in the vein of Ed Wood and would be a real departure for myself narratively and visually if I got the opportunity, and though I don’t know who owns the rights, if you’re out there give us an email, would you?
Visit http://aroundthefilm.com for reviews and more information about the filmmakers, cast and crew.
I’m always fascinated by entrepreneurs. When I came across a video from the Today Show about a business called Celeb 4 A Day, I just had to find out more from the founder Tania Cowher.
Celeb 4 A Day gives the average person the star treatment and offers their own personal paparazzi. I have to admit that I wouldn’t want to be followed every day by the paparazzi but one day would be exciting. Especially if I knew I was being photographed and could play along with each shot, going from the limo to the club in celeb style. Tania and her Celeb 4 A Day team can make this idea into reality. We can experience the excitement of celebrity for one day and get back to our mundane existence the next. Thank goodness for mundane because I wouldn’t want to be caught by the pap’s the next morning while taking out the trash.
Find out more about Celeb 4 A Day with my Q&A with founder Tania Cowher.
HIH: How did this idea come about?
Tania: Over six years ago I was in photography school in Santa Barbara. On one of my infrequent days off, I happened to be watching one of the celebrity culture shows, I think E.T. or something like that, and had the thought, “I wonder what that’s like?” My next thought was, “Surely, I’m not the only one that wonders.” The idea came to me then to offer personal paparazzi to people. It sat with me until November of 2007 when I tried my hand at designing websites and needed to do one with “no pressure” of succeeding (not for a client, something I could do in my own time). Basically, I paid the $10 for the URL, designed the site, put it up on the web and called my friends to see what they thought. It spread like wildfire and a week later we had our first customer.
HIH: Celeb 4 A Day is offered in Los Angeles and you have more than a few locations. Did they all launch at the same time?
Tania: I am based in Austin, Texas. So naturally we opened Austin first. Then I reached out to some of my friends from school and opened, in order, Los Angeles, San Francisco and finally New York City.
HIH: On your site you have a suggestion for D-List actors to try Celeb 4 A Day, has Kathy Griffin signed up yet?
Tania: Ha, no Kathy hasn’t called me. I wish she would as I think that would be a ton of fun (if at the very least just for us), but since creating the company she has definitely moved beyond D-List in my opinion. She may not need us anymore! However I do think it would be a good idea for people in the industry that want to control their own image/ coverage. The Pope has his own paparazzi, so why not?
HIH: Do couples ever choose to be celebrities for a day together? I could see this as a great wedding or engagement gift.
Tania: We do have couples hire us a lot for many different reasons. We’ve done date nights, surprise birthdays for spouses and even one where our client just found out they were having a boy – so he hired us and took his wife out (she was 8 months pregnant) on a celebratory date with us in tow. We also have done a few actual engagement nights – where our client proposes to his wife-to-be and we are there to memorialize the night and make her feel like the most special person on the planet.
HIH: I noticed on your Today Show spot that a Birthday Girl and her friends were going from club to club. I imagine if I was a celebrity for a day I’d be going from the grocery store, to the gym, and then to my kiddo’s park days. Do you ever have people doing the not so glamorous things like heading into Rite Aid, and Starbucks?
Tania: Because our normal packages run anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, it doesn’t always put us in a position to get people doing normal things. Most times our events coincide with the client’s special event. We would definitely do that, though, should a client want that kind of attention.
HIH: Is there an age requirement for this? With all the Super Sweet Sixteen style parties that happen I can imagine teenagers would love this type of experience.
Tania: We do a lot of sweet sixteen’s. The great thing about what we do is that it is for anyone that has an event where they want to feel special or one of a kind. We’ve had everything from 6 year old birthdays to a 64 year olds surprise retirement party. I’ve never thought there was an age requirement for feeling special or having fun – so why limit the experience?
HIH: You started the idea of a paparazzi experience and you say you’re “often imitated, never duplicated.” What makes Celeb 4 A Day different compared to the copycats?
Tania: Well, I’d say first and foremost is that we really do care about our clients and want them to be able to have an experience that they’ve never had before and that they will never forget. I started this company truly wanting the everyday person to be able to feel special because I believe in those types of people and we do everything we can to provide that. I always say that it’s those types of people that are paying the tickets for the movies, shows, buying the products advertised on television/ in magazines that ultimately pay the salaries of the real celebs – surely they deserve a little attention and to have some fun too.
Also, I don’t know how other companies do it, but we don’t just show up with cameras for the gig and go home. From the moment you call, we’re there to help make the event as smooth as possible. Whether you need help planning an event (where to go, what restaurant is best, where to shop, arranging other services, etc.) or you just need our services, if our services are included we’re going to make sure that you have the time of your life because ultimately that’s our real job.
If experiencing the Star Treatment or having your own Personal Paparazzi for a day sounds fun, visit celeb4aday.com for more information.
Del Shores is a writer, director, producer, actor, and activist. He’s written, directed, and produced for film, television, and stage performances. Del has won numerous awards and was honored with a star on Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 2004.
He’s one of those people that must have more time stored some place. Even with all his titles and interests, he still finds time to teach acting workshops and offer audition coaching.
Let’s find out more about Del Shores with some Q&A:
HIH: I’ve been an Olivia Newton-John fan ever since I watched the film Grease in 1978. It was an honor playing the role of Sandy on the playground during recess. You’ve worked with Olivia Newton-John on Sordid Lives the film and Sordid Lives: The Series on the Logo Channel. What is it like working with this iconic actress?
Del: Olivia is her image. Sweet, gracious, beautiful inside and out. She is wonderful to direct, tries anything I ask and we laugh ourselves silly working on the accent. I also directed her in “The Wilde Girls” in Australia and it was a very special time.”
Olivia Newton-John performs against scenes from the hit TV show Sordid Lives: The Series. Complete soundtrack available on CDBABY.COM and soundtrack and individual songs available on iTunes.
HIH: Sordid Lives started off as a play and includes elements from your own life. Tell us a bit about those elements.
Del: Just watch the Ty/Latrelle pre-funeral scene. Not at my grandmother’s funeral, but most of that dialogue ripped right out of my mom’s mouth — and mine. And Ty’s therapy sessions were mine. I did wear Husky jeans and my mom did change the labels.
HIH: “A black comedy about white trash.” I laugh out loud when I read this tagline for Sordid Lives because there is something universally funny about southern white trash. Why do you think the idea of white trash is so entertaining?
Del: I don’t really consider everybody “white trash” in “Sordid Lives”. That was a marketing “bite” that 20th Century Fox coined when they launched the DVD. I think Southerners/Texans are just colorful and the small things become big (like the mink stole situation in the movie) and with conflict, the comedy becomes real and organic in crazy situations.
HIH: Writing, directing, producing, acting, what do you feel the most comfortable doing?
Del: Well, I will always be a storyteller first and foremost. But when I have the most fun is directing my writing in the hands of great actors.
HIH: Your play Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s got the Will?) became a film in 1990 starring Beau Bridges. He was also in Sordid Lives. This seems like a common theme for you having the same actors in more than a couple of your productions. Is this a conscious choice or does it happen by circumstance?
Del: It’s a choice. If I connect with an actor, I start writing for them. And if I’m lucky, they’ll agree to work with me again. Most of the time, I’m lucky.
HIH: Your GLAAD Award-Winning play Southern Baptist Sissies is being made into a movie. What are the challenges and benefits to telling a story on stage compared to on a movie screen?
Del: Well, because of the economy there has been a delay in bringing Sissies to the big screen. I love that play and it was a difficult play to adapt to screen. The screenplay feels more like a hybrid of stage and film — and it helps that I made “Mark”, the story teller, a playwright. So in the film, he gets writer’s block, flies to Texas and sits in the church where he grew up and writes. We push into his mind and see what he is writing.
HIH: Being a housewife myself I’m interested in your play Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife. I’ve read that it’s a tragic tale about abuse but your flair for funny helps keep the audience from getting too down. Will this production be made into a movie anytime soon?
Del: Probably not. But I wouldn’t rule it out. It’s a powerful piece, if I say so myself. The Samuel French playbook just came out and it will now be done everywhere.
Visit Del Shore’s official website delshores.net for his itinerary, tickets to upcoming events and workshop information. For the Sordid Lives: The Series show schedule visit the Logo Channel online by clicking here.