Giving In To Peer Pressure- My 15 min of fame as a child actor

This is for the hundreds okay, the three of you who requested to know more about my brief but shining career on TV as a wanna be Barbara Walters when I was a kid.  And I don’t want to get you too excited, but yes, it is true, I did in fact, interview Mr. T.  (don’t be a jelus hater, dude.) Also, I am absolutely sure that the producers of Napoleon Dynamite ripped off the idea for the Happy Hands Club from me, and owe me serious props.  No lie.  I will prove it. The show was called Kidsworld, and it was a news show that was written and reported by kids.  It was a national program that aired every Saturday morning after the cartoons.  The local NBC affiliate in Spokane, KHQ, would occasionally do a story on a local kid to be aired on the national show.  When I was in 2nd grade, that kid was me.  See, every year, my parents sent me to YMCA summer camp to get rid of me broaden my experiences and allow me to commune with nature.  At camp, you could chose from different interest classes, and one of them was sign language. In sign language class, we learned crucial elements of ASL vital to communicating with the deaf, such as the “Bumble Bee Tuna” jingle.  Once we mastered that, (along with the words for poop, vomit and fart) we learned to sign along to Bette Midler’s “The Rose.”   I freaking loved sign language class.  I loved it so much, I followed the counselor who taught it around during other activities, asking for more. (“How do you sign lake?  How do you sign my roommate peed her sleeping bag again?”) I love it so much, that when I got back to school in September, I started a sign language club.  And what song did we perform for the talent show?  You guessed it!  The only song I knew other than the Bumble Bee Tuna song, “The Rose.”  And what song did the Happy Hands Club perform on Napoleon Dynamite?!  The Rose!  Coincidence?  I think not!  Because the director of Napoleon Dynamite was from Nampa, Idaho, and what is the NBC affiliate for Northern Idaho???  You guessed it, KHQ.  And KHQ decided to interview the weird little 2nd grade girl who started a sign language club that caught on like wildfire at her elementary school.  And that weird little girl?  Yours truly.  I know in my heart that the creator of Napoleon Dynamite saw me on Kidsworld and created the Happy Hands Club. If the story ended there, it would surely be worth the precious moments of your life that you have wasted spent reading this looooong post.   But no, there’s more. You see, a few years later, KHQ decided they would like to do a local edition of Kidsworld with stories of NW kids, and call it Kidsworld Special Edition.  It would air once a month, in the evening.  If you’ve ever seen the show PM Magazine, it was done in the same style, because we shared a producer.  The producer decided to call all the kids that had appeared on Kidsworld or the news in the last few years, and ask them to audition.   I begged and groveled and begged some more, “Pleeeeaaasse, Mom!  You’ve got to take me!  I know that I can do this!  I will die if I don’t do this!  I will die I tell you!”  Mom decided she didn’t want to hear any more begging even more than she didn’t want to drive me clear across town to audition.  Each kid had to write two sample news stories, and do an on-camera interview and screen test.  I wrote my stories, edited them over and over, and put on my coolest purple top that made my eyes look extra green.  I was ready. What I didn’t know was that the station had also put the word out to local talent and modeling agencies.  When we got to the station, there were kids everywhere—little kids, teens, all of them good looking and guarded by vicious attack stage mothers.  Instantly all confidence left me. “Mom, I am never going to get the job.  Let’s just go home, ok? Mom turned a particular shade that made her face look like an angry pomegranate.  “You made me drive 45 minutes, clear across town, in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic.  YOU ARE DOING THE INTERVIEW.”  Nothing is scarier than my mom after driving at rush hour.  I did the interview, and got the job, one of 12 spots.  Over 600 kids had auditioned for it.  In the end, it was my writing and the fact that I looked and acted like a real kid that made them pick me. I was on Kidsworld from the time I was 11 until I turned 14 and the show was cancelled.  Each month, I would either write and report my own stories, or ghost write for some of the other kids who didn’t quite have as much knack for it.  I also did the wraps, the cute little small talk in between stories, introducing the topic and going to commercial.  I did too many stories to remember, but one that stands out to me was a story I did about the world’s longest soda straw at a high school.  They got into the Guinness Book of World Records, but the best part was the cheerleaders who wrote special cheers just for the event, (“Rah rah rah!  Suck it up a straw!  Boom boom boom, suck it to the moon!”) Another one was about a kid hot air balloon pilot, and they made me go up in a hot air balloon and I was so scared I almost peed my pants, as I was and am, deathly afraid of heights.  There was the parrot that took a crap in my hand on camera (that eventually made it on to the show “TV’s Funniest Bloopers”) and a celebrity interview with Richard Simmons that almost scarred me for life.  But the highlight of my TV career, by far, was interviewing Mr. T. This was at the height of his fame, when he had just done the Rocky movie and the TV show “The A-Team” was a top-rated show.  We weren’t even on his schedule; the producer just pulled me out of school, took a camera man and sent me up to him at a car show where he was signing autographs.  I begged him for an interview, and he agreed, because he loved kids.  I don’t remember much, except that his real name is Lawrence Tarro and the whole Mr. T thing?  A total act.  Seriously.  He was a nice, soft-spoken, perfectly normal guy with a weird Mohawk and a tad overkill of bling, until the camera went on.  Then “I pity da fool!” and all the rest came out of the hat.  After the camera went off, “Mr. T” was gone and “Larry” was chatting with his sister, who is his manager and travels with him everywhere.  His on-camera interview was the typical “study hard, stay in school, and you too could have a hundred pounds of gold chains and an afro Mohawk” but that interview changed my life forever.  I started getting recognized.  “Aren’t you that girl?  From that show?”  or “Hey, you’re on Kidsworld!  Mom!  It’s the fat girl from Kidsworld!”  and “Did you interview Mr. T?”  At first I would cop to it, yes, yes I was that fat girl from that show and yes I did interview Mr. T. But the thing is, kids are not adoring fans of other kids for long.  Kids quickly become little butt heads, at least they were to me.  “That show sucks!  Can you get me an audition?”  After a while, I started to lie.  Nope. Not me.  Wrong blonde fat girl; don’t be embarrassed, we all look alike. The most surreal part, and where I’ll end my story, happened after the Mr. T interview aired nationally.  My biological father, who had divorced my mom when I was 2 months old, saw the interview, and knew by my name and my face exactly who I was, the daughter he had not seen in 13 years.  He contacted my aunt, who contacted my mom, who gave him our address, and out of the blue, I get a letter from him.  It was all very “Maury Povich” long-lost-family-reunion show.  I found out I have 2 half-brothers, whom I later met and am still in touch with.  I am an aunt to a niece and nephew who both have my green eyes and chubby cheeks. And I pity da fool who doesn’t give me props for the Happy Hands Club the next time they watch Napoleon Dynamite!!

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6 responses to “Giving In To Peer Pressure- My 15 min of fame as a child actor

  1. I took a sign language class during one summer too. We learned “Somewhere Out There”. I still remember it to this day. Thanks for giving in to the peer pressure and telling us about Kidsworld, I think I remember that show!

  2. My sign language song was “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens. At least he was Cat Stevens back then.

    Kidsworld sounds awesome. I would say YOU ARE SO LUCKY and I AM SO JEALOUS but I was way too shy as a kid to do something like that.

    I am thrilled to Internet-know a child star!

  3. That is too cool!! What an amazing way to reconnect with your father…and other members of your family!

  4. Umm..I was on the Captain Mitch show once…
    That’s about it, though.
    (well, there was that one year that I seemed to be on the local cable access channel all of the time…but that’s just because they kept filming all of my programs at work.)
    Congrats on meeting Mr. T and surviving child stardom!

  5. very cool – and amazing “small world” sort of ending, too!

  6. Great story! Thanks for not leaving us hanging…

    I one time learned the sign language for “Love Can Build a Bridge,” which was a Judds’ song. And while I don’t know the sign language for “The Rose,” we did that song in a all girls show choir that I was in in high school!

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