Late in 2013, I made 2 eBay purchases. One of them was a book called “Shut Up And Dance” and the other was a 1989 Troma movie called “Chopper Chicks In Zombietown”. The former was written by and the latter starred my next interview subject, Jamie Rose.
Between the 2 projects, I just knew that this was a woman I would want to know more about. Like many of the people I’ve interviewed over the years, she came to prominence in the 1980s, and it’s always a great pleasure of mine to be able to speak to the talents of my favorite decade. From “Falcon Crest” and “Lady Blue” to her dancing abilities, I had a lot of questions, and she was gracious enough to answer them. Allow me to introduce you to Jamie Rose.
Johnny: First off, I want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to do this.
Jamie: My pleasure. Thank you for asking.
Johnny: No problem. I had previously done interviews for RetroJunk as I had mentioned, and 3 of the questions are what I would ask of people I interviewed for RetroJunk, but the rest are keyed to your experiences, and I always start off my interviews with the first 2 questions. The first one is this: What were your pop-cultural likes growing up, like favorite movies and music?
Jamie: I remember my first girl-crush in terms of TV women I loved was Anne Francis as “Honey West”, which was a show in the early 60s. I was really young and I remember thinking she was so beautiful. She had this beauty mark, and she had an ocelot as her pet, which I thought was really cool. It’s interesting in retrospect when you think about your life, and you look at the things that appealed to you aesthetically or artistically, and you look back and go “Wow, this presaged what I ended up doing in my own life!”, because I played a female TV detective. I also loved the Archies and the Monkees and I loved drawing and signs, psychedelic love signs on the sidewalk when I was a kid. My first job was go-go dancing at age 6 in a Kool-Aid commercial, so I had, really, that 60s aesthetic happening.
Johnny: You know, it’s interesting you bring that up, because I actually do have a question about that. I’ve seen the commercial on YouTube. It was one with Bugs Bunny, and my question related to that is: Was Mel Blanc on set doing the voice of Bugs Bunny, or was the dancing done first?
Jamie: It was a blank space because it was all done in post. We’d shoot the commercial with a blank space where Bugs Bunny would be. I don’t think he has any dialogue with the kids in the commercials. He’s just “Hey, gang, it’s Kool-Aid”, that voice-over popping in and then dancing with us. There was no Bugs presence on set.
Johnny: One more question before we get to the acting material: What were your high school days like?
Jamie: When I was really young, having red curly hair, I always felt separate in a way, and I was also very gregarious, and I never felt like I really fit in. In high school, I didn’t fit in, but that became kind of an asset, because I became friends with many of the different social groups in high school. High school can be very divisive. There’s the stoners and the sosh’s and the nerds and I also went to school with a lot of Latino kids. In junior high school, I’d go speak a little Spanish with the Latinos and then play poker with the overachieving rich kids, and then I’d go listen to David Bowie with the stoners. I was always drifting, and I think that’s part of my adaptable actor personality. In high school, I was in my own little group of stoner intellectuals. I didn’t fit in so much in high school, either.
Johnny: My next question is this: The first role that I saw you in was as Andrea in the TV movie “The Wave”. What drew you to that program?
Jamie: What drew me to that program was I auditioned and got the part, but some interesting trivia about that: John Putch, who was the lead actor in that show…We met when I was 19 or 20 and he was 18. He and I have known each other since then, and he’s had a very successful acting career. He’s Jean Stapleton’s son, and he’s a director. He does a lot of TV and independent films, and he has a stable of actors who do his independent movies, which is the “Route 30” series. I’ve done his last 2 movies. He’s a really interesting, cool guy, and it’s really so wonderful to have this connection with him that we’ve had since we were teenagers.
Johnny: My next question is: You played Megan in “Just Before Dawn”. What was your favorite part of working on that movie?
Jamie: It’s so funny you say “Just Before Dawn” because there’s actually a screening at an art house here tomorrow night, and I’m going to go meet the director, Jeff Lieberman, and we’re going to introduce the movie and answer some questions. (Note from Johnny: This interview was done January 20th, 2014). I think the best part of working on that movie was the relationship between the director and the cast. We were very close. I was 19 or 20…It was my very first feature film role. It was fun working on a movie, and also everybody was really cool. I liked everybody, so there was a great sense of camaraderie on set with the crew and cast, so I didn’t feel like I was acting. I felt like I was playing with my friends, which is also how I used to feel when I was a little kid, and I think that’s often when I do my best work…When I don’t feel like I’m acting, when I feel like I’m just living under these given circumstances with these people, which is, to me, what all technique is for– to get you to that place where you don’t feel like you’re acting. I’m an acting coach now as well, and that’s pretty much what I teach. How do we use our technique to make it so there’s no technique?
Johnny: Another question related to “Just Before Dawn”: It took years for it to get an uncut release. You had participated in extras for the 2006 DVD, but would you have returned for new ones if Code Red asked you to?
Jamie: Code Red…Are they the ones who own it?
Johnny: They recently issued an uncut DVD, and there’s a Blu-Ray.
Jamie: I recently talked to Jeff Lieberman about this, this very morning about an hour ago. There’s actually a Blu-Ray now, which he says is beautiful. The original print is not so gorgeous, but the Blu-Ray is gorgeous. There were some problems with the rights, so we wouldn’t do a commentary for this new version. None of us had ever received residuals from the producer, and we need to figure that out, so for that reason, no, but I have great affection for this movie. I think it really stands up, and I think Jeff Lieberman did a beautiful job shooting the movie.
Johnny: Yeah. I’ve read a lot of people talking about “Just Before Dawn” on various horror websites, and it has a pretty good reputation for movies from that decade. Moving on to TV, my next question is: From 1981 to 1983, you played Vickie on “Falcon Crest”. What do you recall most fondly about your time on that show?
Jamie: You know, I have to say again it was the same sort of thing as “Just Before Dawn”. It was the camaraderie. I really felt like that family was my family. We would go on location, and so we were always hanging out together. I love location shooting. It feels like movie camp, which, for that time, you’re like a close family. The location was near an area of California called Calistoga. They’re famous for their mud baths and mineral baths, and so on the weekends, we’d always go down there and have massages and mineral baths. It was great, so great. We were close to San Francisco as well. It was work and long hours, but it’s a pretty good gig if you can get it, I have to say, especially with a big, fat ensemble like that. You’re not even working that much, so you’re getting paid to have a lot of downtime. I mean, the hours were insane, working 14 hours straight, and you’re learning lines for the next week. I was just cracking up from the pressure of all that work, but still, it was very well paid and it’s wonderful work if you can get it. Even at its’ worst, it’s still pretty freakin’ great.
Johnny: Absolutely. My next question is: I recently asked if I could mention you on Shout! Factory’s Facebook page in reference to 1984’s “Heartbreakers”. That’s because, even though I haven’t seen the movie, I know the late Roger Ebert had given it 4 stars, and I must admit that intrigued me. What was the best part of working on that movie?
Jamie: The best part? It’s so interesting it’s ended up being a theme. It’s the people. Bobby Roth, the director, was wonderful to work with. Peter Coyote was wonderful to work with, and Nick Mancuso. Really, so much of it is the relationships that I remember. Michael Ballhaus, who went on to become a pretty famous cinematographer, shot it. Beautiful lighting…I just remember me sitting in his beautiful lighting, and thinking “Wow, I get to go into that little area he just created. This magnificent, magical lighting”.
Johnny: Yeah, I’m hoping they put it out on DVD. I’d really like to see it. I suggested Shout! Factory because they do a lot of work with MGM, which I believe owns the rights to it now, and I think that it’d be a pretty good DVD. Speaking of which, we now come to some questions about “Lady Blue”, which I’ve only seen the intro for, but I’m hoping to see all the episodes of someday. Did you have fun playing Katy Mahoney on that show?
Jamie: It was absolutely fun playing her because I was a very unathletic little kid, and I really longed to be a tomboy girl, but never had the physical chops. I kind of liked the attitude of being a tomboy, but was too cowardly to do anything macho, so on “Lady Blue”, I got to live out my tomboy girl fantasy, and be Ms. Athletic, jumping, shooting, running girl. I was really still kind of nerdy, red-haired girl, and the stunt lady actually had to teach me how to run in a way that didn’t make me look like a lame pony. She had to teach me non-nerd movement.
Johnny: Well, you were certainly able to pull it off based on the intro, which, unfortunately, is all I’ve seen because it’s been rarely seen since it was on the air. I know it did run on MGM’s network over in Europe.
Jamie: If you’ve seen the intro, just imagine every cop show and you’ve pretty much got it. They’re all kind of the same. You realize “Oh, yeah, this story, that story, they’re all very similar”, that genre. There’s an episode where “Lady Blue is injected with drugs, and the whole episode is she’s on drugs!!!!!! , and there’s the episode where we got cancelled. There’s no budget, and so in the episode, we’re all being held hostage at the police station, and the reason is because it’s just cheaper to shoot in one set, right? You start to see in this genre how it’s pretty much that episode, this episode. As Shakespeare once said, “there’s nothing new under the sun”.
Johnny: That actually leads me to ask this: Not only were you the lead on “Lady Blue”, but you also did guest work on the shows “Paper Dolls” and “Jessie”, all of which were produced by MGM/UA Television. MGM/UA was undergoing a lot of turmoil in the 80s, with Kirk Kerkorian buying and selling pieces of it, executives cycling in and out of the suites, and the whole Ted Turner issue. Did any of MGM/UA’s stability issues and executive problems make their way onto the set of “Lady Blue”?
Jamie: Actually, I don’t know too much about what you’re talking about, but here’s a little trivia: I got “Lady Blue” because of the episode of a TV show called “Jessie”. They had changed producers midstream because it was having problems. They bought in a producer named David Gerber. He came onto “Jessie”, and he came in on the episode I was doing, and I remember having a little thought. I thought “David Gerber is going to discover me”. I had that little thought. It’s weird looking back. And he did. He kind of fell in love with me as an actress, and he had this idea for a show called “Lady Blue”, and he bought me into the network. I auditioned for that at ABC, and it wasn’t even that good. I was supposed to cry, and I couldn’t cry. The head of casting, I can’t remember her name, said “Make sure she cries”. David had enough power that they just cast me. It was all him, and it was because I’d done that show “Jessie”. “Paper Dolls” was before “Lady Blue”. I recall Edward Zwick directed that episode.
Johnny: Jumping into movies again, you played Dede in “Chopper Chicks In Zombietown”. I thought you acted and looked good in that movie. Unlike a lot of movies with horror elements in the 80s, most of the women survived in “Chopper Chicks In Zombietown”. I though that was cool. Was that because of where it was produced, which was Troma Pictures, or was there something else to it?
Jamie: Troma Pictures picked it up after it was released. It was produced by a guy named Arthur M. Sarkissian, who is a pretty well-known producer, and after it was made, it was picked up by Troma.
Johnny: That movie also looked like it was a lot of fun to film, even though it was a bit of a horror movie.
Jamie: It wasn’t so fun. It was pretty hard, actually. We shot for 6 weeks, all night, so we never went out in the day. I had tinfoil on the windows of my little motel room, so that my brain would be tricked into thinking day was night, so I could sleep. Also, the motorcycle riding…It was kind of traumatic. It was a very low-budget film, and so we didn’t have good traffic control sometimes, and so it was dangerous. It was kind of shocking that none of us ended up getting hurt or killed on that show, honestly. Another piece of trivia is Billy Bob Thornton played my husband. It was his first major film role. I had title billing above him. Ha! How things change…
Johnny: The DVD I have of it. The trailer for “Chopper Chicks…” the DVD has…The thing is, they promote Billy Bob Thornton more than the actual women themselves.
Jamie: Well, that’s what I would do. He’s a star. Sure.
Johnny: Moving from acting to dancing, you’re quite an avid fan of dancing, to the point where you wrote a great book entitled “Shut Up And Dance”, all about how the art of Argentinean tango has helped you and your fellow dancers out when it comes to personal lives. What has dancing provided you that acting hasn’t?
Jamie: Oh, that’s a great question. I’m a hobbyist at Argentinean tango. I’m pretty good at it. I’ve been doing it for a long time now. I study a lot and work hard at it. I also like to swing dance and stuff like that. What it provides me that I don’t get from acting is a place where I can be not A professional…Where I can express and feel beautiful and feel connected and feel free….That I don’t have to audition for and I’m not making money off of. I can go and be bad or be good or however I want in a way that isn’t competitive.
Johnny: You had mentioned it briefly in the previous answer, but besides the tango, what other forms of dancing do you like?
Jamie: I love partner dance. I used to always only like to dance by myself, but once I got really into partner dance through Argentine tango, now I love partner dance. I love to be led. I love that feeling of dance being a conversation between two people. I dance alone and put on Spotify. I like hip-hop and stuff. I dance around my house when I clean. I look in the mirror and I do all my hip-hop kind of moves. but for social dancing, I love partner dancing. In some dances like salsa, A lot of guys do a lot of spinning and I get a little vertigo, and I can’t stand that, but I I love West Coast swing, Lindy, I love Argentine tango. I just really love partner dances, but I have to say I’m probably better in some ways at swing. I think part of it is because it’s American music, whereas the Argentine tango…I mean, it really speaks to me and I love it, but I think there’s something about the cultural DNA of actually being Argentine and having the tango be the music of your people the same way that swing and jazz are the music of my people.
Johnny: When it comes to music, that actually leads to my next question: On “Dancing With The Stars”, the competitors often do dances to music that may not necessarily be associated with the type of dance they’re doing, whether it’s tango, foxtrot or any other style. What’s the most unusual music you’ve done the tango to?
Jamie: I think probably hip-hop, but tango is very connected to the music. I mean, there’s something called Nuevo Tango, and there’s a couple of bands like Bajafondo Tango Club and Gotan Project, which have made it to the mainstream, and bring hip-hop into tango, so a lot of non-tango people will love the music and want to dance to it. But tango is very connected to the music. I mean, Astor Piazzolla, for example, there’s a soulfulness and a lot of changes to that music. You can’t count on it to end at a certain beat the way you can swing. It’s very connected to the music. I mean, you can do it to other music, but for me, you don’t get the deep experience that you do when you do it to actual tango music.
Johnny: To return to dancing again, if there was such a thing as a time machine, and you could get any 3 famous dancers from history to be on your dance card, who would you choose?
Jamie: Oh, are you kidding me? Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Bob Fosse.
Johnny: Great dancers all of them.
Jamie: I’m also reading a great biography about Bob Fosse right now, “Fosse” by Sam Wasson. He was so influenced by Fred Astaire. That would be amazing.
Johnny: On a different note, I must say that I’m intrigued by some pictures I’ve seen of you on your Facebook page as a character, I believe, named Juno. Who was that character and what was that play about?
Jamie: That was a wonderful theater company in L.A called Not Man Apart, and they do a lot of classical theater mixed with movement. That was done at the Getty Malibu, and it was called “Hercules Furens”, which is, a Roman telling of the Hercules story, by Seneca. I played Juno, Hercules’ mother. It was really fun.
Johnny: In one picture from that play, it looks like you’re singing. Am I correct with that?
Jamie: No, but the text was very much like “Oh, listen everyone, to hear my lament”. It was a very classical, elevated text, so you’re doing a lot of invocation of the gods and all that. It’s not singing, but it makes sense that you’d make that connection because it was operatic in its’ theatrical style. Elevated text and verse, not singing but not just talking like I’m talking to you now. In classical theater, you do a lament like…Think of Lear saying “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!”. It’s not just like “Hey, how ya doin’, buddy?”. It requires something different of the actor.
Johnny: Just in that brief bit, that’s some very impressive acting you’re doing, I must say. Speaking of theater, since you have done a lot of that, what theater role, either musical or dramatic, would you like to play that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Jamie: Well, if I was a different person, if I had studied my singing and dancing growing up, I would want to play “Sweet Charity”, but I’m not that. In another life, I’d like to be Gwen Verdon, who starred in that. Something that I haven’t been able to do? I would love to do some Shakespeare onstage. I haven’t done Shakespeare onstage…I’ve only done it in workshop, but I’d love to do Shakespeare. I also love Chekov. There’s a new play…It came out on Broadway last year. By Christopher Durang, it’s called “Vanya And Sonya And Masha And Spike”. I’d love to play Masha, for sure. It’s coming here to L.A now. I’m not a big enough star to be considered for something like that, but it’s a great role. Because it’s a comedic send-up of Chekhov you have to have an understanding of the original source material to really enjoy the comedy of those roles. That would be fun, because I’m a real theater buff.
Johnny: On a similar tack, what would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry from the 80s, when your adult acting career began, to 2014?
Jamie: The hugest change for someone like me is, in the 80s, there were 3 TV networks. It was ABC, NBC and CBS. I remember when Fox started, and we were all like “Oh, that young upstart company. Nothing’s going to happen with that”. Now there’s so much, and so, you don’t make as much money…That’s a big difference. It’s a funny thing, I remember when VCRs came out, that’s how old I am, that people could watch movies at home, and I said “Ah! People are going to get used to seeing movie people on the small screen”, because there was a very big separation when I was in TV. You were either a TV actor, which was B-list, or a movie actor, which was A-list. There wasn’t much crossover. VCRs came out, and I felt psychologically that people would get used to not seeing these movie stars on the big giant screen. I just thought there was going to be more crossover, and that has indeed happened. Now, I was watching HBO, and all these movie stars are doing TV, so people like me, who used to get the guest stars in the 80s and 90s and beginning of the 2000s, now those juicy guest stars are being played by movie people. I don’t resent it. It’s fine. It’s just the nature of change. The movie “Sunset Boulevard”, that character Norma Desmond…She couldn’t accept change, and that’s why she went crazy. That’s the nature of life and art, that things are going to change, and that’s just the way it is. I’ll go with it, and I’m writing more and teaching more. It’s fine. I’ve been really lucky in my lifetime, but things change. That’s the nature of life.
Johnny: I see. My next question is: I see on Facebook that you’re also a fan of the Chiller Theatre Convention.
Jamie: I didn’t go to Chiller yet, but I went to my first horror convention as a guest several months ago (Note from Johnny: I believe the convention being referred to is the Cinema Wasteland convention). I had a blast. I love extreme society. I love that they have this sort of tattooed, Goth, rockabilly aesthetic at the horror convention. If you look at some of the pictures from the horror convention I did, I started wearing a little fascinator hat, and I was dressing in black. I tend to get into that stuff. I guess that’s a throw that back to how I was in junior high…I tend to adapt to whatever group I’m in. When I go swing dancing, I have certain outfits I wear. When I go tango dancing, I have certain outfits I wear. When I go to New York, I have certain outfits I wear. I said to a friend “I have to pack so much because I never know who I’m going to want to be when I get there”. I tend to have another persona wherever I go, so that’s what’s really fun for me about those horror conventions. And of course it’s always a blast meeting the fans.
Johnny: Now I come to my final question. This is the question I end every interview with that I’ve done, and it’s this: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge you have now, would you do anything differently?
Jamie: I would definitely have stuck with dance training and singing training. I have a lot of talent for dance, and a lot of imagination for dance, and although I’m a good dancer, there’s a lot I can’t do because I didn’t train. I wish I had trained more. I also kind of miss that I didn’t get a classical education as an actor. Life took me a different way. I was a working actor from practically birth, and so I got an education that a lot of those people didn’t get from TV and film, but I really do respect and admire people who do have that classical education through the Yale School Of Drama, Julliard, or in London, places like that. I’ve tried to work on my craft on my own as I’ve gotten older, but these kids, they have the voice, they have the movement, they have the projection I really admire.
Johnny: I want to thank you once more for taking the time to do this interview with me.
Jamie: My pleasure.
If you would like to learn more about Jamie Rose’s work, you can visit her websites http://jamierosestudio.com/ and http://jrosestudio.com/. A tremendous thanks once more to Ms. Rose, and I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview. Coming up soon: The Flashback Interview does a flashback to the future with J.J Cohen.