(This is the second of a two-part interview with Donna Loren, who was a regular on "Shindig" and also appeared on "Batman," "The Monkees" and in the "Beach Party" movies. The first part of the interview is here.)
Donna Loren says "Shindig" producer Jack Good “was the heart and soul of the show.” She said he was very respectful to her as a person and a performer and “knew his music and loved his music.” She was in contact with him as recently as last year.
“He is such a special, special being,” and that he's a integral part of the autobiography she's now working to get published. The book will also include many unpublished photos, many from “Shindig.”
“Shindig” is one TV series that has yet to be issued on DVD. She says the series tapes are sitting in a vault at ABC. “No one has stepped up to the plate yet.”
She said one of her memories of the show was watching Jerry Lee Lewis. “I was close enough to the piano and his knuckles were bleeding from rubbing his hand up and down the keyboard. And the piano was white and he was wearing white. Then he climbed up on top of the piano and that's one of the photographs I have.”
She also remembered a story about Ray Charles. “Billy Preston and Bill Medley were rehearsing a song. I was listening to them. I saw Ray Charles sitting out in the audience. And he had two bodyguards with him. And Bill Medley gets up and goes to the edge of the stage and he says, 'Ray, come up here, we have something to show you.' And Ray couldn't stand up by himself. So these bodyguards strong-armed him and dragged him up to the stage. And I'd never seen anything like that. They got him up onto the stage and he sat down at the piano and he totally took possession and control of his body at that point. And the bodyguards left, and Billy Preston gets on the organ and Bill Medley starts singing, 'Georgia On My Mind.' That was a moment.”
Loren says that despite working closely with all the famous people who were on the show, her contact with them was limited because of her contract with Dr. Pepper.
“To tell you the truth, I was the youngest one on the set. And my relationship with my career deemed I was representing Dr. Pepper. And I signed a seven-year contract with them to do all their commercials and represent them. And so that was my first loyalty. I had to abide by a certain kind of ethic, and if I ever swayed from that, I would have my dad nearby to remind me, and he was pretty much glued to my hip, which really prevented me from doing too much socializing. Everything that I witnessed was a little bit afar.”
Even all these years later, she still speaks proudly about “Shindig” and how much better it was than its competition on NBC, “Hullaballoo.”
“You know, 'Shindig' came first. And so there was a certain rawness and a certain authenticity that I felt 'Hullaballoo' lacked. It was a little bit more polished. And the format was a little bit of a ripoff, I would say. But that was East Coast and we were West Coast. I was never invited to be on 'Hullaballoo.' I was a 'Shindig' girl. I just thought that 'Shindig' was the real deal.” She says, however, someone is looking at doing a Broadway play based on “Hullaballoo” and has been in touch with her.
“Davy and I, we had the chemistry. He and I had these scenes together because that's the role I played. I really didn't get to know the other guys. But Davy and I had a little thing,” she said. “He was cute, very cute, and very charming. And again, I think, getting back to Jimmy O'Neill, Davy had the same kind of heartfelt feeling for people. And that's why everyone loves him so much, loves both of them.”
She was also on “Batman.” “I was on an episode with Cesar Romero, who played the Joker. And I played a dual character. I played Suzy the Cheerleader, who was the good girl, and then I was the nemesis with the Joker. I ended up being the bad girl-turned-good at the end. My experience was quite incredible. 'Shindig' has just been canceled and was literally replaced by 'Batman.' So I went from one job right into another.”
Asked if she had any idea on whether the “Batman” series might be coming to DVD, she said a recent estate settlement could pave the way for it. “Just through the grapevine, knowing the case was settled. I would assume that once they get all the logistics straight, they're going to do something.”
Loren has not retired. She has released music as recently as 2010, an EP, “Donna Does Elvis in Hawaii,” a tribute to Elvis Presley. On the EP, she did “Merry Christmas, Baby,” which she has released annually. “But I had no idea Rod Stewart was going to make a big deal of it.” Her recordings are available through her website Donna Loren.net.
She said she and Dick Dale, now 75, who she sang “Muscle Bustle” with onscreen, recently reunited on stage.
“Amazing guy,” she said. “He still wails on that guitar.”
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