Thursday, May 3, 2012

I Was a Club MTV Dancer

Back in the 1990s, I had a friend who worked at In Style Magazine. She had some connections and got me, and another friend, a gig dancing on Club MTV.

The original host – Downtown Julie Brown – was holding the mic and the Pet Shop Boys were rocking The Palladium in New York City during those early years of the MTV show.

The show, which was modeled after American Bandstand, cut back and forth between teen-agers (uh, hum and young adults) who would dance to hit songs and videos of those songs.  Often there were musical guests who performed their new singles; such guests included Paula Abdul, Deee-lite, Salt-N-Peppa, Black Box, Vanilla Ice, Samantha Fox and MC Hammer just to name a few.

The first time I had the opportunity to dance, I was completely excited but wasn't sure what to expect.

I was told to bring several changes of clothes as we would be filming part of a season over a two day period.

At the time, I was still going to college and living at home with my mom. So, at dawn on the first day of filming, I lugged my suitcase down to the curb – this was before rolling suitcases existed – and threw it into my friend’s car.

We made the trek up to New York City and arrived at The Palladium, a night club which was located on East 14th Street.  (I would later live only four blocks away where the show was filmed.)

At first, I was completely overwhelmed by the whole scene. There were club kids everywhere in every stage of fashion: hip-hop, Goth, preppy, burnout, and pop. You could tell they had done this before and were used to the drill.

I definitely felt insecure but, as I went into the dressing room, I really studied what these young women were wearing. I may have been from the Bridge and Tunnel crowd at that time, but I was going to work hard to make that not look so apparent.

I already worked in fashion – this was a few years before my Betsy Johnson years – yet I already had a knack for styling edgy outfits (for the time).

When taping started, my friend and I found a mediocre spot in the crowd. I soon learned the drill and realized what we needed to do to get some camera time.

During the first break between taping episodes, I went back to my suitcase and pulled out a super short black mini skirt with a matching halter top, which exposed my belly; I threw on a pair of bike shorts underneath (for those notorious up-skirt camera shots) and topped it off with my favorite Dan Post cowboy boots. Wha-la – instant fashion.

The next step was to score a high-profile spot on the dance floor.

As I said – these were club kids, aspiring actors, and dance school students – who were all looking for their big break on television. We had major competition and, as I said, these kids all knew the drill, so we had to work hard to get ourselves recognized.

Mid-way through episode two – while there was a little break in filming –some kids hopped down off a platform and I climbed right on up. It wasn't easy to keep that spot – and we scored other less prominent perches to get down and boogie – but I always tried my best to get that platform and, every time we did, we got a lot more airtime.

While dancing, it was apparent that there were a small number of the dancers who were given priority.

These were the dancers who had fans and got face time with Downtown Julie Brown. They all went by first names and I always remembered one woman in particular...Camille Donatacci.

She was definitely one of the most popular dancers and certainly had a je ne sais quoi about her. I have to be honest; I was definitely envious. She dressed very hip, but it was apparent that her clothes were very expensive and her long blond hair styled impeccably. She was very popular among the viewers.

A few years later, Camille went on to marry – and now divorce – Kelsey Grammar and is now one of the most popular Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It is apparent that she had some star quality about her – enough to catch one of Hollywood's richest (yet older) bachelors – and her stint on Club MTV certainly helped her.

As for me, I did gain some notoriety for being on the show. I was recognized back in my hometown and, even though I was invited back for one more taping for the following season, sadly, it did not launch my career in the entertainment business.

However, I loved to dance – and still do to this day – and it was just fun to do it on television. I don't claim to be the best dancer (as you can see from my You Tube video), but I was just happy for the opportunity to get down with Julie Brown.

Wubba, wubba, wubba!

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