For as long as I can remember I marched forward. I never looked back. Sure, I looked at pictures – because I take a lot of them!! – but my focus was always forward.
I was in a video 33 years ago. I didn’t watch the video for many many years. It played on VH1 and ultimately YouTube. My friends and family were entertained by it, but I honestly get very embarrassed seeing photos and video of myself so I’d slink out of the room whenever they played it.
I was in high school at the time. After that life brought one change after another. I wore many hats. I marched and I marched. I have good memories and some bad — though I wouldn’t waste any time focusing on those.
A few weeks ago I was asked to surprise the singer songwriter Bertie Higgins on a talk show. It was the first time we have seen on another since filming the video in 1982. The show segment was taped Tuesday and aired today.
This has been a year of looking back. All of my marching came to a halt for half-a-second last year. And for some reason my past started to catch up with me. Old friends and co-workers suddenly started calling. I was getting together and speaking with people I hadn’t in decades. Whatever/whoever is in charge of this universe wanted to remind me of something. Myself? I’m not sure. But all my younger me’s started showing up again.
The producer and the hosts of the show asked me to remember the filming of the video. I’ll recall as much as I can here. I was 17 years old and a senior at Tarpon Springs Senior High in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I was editor of the yearbook, and I did not put a single photo of myself because I was incredibly camera shy. There was a yearbook convention that spring which played host to my first bout of trouble! My childhood friend lived in the town where the convention took place. He was two years older than me, but we were close friends as our mothers were tennis partners throughout our elementary school years. The legal drinking age was 18 at the time so my friend Tommy and his friend Hogey ordered beers while we were visiting at the hotel pool. My yearbook advisor was also at the pool and I thought nothing of bringing my friends over to meet him. (I actually am that dumb.) The s*#t hit the fan within minutes. My parents were called. The principal was called. “Boys and beer” was all I heard. My parents weren’t upset with me which was a relief. They didn’t understand why I was in trouble. I didn’t have a beer and the boys were drinking legally in public. Still there was a threat of suspension and having my yearbook title stripped of me. (The yearbook was already done!)
Two days later the principal walked into my psychology class and asked to see me in the hall. My teacher Mr. Felicione looked sympathetically at me as I got up to leave. He had taken me aside the day before to let me know he didn’t agree with what was going on. When I got to hallway the principal was standing with two men. One was staring at my face with his index finger beside his mouth the way people do when they are thinking. They said they were casting for a video. They started touching my face and then my hair. I didn’t understand what this had to do with the hotel incident because I was SURE that’s why I was taken out of class. The principal had to explain to me that I was being considered for a music video for the song Key Largo sung by our high school alum Bertie Higgins.
I thanked them for the consideration, but explained how camera shy I was. Meanwhile I was leapt for joy on the inside because the principal was nice to me. Surely he wouldn’t circle back and suspend me after that. I told the men that there were many pretty girls at the school and they would not have any trouble finding what they needed. They said they would call our house that night to speak with my parents. I didn’t say a word about it when I got home, and we all went out to the movies.
The director called the next morning. My mother spoke with them. By the time she told me they were already knocking at the front door. They offered me $100 and said the video would be used to promote the song in Japan. I liked the director a lot. He was in my closet picking out clothes before I knew it. It’s a good time to mention he was gay. (My best friends through the course of my life have been gay men.) We hit it off immediately. He told me about his visions for the video and before long I was hooked by the process.
After packing up a pile of my clothes we set off for the grocery store. Ted, the director, purchased Vasoline so my hair could look wet all day long. He explained what he wanted from me which was mostly sadness! The story of the song was that the relationship had failed. The singer is trying to convince his partner to try again. We were to have a few happy flashbacks and a hopeful ending, but principally I was to look discouraged and done!
We went to Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs for our first shots. That is where I met Bertie. One of our first shots were to run up the stairs of Spring Bayou. We were holding hands. I thought we were going in one direction but Bertie went the opposite way. My feet got crossed up and I looked completely pigeon toed in the shot. We didn’t film another! (There were a lot of YouTube comments about my gimpy feet years later.)
Bertie was very professional and kind. He was over a year into his fame at this point. Key Largo had been a hit and he had appeared on just about every show. We shot on 35 mm film which I found very cool. Whenever I wasn’t in the shot, Ted let me look into the camera as we filmed. I was completely excited by Ted’s job. I thought for the first time that day that I would love to be a director.
We went down to Howard Park Beach next. Bertie, the cameraman and myself road on the back of a pick-up truck while it road across the parking lot. The palm trees moved behind us making it look like we were on a boat (a very smooth boat – ha).
I feel like we went on a boat next but I know we ended the day back in the Howard Park clothes at Sunset Beach at sunset. Did we shoot a second day? I honestly cannot remember this part. But we did shoot on a boat. And that is when Ted heaped vasoline on my hair. He did this himself and combed it through. My hair did look wet!! We shot the scenes on the boat and I was to look miserable with Bertie. They were happy with my “performance” but the story might have been lost somewhere in the editing.
At Sunset Beach I went into the trailer that was onset for Bertie. I met his wife Beverly and I mistakenly stepped on her foot. I am clumsy. I was falling and I came down hard on her foot. I wanted to die. I am completely embarrassed.
We wrapped production before we got to film the happy scenes. I look a bit like a sour puss in the video, but I was having a blast in reality. We all said good bye and I was sad to see it end. I didn’t tell many people I did the video. I didn’t watch when they sent the tape to our house. March march march. I didn’t think about it again for many years. And then…. VH1 hit the air. I was working up in New York City at ABC by then. More to come on that…