Friday, September 24, 2010

The Girl Who Fell Off Bikes

When I was about 4 years old, my mother put me in tumbling classes and I loved it. What was not to love about rolling your body all around the floor? Those were the good old days - having my feet and body firmly planted on the ground.

When I graduated from tumbling however, the class that was the next level up was gymnastics, and I will never forget that first day.

A giant balance beam stood before me and all the other little girls were doing it. The instructor took each girl by the hand and walked them across the beam. I cringed a little, but I wanted to try. I wanted to fit in.

When it came time for me, I got on the beam and immediately became dizzy. As the teacher walked me across, step by step, I could not stop shaking. I thought I was going to fall off at any point. It became apparent to all those involved that I was not going to become the next Mary Lou Retton and I quit gymnastics immediately.

When I was 6 years old, like all little boys and girls, I got my first bike with training wheels. But unlike most little boys and girls, I could not ride the bike without the extra set of wheels. I kept falling over. This was a traumatic experience. I could overhear the other girls in my first grade class exclaiming, “Theresa Donahoe does not know how to ride a bike!” It was humiliating.

During one hot summer day when I was 11 years old, a friend of mine brought over a couple of bikes. I don’t know where I got the courage, but with nothing but my one piece swimsuit on my body, I decided to jump on a bike and take a spin. Next thing I knew, I was doing it! I was really doing it! I was riding a bike! I felt like I was flying like a bird in the street! Yipeeeeeee!! But with my new found courage I got a little over confident and hit a curb. The bike went flying off my body and I landed flat on my back on the hot sidewalk cement. My back was now bloody, black and blue. My new injury came just in time for summer camp that year, which was the following week. I still went to camp, but I did not get back on a bike for a really long time.

I didn’t need to. As I got older, bikes soon were replaced with cars and the social stigma of being “the girl who fell off bikes” had been lifted from me.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to age 26 when I got a call one Friday from a casting assistant named Nicole, to do some photo-double work for actress Juliette Lewis on a movie called “The Other Sister” filming in San Francisco. I had done photo double work before and it had always been easy so I said yes.

(An example of a photo double is someone who is in a movie and is usually filmed “from behind with a wig on” or “filmed from a distance with a wig on” and looks close enough to the principal actor. Photo doubles are used because they cost less to employ for small scenes that require little of the actual actor).

I arrived to set that one rainy day at the Palace of Fine Arts with a cold, but I was determined to work. No cold was going to ruin my day. Turns out a cold would be the least of my problems.

As I sat in a chair inside the Make Up and Hair trailer, waiting for my wig to be put on, I noticed an older woman sitting in the chair to my right, with rollers in her hair and her face buried in a magazine. She looked familiar and I stared at her until I realized she was Diane Keaton and then I immediately looked away. I wanted to play it cool. After I got my wig on, Juliette Lewis walked in to the trailer, saw me, and said in her laid back voice, “oh cool, a double” and then walked out.

As a photo double, I would be working with the “2nd Unit” crew. (Some movie sets have more than one camera unit so they can film scenes simultaneously at different locations to save money and time) I worked the first half of the day sitting on a park bench overlooking a pond with my back turned away from the camera that was shooting from several feet away. In the scene with me was another actor, who at the time, I thought might also be a photo double. He stood up and fed the ducks in the pond and talked to me like a little boy. I thought maybe he was mentally challenged or something, because if he was acting, he never broke character. In his little boy voice, he asked me if I was an actress and I said yes. He kept rambling on and on while continuing to feed the ducks until the crew got their shot.

(Some time later I was watching television and recognized this same actor as being the guy who plays Phoebe’s brother on the TV show FRIENDS. It turned out to be Giovanni Ribisi, and no, he is not really retarded).

The second half of that day the crew moved up North to Marin County to film more scenes in a suburban neighborhood. Giovanni’s photo double arrived and he and I hung out in a car waiting for the crew to call us.

One of the crew members peeked his head in to our car and asked:

“You two know how to ride bikes, right?”

The other double nodded. I sat there for a second, and then, like a little girl wanting to just fit in all over again, I nodded too. What was I gonna do? Tell them no?

I was scared, but I did remember that I did once jump on a bike back when I was 11 years old and I was able to do it for a little while. “I can do this,” I thought, “Theresa, face your fears!”

Two bikes were brought out and the other double immediately hopped on his and took it for a spin. I just stared at mine.

Our 2nd unit director Scotty Marshall, the son of Gary Marshall (who was director of the 1st unit camera crew and also movies such as Pretty Woman and the TV show “Happy Days”) was ready to do a rehearsal.

“Alright,” he said, “let’s do a test run with the bikes. And ….ACTION!”

I jumped on my bike and started pedaling down the street. It wasn’t long though until I started to feel dizzy and then I started to wobble, and then I knew I was headed for a crash landing.

BAM!! I fell over to my right side, totally banging up my thigh, as the left handle bar went flying off into the street.

The set medic came rushing up to me.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” I was so embarrassed.

“It’s not your fault, alright? That bike was totally defective,” he said while showing me the missing handle bar.

The medic walked me off set and had me fill out some worker’s compensation forms. I was wondering why people were being so nice to me about the fall and then I realized, they just didn’t want me to sue them.

With a huge bruise on my right thigh, I was done for the day. I got in a crew van and was sent home.

Turns out, good news travels fast. That following Monday, all day long amongst show-biz friends, I heard jabs like, “hey, we heard you couldn’t ride a bike!” and “oh, that’s easy, it’s just like riding a...…do’h!”

Ha ha. It’s like I was 6 and 11 years old all over again.

Thinking the worst was behind me, I brushed it off, I mean, what are the odds of that happening again?

Two years later I got a call from Michelle from the same casting office asking if I wanted to do some photo double work on the movie, “The Princess Diaries”. I said yes and then she asked me one question.

“You know how to ride a razor scooter right?”

Razor scooters had just come out that year and were all the rage with little kids. I mean, how hard could it be?

“Sure,” I said.

I arrived on the set of  The Princess Diaries ready to work. I was put in a private school outfit and wig. I would be doubling for Heather Matarzzo who played the best friend of the lead actress’s character, played by Anne Hathaway.

Anne Hathaway’s photo double and I were given a scene where we had to ride razor scooters side by side, downhill on a street in San Francisco. Panic started to set in.

“It’s all about balance,” the other double told me.

“Uh huh,” I said.

I hopped on my scooter, but could not get the hang of it. I tried and tried and then finally, the stunt-coordinator came over to me.

“It’s easy,” he said as he started walking along side me holding my scooter. Then he would let go and I would tip over.

“Try it again,” he said as he walked me through it a second time.

I tipped again.

“It’s not hard,” he insisted as he started to get impatient with me. I still couldn’t do it.

“Wow,” he said, “you are really having a hard time with this.” He looked at me intensely and then his eyes widened as realized:

“Hey, did you work on “The Other Sister??”

I wanted to die.

I looked up at the camera crew and locked eyes with yet, again, Scotty Marshall. What were the odds I would be working with the same freaking director two years later?? I couldn’t believe it. Mr. Marshall must have thought, “HER AGAIN? Is she the only double that we can get in San Francisco?”

I turned to the stunt-coordinator and fired myself.

“I am just gonna get in the van.”

I got out of my double’s clothes and into a crew van. Once inside I called the casting office.

“Hey Michelle, it’s me. Yeah, turns out I couldn’t ride the scooter. You know this isn’t the first time this has happened. I once fell off a bike on another movie set.”

“That was YOU?” She asked.

Turns out, in Bay Area film circles, I had gained a reputation. Michelle hadn’t worked on the previous movie and didn’t realize I was “the girl who couldn’t ride a bike”. Had she known, perhaps she wouldn’t have sent me to set.

She said she heard that through the grapevine, that after my first incident, crew had made sarcastic comments to casting like, “hey, next time make sure you send someone who can walk- okay?”

In 2009 I was doing stand-in work on the television show “Parenthood” that was filming in Berkeley. The girl I was standing in for was portraying a high school senior and everything was going smoothly until I saw her rehearse a scene where she got on a bike and rode away.

This time I acted quickly.

I grabbed one of the production assistants and gave her a warning, “I am not too good on bikes if they expect me to ride one during a rehearsal.” She calmly responded back, “don’t worry, I will do it for you if they really need to see that blocking.”

Turns out they didn’t and I learned a lesson that day. From now on I would speak up more on sets, and in life, and not be ashamed of having been the girl who fell off bikes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Secret To Not Getting Sick!


My ex-boyfriend turned me on to this a few years ago and even though the relationship didn't work out, the Wellness Formula did.

Just a few drops under your tongue every morning and you are good to go!

You will never get sick again!

Well, maybe not NEVER, but the odds of your getting sick are greatly reduced...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Day I Kissed a Celebrity and Got Paid For It.

In 1994 I decided to re-start my acting “career”. (Is it really a career if you don’t make a living off of it?) I had taken a break from theatre in my late teens and early twenties and was strictly working on my singing voice. Then at age 24 I decided to get back into the acting game. I didn’t know where to start so I went back to what was familiar.

Now that my voice was much stronger than it had ever been, I started auditioning for musicals. And while I was nailing the singing and the acting part of the auditions, my dancing had become a bit rusty as I couldn’t do a double pirouette. This eliminated me from any lead roles and I was demoted to smaller parts.

Down, but not out, I decided to also sign up with casting offices in San Francisco to do extra work in movies and television. In March 2005 I got my first call to be an extra in a Nike commercial starring Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Now, even though I had never watched a tennis game in my entire life, I knew who Andre Agassi was….. but who the heck was Pete Sampras?

The day of the shoot, in the Financial District of San Francisco, my friend Kristen and I joined a crowd of about 300 extras who had gathered around a huge roped-off downtown intersection that contained a long net in the middle. Andre and Pete came out and started playing a tennis match and we were to be their adoring fans behind the ropes.

With at least two cameras rolling simultaneously and never cutting, a man with a megaphone instructed us to keep cheering these tennis players on and not to stop. He was looking for authentic crowd reactions to the game. It was a call for improvisation on behalf of the background artists.

One female extra decided to really get into it and climbed under the rope, ran towards Andre Agassi and gave him a hug. This would normally be a huge no-no on most television and movie sets, as background is always instructed to “never approach the talent unless they approach you first.” (It always bothered me that principal actors were the only people on a set called “the talent” when others who working just as hard, were also “talented”, but that is beside the point).

However, in this case, the director loved it because there was quite a response from the crowd. I happen to be standing to the right of him when he turned to me and said:

“Go out there and kiss Pete.”

I did not hesitate.

Under the rope I went as I ran towards the man who wasn’t Andre Agassi. I threw my arms around him and kissed him on the cheek. He responded with an “awww” as if he thought it was sweet that this perfect stranger had planted one on him, and he hugged me back. Next thing I knew all these other extras had dog-piled on top of us and the moment was over.

I thought nothing of it and went back to doing my usual background duty of cheering the game on for the rest of the shoot.

Two weeks later, my friend Kristen caught the 30 second commercial on television and told me she couldn’t find us in the crowd.

Six months later I got a call from a woman who worked for the ad agency Nike had hired. She told me that Nike had just extended the original 30 second commercial into a 60 second one, and I was now officially in it, and they were going to pay me for it. I had been upgraded from background to principal.

“This is your lucky day,” she told me.

The ad agency mailed me a union contract for a principal part and I signed it and returned it to them. Every time the commercial aired, I got a residual check.

I had requested a copy of the commercial from the ad agency, but never heard back. However, my friend Liz who worked in sports television and had access to all sorts of editing equipment, taped Wimbledon that year, found the Nike commercial and put my short on-screen time of running towards Pete Sampras in slow motion. In actual real time, the clip went so fast, I couldn’t believe they paid me for it.

I am the girl running in a purple sweatshirt about 22 seconds in. Don't blink!

And just like that, I was eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild. In a day and age where every year, hundreds of aspiring actors flee to Los Angeles to try and get their SAG card, I had become eligible by kissing a tennis celebrity during my first day of doing extra work in San Francisco. Seeing that it cost $1200 to join at the time, I decided to wait for another big-paying union job to come along that would make it worth my while.

And as it turned out, Pete Sampras was a good kisser:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are You A Supertaster?

I am.

I took the test:

And came out this:

You are a supertaster!
*Supertasters have lots of papillae that are closely packed together and small.
*Perceive all tastes as more intense than other taster types, particularly bitter tastes
*Tend to be fussy about their food and have strong food likes and dislikes
*Usually don't like coffee, grapefruit, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and spinach
*Have lots of papillae, the tiny bumps on the tongue that contain taste buds
*Around 25% of people are said to be supertasters

Other factoids:

*Women are much more likely to be supertasters than men (35% of Women vs 15% of Men)

*Caucasian males have the lowest rate of supertasters of any known group.
*In The Simpsons episode “Father Knows Worst”, Homer eats a stick of burning coals and becomes a supertaster.
*The alternative rock band They Might Be Giants has a song called “John Lee Supertaster” about John Lee, a supertaster and the bass player for the rock band Muckaferguson, who “can’t drink coffee or beer” and “loves ice cream and pie”.

So...are YOU a Supertaster? Take the test! It's short, I promise:

They are, but for entirely different reasons:

(Jazz Mafia Band SUPERTASTER)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Making of Madonna-hoe, Part II, by Theresa Donahoe

Madonna’s Blonde Ambition World Tour
Coliseum Arena - Oakland, California
May 18-20, 1990

High off of her “Like A Prayer” Album, Madonna was coming to town in the Spring of 1990, and I, of course, was going to be there.

Those of us in the Bay Area were fortunate enough to not only get three concert dates in a row for her show, but our local dates fell on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday sequence. It didn’t get any better than this.

When tickets went on sale, a group of my friends did our best to procure awesome seats, but by the time it was our turn to purchase in line (this was before internet), only nosebleeds were left. We took them.

We bought tickets for the Friday night show, but my friend Jimmy and I (the diehards) bought an extra set for the Sunday show as well. Saturday was sold out.

When that magical Friday finally rolled around, our enthusiastic group headed out for the Oakland Coliseum Arena. I wore my “Boy Toy” T-shirt, jeans and big belt, in Madonna’s honor.

We showed up in enough time to find our crappy seats before opening act, “Technotronic” hit the stage. From our view, Madonna would be so far away from us- she would be a dot on a stage. I was sad, but what was I gonna do?

Pump up the jam!

I don’t even remember Technotronic’s set. I might have sat through some of it, but at some point, we got up and started walking around the outskirts of the arena where the merchandise and food was being sold. We split up for awhile and Jimmy and I were shopping around when my friend Patty came running up to us proclaiming:

“Theresa! Theresa! I found this guy who will give us front row seats!”

Jimmy and I ran over to “this guy”. “This guy” was working for the tour and looking to trade crappy tickets for front row tickets as long as fans “promised to dance”. He had us sign our names on a list and we swapped out our tickets. I couldn’t believe it. I stared at his name badge. His name was “David Land”.

“Look!” I told him and pointed to Jimmy and me, “We are going to be back on Sunday! We are going to look for you on Sunday!”

He was rather dismissive, but I was adamant to find him again during Sunday’s show.

And just like that, a group of six of us were in the front row on a Friday night watching Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour.

She had about as many costume changes as she did songs.

Come On- Vogue!

You Got The Moves, Baby, I got the Motion...

What the heck song WAS THIS?

Her set list included:  Express Yourself, Open Your Heart, Causing A Commotion, Where's The Party, Like A Virgin, Like A Prayer, Live To Tell, Oh Father, Papa Don't Preach, Material Girl, Cherish, Into The Groove, Vogue, Holiday, and Keep It Together.

With my ears so close to the speakers, my thoughts went back and forth between, “Wow this is so cool," to “Hey, she is off-pitch!”

At least she wasn’t lip syncing.

I was in heaven. But I started wondering, with Sunday’s show around the corner, would our good fortune strike twice?

When Sunday late afternoon came around, Jimmy and I entered the arena once again and found our old crappy seats. I just couldn’t do it. After sitting in the front row, I would never go back to nose bleeds again. I was too spoiled now. Jimmy and I were now on a mission to find the man named David Land from Friday night.

We just about went up to every person who looked official and was wearing a badge. I asked them the same question over and over again, “Do you know David Land? We must find David Land!”

At first, nobody knew who he was and this was probably because I didn’t know how to distinguish between a backstage pass and food vendor badge. If someone looked remotely like they were employed for the night I was on them.

Finally we found a man who gave us our first clue.

“Yes,” he said, “I think David is down at the Box Office.”

Jimmy and I flew down to the lower levels of the arena to find this “Box Office”. At this point Technotronic had started their set and I began to panic.

“Nooo! We are running out of time!”

We found the box office. The door was locked so I banged on the door. Finally somebody opened it.

“Yeah?” A man asked.

“Is David Land in there? We told him we would be back to trade tickets again for Sunday!”

“Uh, hang on,” said the man and he slammed the door.

Well, that door did not reopen for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally the door opened again and it was Mr. Land.

“Yeah?” he said.

“Hi! We were here on Friday! We said we would be back to trade tickets again!”

He obviously didn’t recognize us, but paused for a minute.

“Hang on,” he said as he slammed the door.

I exhaled. I just couldn’t stand the thought of being in the nosebleeds for the Sunday show. We had come too far! Front row OR NOTHING.

Technotronic’s one hit wonder- “Pump Up The Jam” came blasting through the arena. My heart sank. I knew they were at the end of their set and Mr. Lands had not opened up the door again. Would all this exercise in stalking-the-ticket-guy be for nothing?

The door finally opened again, but only a crack just big enough for two tickets to pop through.

“Here,” he said non-chalantly.

We took the tickets and gave him ours and he slammed the door.

We looked at them. FRONT ROW BABY!

Jimmy and I quickly ran back down towards the front row and as the usher looked at our tickets he commented, “great seats!” and Jimmy responded, “we got connections!”

As Madonna came out we stood there staring at her, up front, once again, and Jimmy shook his head.

“I can’t BELIEVE we did this again!”

And we were happy.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Making of MaDonahoe, by Theresa Donahoe

Part 1

In October of 1983 I woke up to my alarm clock radio. FM 102 was playing a new song called “Holiday”. I laid in bed and listened.

“I know she sounds black, but she’s white, and her name is Madonna,” announced the DJ when the song was over.

At first impressions, I wasn’t in love with the song. I thought her voice sounded a bit nasally and I found the melody rather repetitive and annoying. I was embracing my “inner Simon Cowell”, even from a young age. I was picky.

There was no official music video to Holiday, and being of the original MTV generation, I blew Madonna off. But there was a music video to her next single – Borderline.

I liked the music video to Borderline. And I liked that I got to see what Madonna looked like as she danced around and played pool with a big bow in her hair. I dug her fashion as I was thawing out to her vibe. Still not a fan of her music though.

Then in 1984, her next single, “Lucky Star” came out and it was all over.

“I love this song!!” my sister declared as we sat down to watch Madonna’s latest music video in our living room. It featured nothing but her and two backup dancers against a white background. I was hooked.

Looking back at that music video, I realize now that I had fallen victim to clever editing as I thought she was doing more intricate dance moves than she actually was. But at age 13, I was officially impressed and a fan was born.

I soon begin copying Madonna’s style my freshman year in high school, as I too, showed up to school with a big neon pink bow in my hair, a thick white hip belt, neon pink socks, big dangly white star earrings and forty black rubber bracelets. I was a cool mess.

Some people in school thought I was “rebelling against society”, as this look was not the norm in the small town I grew up in where the standard required uniform was jeans and a t-shirt. But I wasn’t being rebellious and I wasn’t mad at anybody. Hey, maybe I was young and misunderstood….

Nah, I wasn’t that deep. I was just a freaky fan of Madonna. In other words, I was “expressing myself”.

I bought the “Unofficial Biography of Madonna” in paperback so I could study up on my latest celebrity crush. What was she really like? What did she eat for breakfast? How did she get to be so cool?

I read in awe as I learned that Madonna had left Michigan for New York City at age 17 with nothing but 35 dollars in her pocket and upon arrival told her cab driver to “drop her off in the middle of everything.” He dropped her off at Times Square.

I read that she survived on a steady diet of popcorn because it wasn’t fattening, yet ironically worked at Dunkin Donuts for a short time before she was fired. She struggled to make ends meet and took odd jobs while she pursued a career in dance. I thought it sounded glamorous.

In 1985 my friend April and I decided to make our own Madonna music video. I don’t know whatever happened to that blackmail-worthy footage, but somewhere out there is a home made video of me dancing around in a black fishnet shirt and pink bikini bottoms while lip sincing to “Get Into The Groove”. Ouch.

I was high on Madonna’s fashion circa her first two albums, so when she cut off her hair and bleached it platinum blonde in 1986, I cringed a little. Gone was her over-accessorized look I had grown accustomed to and now she was prancing around in a more grown up version of herself.

I didn’t like it. This was the 80’s man! I was not about to cut off my big permed coiffure I had worked so hard to achieve. Well, maybe not that hard. Okay, it was pretty effortless:

That’s me on the right.

Even though I could no longer follow Madonna’s fashion, I could still follow her music and performed a routine in my high school dance class to “White Heat” (from the True Blue Album) with my dance partner.

I have no video footage of this routine.

In 1987 I finally went to my first Madonna concert- the “Who’s That Girl Tour” and was stuck in the last row of seats at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View. Later on that week someone from the high school yearbook staff took a photo of me in drama class wearing my “Who’s That Girl” tank top with waist belt and ruffled miniskirt sitting on a desk pretending to rehearse lines. We were such posers.

During Spring Break ’89 my friend Lisa and I headed down the coast to Southern California in her white mustang convertible with the top down and our hair blowing in the wind to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” album. Wikipedia listed this album under the genre’s of “pop, rock and gospel”, but there was nothing particularly religious about this album unless you were into worshipping Madonna. This would be the album that would pave the way for her next concert tour and to my most fanatical obsessive MaDonnahoe move up to date.

To be continued.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Announcing The Umpteenth Annual Donahoe Domino Tournament!

Are you in?

Every Labor Day weekend my family on my dad's side gets together and dukes it out with the chips.  It's two days of intense competition.  I use to compete, back when I was forced to be my mom's driving companion when the tourney was held at my grandparent's place up in Nevada.  Every year we would leave the Bay Area at 5:30am to arrive in Gardnerville at 9:30am.  Then I played dominoes all day for two days and I sucked at it.

Now that it's in Sonoma County at my Uncle's place- I no longer am forced to make the early morning trek. Baby's all growns up.  I arrive and leave when I want.  That means strolling in on the second day around 3pm and just hanging out with all the other losers who already got eliminated from the first day of competing.

Happy Labor Day Weekend Y'all and remember to unload your double six as soon as you can!