Monday, June 22, 2015

Denise LaSalle: All Hail The Queen

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Denise LaSalle is America’s reigning "Queen of the Blues". Blues fans, musicians, music experts and critics internationally recognize this royal and honorary title Queen of the Blues. The legendary LaSalle has a distinguished career of nearly 50 years as a vocalist, singer, live-performer, songwriter, entrepreneur, producer and originator of the Blues and R&B genre. She is a singer, songwriter, and record producer who has a staggering output of 35 albums placing her among the most prolific female artists living. In the Blues tradition, the most senior and talented artist in both genders is accorded the title of King and Queen, and since 2009 following the death of Koko Taylor, Denise LaSalle has been recognized as the uncontested "Queen of the Blues".

Denise, a native Mississippian, has strong Delta roots and her spoken tribute at B.B. King’s funeral was an unexpected surprise to millions of Blues fans globally. She was born and raised in Belzoni in Leflore County just forty miles south of Indianola where her late friend B.B. King was born and buried.

Denise would sit in with R&B musicians and wrote songs, influenced by country music as well as the blues, before winning a recording contract with Chess Records in 1967. Her first single, "A Love Reputation" was a modest regional hit.  She established an independent production company, Crajon, with her then husband Bill Jones.  Her song "Trapped By A Thing Called Love" was released on Detroit-based Westbound Records. This reached #1 on the national R&B chart and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song ranked at #85 on the 1971 year-end chart. The RIAA gold disc award was made on November 30, 1971 for a million sales.

She also wrote successful follow-ups, "Now Run And Tell That" and "Man Sized Job" which made #3 and #4 in the R&B Top Ten and also charted in the Hot 100. Her early hits were recorded at the Hi recording studios in Memphis, operated by Willie Mitchell, using the cream of southern session players. She continued to have hits on Westbound and then on ABC Records through the mid-1970s, including "Love Me Right." She continued to produce and perform live. Her co-penned song, "Married, But Not to Each Other" was included in the 1979 ‘The Best of Barbara Mandrell.’

In the early 1980s, she signed as a singer and songwriter with Malaco Records, for whom she released a string of critically acclaimed albums over more than 20 years, starting with ‘Lady in the Street’ and ‘Right Place, Right Time.’  Both albums became major successes among soul blues, R&B and soul fans and on urban radio stations.  In 1985, she enjoyed her only recognition in the UK Singles Chart, when her cover version of Rockin' Sidney's, "My Toot Toot", reached #6. 

After taking a brief break from the road to nurse husband James Wolfe back to health, Denise LaSalle has resumed performing and recording, and made a duet with Soul Bluesman Bigg Robb titled “Blues and Barbeque”. The Blues duo completed a music video on May 29th, 2015.

The passing of B.B. King has inspired LaSalle to prioritize Blues Education for younger generations, and is reviving her 501 c 3 National Association for the Preservation of Blues (N.A.P.O.B.) headquartered in Jackson, Tennessee. NAPOB aims to create an innovative and interdisciplinary Blues Education program including music training, technology, professional development targeted at youth with alternative programs for adult learners.

The Queen of the Blues is recording on a new album “Cougars on the Loose”, and is reviewing several documentary and collaborative recording projects including Blues and Country Music.
Denise LaSalle is a paragon among the last surviving legendary and pioneering Blues singers, songwriters and musicians that transformed a regional sounding into an internationally loved and respected genre that represents one of a few the only genuine American art forms.

In 2009, Blues critics and enthusiasts crowned Denise LaSalle Queen of the Blues.  In 2011, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.  On Saturday, June 6th, 2015, LaSalle was inducted into the Mississippi Blues Hall of Fame.

I took these shots at Poor David's Pub in Dallas, Texas at the KNON Benefit Concert.

 AM:  Denise, you are an amazing songwriter.  You are prolific and just brilliant.  Where is this coming from?

DL:  I don’t know, somewhere in the back of my mind. 

AM:  Are you always writing?

DL:  That’s how I got started in this business, as a songwriter.  I’ve been a poet since I was a little girl in school. 

AM:  So this led to songwriting?

DL:  Yes, usually when the words come to me in rhyme, they come with a melody.  The minute I put the words down on paper I know exactly how the melody will sound. 

AM:  I love the themes in your music.  You are so earthy and real.  Has this always been the case?

DL:  Yes, that’s all I know to write about, what is real life. 

AM:  You write a lot about relationships.

DL:  Yes, they are not always about my relationships.  I can be talking to a friend of mine and they will tell me something that happened to them and that rhyme will get in my head and when that rhyme comes to my mind with the melody, I have to think about what would make me say this and what would make me feel this way.  That’s how I get the scenario. 

AM:  Your lyrics are all so clever and often humorous.  When you wrote “married, But Not To Each Other” did you ever think it would be a hit for somebody else?

DL:  No and it was a surprise especially because of who it was.   I never dreamed a Country girl like Barbara Mandrell could take that song and make it a hit.  That’s a perfect example of another lady’s story.  A friend of mine was cheating on her husband and she told me about it.  She came up with the title and then I put my own words to it. 

AM:  Are you still writing?

DL:  Yes, I still write.  People are always coming up to me with song titles.  I just take them and work with them. 

AM:  You come off as a very strong woman in all your songs.  I especially love ‘EEE TEE.’  How did that one come about?

DL:  I had just seen the movie ‘E.T.’ and I was talking with my friends about an ugly man being good to you or a fine thing who is no good.  I just put it together that I would rather have a man who looks like E.T. and be good to me than have a fine man who would abuse me. 

AM:  Have you been able to stay strong in real life and avoid some of the pitfalls of show business?

DL:  I think I have.  I think I’ve avoided quite a few, although I’ve been in some problems. 

AM:  How did you avoid them?

DL:  I believe in being honest so I always let people know what will be and won’t be and what I’ll take and what I won’t take. 

AM:  What do young girls ask you the most?

DL:  There is so much more to get into today.  It’s not like it used to be with just a few things to do.  I just always tell them to be careful and look before you leap.  

Follow Denise LaSalle on her facebook and twitter pages

Monday, June 8, 2015

Leon Isaac Kennedy Returns To Hollywood

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Leon Isaac Kennedy is already in the history books as a creative pioneer in radio, TV and movies.  His trailblazing broke down barriers.  Today many more doors and opportunities are open for minorities in front of and behind the camera. Additionally, many more opportunities are enjoyed by African Americans, Hispanics and Women in all of today’s media.   But it was Leon, the kid with a dream, with no help from agents, managers, or any support system, who opened many of those doors.

Leon is a child of the media, one of the rare few, creatively blessed to write, produce and perform in all aspects of radio, television and movies. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, while some inner city kids were taking drugs and getting involved with gangs, Leon was only 15 years old when he sounded crazy to some of his friends for announcing that he had decided to be a Movie Star! Writer! Producer!

Even at age 15, knowing how to dare to dream and overcome reality, Kennedy realized there was not much opportunity for Blacks. So he formulated a plan. “I’ll be a disc jockey… then become a big time air personality … then get my own television show … then do movies!”

Immediately working on his plan, by the time he was 16 Leon made history by becoming one of the youngest disc jockeys in a top ten market.  Still working on “his plan” Leon had his first TV show “Teen-A-Rama” by age 19. He was promoted from Teen Weekend DJ in Cleveland, Ohio to full time in an even bigger market, Detroit – Motown!

It was in The Motor City that Leon started to become a radio legend as ‘Leon The Lover!’ Almost 45 years later fans still ask about Leon The Lover and his classic Leon’s Lover’s Lane! Some say it was his voice, others say the poems he personally wrote to go with his theme song and slow jams as Leon sometimes charmed, sometimes made them cry and certainly made them tune in.

As recently as Berry Gordy’s Motown Musical opening, while exchanging hugs legendary performer, Gladys Knight reminisced how she and her cousins, The Pips would sit out on their front porch and listen. It was like every house, every car radio was listening to Leon The Lover!

Leon reminisced, what better place for a young teen to grow up as a top disc jockey than The Motor City?  While others my age were just beginning college, I was friends with all of the Motown Legends.

When Leon made personal appearances or played records at a club, lines for entrance circled around the block. Modestly Leon laughs, “It wasn’t just to see me; on any given night, Dennis Edwards or the great David Ruffin from The Temptations might sing and my dear friend, Stevie Wonder judged Leon’s Pretty Leg Contest. Living and DJ’ing in Motown I made lifelong friends in a slice of time and history that can never be replicated.”

Still pursuing his dream Leon moved onto Washington, D.C. doing both radio and television.  The wonderful Businesswoman and Entrepreneur, TV One’s Cathy Hughes remarked, “Leon, with his great talents and Lover’s Lane, took Black radio to a higher level of class and talent.”

Leon next took on Houston, Texas wherein he hooked up with one of his mentors and great friends, Disc Jockey Extraordinaire, Mike Payne.  Not content to be just an on the air personality, Leon with Mike wrote, produced and co-hosted “Outta Sight”!  Leon was the driving force that syndicated this “Laugh In” type comedy show. Think of “In Living Color”, only 20 years earlier.  Always the pioneer, Leon again made history. Prior to “Soul Train” it was Leon with “Outta Sight” that had the nation’s first Black Syndicated TV Show.

Leon then met the beautiful Jane Harrison, the first Black Miss Ohio, who through their marriage became Mrs. Jayne Kennedy. One week before their marriage, Leon astounded all of their friends by announcing that he and Jayne were leaving Cleveland to make it in Hollywood. What was astounding was that Leon knew no one in Hollywood. -- They had no jobs waiting, no semblance of beckoning security, and he had resigned from a very lucrative radio and television position.

Leon hit Los Angeles with the tenacity and faith with which he tackled every project. He became one of L.A.’s top disc jockeys and promoted and owned a string of discos. This gave him the economic freedom and time he needed to go after bigger things.  He carefully launched and helped guide his wife Jayne’s career - helping her to become not just a star -- but a household name. Leon stated, “We were a great team. As a young couple we worked hard together, broke down a lot of barriers, set a variety of high goals and realized them!”

Leon vowed it was about faith! And believing in your dreams! With a lot of prayer, hard work and tenacity, from knowing no one, he helped make them both into someone all would come to know.

Leon once stated, “It certainly was not easy for a young Black man or Black woman back then. The career opportunities just were not there. I had to use my own money and create our own opportunities.”  Leon also explained how he’s been told it was impossible to achieve every goal he’s ever had. But with positive prayer, of God’s Word and its Spiritual Principles -- positive action -- always equals positive results!

Once cast as “Two Sweet Gordon” in ‘Penitentiary,’ Leon became an immediate bona fide star. Fan magazines named him, along with John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, and others “… Box office Stars of the 80s.”  Leon Isaac Kennedy’s ‘Penitentiary’ was the number one independent film of the year! ‘Penitentiary’ broke box office records all across the country.

Done for less than $500,000, it grossed over $18 million in just the U.S. box office, resulting in a whopping profit for participating investors.  Back then ticket prices were $3.00 and in some theatres 99¢. In today’s market -- Penitentiary represents a $70 million film done for less than $500,000!

Unlike many Hollywood products, Leon was not a manufactured studio star. He created his own product, his own image - his own good!  Kennedy showed the range of his talents in “Body and Soul” which he wrote, starred in and produced. He starred opposite Muhammad Ali, Jayne Kennedy and movie legend Peter Lawford.

He has starred with such super stars as Chuck Norris in 'Lone Wolfe McQuade,' Sammy Davis, Jr. in 'Knights of the City,' Barbara Carrera, Peter Lawford, David Carradine, and Academy Award winners, Ann Archer, Oliver Reed and Ernest Borgnine.

Then, at the top of his career, Kennedy suddenly stopped. No acting -- no writing -- or producing. Kennedy simply walked away from the business and industry he so dearly loved.

Kennedy, the international star, was not seen on a Hollywood movie lot -- but instead was discovered speaking, devoting his time to visiting detention centers, drug rehab centers, homes for unwed mothers, churches and hundreds of prisons. He explains: “I’ve never done drugs -- nothing tragic had occurred in my life -- God has always blessed me. Yet, so many people were going down the drain of drugs -- gangs -- hopelessness and despair -- there was a tug of God on my life. It was just time to give something back.”

“The Hollywood film business and movie making process has always been one of my great loves. However, positively impacting the lives of others is far more significant than winning any Hollywood trophy.” 

AM:  Leon I know that you have been an evangelist the last several years.  What is your main message?

LIK:  We are all God’s children and we should treat each other as God’s children.  It doesn’t matter if someone is a so called star or if they are an extra. 

AM:  Well that’s the right message.  Some people just don’t want equality for everyone.

LIK:  That’s too bad.  That is just ignorance.   God loves all of his children.  We are all his creation and he wants us all to treat each other as such.  In some form or another we are all interconnected. 

AM:  Why do you think some people think they are better than others?

LIK:  It’s ignorance again and they are compensating for their own low self-esteem.  That’s something that people have to grow out of.   We have to become more evolved.  I call it graduating.  It’s spiritual graduation.  Many people are in the kindergarten of their emotions and the way they let their emotions dominate them.   That affects how they treat other people. 

AM:  Did you hear a calling to be an evangelist?

LIK:  It was a calling for sure! (laughter)  It was never part of my ten year plan!  When I was attending school, I was always going to be a doctor.   Then when I was in tenth grade I went to a hospital with a pre-med club and it seemed so depressing.  I was in a school play that same week and I had just read Errol Flynn’s autobiography and I realized I wanted to be like him.  That started me on my path to acting.  I had to get a plan because there weren’t many parts for minorities at that time. 

AM:  What was at the heart of your plan?

LIK:  I thought I would enter the business through the back door.  First I would be a DJ and turn into an on the air personality and from there I would get a TV show and from there I would be in movies.  I really followed that plan.  Thank God it worked out.  So then I’m writing, producing and starring in movies.  I was doing a film in the Philippines and I got saved.  That started my spiritual journey. 

AM:  What did you do to get started?

LIK:  I started studying.  I have always said “Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to.”  Many atrocities have occurred in the name of the Lord and God had nothing to do with any of it.  So the call of God came into my life.

AM:  And you never wanted to be in the ministry before?

LIK: I never wanted to be in the ministry at all so I ran and ran.  I learned you can run from God but you cannot hide.  Eventually I stopped running from God and started running to him. 

AM:  Did your life change at this point?

LIK:  It’s been a wonderful journey going out and touching other people’s lives.  This is not the kind of ministry where we put people down and tell them if they don’t act like we think they should, they are going to hell.  It’s about bringing the best out of every single person.  Everyone has some great, God given talents.  Many people haven’t discovered their talents and don’t know the divine part that is in them.   When you start cultivating those talents you see life much differently. 

AM:  Tell me about the new films you are starting to produce.

LIK:  I’ve been away from the industry for over fifteen years because I went into ministry.  Now it’s been put in my spirit to come back into the industry and make, what I call transformational films.  These are films that will entertain and be profitable by dropping some golden nuggets of inspiration and motivation. 

AM:  How many films are you looking to produce?

LIK:  We have four films that are on the slate now.  The first one is called, ‘Heavenly Stars.’  This will be a Christmas classic.  It’s about a DJ named Rock n’ Roll Eddie who gets a visit from some legendary Rock n’ Roll spirits.  They want him to produce a CD where the profits will feed and house the homeless.  It’s a wonderful, heartwarming, touching film. 

AM:  Who are these films for?

LIK:  These films will reach a great under served segment of the population.  There are so many people who want family, inspirational type films and they are not getting that product.  The major studios are not producing them and then they are surprised when the films do well.  I’m not surprised at all.  I know that audience and I know what they want.  We are going to give it to them. 

AM:  This seems like a return to your passions by mixing your experience in film and your calling for the ministry.

LIK:  Alan, you are absolutely right.  This is a combination of my whole life’s journey.  Also, as these films come out I am going to take the profits to do good for people. 

AM:  What else do you enjoy doing?

LIK:  There’s also been an entrepreneurial side to me.  We have a great skin care product that’s getting ready to come out.   My partner in this is my best friend and brother in life, Mr. Smokey Robinson.  This will be on the home shopping network in September.

AM:  You sound very excited to be where you are in your life right now.  Is that so?

LIK:  Yes, I’m excited about my return to the industry.  It’s giving me a chance to work with a younger generation in Hollywood.  There are a lot more opportunities now.  The equipment is so much different.  It doesn’t cost as much to make a film anymore.

AM:  So you are really enjoying this now.

LIK:  It’s refreshing for me to talk with the new writers, new directors and new talent.  It’s a whole new frontier and I have forty years’ worth of experience.  It’s very rewarding for me to share my knowledge.

 Follow Leon on his Facebook page and Twitter 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Holly Woodlawn Has Lived The Life!

All Photos:  Alan Mercer   Make-Up: Theresa Ford  
Stylist:  Irene Soderberg  
Photo Shoot Coordinator:  Joseph Anthony Goodwin

The legendary Lou Reed song ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’ opens with a reference to Holly Woodlawn, indelibly imprinting her story in American pop culture. "Holly Came From Miami, F-L-A..." are the beginning lyrics forever describing Holly's arrival in New York City and ultimate imprint on the landscape of 1970s chique.

Born Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico, Holly grew up in Miami Beach, where she came out at a young age.  Holly is best known as an Andy  Warhol Superstar and has appeared in his movies ‘Trash’ in 1970 and ‘Women in Revolt’ in 1972.

The name Holly came from the heroine of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's,’ and in 1969 added the surname from a sign she saw on an episode of ‘I Love Lucy.’  After changing her name she began to tell people she was the heiress to Woodlawn Cemetery.

In 1962, Holly left Florida, heading north. She recollects that "I hocked some jewelry and ... made it all the way to Georgia, where the money ran out and ... had to hitchhike the rest of the way" to New York.  By 1969, she had considered sex reassignment surgery, but decided against it.

In October of 1969, she was given a bit role in ‘Trash,’ but so impressed director Paul Morrissey that she was given a much larger role. In 1970, she received word from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that the legendary Hollywood Director, George Cukor, supported by others, was petitioning the Academy to nominate her for best actress for her work in ‘Trash,’ however, nothing came of this campaign.

In 1982, Holly was hired by the producers of ‘Tootsie’ to coach Dustin Hoffman in his role as 'Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels' in the art of being a man acting as a woman in films.
Holly’s autobiography, ‘The Holly Woodlawn Story: A Low Life in High Heels’ was published by St. Martin's Press in October 1991.  The book chronicles Holly’s life as a "shopaholic," boozehound, drug abuser, and cross-dressing "glamourina."

Holly Woodlawn continued to make cameo appearances in plays and films such as ‘Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss’ throughout the 1980s and 1990s. After Andy Warhol's death, she was interviewed frequently on his life and influence.  

Currently, Holly can be seen making three cameo appearances on Season One of the critically acclaimed amazon original program ‘Transparent.’

Special THANKS to Joseph Anthony Goodwin.

AM:  Holly I think it’s so fantastic that you are on ‘Transparent.”  How did that happen?

HW:  A friend of mine called me and told me amazon was making a new show that I would be perfect for and it was about a seventy year old divorced man with children, who wants to become a woman. 

AM:  Did you ever think there would be a show like this in your lifetime?

HW:  Never!   I practically started the whole thing in the 70s.  When I did ‘Trash’ for Andy Warhol, I never thought I’d see it in a regular theater.  I thought it would stay underground. 

AM:  Not only that, ‘Trash’ has lasted and still has legs and you weren’t even supposed to be in that movie were you?

HW:  No, they didn’t know who I was yet.  I told an underground magazine interviewer I was an Andy Warhol Superstar already and they published it.  Paul Morrissey was upset about it, but he wanted to meet me.  He was intrigued by my boldness.  I went to his office and he asked me why I was lying about being cast in the movie.  I charmed him enough that he gave me a one scene part that he paid me $25.00 for.  He liked me enough to put me in the whole movie and the rest is history.

AM:  Wow that made your whole career!

HW:  I sure got more than my 15 minutes.   

AM:  Now the ‘trans’ world is a very big topic.

HW:  It’s about time.  There are so many talented people in the world who are transgender and now they’re being recognized. 

AM:  Do you have an opinion on Bruce Jenner?

HW:  I really don’t care about Bruce Jenner.  That’s his life.  I don’t like any of that Kardashian thing.  I can’t be bothered with any of them.

AM:  How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a different gender?

HW:  I was six years old.

AM:  Did you let people know?

HW:  As much as I could.

AM:  What did your parents think?

HW:   My parents didn’t know anything until I was sixteen when I ran away from home.  The story is documented in Lou Reed’s famous song ‘Walk On The Wild Side.’   I couldn’t stay in Miami.  I wanted to be in New York where the lights, the action and the people are.

AM:  Did you always want to be an entertainer?

HW:  Yes, I just didn’t know what or how.

AM:  Do you find acting creatively fulfilling?

HW:  Yes, even though I only did 5 minutes in ‘Transparent.’ 

AM:  I’d love to see much more of you in the next season of ‘Transparent.’  Do a lot of people want to interview you?

HW:  Yes, I do a lot of Q and A’s.  I’ve also done my nightclub act in New York and in Europe.  I’m more appreciated on the East Coast and definitely Europe.

AM:  When was the last time you saw ‘Trash?’

HW:  Last year they had a screening with Joe Dallesandro in a cemetery!  It was screened at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  (laughter) 

AM:  I love your autobiography from 1991, ‘A Low Life In High Heels.”  Was it therapeutic to write your life down?

HW:  Yes, I finally realized how funny I was.  I also realized how much I LIVED and had a life.

AM:  Do you have any future plans Holly?

HW:  There’s talk of making a documentary on my life.  Also I sold the rights to ‘A Low Life In High Heels’ for a film to be made from that.  I just returned from Austin, Texas where I was part of the Austin Drag Festival with Charles Busch and Lady Bunny.

AM:  Did you have fun and enjoy Austin?

HW:  Yes I did have fun and the event was a huge success, but Austin gave me allergies!

AM:  People think of you as always glamorous Holly.  Do you try to maintain that image?

HW:   Either I am dressed up to go out or I slop around the house in shorts and a t-shirt.  I’m still the same person no matter what I’m wearing.  Now we can wear anything anytime.  When I first ran away to New York you could be arrested for female impersonation.

Monday, May 11, 2015


All Photos:  Alan Mercer
Make-up: Sandra Sanz
Hair: Melissa Herrera
Photo Shoot Coordinator:  Mauricio Carrera 

Quinceañera is the Spanish word for a girl who is 15 years old. Among Latinos in the United States, quinceañera also is the name given to the coming-of-age celebration on a girl’s 15th birthday.

The quinceañera has its origins many centuries ago when both boys and girls participated in rites of passage. To prepare for womanhood, girls were separated from other children at a certain age so the elder women could teach them about their future roles as members of family and community. During the official rites of passage, the community would thank the gods for the future wives and mothers, and the young women would vow to serve the community.

Later, missionaries turned the event into a personal affirmation of faith by the young women and a pledge to become good Christian wives and mothers. A church celebration became an important part of the occasion.

Today, the quinceañera celebration often is a lavish party that may include a mariachi band, a feast and many guests—much like a wedding. Planning for a quinceañera can start as early as the birth of a daughter. The family and godparents save up money until the girl is of age. Actual preparations may take anywhere from six months to a year and a half. Dances have to be learned, decorations decided upon, cakes ordered, and in some cases, dresses made.

The tradition of the Quinceañera continues to influence popular Mexican youth culture today.   Its traditions have been linked to ancient Aztec rites of passage for young women; however, no one knows the exact birth of the Quinceanera, which only adds more to its mythological elements of identity.

 One myth revolving around the Aztec tradition explains how around the age of fifteen, young girls were being prepared for marriage. Women in Aztec society were not considered an important part of the functioning society, and often times the education of many young girls was placed in the hands of the elder women of the community.   Important tasks and traditions such as weaving, cooking, housekeeping and child rearing were passed down through generations to the next girl of appropriate age.   During this time as well, the young girls were taught the modest behaviors of a married women and were expected to change according to tradition.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Candy Clark: The Accidental Actress

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

Candy Clark is best known for her role as Debbie Dunham in the film ‘American Graffiti,’ which garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. 'American Graffiti,' nominated for five Academy Awards and grossing more than $200 million, overshadows everything else.  The film was set in Modesto, California, but primarily filmed in Petaluma in only 28 days. The schedule was grueling for Candy and co-stars like Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford and Suzanne Somers.   She reprised the role for the sequel ‘More American Graffiti .’

Candy is also known for her role as Francine Hewitt in ‘The Blob.’  Her other films of note are ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth,’ with David Bowie, ‘The Big Sleep,’ ‘Blue Thunder,’ ‘Cat's Eye’ and ‘At Close Range.’  She has also made guest appearances on television series including ‘Dating Game,’’ Magnum, P.I.,’’ Simon & Simon,’ ‘Matlock,’ ‘Baywatch Nights’ and ‘Criminal Minds.’

Born in Norman, Oklahoma, she grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. She attended Green B. Trimble Technical High School.  She dated Jeff Bridges, whom she met on the set of Fat City, for several years.  After two brief marriages, Candy quickly replies “Never!” when asked if she would ever remarry .  Today, she attends many hot rod shows, and enjoys gardening, collecting antiques, and trading memorabilia on eBay.

Candy appears in the 2009 film The Informant! as the mother of Mark Whitacre, played by Matt Damon.  In 2011, Candy went to Berlin to work on the play Images of Louise Brooks directed by Sven Mundt.

I met with Candy at her home in Los Angeles for a casual photo shoot and a quick conversation in her backyard, where she has three chickens running around.

AM:  Candy, I think it’s wonderful that you just finished filming a new movie where you are the lead.  What is the title and what’s it about?

CC:  Yes, it’s called ‘Cold Moon’ based on the book ‘Cold Moon Over Babylon’ written by Michael McDowell.   The book was a big hit in the Eighties.   I play a character named Evelyn Larkin.

AM:  Did you enjoy the filming experience?

CC:  It was a lot of fun.   I enjoyed getting into a role where I played a grandma.  I wore a grey wig.  It was fun having more than a days work.  Lately I have been getting good films but small parts. 

AM:  That seems to be the norm for most actors.

CC:  I felt like a glorified extra on ‘Zodiac.’

AM:  Most of us remember you best from the classic ‘American Graffiti.’

CC:  That was the second film I did.  The first one was ‘Fat City’ directed by John Huston.   That’s a great movie.

AM:  That’s right!  How did it feel to know you had never made a movie and you were going to be working with a legend like John Huston?

CC:  Fortunately I didn’t really know who John Huston was.  I wasn’t the person who followed films or people in films at that time.  Being from Fort Worth, Texas, my highest aspiration was to be a secretary, suddenly I was working with Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Ray Stark, Stacy Keach and all these great people.  Ray Stark became my inspiration for collecting art.  Ray had big bronze Henry Moore sculptures in his backyard.  I realized I liked art so I started collecting.

AM:  So how did you even get into acting?

CC: From my modeling work.  I had moved to New York City and got involved in modeling. 

AM:  Did you enjoy being a model?

CC:  The first year was really hard because I didn’t know how to pose in front of a camera in a relaxed way.   I always thought you had to freeze for the camera but then after a year I realized the camera freezes you.  Big difference!  Then I fell in love with modeling.  I really, really enjoyed it.  Once I realized how it was done I had a knack for it. 

AM:  You don’t hear that very often from women who have modeled.

CC:  I thought I was going to stay in New York and model forever.  I didn’t think past that. 

AM:  So you didn’t have an aspiration to act, but you just happened to be talented.

CC:  Well, I wanted to do extra work so I got a gig on a Dustin Hoffman film, ‘Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?’  I was in a crowd scene of two hundred people and I thought this is great!

AM:  What did you like about it the most?

CC:  I got to meet movie stars and eat donuts.  I really enjoyed that too.  I had to hit pause a lot but I think I found myself in that crowd scene when I watched it on line.

AM:  So you thought extra work was awesome?

CC:  I wanted to do more extra work so I went to my agents office and met a very famous casting director, Fred Roos.  He asked me if I wanted to go watch the screen test for ‘The Godfather.’  So I said, “Sure!”  This was at a time when if someone looked nice you’d just go off with them.  It was more of a hippie era.  It was a nicer era when people were nicer and more trustworthy. 

AM:  You couldn’t do that today!  We live in a different world now.

CC:  I would never think of going off with a stranger now. 

AM:  I find it interesting and fascinating when someone ends up being successful as an actor when it wasn’t what they were going after.

CC: Yes it’s all by accident!

AM:  I’m used to people struggling and suffering.

CC:  Well I struggled and suffered for a year with modeling.  

AM:  George Lucas wasn’t a legend when you worked with him.

CC:  No he was just beginning. 

AM:  Did you enjoy working with him?

CC:  Yes, but I really enjoyed the script from ‘American Graffiti.’ 

AM:  You occupy a special place Candy.  No other actor is anything like you.

CC: Do you know any other actor raising chickens?

AM:  LOL I don’t know about that.  Your personality comes off as very unique.

CC: Thank you.

AM:  You seem to really appreciate life.

CC:  I do.  I come from a very poor background so I do appreciate a lot.  I appreciate animals, reading and collecting.  I love estate sales and yard sales.  I’m a garage sale junkie.

AM:  Is that how you fill your spare time?

CC:  Yes, most of the things in my house are from a second hand store or an estate sale.  I don’t care for new things. 

AM:  Do you feel the spirit in these things?

CC:  Yes, I even prefer used clothing because they’ve been broken in.  Now they make new clothing to look like it’s used. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Nick Guerra: The Little Long Haired Comic

All Photos:  Alan Mercer

With just under a decade into stand up, Nick Guerra has won over crowds from all walks of life. Whether it is performing from clubs to colleges to any place with a stage, Nick has shown that dedication and continuous work has paid off. His style balances all topics. Current events, relationship humor, and personal stories have become his arsenal when given a microphone. Many times the crowds never knew what to expect with Nick but were never disappointed.

Nick was an audience favorite on NBC’s 'Last Comic Standing' (Season 8). He was a writer, asst. director, actor and story producer for the Mun 2 reality show 'Pitbull’s La Esquina' (2nd season), performed on Comedy Central’s 'Gabriel Iglesias Stand Up Revolution' (2nd season) and Nuvo TV’s 'Stand Up & Deliver' (2nd season).

Nick is destined to be a major force in the comedy world.  I met with him on an afternoon in Dallas, where his career got started ten years ago.

AM:  Nick I can’t imagine being on a TV Comedy contest.  What was it like for you?

NG:  The experience was great.  I loved it.  The hardest part about doing a contest is the pre-screening where they want to see your act.  If you’re a joke writer, it’s always funny, but if you’re someone like me who is more performance based, it doesn’t read funny.  You have to see it.  So they had to see me on stage before they were able to get it.  I loved doing the show.  I got a standing ovation on the first episode.  I don’t know if they showed it because I never saw the actual episode.  If you focus on just doing your show you can forget about the cameras and the competition. 

AM:  How long have you been doing your act?

NG:   I’m ten years in now. 

AM:  Did you know you were funny at a young age?

NG:  You don’t know it through your own experience unless you have a really big ego.  You don’t live in the third person.   It was always other people who told me I was funny.  I was told I would always sing songs and try to make people laugh when I was a small child.  I don’t remember that, but I do remember always trying to get people to laugh.  Everyone in my life has told me I was funny. 

AM:  What gave you the confidence to go professional?

NG:   Going professional just snuck up on me. 

AM:  Did you have any other intentions or aspirations in your life?

NG:  I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for comedy right now.  I didn’t plan on this.  The funny thing about comedy is there is no real route.  There is nothing to tell you, you are advancing.  If you stay in it long enough you get fans and clubs get to know you.   It’s been gradual for me and that’s exactly how I want it.  More people recognize me since being on ‘Last Comic.’  It keeps you natural when it’s gradual.

AM:   Do you notice the laughs are bigger now that some people know who you are?

NG:  Yes, it helps a little bit.  The people who may not know me will laugh more because the other people are laughing.

AM:  Do you come from a big family?

NG:   I have a huge family, but my immediate family is just two sisters.  I have cousins, aunt and uncles everywhere!   The last show I did in Houston had seventeen family members in the audience. 

AM: Does family make you more nervous?

NG:  No, I grew up performing in front of family.  At this point they’ve been warned. 

AM:  You don’t have so much adult material.

NG:  No I don’t.  At this point it’s just growing up and I’ve gotten tired of such graphic material.  Back when I started I was a little more blue.

AM:  I think it’s smart to not be so graphic so you can be on television.  You have to be funny on network TV.

NG:  Yes that’s true.  It’s so much easier to be vulgar.  But often when a comic is vulgar they don’t have a point to back it up.  I try to relate to the audience and let them know this is what I’m going through. 

AM:  So your work is based on honesty?

NG:  Yes as much as I can. 

AM:  I see you on television on a sitcom.  Do you want that?

NG:  Yes, it’s always an interest.  I’ve got a lot of things coming up this year that will probably help with that.  That will also be a gradual step.  I do come in under the radar.  I’ve always known that.  When I get on stage, people don’t expect me to be funny.  I don’t look funny.  If you see my picture I don’t pop off the page.  I have to take my performance up a notch so I CAN stand out.  I give it my all.  I’ve never acted before so we’ll see how that goes. 

AM:  Do you know Cristela?

NG:  Yes I know her very well.  We both came from the same place and both started here in Dallas and moved to LA.  It’s very difficult to produce a Latino based comedy for ABC.  They have to be so careful.  They want it to be nice and non-offensive.  That’s what every show does on the first season. 

AM:  Do you have any idea what the concept for a show for you would be?

NG:  Oh man, it would just be me getting mad at women for 30 minutes.  I do have ideas.  Mine would be about my bad romantic life.  For some reason that is something I’m good at.  I love to pick up on couples interactions.  I have to force myself to write other topics otherwise my act would be an hour of relationship talk. 

AM:  Do you write all the time or is it more spontaneous?

NG:  It’s both.  I always have comedy in my head and I’m always thinking of ways to improve a bit. 

To learn more about Nick Guerra visit his web site