The videos: “Tonight She Comes” by the Cars and “Doing It All for My Baby” by Huey Lewis and the News.
The girl-now-woman: Tara Shannon. [rhymes with car-uh]
Subject of her response to my first email: “Doing it all for Marc Tyler Nobleman.”
She also asked if she could ask me questions, “only fair.”
How old were you when you appeared in the “Tonight She Comes” video?
28 or 29.
Where were you living at the time?
New York. I think I was bicoastal at the time.
What music videos, shows, or movies had you appeared in prior to that?
How were you cast for “Tonight She Comes”?
At that stage of my career, I think I was pretty well known, so it was through my [modeling] agency, Elite.
How were you cast for “Doing It All for My Baby”?
It had the same director as “Tonight She Comes,” Jeff Stein, so he knew me and booked me again. He did “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” Tom Petty thought his daughter would freak out when she saw him eat the girl-cake. They had the actress come over in costume to show Tom’s daughter that he didn’t kill her. [MTN: Wish Cohen, who played Alice and was in round 1 of this series, says this story, while good, is not true.]
Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast?
Rock wasn’t my genre of music. But it was so much fun!
What was your genre?
R&B. Delfonics, Isaac Hayes, [artists at] Stax Records, Motown. My mother was a political activist and we were raised in ghettos.
In Denver, oddly enough.
Where were the videos filmed?
The Cars…I don’t remember where it was but not on a movie lot. Huey Lewis was on the Paramount lot—or might’ve been on Francis Ford Coppola’s lot, when he bought a film studio. Demi Moore was filming The Seventh Sign and came over to watch the Huey video. Also, this new group was shooting a video nearby and the music was incredible. Everyone was like “That guy can really sing.” It was Pearl Jam. [NOTE: A kind commenter below pointed out that Pearl Jam was not around in 1987; apparently they formed in 1990. I am guessing that Tara is right about the band but wrong about the year this anecdote took place or right about the year but misremembering which band it was. In any case, it was cool enough to at least partly remember!]
How long were the shoots?
They were always pretty epic. Jeff Stein was a pretty nonlinear creative. He usually did both a story and a performance in his videos. And he always killed somebody!
How did you feel making the videos? Was one more fun than the other?
“Doing It All for My Baby” was just a blast. The guys loved it, too. Huey loved playing Frankenstein.
Did these videos all blend together for you?
I thought they were spectacularly wonderful and fun. I have a high regard for music and loved the medium of music videos. In my eyes it was very prestigious and so creative. The Cars video when he was a fly—that was brilliant.
I got to bring my own clothes, ideas, interpretations to shoots. I had a lot of input into my makeup and hair. As a model I was known as the woman of 1,000 faces.
What was the hardest part of each shoot?
Long hours. Huey was a 36-hour shoot because there was no union. And usually it’s cold.
How was it to work with the Cars? What were they like? Did any of them hit on you?
I was shot separately.
Yeah, I met Ric at one point. In fact, I saw him just the other day smoking a cigarette outside a 7-Eleven. I didn’t say anything.
I wish you had! I bet he would’ve appreciated it.
(laughs) I knew Paulina [Porizkova] from working with her.
How was it to work with Huey Lewis and the News?
They were so sweet. Huey is a real businessman. The heads of the band are the dads, especially with Huey, and everyone else pretty much the kids. They were very respectful, removed. Nothing romantic going on. They were in relationships.
Any funny stories from the shoots?
The Cars video included performance, so the cameraman would be on a half-moon railroad track on a dolly. The camera would pan right and left to shoot members of the band…and eventually, the cameraman lost his lunch.
It was fun to see myself on screen so tall. Jeff got the idea from the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman movie. It was [tricky] to sync Ric’s reaction to my actions, like when I blew a bubble and his finger had to pop the bubble.
On Huey, there was the pyrotechnics aspect. They put hairspray—and newspaper—in my hair to get it to stay up. When I was lying on the bed and they did the electricity, one of the grips who was smoking a cigarette kept getting closer; Jeff said to me, “Your hair might catch on fire, but don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t happen.” He had this voice. He was childlike. He got could anybody to do anything because he was so passionate.
And there’s a lot of time spent on their hair. In Quiet Riot or Whitesnake or one that Jeff had done, there was fake hair so they couldn’t use wind machines.
I also remember people talking about the Jacksons, saying never work for them because they never paid their bills.
Anything go wrong on the shoots?
Stuff always went wrong. The rocket at the end was [inspired by] Dr. Strangelove. That wasn’t the easiest mechanics to work with. I had a lot of setups [wardrobe changes] in that video. That wasn’t typical—usually it’s the band who has the most shots.
My father was dead. My mother was very proud.
What did your friends think of them?
Everyone loved that stuff.
Did either video ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were the woman in it)?
I was never recognized. The only people who did recognize me were black drag queens. I became friendly with some in the New York area; one became a judge on America’s Next Top Model—J. Alexander. Off set, I was pretty low-key gal. I didn’t look like what I projected on film.
Did you receive fan mail?
No, people didn’t know who I was. But I had a huge career in Italy, London, and Paris and had a following in Europe. I became pen pals with a lot of them. They’d put your name in [with print ads]. I was also interviewed. The modeling world of Europe was like the music video world of America.
I did receive fan mail from my Oprah appearances.
First appearance was a show on sex symbols of the 1990s. Then one about the darker side of modeling, like Gia Carangi, and conflicts in the modeling world. These shows aired in the ‘90s.
Still in touch with any of the pen pals?
I don’t think so. But on Facebook I have these great gay guys—maybe straight ones, too, and girls—who find these amazing tear sheets of my work in the ‘80s and send me the copies. And they’re not old—young kids! I have a couple of regulars who send me things—things I don’t remember or haven’t even seen.
Did either video generate any controversy that you know of?
No, the only controversy about Huey was that long intro [3 minutes, 39 seconds] before the music. Oh, there was another little controversy—when Huey turned human again at the end, the lighting made his package look very big…and he liked that.
What were you paid for each video?
I don’t even remember if I was paid. The cover of Vogue was $100, editorial was $300 a day—it was nothing.
Did you appear in other music videos?
- “Right on Track”—Breakfast Club
- “French Kissin” (also known as “French Kissin in the USA”)—Debbie Harry
- “Can’t Keep Running”—Gregg Allman
- “Wot’s It to Ya”—Robbie Nevil
What else did you do after the videos?
[In 1987,] I got to marry Spider-Man at Shea Stadium in front of 50,000 people (before a game). The New York Times acted like it was a real wedding.
I never saw the face of the groom! He was always in costume.
Did you ever meet other women who were female leads in a mainstream ‘80s rock video?
Everyone was doing it at that point. Paulina, the girls in the George Michael videos like Linda Evangelista. I never worked with another girl in a video, though.
Now thanks to Facebook, models are connecting with each other even if we didn’t know each other personally. She wasn’t in my class but went to my school, you know?
Many in this series look as though they’re not far out of school or even still in school.
I always said models are genetic mutants.
If you went to college, where and what did you study?
The last grade I finished was 9th. I became a live-in babysitter. At 16, I got my own apartment and got a job at Ebbets Field, a bar in Denver. There I saw Richard Pryor, Greg Allman, the Marshall Tucker Band, Little Feat. I had never heard of [most of] them because I grew up with all black music.
How did you segue from working in a bar to modeling?
I got discovered there. I worked at it really hard. It became a career choice.
What are you doing these days?
I came out to L.A. to help a friend, a woman who wrote a self-help book, a NYT best-seller, and I was doing her image—her social networking, her videos, taught her how to speak on camera, designed her website, helped edit her new book. That lasted six months.
What I’m working on now…a friend, a makeup artist named Dale Johnson, asked if I’d like to do videos for YouTube about makeup and hair for women 40+. I’m the techie girl—I love Apple.
I am taking acting lessons—it’s not about anything but having fun. At this age, I’m not looking for anyone’s approval.
In Pasadena. I just moved in with my boyfriend. I was in Orange County for six months before that, and Florida and Amsterdam before. New York 1978-2000.
If you are/were married, what was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in these videos?
I was married in Holland, from 2000-2007.
No, but three stepkids through the man in Holland. One is a magazine editor in Holland, one is a photographer, and the son is an amazing creative artist and pianist.
What do they think of these videos?
They loved it! The oldest one was ten when I met them, the others six and two.
What did you think when you first heard from me?
I thought it was a great idea, really sweet. But when I saw the list of questions, I was tired and thought “I am never going to answer all of these.” Then I had house issues and got overwhelmed.
Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this? If so, who, when, and for what publication?
No. I did win Best Performance of a Model in a Music Video but they forgot to invite me!
Oh, no. I stayed in touch with Jeff and my new agent Rick is also in touch with Jeff.
How do you look back on the experience?
The gems of my crown of my career.
Anything you’d like to add?
I think music videos are a lost art. It was like the Three Stooges, but in a good way.
Next: Prince, “Kiss” (1986).