The videos: “Heart and Soul” and “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News.
The girl-now-woman: Signy Coleman.
“Heart and Soul”
“I Want a New Drug”
How I found Signy:
- I sent her a message on Facebook.
- Weeks passed and she had still not seen it, so I called SAG for her agent.
- The one they had is not her agent anymore but she gave me the name of Signy’s former manager, who kindly said she’d try to find her.
- I also reached out to the director of a music video Signy recently shot for a new artist, Kattail (who thanks Huey Lewis and the News on her site).
- The next day, I heard from Signy, and also from the director.
How old were you when you appeared in the “Heart and Soul” and “I Want a New Drug” videos?
Where were you living at the time?
I was living in San Francisco, right above Ghirardelli Square. Beautiful apartment—I wish I still had it. Big bay windows overlooking the bay.
Did you know Huey Lewis before the video?
I didn’t know him on a friendship level. I knew him on more of a “Hi, how are you?” level. Huey used to play with [his former band] Clover in Bolinas, CA, where I grew up—an hour and 20 minutes north of San Francisco. I’d go to dances on Saturday nights and Huey was playing. He did a wicked version of “Johnny B. Goode.” My older brother and sister Jeffrey and Tiffany knew him better because they were the same age group. They traveled in same circles.
What music videos, shows, or movies had you appeared in prior to that?
At that point, none. I was already modeling, spending six months of the year in Paris, six in San Francisco. At that point you couldn’t open up a local paper without seeing me in it. I was really working as a model so consistently that acting hadn’t become a part of my life yet. After “Heart and Soul” in particular started airing, music videos exploded and my agent started getting calls from casting directors in Los Angeles. After getting a guest star part on Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, [lead actor] Stacy Keach said, “You have natural talent and you have to move to Los Angeles or New York.”
How were you cast?
It was very funny. My agent said, “They’re looking for punk rockers so I want you to put some of that spray stuff in your hair and put on torn fishnet stockings.” I said, “Lynn, I’m not doing that. I don’t look anything like a punk rocker.” I said I’ll put on high heels but that’s about the extent of it. I went to the audition and there were 50 of the most hardcore punk rockers I’ve ever seen. I turned around to leave and the director popped his head out of the room they were casting in and said, “Hey, miniskirt, where are you going?” He pulled me in and said they were also looking for a girl who’s the opposite and stands out in the crowd of these unusual characters. I was asked to pretend to flirt with guy across the room, which I like to believe I had a little experience with at that point.
They put on “Heart and Soul” (first time I heard it) and said, “Dance to it.” I had been a dancer for many years, starting ballet at seven. At 13 I was on full scholarship for the San Francisco School of Ballet, but quit at 16 because I saw a destructive lifestyle—diet pills, cigarettes. I mean no disrespect to anyone doing it, but the world of dance can be cutthroat. But the discipline I learned in dancing has carried through the rest of my life. By the time I’d gotten home from the “Heart and Soul” audition, I’d already gotten the call that I got the video. No one knew at the time how MTV was going to change the fabric of the music industry.
Had you even heard of music videos at that point?
Maybe…such a long time ago! I was a huge Aerosmith, AC/DC, Beatles fan.
Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast for the first video (“Heart and Soul”)?
I was thrilled. They said we’d shoot on location in San Francisco, my hometown (with Bolinas).
Did you have to audition for the second video (“I Want a New Drug”), or were you asked to be in it because of the first video?
I was just asked. They were filmed about a year apart. That one was more difficult. They had me on a boat in the bay when it was cold.
The concert footage in it was real concert footage. Girls who are Huey fans are hardcore Huey fans. Right before they were about to start they walked me across the stage and put me dead center and there were girls in the front row of the audience who had all kinds of unladylike things to say to me. I won’t repeat them! The crew had to handpick a group of people to surround me so I didn’t get my hair ripped out, particularly when Huey leaned in to kiss me.
“Heart and Soul” was about three days. “I Want a New Drug” was probably a little longer because it had different locations. Maybe five days to a week.
How did you feel making the videos?
I loved it. “Heart and Soul”—to be in that loft in San Francisco with all of these wonderful, creative people. Huey was incredibly intelligent, a very educated man, a huge Cole Porter fan—he’ll just break out in a Porter song. He knows the history of Porter’s life. He’s a very lighthearted, lovely human being. Funny as hell. The band is the nicest, down-to-earth group of people. Bill Gibson is like the father figure—always calm, grounded, rational. These guys are like family to each other. Huey treats everyone equally.
What was the hardest part of the shoots?
The first shoot didn’t wrap till I think 3 or 4 in the morning. But I walked out of there glowing.
How was it to work with the band? What were they like? Did they hit on you?
None of the band did. They were incredibly professional. Everyone had a crush on Huey. He was gorgeous. The background people were hitting on me right and left. I was dating a guy at the time. I was always professional. I was very focused on work. A great time to be alive. I didn’t get caught up in the partying scene though.
“Heart and Soul”
“I Want a New Drug”
Both are near and dear to my heart. I can’t say which I like better. Both incredible in the way they were done visually. In “I Want a New Drug,” I love that you see so much of San Francisco in it. The videos launched my career, got my foot in the door in Hollywood. Allowed me to segue from modeling into acting.
What did your parents think of the videos?
They were always incredibly proud of my accomplishments. Huey’s mother Magda is a very good friend of my mother’s! Magda and my mom would see each other in town and say about Huey and me, “Wow, those two are really going to go far!” They would giggle about it. Of course with platinum albums, Huey went farther. (laughs)
What did your friends think of the videos?
My friends thought I was the coolest thing since sliced bread. My boyfriend was skiing in Tahoe and the video came on and he told the guys in the bar that I was his girlfriend and they didn’t believe him. But when he showed them a photo from his wallet, they started buying him drinks.
Did the videos ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were the woman in them)?
I’m very loyal in my relationships. There were guys that came out of the woodwork and said, “You’re the Huey Lewis and the News girl.” I would laugh and say, “I am but I have a boyfriend.”
Did you receive fan mail? If so, do you still have any of it?
It came to my modeling agency.
How did people know how to reach you? Your name wasn’t in the video and Google wasn’t around yet.
My agency Top Models did a lot of advertising in a local newspaper called Pacific Sun. I was on the cover a lot.
Did the videos generate any controversy that you know of?
Not that I remember.
What were you paid each time?
I imagine it was not much or else it would have been memorable. (laughs)
Did you watch the MTV World Premiere of the videos, and if so, where and how did that feel?
Yes. It was phenomenal! I had a national toothpaste commercial running at the time. But other than that and a Macy’s ad, I had never seen myself on the screen bigger than life like that.
Were you ever recognized in public? How often and when last? Any stories about that?
Constantly. I still have people comment! I had more of a baby face then but I haven’t changed that much.
Did you appear in other music videos after that?
Not in that era. The only other I’ve done is the recent one for Kattail. I think she’s going to do well.
I was supposed to do “If This Is It” but I was in Paris and the booking crossed over by one day; they wouldn’t release me from the shoot. I was heartbroken. But my girlfriend Pepper (Janet Cross) did the video and I was happy about that. She and I used to model all the time together—Macy’s.
If you went to college, where and what did you study?
I was accepted to UC Berkeley and was going to major in business but before that I had been picked up off the street by a modeling agency in San Francisco and they signed me. Two months later an agency in Paris also signed me. So school was put on hold. I have to say I regret not having the college experience but I was traveling all over Europe, getting more of a life education. I did graduate from high school, so stay in school, kids! (laughs)
What are you doing these days?
In the ‘80s, I was studying at the Loft Studio, an acting studio like the Actors Studio in New York. Peggy Feury, a prominent acting coach, was there. Sean and Chris Penn and Meg Ryan were there, too. We lived at the studio. I supported myself modeling until I got my first contract role on a show called Santa Barbara. I did Human Target with Rick Springfield, X-Files, Charles in Charge. Some feature films thrown in there as well. Most recently I was involved in a web series called River Ridge on SFN Entertainment Network. I was hired as an actress and then asked to be a producer. I took time to think about it because it was a huge commitment and a steep learning curve. I just booked a film called Tempest but can’t say anything more about it yet. I have a busy voiceover career—commercials, some animation.
Where do you live?
If you are/were married, what was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in this video?
I married Vincent Irizarry, a fellow actor from Santa Barbara. I’m not married now.
Oldest is Siena Sophia, and she’s gearing up to start culinary school in New York. Amazingly talented. Isabella Grace is twelve. When the River Ridge director/writer Tyler Ford met her, he liked her so much that they created a character for her. She played the daughter of a junkie. She’s always been involved with drama at school. It’s like watching myself as a child. Very vivacious. Siena had no interest in acting. She went on one audition for Oreos in Los Angeles when she was eight and never wanted to do it again. She’s a deep, old soul, a prolific writer. Her poetry and short stories have been published since a young age.
What do your kids think of your Huey videos?
(Signy asked Isabella directly, right then) “It was cool. My mom was famous. Pretty rocking awesome.”
Isabella loves Huey’s music. The first concert I took her to was Huey in New York and he gave us backstage passes. It was so sweet. Siena thought it was amazing but as a child, she was often on the set with me. She grew up shuffling back and forth to shoots, so for her it was par for the course.
What did you think when you first heard from me?
I thought it was a wonderful idea. I said, “I wish I thought of that!” I am a contributing editor to Commerce, a local magazine. My sister Bethany Atherton and I have written a book, a food memoir with recipes called Love Dish. We’re in talks with a couple of publishers and are deciding if we want to self-publish.
Has anyone else ever interviewed you about the Huey Lewis videos? If so, who, when, and for what publication?
I think back in the ‘80s, yes. I know Pacific Sun and maybe the Independent Journal did. But not as large scale as what you’re doing.
Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?
No. But soap opera junkets, yes.
Did you stay in touch with the band after the shoot?
Yes. There were gaps but I see them whenever possible.
On a granular level, how did that work? Did you just exchange phone numbers with Huey and the band after the first video?
Huey was a married man—you don’t really exchange phone numbers. Our moms were friends so we’d bump into each other that way. And also through Huey’s manager, Bob Brown.
When was the last time you were in touch with them?
I contacted him the other day. I was doing an interview for SFN radio so I texted him and asked him the name of the director of our videos. We were also in touch when the 49ers were in the playoffs.
How do you look back on the experience?
It was an amazing experience. I have fond memories of the entire experience and am forever grateful because it launched my acting career.
Anything you’d like to add?
To this day, the band’s music lives on. It’s timeless.
Tweet about this interview to @Huey_Lewis_News and @signycoleman!
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: Journey, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” (1983) and “Oh Sherrie” (1984).