Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Girl in the Video: “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (1985), part 1 of 3

Introduction to series “The Girl in the Video” (including list of interviewees).

The video: “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

The girl-now-woman: Wish Cohen (Louise “Wish” Foley).

This installment is otherwise known as “When you Wish upon a star.”

How old were you when you appeared in the “Don’t Come Around Here No More” video?

I had turned 21 four months prior to the interview for the music video. I had moved back to Los Angeles from central California (lived with my sister for two years while getting over the death of a boyfriend). I moved to L.A. with a physically abusive, rage-aholic boyfriend. My self-esteem was very low and my boyfriend was extremely jealous. After [I hid] the bruises for months, my mother and sister-in-law just showed up one day and moved me out. He stalked me for a while after, but my brothers took care of that (clandestinely).

Where were you living at the time?

Having just left [the] abusive boyfriend, two or three months prior, I was living at my mother’s house in Chatsworth, CA. My mother was the driving force behind my return to acting. She always supported me and was my grounding force [in my] years as a child actress. When I lost roles to the likes of Jodie Foster, Kim Richards, Helen Hunt, she would remind me that I always crossed paths with these blonde “all-American girls” (crazy, huh? that is what we, the blonde, blue-eyed, thin girls were called) at interviews and that I should be flattered to be in their echelon. My mother made sure I was never in danger of becoming a drug-addicted Dana Plato or Kim Richards.

What music videos, shows, or movies had you appeared in prior to that?

My very first acting job was a Barbie Beach Bus commercial at 6 years old. I would estimate that as a child I did over fifty commercials, for McDonalds, Hostess, Shakey’s Pizza, Manwich, Bryant air conditioners, Crest. I did one feature film, Harper Valley PTA with Barbara Eden, and was a recurring character on Family with Kristy McNichol. I did many guest-starring roles in other series and a lot of after school specials.

How were you cast in the video?

My agent, Joanie Roba, was contacted and asked to send models to an interview for a Tom Petty music video. She told them that I was one of her clients but they said they were looking for a model, not an actress, and besides, they knew of me and didn’t think I [had] the pretty “Alice In Wonderland look” they wanted. Joanie told them that I had grown up and that they should at least meet me. They agreed. [Joanie then] told me that they weren’t really interested but that I should go nonetheless to get my name out there.

They were looking for a sexy Alice, so my mom and I went shopping and found a tight pink puff sleeve T-shirt, skintight black jeans (at the time they were called peg-leg pants and were basically all spandex), and a pair of kitten heel Mary Janes. I asked my mom to come with me since she had always been with me as a child actress. She chose to wait in the car and I found out later that she didn’t want me to be seen as a child.

When I came into the home where the interviews were being conducted, all I had with me was an actor’s headshot and résumé. I immediately thought my agent had really missed the mark on this call because there were about 10 to 15 girls in the waiting area with skimpy, tight clothes and they had full photo albums of themselves in different outfits and poses. Though I felt really out of place, I was never a quitter, so when called, I did my very best. In the interview room, there was the editor and about four other people. They asked me to mug for the camera and make as many faces as I could. I did surprise, anger, sadness, joy, shy, strong, come hither…etc. When I left, I told my mom that I knew I didn’t get the gig or a callback because I didn’t look as sexy or made-up as the models.

I was really surprised when I got called to come back. I went to three more interviews. The first two were very much like the first except they wanted me to do more specific faces. On the third interview, there was a big dining room table where they had set up a camera at one end and had me sit at the other end. The table was full of people who were going to work on the video (maybe 10 to 15 people).

They told me that they were waiting for Jeff Stein (the director) to return with a part for the camera and would I mind just hanging out and chatting with everyone until he returned. So we chatted for about 20 minutes. They asked me questions and we all talked about all kinds of things. Then, out of the blue, the editor said, “Thank you for coming,” which meant the interview was over. I thought I had completely blown [it] because they didn’t wait for Jeff to return. I said something to the effect of, “I thought they wanted to do more filming.” The editor said, “Oh, we were filming. We just wanted to see how animated you were without knowing you were being filmed.” I found out later that Jeff had been watching me on a screen in the other room.

I left a bit confused because it was very unusual in comparison to acting job interviews. On the same day I got a call from my agent saying they loved me and that I got the job.

Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast?

I remember distinctly my reaction when I heard I got the part. My brother Patrick was a huge Tom Petty fan and had been constantly calling me to find out if I had heard anything about the music video interview. MTV was very new at the time and it was the coolest channel to be seen on.

I called my brother to tell him and you’d think I had told him that I was going to meet the Queen of England. He and I celebrated together. We got together and he filled me in on everything Tom Petty. He told me to ask Tom how he broke his hand and if he still had some particular guitar. Thank heavens for that because it was a conversation starter for Tom and me.

Where was the video filmed?

It was filmed at SIR Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The set was elaborate and beautiful. The massive black and white checked set was really something to behold.

How long was the shoot?

We started filming the video on a Friday around 10 a.m. It was the latest call time I had ever had. We started with wardrobe and generally took our time because the band members were straggling in on their own time. We shot till after midnight the first day, then Saturday we began at 10 and went nonstop until Sunday morning at about 9 a.m. (23 hours straight). It was grueling, but that is really the fun of acting—the coming together of professionals to make the best piece of work they possibly can. The cast and crew were determined to get the best footage no matter what it took.

Wish: I honestly do not know [who took these photos]. They were given to me 
by a guy on the crew who came to the premiere.
What was the hardest part of the shoot?

The hours were long and exhaustion kicked in on the second day of shooting after about the 18th hour.

[One of] the two hardest parts [was] laying under the cake table for an hour and sometimes with my head cocked backward in an effort to make the angle look natural—as if I were actually made of cake.

The other difficult part was the shot in the coffee cup. The crew began filling up the cup with water from the bathroom about an hour or two before we filmed the shot. But within a very short time, the hot water ran out. So the tea cup was filled with freezing cold water. If you look closely at my face, you can see I am having a difficult time breathing normally. I also hated the fact that the costume was going to be ruined by the frosting on the donut/inner tube as well as the tea-stained water.

How was it to work with Tom Petty? What was he like?

Petty didn’t interact much with me. We chatted while on set waiting to get direction and begin filming. While on camera, he came alive and acted. His style was subtle so most of his shots were close-ups. He kept his movements slow and tight, never raising his arms or kicking out, just small, purposeful movement. It was easy to work with him because I was the opposite—grand and sweeping movements. He played his character well and had no advice for me.

Petty was a southern gentleman. He was very soft-spoken and seemed very shy. I was confused by his demeanor because, at the time, rock stars were out-of-control, narcissistic, decadent egomaniacs. Petty didn’t have any of these traits.

I dated the drummer, Stan Lynch, for five years after the video and would see Tom on tours and various band appearances, as well as hanging out with his wife Jane and daughter Adria. Through that time, Tom was always quiet, calm, and easygoing. His wife, on the other hand, was agoraphobic and tended towards drama. At concerts, she would have a hard time going out into the audience to watch and would sometimes stand up and almost run to get away from the crowds.

What did you think of the video?

It always amazes me that a director can keep the big picture in his mind (and stick to it) but then dissect the film and break it down to individual shots, always keeping in mind the desired end result.

I was thoroughly satisfied with the video. I was so proud to be associated with it. At the time, it was right on the money! Petty was already on a course for legendary status due to his musicianship and lack of gimmickry. I would cringe if it had been a formula type video that was typical during that time.

The video was nominated for MTV’s Best Video of the Year and was up against Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time.” [MTN: Memory is imperfect.]

In fact, I really thought everyone would lose to him. Between you and me, Jeff Stein was told that MTV “owed Don Henley a win.” Never knew what that was about, but I honestly think Gabriel blew everyone away.

What did your parents think of it?

My mother was always my biggest fan. She always supported my acting work. My father never said a whole lot to me about my work on TV or the video, but I would hear from his colleagues that he had kept them abreast of everything I was working on and when it was going to air.

What did your friends think of it?

Marc, this one is kinda complex because there was the reaction back then and my then there is my retrospection now.

On the night of the MTV World Premiere, I went to the director’s house to watch it with the crew and a few cast members. I had been looking forward to seeing it. When it came on everyone got silent and stood in front of a big television in the living room. When it was over we yelled and cheered for each other’s hard work. It was like being on a team that won a first place trophy.

My group of friends, maybe 10 or 15, got together at someone’s house and had their own screening. Cell phones at that time were very uncommon, so I had to wait to talk to them until the next day.

While at the house of the director (whom I really didn’t know except from brief interviews and the shoot), someone said I had a phone call. It was bizarre because none of my friends had Jeff’s number; in fact, I don’t even think I had his number. I [got] the phone and it was Stan Lynch (Petty’s drummer) calling from his grandmother’s house in Ohio to ask me for a date. I was so impressed with the fact that he had tracked me down that I said yes. So began our romance.

As I get older, it still comes up all the time. Usually it’s my friends who ask someone in the room, “Do you know who she is?” Without fail, they say, “No.” That is quickly followed by, “Well, do you remember the Tom Petty video with Alice in Wonderland?” When they used to play MTV on TVs in bars, it inevitably came on when I was there. Especially in the first five or six years. Whoever I was with either subtly told people it was me or (depending on the alcohol level) start pointing at me and telling people really loudly, “That’s her! Right there! See, it’s her!” I never really cared either way about the notoriety then; it made me feel like people really appreciated my work.

On the other side of that, I couldn’t count how many men, of all ages, would whisper to me, “You know, I’ve always had a fantasy about Alice in Wonderland.” It was a creepy kind of flattery. I didn’t ever figure out what to say to them. None of them ever interested me enough to try that kind of acting.

Nowadays my friends and husband still tell people, “She’s the chick from the Petty video” and if [a] person is at least 35 years old, s/he immediately recognizes me. If anyone in the same room mentions Tom Petty or if the song comes on in a store, I know one of my friends is gonna say something. That’s not to say I don’t get a thrill anymore, I totally do. It never gets old to hear people say, “OMG! That was my favorite video!” Or when people ask if I did the stunt fall, what Tom was like, or “How did they do that?” Yep, still riding that wave!

Tweet about this interview to @tompetty and @benchten!

Part 2.


Wish Cohen said...

Wow, sorry for all the typo's Marc. How fun to relive all of this because of you. I have yet to see part 2. Also, it appears that you didn't edit anything I said; I'm almost scared to read part 2.

Eric M said...

Still a great video, Wish. I remember eating some of that cake. It was really good, which suprised me for some reason. And didn't MTV have some kind of issue with the "cake" scene? Too graphic or something?

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks Wish. But typos? I DID edit it and didn't notice any typos! I will go back through. Yes, part 2 link not active till tomorrow, same for part 3 next day.

Eric M. - what was your role?

Unknown said...

Yeah, that was a great video---creepy and disturbing in parts--kind of like the real story of Alice In Wonderland.I loved it back in the day. That part when Alice had turned into a cake and was getting cut up was bizarre and a bit scary---I think there was a little controversy about that--it wasn't shown in some places because of that. It was a very unique and avant-garde video, which is why it stood out. I also loved the song, which was a big hit for To Petty and the Heartbreakers (who I liked back then, too---they just put out a brand new CD the other day, for anyone who cares.)

janitox said...

like me the end of this video.

Unknown said...

Wish, thank you for your work on this video, love it! After reading this interview, I want to offer that they definitely never cast anyone in a role because they were more beautiful than you!

Unknown said...

I remember as a young teen absolutely loving MTV. The video always held my attention because it was weird and different. Two years ago I had a dream about the video and in my dream I made a piece of art about it. I woke up and literally drew it out and then created It's somewhat media art and mixes both Disney's Alice with Tom's Alice. Thank you for sharing this story. Can't wait for part 2 and 3!

GhostAura said...

Hi Wish … I ran across this after seeing you as Audrey on Family, looking to see what other roles you had later. This talented young actress must gone on to great things. After finding little in the way of ordinary television and movie roles I was delighted to discover these Tom Petty music videos. Great to see you keeping up the good work!