Wednesday, 14 April 2010 13:07 | Written by Byron Beck
FUNNY LADY: Instead of interviewing Lauren Weedman, a full-blown star of such tv hits as The Daily Show and Reno 911 and who is currently burning up the screen in the #1-rated comedy, Date Night (and who is about to bring her one woman show to The Woods, a former Southeast Portland funeral home), I thought it might be fun to ask her just three questions.
But before we do that, her is a little background on her: BUST, the show she's bringing to The Woods, is "Weedman’s semi-autobiographical work built around her experiences working as a volunteer advocate in a Southern California prison for women. With one foot in Hollywood and the other in jail, the former Daily Show correspondent careens wildly between the two worlds, taking us on a hilarious, poignant, and completely unforgettable ride" (that's from her press kit, not from my me). Before joining the cast of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2001, the comic actress made a name for herself on Seattle's KING-TV 5 as a member of the ensemble sketch comedy show Almost Live! She also speaks Dutch. Really.
So I talked to Weedman in between baby naps (she's a new mom) and here is how that went:
Ms. Weedman, could you please answer the following THREE questions:
1. People should come see your show because….
A. You used to live in the Northwest and worked on a televised local sketch comedy show in Seattle.
B. You know secrets about Jon Stewart and Tina Fey and you might share them at the stage door after the show.
C. People might actually learn some stuff they may not know.
D. None of the above.
Lauren Weedman's Answer: The real reason people should come see the show is… "I need money for my anticonvulsants and I have this delusion that I am going to be big in Portland."
2. You call your show BUST because…
A. Words that sound like boobies sell tickets.
B. As a working actor it’s a word you become very familiar with.
C. Bust is just the right word for what women in the prison system feel like after being incarcerated.
D. None of the above.
Lauren Weedman's Answer: The real reason the show is called BUST...."is because "Me and My Dick, The Musical" is already taken."
3. The hardest part of being Lauren Weedman is…
A. Being a working mom.
B. Working as a solo performer.
C. Having to maintain a beauty regime that includes shaving legs and armpits.
D. None of the above and none of your beeswax, buddy. All those who left Russia without a diploma of higher education, we offer you to buy a diploma of higher education , we will deliver to you your diploma in any corner of the world!
Lauren Weedman's Answer…"actually the hardest part is chafing."
BUST, Starring Lauren Weedman: The Woods, 6637 SE Milwaukie Ave., 890-0408. 8 pm, Friday-Saturday, April 16-17, backfencepdx.com. $17 online, $20 door.
VOO DOIN' IT: After they kicked the roof off of the Keller Auditorium during Tuesday's opening night, two of the cast members of Dreamgirls—Adrienne Warren (Lorell) and Moya Angela (Effie)—had to get up really early this morning. They had a television interview to do and other media responsibilities that go along with a touring musical show.
What these two didn't know is they would take a few minutes out of their busy schedule to participate in a Portland rite of passage: the "Tex-Ass Challenge" at the northeast location for Voodoo Doughnuts. The challenge is if you can eat an entire "Tex-Ass" doughnut—a glazed doughnut the size of six full-size doughnuts—in 120 seconds or less, the doughnut is free.
And Adrienne (above, left, with Moya, right) believed she had what it takes to kick the Tex-Ass doughnuts butt.
And, well...let's just say the pint-sized Adrienne gave the giant piece of fried dough her best Broadway shot (see below how she barely made a dent in it).
BETTY-IFUL: Tonight ABC will broadcast the last original episode of the U.S. version of a show that has many names all over the world, but in America goes by the name "Ugly Betty." I am really sad to see this show go. I got hooked on it because my partner, Juan, is a huge Vanessa Williams fan. And in this show, Williams had more than one chance to tear up the scenery as the diva bitch magazine editrix "Wilhelmina Slater." I would have watched the show anyway: it's funny, sweet, smart, super gay-friendly, fashionable and featured one of the most unique characters to ever cross our airwaves: Betty Suarez, aka "Ugly Betty," played to perfection by America Ferrera. When she popped up on the screen in the first episode, September, 2006, I had a weird deja vu feeling about her—like I had seen her before. It wasn't because I had seen the Latin versions such as Yo Soy Betty, la fea. No, I had seen this person in my real life. By the third episode, when Betty said something really smart/poignant/funny with her brace-filled grin, it hit me.
Betty was Christa.
Years ago, long before I contributed to The Oregonian and worked at Willamette Week, I was an ad sales rep/society columnist for The Downtowner. Like Ugly Betty's place of employment, MODE, it too was a fake fashion magazine. And I worked there. So did Christa. It had been over a decade since the publication had closed up shop in 1995, but when Betty appeared on screen it was like seeing Christa all over again. Like Betty, Christa was a whip-smart, courageous, good-hearted, and slightly naive young woman who could simply do it all. She was an ad assistant and my life-line, taking care of not only my clients but pretty much me after long nights trying to keep up with the hoi-polloi of Portland. When I would sneak a nap under my desk, she would cover my chair with her big coat so no one could see me sleeping. She allowed me to be me. And when I ran away to Europe for six weeks, she did all my work. I was grateful for her assistance, and if I remember right, never told her so.
Back then Christa also looked like Betty—it's actually uncanny how much they looked alike, as if they were identical twins right down to the Sally Jesse Raphael red-rimmed glasses.
Weird thing is, even though we both live in the same city, I've never run into Christa since we were all let go in 1995. I couldn't even remember her last name. Then a couple of days ago, after much digging through piles of crap, I was able to find an old copy of The Downtowner. That's when I found her name, and like any good social media-ist I went straight to Facebook. I found her immediately. She had a new hyphenated last name. And she didn't look like Betty anymore (see above right). But it was her. I sent her a message to double check if it indeed was her and this is what I got back:
"Yes, that be me! Hiya Byron! I'm still working in print, more on the design/production side (magazines and catalogs). Goodness but I was Ugly Betty's twin sister back at the Downtowner! Glad to "see" you after all these years!"
So she got the resemblance too. I was happy for that.
I will miss watching Ugly Betty for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it gave me a connection to my past. Thank you Ugly Betty for giving me that. And, if I never said it back in the day, thanks Christa for being such a great person. You were beautiful back then, and even more beautiful today.
STAR SPANGLED SYESHA: The "dreamgirl" seemed distracted. Here I was, sitting in the very back of a limo that I would find out, later in the evening, was longer than the width of my front yard. Toward the very front of the limo was Syesha Mercado, the American Idol contestant and one of the stars of Dreamgirls (itopens tonight at the Keller).Syesha was texting away on her Iphone. I didn't want to disturb her. We had just left a downtown Portland hotel and we were heading, along with Julia Sheridan, the publicist for Portland Opera's Broadway Across America, to the Rose Garden where Syesha was to sing the National Anthem prior to the Blazers game with The Thunder. None of us seemed to care who would win or loose (except our driver J.J.), even though it was a must-win game for the Blazers. And we all just kind of sat there watching the city whiz by, until I asked her a question. It was about how she's able to survive the constant singing, dancing and costume changing she has to do in Dreamgirls: "Syesha, how do you do it every night?" Her response was extremely honest. "I don't know," said Syesha. "I wonder how I do it myself."
Although she is only 23, Mercado has spent most of her life onstage. She is a trained professional. She works very hard, especially as the Diana Ross-ish "Deena Jones" in Dreamgirls. "I can't get distracted during the show...if I start to get in my head, or think about the words, then I'm not able to do my best. I have to stay in the moment." Speaking of moments, when I bring up American Idol Season #7, she sort of alludes that the show was a "step-back" for her and her musical career. And when I told her that I had watched some of her old Youtube clips from the show, she said: "It makes me sad to listen to the old stuff."
So much honesty from such a young girl.
That said, you could tell that Syesha was deep in thought, shyly holding back a bit of herself as we left the limo and ventured deep into the bowels of the Rose Garden. She needed to warm up. And then do a sound check. And, then, well, I just wanted to leave her alone. Here she was, on her only day off, having to sing in front of a packed stadium. She needed time alone.
That's when I went to the "media room" and chatted up some old friends near the complimentary buffet.
When I returned to her dressing room, just minutes before she was to go on, was the only time I saw her exhibit what might be considered "diva-ish" behavior. I could hear her warming up in the bathroom of the dressing room she was assigned for the night. Her version of the Star-Spangled Banner sounded amazing in that small space. It actually gave me chills. But when she came out of the bathroom she whispered under her breath: "I wish I didn't have to sing this song." She talked about how it was easier for her as a child to sing "that" song, but, as an adult, there seemed to be so much more pressure to get it just right.
After a knock on the door we were off to center court. It's when she handed me her Iphone that I noticed she was shaking, just a little bit. It wasn't diva behavior. She was nervous, and she was trying to hide it.
Her performance of the National Anthem was flawless. Simply flawless. The players knew it. The crowd knew it. She knew it.
When she came off court, it was like she was a different person. No longer distracted, distant or drowsy she was full of energy. This from a woman who performs one of the most demanding roles in musical theater. As we dropped her off back at the hotel she said: "Well, that was fun. We had a chance to talk about life, Dreamgirls and I was able to sing the national anthem. It was a good night."
PARTY REPORT: Friends, family and notable faces joined forces in hugging, kissing and generally wishing Stephen Cassell well at his fantabulous birthday bash, Cassell On Earth, held Saturday night at the Fez Ballroom. The lovely Nicolle Camarata held down the hosting duties while performances by the lanky Logan Lynn, the sweet and wholesome Holcombe Waller, and songbird diva Miss Tahoe Jackson lit up the room. Also lighting up the night were all the beautiful folks on the floor dancing to the tunes of DJ Moisti including Lisa Schroeder andRoey Thorpe(both above), Caryn Brooks, Lake Perriguey, Rene Field, Lisa Watson, Amanda Schurr, Peter Zuckerman, Tim Joyce, Daniel Borgen, Pennie Lane, Courtney Hameister, Andrew Collins, Jill Spitznass, Alicia Rose, John Breen, Davey Nipples, Wayne Bund, Fannie Mae Darling, and Carlee Smith who had the best line of the night when she whispered in my ear, "I can't believe the Mayor is dancing to Baby Daddy."