Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Girl in the Video: “Poundcake” (1991)

Introduction to series “The Girl in the Video 2” (including list of interviewees).

The video: “Poundcake” by Van Halen.

The girl-now-woman: Diane Manzo.

In an email, Diane wrote of her experience on the Johnny Hates Jazz video “Shattered Dreams,” directed by David Fincher, “The director went onto to big movies, I went onto dogs.”

How old were you when you appeared in the “Poundcake” video?

Around 30.

Where were you living at the time?

Los Angeles, CA.

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

Tons of stuff. I worked in New York, San Francisco, London, Milan, and finally Paris. I then came back and stayed put, working a lot. I had already done theatre and taken many acting classes and was also working as an actor. I did lots of TV, small but featured speaking parts. Some movies including South Central, The Mambo Kings, Death Wish II. So many commercials and music videos working as a principal performer, it’s hard to remember. Some of the other music videos that I remember:

  • Herb Alpert (I was told this was the first video with an actor [me] in it and an actual storyline. They said it was like a mini movie.)
  • “Shattered Dreams” by Johnny Hates Jazz, directed by David Fincher. I was living in New York at the time, and my L.A. agent, Top Models, called me and said I needed to be on a plane that night, that Fincher personally wanted me. It was a very dark video; David pushed me very hard, but I felt up for it.
  • I also did a Babyface video, shot at the Ambassador Hotel.
  • Let’s see, Simply Red, Jefferson Starship, Aaron Neville, Glenn Frey. I know there are many more—oh, I forgot: Rod Stewart, too.

Another time I flew back to New York for a magazine shoot and as soon as I arrived, my L.A. agent said I was picked to be in a Mick Jagger video! For the audition I had to act out a scene on tape. Mick had final choice, so I was beyond flattered, but unfortunately couldn’t do it—I had to stay in New York to work the job. I was crushed.

How were you cast in “Poundcake”?

“Poundcake” was a regular casting call. It was packed with scantily clad women. I was told to dress looking shy and innocent. Was I in the right place? I remember picking a little printed sundress and flats. The director and casting director were in the room. The director gave me some thoughts and I went to work. I decided to put a light-hearted spin on it a few times, and they laughed; it was a funny bit I did (when on set, he wanted me to recreate it). And that was it, about 10 minutes or less. Just a few months ago, I was at a commercial casting, and the same casting director from “Poundcake,” Talley Casparis, was casting. She said I was the only actor the whole band agreed on and I was Eddie’s first choice. I never knew this before, so it was a fun little update for me.

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

Of course I was excited. (One usually is when booking a job!)

Were you a Van Halen fan?

Oh yeah, I was crazy for some of their songs.

Where was the video filmed?

I think it was filmed near USC, maybe the L.A. Coliseum…that rings a bell.

How long was the shoot?

Approximately 23 hours. (Yes, I said 23!)

How did you feel making the video?

Exhausted, but excited at the same time.

What was the hardest part of the shoot?

I had to convey a lot of emotions and be focused. The hardest part was they saved the last few hours of the shoot to shoot my scenes. We shot as the sun was rising. I didn’t think I was going to perform well, but I was running on adrenaline.

How was it to work with Van Halen? What were they like? Did any of them hit on you?

Sadly all my scenes were shot separately. No way was the band going to hang around till 5 in the morning!

Any funny stories from the shoot?

My choice to add a little comedy in the scenes elicited laughs, which was nice to hear. I remember one of the models lost her purse and was frantic, but I think someone hid it. Everyone was exhausted after waiting around for about 10 hours before any of us got filmed. There were a lot of grumpy models.

Anything go wrong on the shoot?

Not that I can remember.

What did you think of the video?

It was a funny premise, and it was rewarding to always get to act in a music video, not just prance around in tight clothes and stilettos. I thought it was a great video, and I believe it actually won an MTV award, something like “Best Chick Video” or some such.

What did your parents think of it?

They were always proud of me. I think they were relieved I was cast as “the nice girl”!

What did your friends think of it?

Jealous. No, just kidding! They always want to know if anything juicy happened on set.

Did you watch the MTV World Premiere of the video, and if so, where and how did that feel?

I wasn’t able to.

Did the video ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were the woman in it)?

No, I was already with my boyfriend for many, many years; he was used to me working all hours and doing all kinds of work. We have now been married for a few decades. So he must have trusted me!

Did you receive fan mail? If so, do you still have any of it?

I did. It usually went to my agent, or SAG. I’m not sure I’ve kept any. I have a garage full of boxes with stuff—the books, appointment books, portfolios, etc. If I have some, it would take me a year to find them.

Did the video generate any controversy that you know of?

No. I think people realized it was all in good fun.

What were you paid?

I don’t remember, but it was about double or more than the other girls, and that was because I told my agent to demand overtime after around 12 hours. That was kind of unusual as most shoots were a flat fee no matter the hours involved. In the past I [had] experienced long hours and, frankly, at that point in my career, I thought I could ask. So I think I might have made around $1,500-2,000.

Were you ever recognized in public?

Yes! I was taken aback. It usually happened on other sets I was working on, or even just on the street. People would sometimes just stare as if they recognized me, but from where?  Once I was shooting a European commercial and a background actor, around 16, wanted to talk about “Poundcake” and asked me for my autograph! That was sweet.

Did you appear in other music videos after that? If so, which was your favorite and why?

That was my swan song as far as music videos. Twenty-three hours on a set…well, it was time to move on.

Did you ever meet other women who were female leads in a mainstream ‘80s rock video?

I was very friendly with Susan McNabb; she was in a Billy Joel video. I knew Signy Coleman, who did the Huey Lewis videos. We all knew each other and a lot of us were with the same agency.

If you went to college, where and what did you study?

I planned to go to UMKC, which was in my hometown of Kansas City, MO. I [had given] myself six months to make it in L.A. I started working and never went to college. I consider myself going to the University of Life. I did graduate high school!

What are you doing these days?

Still going on castings. Still working occasionally. I live with my long-time husband and three enormous dogs. I am a senior member of a well-known non-profit that rescues and places German Shepherds and German Shepherd mixes. I’m one of the people who go to the high kill shelters, conduct temperament tests of the dogs, and pick dogs for the rescue. It’s truly a passion.

Where do you live?

Los Angeles.

What was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in this video?

He was proud! He helped me remember some of the videos [to list for you].


Three fur babies! Six, eight, and 12 years old.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

I was shocked because the day before I heard from you, I was thinking about all the music videos I did from that era. It was a special time; I was at the birth of MTV, in a way. In fact, LOL, I was driving on Sunset Boulevard the same year MTV was born, and one of the founders of MTV hit on me and gave me his card! I never called him…

Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this?

No, I don’t think so.

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?

No, but sure, if it was local, or somewhat local.

Did you stay in touch with anyone in Van Halen?

No. I wished I could have met the band.

How do you look back on the experience?

Very fondly.

Anything you’d like to add?

It was a really heady time, lots of action workwise, and it may sound silly, but it was an honor to have been chosen by the bands. I was very lucky.

Tweet about this interview to @VanHalen @sammyhagar @eddievanhalen!

Next: Meat Loaf, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (1993).

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