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).
Did the video generate any controversy that you know of?
It did indeed. After the video was released there was a great big uproar about how the video promoted violence against women and the use of drugs.
After the Alice in Wonderland video, I was invited to do another video for the song “Forget about me, forget about these eyes” [“Make It Better”]. While filming the video, someone was doing a documentary about the band’s roots in Gainesville, Florida. While I was in the makeup chair, the crew came in and asked if I would respond to some questions. One of the questions was “How do you feel about the women’s group rallying against the video due to its violence against women?” Another was “Do you think that the fact that Dave Stewart gives you a mushroom in the beginning to start the hallucination was promoting drug use?”
I was too young to articulate what I was thinking at the time, but my thought on violence against women was “It’s just a video!” It doesn’t have any deeper meaning. It is a fantastical, funny, imaginative concept, committed to film. It is not a statement video with a hidden message.
When they asked about the drug use, my first thought was “Drugs? Huh? What are they talking about?” I guess I was naïve to drugs at the time, though I had dabbled quite a bit, but I never made the connection at the time.
I don’t think the whole interview made it to the documentary, but after the fact I was surprised that anyone would have been offended by it in any way because it was rock and roll. What’re you, new? If the music industry didn’t have sex and drugs, they quite possibly wouldn’t have true rock and roll.
By the way, the second video sucked. Terribly. In fact it is very hard to find on the Internet.
The concept (again Jeff Stein) was that the band was playing the song in my head and in the end Tom swings out on a Q-tip. There were midgets (or little people) involved and guitars hanging from the top of the set. If you looks closely at the video you can almost read on Mike Campbell’s face the embarrassment of being a part of the debacle. He was dodging the guitars that were dropping from overhead. In one shot, Tom’s microphone, which was on a swivel and spun around as he sang, hit him in the mouth and they were afraid it had chipped his tooth. The video also involved a 25-foot [tall] ear that the guys climb out of. Look closely and you can see where, before [the shot of Tom exiting the ear], Benmont, who had swung out of control, slammed into the ear and damaged it. I think we all decided to wipe that video from memory.
What were you paid?
I got the one-time payment of, I think, $2,500. Since I was a starving actress, I managed to make it last about two months. I didn’t even get to keep the costume because it was ruined by the tea and frosting. But hey, I got to keep the spare torso cake and bring it home for family and friends.
Wait, I did get to keep the wonky glasses that Petty wore in the video. Petty gave me his and said, “It’s okay, they got me two pairs.” And being a wordy person, I remember being disappointed that he would say two “pairs” instead of “pair.” (Talk about stupid stuff that we remember.)
The payoff was the short term and long term fame it got me. In fact, I was [recently] in a credentialing class in Omaha and they went around the room and each person (maybe 15 attendees) had to give some info about themselves. When they got to me I gave a spiel about human resource onboarding and recruiting systems I had consulted on, [said] that I was originally from California… They asked me to tell an interesting thing about myself. I really hemmed and hawed trying to think of something interesting like…I have four kids? I love the beach? I have two chinchillas?
[Then] one of the girls from my company, Linda, who was next in the interrogation, said loudly, “Seriously, Wish? I’ll handle this: she is Alice from the Tom Petty video.” Every single head turned! All of a sudden there were conversations sprouting and people asking “Oh my god, seriously?” By the time they had finished the uncomfortable introductions, they had the video cued up and played it for everyone in the class.
I still have a great pride in that video, even these 28 years later (just round it to 20, Marc. K?). I was riding pretty high after that, feeling pretty good that even the younger people in the room remembered the video, until…a young, pretty blond girl said, “I can’t wait to tell my mom. She really loved that video.” Yep…her mom.
No matter, I’ll be talking about it to anyone who will listen (and still make sense of the words) in the convalescent home.
If you ever met other women who were female leads in a mainstream ‘80s rock video, who?
I never met another woman from the rock video world because I was not a model. I was an actress through and through. My agent at the time recommended that I open up to the option of modeling and print work but I didn’t have any interest.
If you went to college, where and what did you study?
No, nowhere, and nothing! But if I could do it all again…I’d be…an actress.
What are you doing these days?
I’ll go back as far as 1992. I worked for five years at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I started as a production assistant on Hunchback of Notre Dame. I moved up to assistant to the production manager on Hercules. And my last year or two was as the coordinator for the camera department.
My claim to fame there was this: I had film returned to me from Technicolor for the new release of Beauty and the Beast, and I spliced [a] new scene into the old film for the two directors to approve. As we watched, I noticed that in two frames, Belle’s legs are missing. So we rolled it back and I showed them. After a private powwow in the theater, they said, “That is the original footage from the movie, and nobody ever caught it.” [It] didn’t get me fame around the globe, oddly enough.
In 1997, I married a fabulous musician/salesman (very much the same as actress/waitress), Yigal Cohen. (My maiden name was Foley so my name in the credits of Hercules was Wish Foley, which everyone at Disney thought was hysterical even though they had a guy named Geefwee Boedoe.)
About a year ago I began learning computer stuff (thoroughly boring, but pays really well). Specifically, recruiting and onboarding systems. So I help a client personalize the company’s optimum applicant tracking system. So I guess I make human resources departments’ dreams come true!
Where do you live?
I am born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. I lived in the Bay Area from 2002 through 2010. Moved to the godforsaken state of New Mexico and existed in their waterless, freezing, zero-scaped dirt farm until 12/31/11. I played Powerball on our way out of Albuquerque. On New Year’s night we pulled into Texas. On January 1st, on our drive from Dallas to Houston, I checked my Powerball numbers and found I’d won $10,000. My husband and I still feel that was the only fond memory of New Mexico. I now live in a suburb of Houston.
What was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in this video?
Oh, he milks it like everyone else. It is a conversation piece for a salesman. I don’t mean to sound jaded in any way, because I still get a kick out of it. I just know that it comes up quite a bit in his and all my friends’ conversations. My sister-in-law has (or had) a Facebook page named “I know that chick from the Tom Petty video.” Love it!
Wish described this photo as "Alice-y."
Tell me about your kids.
I have four kids. I didn’t start my family until I was 33 because I didn’t take being a mother and wife lightly. I knew that the decision would be life-altering and had to really search myself to make sure I had what it takes. I knew I would be giving up a lot when I had kids.
Had in vitro, had a boy in 1998. His name is Mickey Cohen; didn’t know there had been a gangster with that name until two weeks before delivery. He is 14 years old and he and his best friend are planning on going to MIT; thus, I am back to work. Mickey is a straight-A student. He has always been a responsible, sweet boy, and is already a fabulous guitar player. He is already getting invites from colleges to check out their schools online. Mickey was so easy to care for, right from birth, that we were lured into having another child.
Next go-round we ordered a girl, paid $800 extra for sex selection, but got twin boys, Buster and Clyde (now 12 years old). Buster sings and does photography and Clyde is an amazing dancer and drummer. Buster has a slightly raspy voice and loves singing in the school choir. I think he’ll make a great lead singer someday. Clyde, who was born three minutes after Buster, has the most incredible sense of timing and ingenuity with percussion instruments. And though they say that drummers can’t dance, he is a great breakdancer. His goal, at this point, is to be famous.
I credit my dad for naming them because, while I was hugely pregnant, sluggish, and [as-yet unaware of] their sexes, my dad said, “In keeping with your nomenclature, you should name them Bonnie and Clyde if it’s a boy and girl.” We were actually going to christen them with those names until we found out it was two boys. We kept “Clyde” and chose “Buster” for the other, in admiration for Buster Keaton (me) and Buster Poindexter (Yigal).
We were happy to quit after three boys, but nature kicked in, we got pregnant naturally. We found out I was pregnant on my birthday, October 16. When they did the ultrasound, the woman thought I was weeping with joy. I was not. I was freaking out because I already had three children under three years.
We had our daughter Charlie (as in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Mickey named her. I was an at-home mom and homeschooler for the next 11 years.
Charlie is 11 and all-girl; she can’t wait to wear makeup, the more sparkles the better, and she loves anything pink. She is already doing some acting and I am actively looking for an agent here in Texas. She and Buster were in a recent rock video. We did the 48 Hour Film Project here in Houston in November 2012.
After she did that video, they called her back on three occasions to take on more roles. Perhaps being a stage mother is in my future.
Buster didn’t really enjoy the filming. He couldn’t stop giggling and grinning so some of his work ended up on the cutting room floor.
What do your kids think of the video?
The kids didn’t really understand how popular the video was in its time. So [they] have only recently discovered that their teachers or their friends’ moms would be impressed by the revelation of who their mother is/was. After they let word out, the video has been shown in their classrooms.
What did you think when you first heard from me?
I was delighted. You have been so forgiving of my nightmare schedule and I thank you for sticking with me and roping me back in when I get too caught up with the everyday necessary work. Sending you my responses has been sweet, and sometimes bittersweet. I liken it to walking through the garden that is my life and enjoying not only the beautiful and plentiful flowers around me but also enjoying the dirt that surrounds them and made them grow.
Recounting to you my time with Stan made me a little sad (and almost angry) because I was so malleable at that time and I gave everything up to be with him. I get upset about how much time I innocently invested in him and then how stupid I was to have stayed on so long after I knew it was unhealthy. I try to never look back with a negative eye, so I have been contemplating the wonderful, positive changes and lessons that were brought on by that experience.
Also, I lost my mother last August and I am still struggling with her passing. She was my greatest supporter throughout my life and was the most positive loving person I have ever known (and I have known many people from many walks of life). One of her greatest messages was to always look for the positive in very circumstance. But I still cannot find anything positive about her death.
In recounting her devotion I have written some of this through tears. But I thank you for that as well.
Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this? If so, who, when, and for what publication?
Yes. I was contacted by Rob Tannenbaum to give him a blurb about working on the video for a book he co-authored, I Want My MTV. Even though it was just a short blurb that got into the book, it was great talking to him because he was familiar with all the players I talked about. I gave him a lot of dirt off the record. For [you], I didn’t hold back, much.
Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?
I have never done anything like that. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing. Yes, I’d love to do that. I just can’t imagine who would be interested.
Did you stay in touch with Tom Petty? Are you still in touch? If not, when were you last in touch?
I didn’t keep in touch with Tom after Stan and I split up. I think that because Tom and Stan had such ugly relations at [one point], I would be considered the enemy to a certain degree. (I did keep in touch with a friend of Stan’s, Marty Jourard—he was the sax player for the Motels. He still gigs around in Seattle and sits in with different bands that come through town.)
I did go to a Petty concert in 2011 and two of the people I was with asked if they could send a note backstage to Tom telling him I was there. I told them I didn’t mind but it had been close to 25 years since I had hung out with the band. So the notes both went back separately and we never heard anything from anyone.
I am not sure how I feel about that. At first I thought that they’ve probably heard from tons of people with their own “remember me?” notes and why should I be any different? But then it kind of bothered me that they (if the whole band had known about the note) were so very disinterested. If not nostalgia, then perhaps curiosity on their part. But I finally got over myself and remembered that I am just some chick who was in their video a long time ago. So I got over it and moved on.
Anything you’d like to add?
I am proud of being in such a popular video and flattered that people remember me and my performance. I had my three minutes and they were fabulous!
Tweet about this interview to @tompetty and @benchten!
Copy and tweet to help me find more 1980s music video girls:
Real research question: if you know the Annie Hubbard who was in 1984 Night Ranger video “Sister Christian,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
Real research question: if you know the woman—even just her name—in 1986 Cinderella video “Shake Me,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
Real research question: if you know woman—even just her name—in ‘87 Richard Marx video “Should’ve Known Better,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
Next: Bryan Adams, “Summer of ‘69” (1985) and others.