By Kelly Swanson
Typically, we all have met someone that inspired us during our lifetime. Over the course of my life and career I have met many famous people, some you know and some you don’t. My most famous person was Olympic Star, Dorothy Hamill, but I didn’t actually get to meet her. In the confusion that was back-stage at the Ice Capades, I went back to my seat after being invited backstage. Hamill sent out many people with flashlights to look for me, but the arranged meeting never happened. I had such a crush on Mrs. Hamill at the ripe old age of 8. She sent me an autographed photo and a written promise to see me that next year, but that never happened. I do still have the photo and autograph.
People come in contact with fame all the time, and I again met up with a former child actor and actress who inspired me again. While riding on a bus in Lima, Peru, I got to know more about these two inspirations. The first person is in my OnDemand ODXVI cohort. She was in a lot of movies and on some TV shows; she’s our own Hollywood “Scream Queen” Kaycee Palumbo. If you Google her show biz name Kaycee Shank and click on her IMDB page you will meet someone who is a Thunderbird, and dynamic from a diverse background like we all seem to be. Kaycee has been in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) and Charmed (TV), plus movies such as Beauty Queen Butcher, Stitches, and The Gingerdead Man. Yes, you guessed right they are pretty much B Movies genre horror films, but that’s what makes them so great and inspirational. Kaycee loves acting, “As a child, I always wanted to be an actor and starred in my first school play at 5. At every point in my life the theatre beckoned; I always found a way to keep acting alongside my college studies, early career in Japan and later as a sales professional. Eventually I retired once I moved into Managerial roles, but the passion remains.” She recalled. Kaycee has found that acting also strengthened her teamwork skills as well, she stated, “Acting has helped me as a professional in many regards. Working as a team, situational strategic assessment, understanding motivation and character drivers and conveying a clear message are all components to telling an effective story – whether for the Board of Directors or a play at the Met. That said, the stories I build today to drive my business have a lot less fake blood (Karo syrup and food dye in case you are wondering).”
Thunderbirds very own Professor Roy Nelson was a child star of television. It really surprised me when he began to talk about the dress rehearsals and everything behind the scenes and how he got the job. His mother took him to an open audition in Hollywood back in 1961. They needed a cute baby to take pictures of for the movie and Roy was chosen. A series of pilots were being produced for television and sponsored by Alcoa the aluminum company. The Alcoa Presents series of 60-minute moves were hosted by Fred Astaire and starred numerous actors and actresses. The movie was called The Fortress and starred Lloyd Bridges (Airplane), Philip Ahn (Kung Fu), and James Shigeta (Diehard). Dr. Nelson recalls his mother telling him the story, “I was paid because in my Social Security history there is a record that I was paid when I was only 6 months old – I think it was $30. My Mom said that it was a big deal because they could only shine lights on me for a very brief time so as not to harm my eyes, and a nurse had to be present on the set, etc. I think it’s odd that I was on the set since from what my mother recalled they only used a still photo of my in the episode – showing it to Lloyd Bridges’ character and then burning the photo of me.” Nelson recalled.
Some years later, Dr. Nelson was again recruited for a television show in 1969 for a Christmas episode of The Brady Bunch; titled “The Voice of Christmas.” Nelson recalls, “ I really didn’t want to be on the show, I remember wearing this green jacket and I didn’t want to take it off. I was asked to be in a main part at the end of the show, but because I wouldn’t take of my green jacket off they gave my part to someone else. I was tired of standing around all day. During my scene, I was standing in front of a little boy who told Cindy Brady, ‘I hate girls.’ I remember that part very clear because they kept doing retakes of that scene till they got it right. “ (Photo: Dr. Nelson is indicated by the red arrows.)
It takes a lot of courage to enter the world of acting. It’s like no other job out there and is not for everyone. Just like being an On-Demand student, it’s not for everyone. It takes dedication to come home after work and sit down and work when you’re tired. It requires you to wake up at odd hours to meet with your cohort so that you’re there for them around the world. Sacrifice is a huge part of being an actor, actress, and T-bird student. We are the stars of the future, and we are on our own personal education junket, visiting cities, networking, spreading the word about ourselves. Take time to inspire someone, a co-worker, friend, or family member so that they can learn from a shining example. I want to thank Professor Nelson and Kaycee Palumbo for sharing their stories with us. Who inspires you? Tell us in the comments below! Until next week, remember…the bird is the word!