Category: Art

Get Julie Piekarski on Dancing With The Stars

Julie Piekarski
Julie Piekarski

Last summer, I had the pleasure of speaking with the amazing Julie Piekarski Probst. Although her name may not ring a bell, chances are if you were a fan of “The Mickey Mouse Club” or “Facts of Life” back in the day, you’ve seen her.

Now, the beautiful actress and dancer is embarking on a journey to get on this season’s ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and I’m doing a re-visit of that interview to help her on her quest.

Julie is no stranger to the art of the dance, having honed her chops from a very young age performing in front of huge audiences at The Muny, the nation’s largest outdoor theater located in St. Louis, Missouri. She took time off from perfoming in the mid-1980′s in order to raise a family, but is now ready to enter the biggest ballroom in prime time.

In just the short time that we spoke, I found Julie to be a warm, infectious person with a love of life and the arts. She would be awesome on the show.

Consider this:

1. Julie would be the first Mousketeer to appear on the ABC show, which coincidentally also owns Disney.

2. With another ‘Fact of Life’ alum, (Lisa Whelchel) having made a successful run on the TV show ‘Survivor’, a “Facts of Life’ battle for TV ratings could be in order.

3. As a side note (and in another odd twist of fate) Julie and Lisa were BOTH Mousketeers and first worked together on ‘The New Mickey Mouse Club’.

You can read the rest of my interview with Julie here

Please help me help Julie by clicking this link and letting producers from Dancing With The Stars know you want Julie on the show. You can point them to my article if you like, but let’s make it happen. It would be very cool to say we played a role in getting Julie on the show and then cheering her on to victory!

Here are a few clips from Julie’s career:

Julie on The New Mickey Mouse Club

Here’s  Julie from Facts of Life:

Julie on the show, Quincey M.E

Julie Returns to Walt Disney World:

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Losing Street Cred

HomeYesterday, my friend (and fellow blogger) Kat posted her review of the new Phillip Phillips CD called “The World From The Side Of The Moon“.

I always enjoy reading Kat’s album reviews because she has no bias, and just tells it like it is. She’ll dissect every track piece by piece and tell you exactly what she liked, and what she thought was lacking.

Although her review gave me some insight as to what to expect on his new record, for me personally Phillip Phillips’ music has been “tarnished”; and it’s not even his fault. The blame for it lies with two people: Drew Pearson and Greg Holden, the writer’s of Phillip’s song, “Home”.

“Home” was actually quite a good song, that is before it became fodder. Not only has the song now been played ad nauseum on radio (a travesty into of itself) but its also been used in no less than three advertisements for television shows. I’ve heard “Home” played in its entirety multiple times at the Olympics, on “American Idol”, as the soundtrack for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and even as the goodbye song on “America’s Got Talent”. I started out liking it. Now, I HATE it.

Usually, congratulations are in order when something has that much success. But as far as I’m concerned, new songs (and subsequently the artists who perform them) lose a bit of street cred when they allow their songs to be whored out to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

I’m from the “old school” way of thinking, where a hit song needs to have an aura of mystery surrounding it. Something that let you know that it’s not going to be played all the time. So that when it finally is played, you enjoy the listening experience even more.

At first, it was cool to see Phillip performing “Home”, and even cooler when it started making the rounds on radio. But, when it started getting into the regular rotation of television shows and commercials, it drove me crazy.

Case in point. Over the last year, the following could be heard every night in prime-time:

Randy Jackson (American Idol): “You’re going to Hollywood BABY!”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “Settle down, it’ll all be clear…Don’t pay no mind to the demons….They fill you with fear” ♬♬

*

Howie Mandell (America’s Got Talent): “I’m sorry, the road to Vegas ends for you now!…”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “The trouble it might drag you down – If you get lost, you can always be found…” ♬♬

*

Ty Penninton (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition): “We’re gonna build you a new house and Sears is going to pay off your mortgage.”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “Just know you’re not alone…Cause I’m going to make this place your home.” ♬♬

I know what you’re thinking: the placement of the song makes sense. People on ‘American Idol’ are finding their “Home” by living the dream. Others are actually going “Home” on ‘America’s Got Talent’. And then there are the people who are actually getting a physical “Home” on ‘Extreme Makeover’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against new songs being used for marketing and merchandising purposes. But I am of the opinion that some period of time needs to pass before they should be used to peddle things.

Great music needs to run its course naturally, otherwise it diminishes it as art.

Channeling My Inner Nerd

spider700When I was six years old I became a HUGE comic book and Spiderman fan. In fact, I’ve still got the huge collection of comics I amassed as a youth stored securely away in boxes that I hope will one day fund my retirement (or at least supply me with a few months worth of Polident). Back then, if a comic had a Spider, a Hulk or a guy on a flaming motorcycle on it, I bought it.

In the early eighties, my friend and I would make weekly pilgrimages to the downtown district to purchase the latest tales of Spiderman, Incredible Hulk and Ghost Rider (among others). This place was one of those cigarette shops that sold lottery tickets and magazines but also had a few swiveling metal racks with comic books on them. It was in front of those racks where he and I would have deep discussions about the important issues of the day: like why we thought Spiderman could beat the Incredible Hulk if the two of them ever got into a fight.

Even into the early 90’s (when I was still a major geek), I’d drive to comic book shops every Friday where new issues had been reserved for me. What was cool about it was comic books at the time cost $1 each. So for a ten-spot, you’d have plenty of superhero whoop ass to last you for quite a while.

I’m not exactly sure when it ended, but I gradually began to lose interest in buying comic books. Looking back, I think the signs may have started when I began noticing that there were no hot chicks in the comic book stores. I mean let’s face it, regardless of what other’s might say; comic books (for the most part) are chick repellant.

Recently though, the current rage of hit movies bringing these heroes to life on the big screen began to pique my interest in comic books again. I had even heard a rumor that the latest issue of Spiderman (#700) was going to be a milestone issue. It didn’t take long for me to decide to channel my inner nerd and go roam the halls of a comic book store again and so yesterday, I made the trip.

Brick and mortar comic stores are quickly going the way of the dinosaur, but thankfully there are still a few in my area. As I walked inside, there was an immediate feeling of deja vu. Walls and walls of old comics, graphic novels and action figures greeted me and a feeling of giddiness washed over this now forty-something year old kid.

I noticed that a group of young individuals (all male – go figure) were blocking the middle of the room and making conversation with each other. Under their arms, each held their weekly fix of comic and I kindly asked them to move out-of-the-way so I could make my way over to where the latest issues were. I have to admit, I loved the feeling that this was going to be the first time I purchased an actual comic book in at least twenty years. A rush of euphoria came over me and I felt kind of, well… nerdy about it!

Sitting there on the rack was the object of my quest: Amazing Spiderman #700. I quickly picked it up and held it in my hands. The number of pages appeared to be less than I remember for a comic book and the artwork had changed quite a bit from the style I was used to from the late 80’s.

And then it happened.

I peered down and noticed that the price of the comic was no longer the dollar I had once enjoyed. In fact, it was far from it. The latest issue of Spiderman was now almost eight dollars!

And that was the moment when “Fiscal Jim” put “Nerdy Jim” in a headlock and made him put the comic back down in the rack. When a comic book costs as much as a Playboy, something is wrong (not that I would know how much a Playboy costs mind you). But you can keep your comics, I’ll just stick with watching the movies.

On my way out of the store, I passed by the gaggle of guys standing around with their comic book bounty again. They were in deep discussion with each other about the conditions required for Bruce Banner to turn into the Incredible Hulk. I laughed to myself because thirty years ago, that was me pondering that same question.

At least some things never change.

Jessica Gahring Is Making Her Mark

Jessica Gahring has unleashed her full potential.

From the moment I first met her, I knew it was only a matter of time before the artist, actress, model and Mom put down the moniker of “Shop Manager” of NY INK, pick up her own tattoo machine and open Ms. Dixie’s Tattoo & Pin Up Parlour in Troy, New York.

With the unique shop layout that reflects the 1950′s and her love of pin-ups, Jessica is about to make her own mark on the business.

Her love of art began at a very young age and was nurtured by family and through education. On the television show, she may have been portrayed as a person with limited experience in the art of tattooing. In reality, quite the opposite is true. Jessica is already gaining notoriety for her work from people all over.

I had the chance to speak with Jessica as she prepares to open the doors to her shop for the very first time. She may have butted heads with Ami James for entertainment purposes, but in “real life” Jessica Gahring is making her dreams come true.

goJimmygo (gJg): Jessica, it’s so great speaking with you. Congratulations!

Jessica Gahring (JG): Thank you! This was definitely a long time coming.

gJg: How are you doing?

JG: I’m doing great. I’m tattooing full-time now, which was a given. I have people who want to travel and come see me!

gJg: Did you always have the dream of opening your own shop?

JG: That was always the plan. Even when I worked with my friend Lydia years ago we almost bought a studio together. It didn’t end up happening at the time, so we decided to wait. I went into banking to get more into the business side of things. I knew I wasn’t going to be there long.

gJg: Why did NY Ink choose not to showcase your talent?

JG:  The producers didn’t think it would make much of story. Even though I was already working with Lydia, they didn’t want to reveal that I had any sort of real background in the industry.

The truth is, we play characters in a “reality-type” show. The public wants confrontation and that’s what sells. But the person they showed in the first season is not who I really am as an individual.

gJg: What makes Ms. Dixie’s different from your typical tattoo shop?

JG: I’ve got a pin-up modeling theme; with a 1950′s, vintage feel to it. It looks like it belongs way back when.  It’s classy and something completely different from all other tattoo parlors. I’ll be tattooing full-time at one of three stations. I never wanted to have a huge studio. I wanted something that felt like home when people walk in and I think I’ve accomplished that. It’s very true to what I imagined it to be. 

gJg: Do you have anyone else helping you in this endeavor?

JG: Yes, my boyfriend Christian is my business partner and he’ll be scheduling and managing appointments for the shop. He’s the one that holds it all together.

gJg: Do you have any other artists lined up to work with you?

JG: I have an amazing artist, Jon Abbott, who will be working with me. He’s a traditional style artist. The third slot I’m going to leave open for guest artists until someone else comes along. I’m not sure what will happen down the road but I am really excited about where I am at right now!

gJg: Where did your love of art begin?

JG: I’ve always loved art even as a child. My Dad painted and drew pictures and even from a young age I was amazed that you could actually look at something and put what you saw down on paper.

I have art awards from elementary school and graduated high-school with a fine arts degree. Even when I went to college; I studied sociology but still took art classes. Art has always been a huge part of my life.

gJg: Where did your interest in tattooing begin?

I grew up in a very conservative family where tattoos were sort of taboo and something that was untouchable. I think because of that, it made me want to understand it more.

During high school and college, I would often design tattoos for other people. To me, tattooing is art on the ultimate canvas: the skin. I think that’s very cool!

gJg: What’s one thing everyone needs to know about getting tattoos?

JG: Be knowledgeable. My first tattoo was a butterfly on my upper back that I got right after high school. Unfortunately, it was done poorly and I ended up covering it up.

Most people between the ages of 18-21 usually either hate their first tattoo or end up covering it, so it’s really important to understand what makes a good tattoo and the health and safety aspects of getting one.

gJg: Which of your tattoos is your favorite?

JG: I really don’t have a personal favorite; all of them mean something to me. I have some that represent my daughter that are very special and the very first tattoo I ever did was on myself, so that has importance as well.

gJg: When is your official grand opening?

JG: We are open for business right now but we’re having our huge grand opening the week of Aug 11th. That’s where we’ll have the ribbon-cutting, balloons and prizes. I will be tattooing two radio DJs live on-air during the Grand Opening week: one from Jamz 96.3 and the other from our local country radio station, 104.9 The Cat.

I also happen to turn thirty on August 12th, so it’s perfect timing.

I figure, if I’m going to do thirty, what better way than by opening a tattoo shop?

For information on Ms Dixies Tattoo Pin-Up Parlour  Click Here

Article first published as Jessica Gahring Is Making Her Mark on Technorati.

New York Groove: My NY Ink Story

The Stencil For My Tattoo

It was a bright sunny day in August. I remember it well because I was in my upstairs bathroom shaking like a leaf. It was around 3 pm and I was getting ready to head over to South Bethlehem for sound check.

It was the summer of 2004 and my band was going to be the opening act for Clay Aiken at Musikfest. On the biggest stage of them all. The fastest sellout in the festival’s history – 6,500 people. We had the greatest female singer ever in our arsenal that got us there. But I was a nervous wreck.

I had dreamed about this forever. Since the first day I picked up my grandmother’s hand held potato slicer and pretended it was a guitar (true story). The callused fingers, the long walks downtown to Ken Brader and Son’s music store for lessons on brutal summer days. The countless number of  hours spent practicing after school.

While other kids went out and played sports or hung with friends I was trying to figure out how Eddie Van Halen got his kung-fu. I even used to write journal entries in high school of what my life was going to be like after I “made it”.

And now here I was, sitting in my bathroom next to the bowl for fear of losing my lunch. I’m still not sure how I held it together.

But somehow my “Rock Star Moment” was here. And I wasn’t about to let it slip away.

Ironically, it was being part of a country band that gave me this opportunity. The last thing you’d probably ever expect from a guy who grew up playing Survivor, Bon Jovi, Ozzy and AC/DC .And yet it was because our singer had won a regional vocal competition that we were invited to be the opening act.

So, a METAL head in a COUNTRY band gets to open for POP star. Musical irony.

Imagine the day in the life of your favorite chart topping artist as they arrive at a venue to perform. That was me that day.

Megan Massacre

All the crew members doing whatever it takes to make you comfortable so you could ready yourself for a night of great music. Ushering you off away from the adoring public. Ok, so this “public” was there to see Clay Aiken but this was my “moment” so I could think what ever I wanted.

Clay had just placed second in season two of American Idol but was almost on the same level as Justin Bieber is today. People were going bonkers for him.

Surreal.

This was the story that I told Megan Massacre as she tattooed me. This was the reason for getting my very first tattoo: to commemorate the day my dream came true.

Although my segment with her never actually aired there is a brief glimpse of Megan tattooing me during a transition between scenes as you can see in the one photo.

Frankly, I’m still wondering if this picture justifies me having my own IMDB listing… I can see it now:

Actor: James Wood:  Appeared in: “NY INK Season 2″… In the role of:  “Arm being tattooed by Megan Massacre“.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about my experience at Wooster Street or the tattoo that Megan did. What’s even better is that I now have a story within a story to tell when people ask me about it.

And I couldn’t ask for anything cooler than that. What do you think?

 

New York Groove (Part 4): Megan Massacre

She’s a model. She’s a DJ. She plays bass guitar. But most of all – Megan Massacre is one really amazing tattoo artist.

I first met Megan one hot summer day last August. I made the pilgrimage to New York with my daughter to visit The Wooster Street Social Club, the tattoo studio where she works. The studio is also the place where the TLC reality based show NY Ink is filmed. You can read about our adventure here. Today’s visit was different though.

Today, Megan was going to give me my very first tattoo and the entire segment was going to be filmed for the second season of NY Ink.

I really loved Megan’s work from the first season. She has such a unique style that was different from most of the other artists I had seen. I mean, tatting a dog dressed as a Victorian Lady or a dude getting hit by a bus is definitely not something you see every day.

Since this was going to be my very first tattoo I wanted it to be special and more than just a “picture” if that makes any sense. So when I gave her the ideas I had for the guitar I wanted I knew she would nail it. And the time was now drawing near.

I was sitting downstairs in a room adjacent to Ami James’ office. Producers and other production type folks all sat nearby with headset communication listening to what was going on upstairs. Finally, I heard one of them say into the microphone “Ok, I’ll send him up”.

And away I went.

Ami and Billy were already in the early stages of their tattoos and I slowly made my way past them to what’s been commonly referred to as “the big comfy couch”.

My View From The Couch

I sat down and peered over to see RoBear helping Megan set up her station. Several members of the film crew were in discussion with each other while others busily adjusted their equipment.

Megan was already well aware that this was going to be my first tattoo and was of significant size but that didn’t stop her from teasing me a bit.

As she was preparing her station with paper towels and ink she’d often look over at me and do her best impression of a nefarious villain by rubbing her hands together and laughing. Sort of saying “There’s no turning back now son… You’re mine!”.  And in some odd way, it was almost comforting.

Finally, it was time and she called me over to her station.

The first thing Megan did after applying the stencil was to make a small line to assess what my tolerance for the needle would be. It felt like a bit of a scratch, no pain. Off we go.

For the next two and a half hours Megan tattooed me as cameras rolled. Until the production crew was ready, telling her my actual “story” was the only thing we couldn’t talk about. Anything else was fine. So it was here where we shared our backgrounds and I got some back stories about her own tattoos. I also found out that much like me, she also grew up in Pennsylvania and has a fascination for not only art but musical performance as well.

Eventually, the production crew came over and began filming me telling Megan my story and reason for getting the tattoo. I think this was where I was most nervous. Its hard to try and tell a story and use coherent sentences when people are holding monstrous camera equipment and lights three feet away from you.

At times I have to admit that the tattoo process itself did hurt a little bit but there was no way I was going to cry in front of Megan. Ok, it didn’t hurt THAT much but it did make me wonder how people deal with the pain of getting tattooed in more sensitive areas.

At one point Ami, Billy and Jessica all came over off-camera to take a peek at the tattoo Megan was doing on me. Seeing these other great artists taking an interest in my piece was very cool and during the actual “reveal” only one word came to everyone’s lips: BAD-ASS. Exactly what I wanted it to be.

People have asked me over and over what Megan is really like in person and the one word that immediately comes to mind is “sweetheart”. She is lady-like and bad ass all rolled into one. A person dedicated to her craft.

In fact, in all the time it took her to do my tattoo she didn’t take one break. Well, unless of course you count the time she went over to check out the tattoo Billy was having a problem with. (Side note: It was episode three of season two. When you see Megan come up to see how Billy is doing on his “first” big tattoo, she was actually tattooing me at the time but my segment never aired).

Also, when you see her talking about her affection for RoBear that’s also genuine. RoBear was like her guardian. He helped set up her station and brought her over snacks and drinks while she was tattooing me. I suspect that if I would have gotten out of line with Meg I would have been on the receiving end of the big guy’s boot.

She likes to text

The whole experience from start to finish was surreal. Although I was a bit disheartened my segment didn’t air I can’t say enough good things about it.

I mean, how may people can say they got their first tattoo by Megan Massacre with a film crew watching and being interviewed about it?

So by now you may be wondering what my story was and even more importantly, want to see the tattoo that Megan did. All will be revealed in the finale which is next.

Next: The Story and The Reveal

New York Groove (Part 3): The Tattoo Pre-Production

Butterflies began to fill my stomach as I ascended the elevator to the eleventh floor of the make shift studio for NY Ink. The genesis of my excitement had been building since my arrival in New York and subsequent trip downtown via the subway line, but now the reality of the whole event was starting to take shape. It was only a matter of hours now before I’d be getting tattooed in front of the camera by Megan Massacre.

As the elevator floor indicator lights reached higher and higher numbers I imagined the door opening and me being greeted by flashing cameras and paparazzi. Perhaps the catering service asking me what my lunch requirements would be or maybe some early autograph seekers.

I could picture myself wearing Ray Bans and giving half-hearted smiles to my adoring public. “Are you THE James Wood?”, one beautiful blonde female would say. “The one telling his rock and roll story and getting a killer tattoo on NY Ink?”. I’d slowly remove the Ray Bans revealing my deep blue eyes and reply, “Why YES…that’s ME!”

Reality struck fast and my celebrity euphoria got sucked out of the room like a vacuum when the elevator door opened to reveal nothing but an empty vestibule. Only a few chirping crickets would have made the moment more complete.

A simple table with a telephone sat in between two leather chairs against the wall and I chuckled a bit thinking that there would be no h’orderves or goody bag containing high-end skin-care products for me. Sadly, the only thing that rested upon the table was a single clip board containing a sign-in sheet along with a note informing clients for “NY Ink” to dial an extension upon arrival to alert the associate producer.

After signing the sheet and leaving a message with the operator as to my arrival I settled down on the nice comfy chair and noticed that a few more clients were already starting to arrive. More people to tell their story and get tattoos.

During the next few hours I met two really cool people, each with multiple tattoos already and having their own stories to tell as to why they had chosen a particular piece for the show.

Now me, being a virgin of skin-art, eagerly listened to their tales of family, hard luck, and the needle and ink process. The butterflies that I had originally felt quickly subsided as I now found myself more concerned what the threshold of pain would be like for me when needle met skin.

“It feels like an annoying scrape”, one would say. “Nah, it’s more like a stab”, said the other. Looking back, it was hard to tell if they were being honest or just trying to scare me.

Me and Jessica Gahring

It wasn’t long before the associate producer sat us all down and explained the details of what was going to happen during the course of the day.

She would escort us over to the Wooster Street Social Club and upon our arrival we would each do a pre-interview.

Afterwards, crews would begin the process of filming us getting tattooed and telling our stories. The entire process was going to be an all day affair and there would include a lot of waiting.

Bring it on.

“Is everyone ready?” she asked and the three of us all quickly rose in unison. “Onward to Wooster Street”.

As we made our way down the elevator and out onto 6th Avenue the excitement of memorializing everything music has meant to me really started to build. Deep inside though I couldn’t stop thinking about the needle.

If anything, there definitely was no turning back now.

Next: Megan Massacre