Music Video Kids Reflect on Appearances in Iconic Clips: ‘It Was Pure Luck’
We caught up with actors from classic Twisted Sister, Blind Melon, Soundgarden videos to hear how those gigs changed their lives
Before MTV would be rendered extraneous, record labels would fork over millions for bands and artists to produce memorable music videos that helped build anticipation for an album’s release and propel its sales. The music video became an invaluable promotional tool, and over time, as directors continued to push the limits of what was possible in three to five minutes, the medium evolved into something of its own art form.
Today, music videos are largely a lost art, with more skin than substance — more elaborate dance numbers than elaborate storylines. Some of the most memorable videos during the height of the MTV era featured children, and we wanted to know where they are now. SPIN tracked down some of our favorites to see what they’ve been up to since making their marks in some extremely memorable music videos.
Known for: Playing Michael Anthony Jr. in Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” video (1984)
Two years after playing Grover Dill in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story and a year before handling all of the voice-over dialogue for the paperboy in Better Off Dead, Yano Anaya — at the time, a 13-year-old Van Halen fan — was called in to audition for the role of a younger Michael Anthony in the iconic “Hot for Teacher” music video. Needless to say, Anaya was psyched to learn three days after the audition that he had landed the part.
“It was a blast,” Anaya, now 48, tells SPIN. “Van Halen were the hottest fucking garage band on the planet and for four days in a row, I was able to hang out with them. It was awesome, it really was.”
While he didn’t really bond with the other actors who portrayed the rest of mini Van Halen in the video, Anaya — who runs a Facebook page for fans of A Christmas Story — did bond a bit with the Van Halen brothers.
“I will always remember the kindheartedness of Eddie, Alex, and Michael,” he says. “Not so much David, because he was in his own world. But because they were one of my favorite bands, the very first day on set, I said to my mom, ‘I need to meet them. I can’t just sit in my trailer and they’re sitting in their trailer. I wanna hang out with them.’ I found the trailer and knocked on the door, and Alex opened the door.”
After introducing himself, the drummer invited the young actor in. “This trailer was a fucking mess because there was food and alcohol everywhere and they’re having a blast and doing whatever. Alex was so kid-friendly that he wanted to play some drinking games with me. He had me grab some beers from the back — tall cans of Schlitz malt liquor — and goes, ‘I’m putting $100 on the table. Whoever can drink their beer the fastest gets it?’ I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go.’”
The teen downed his beer, but not faster than Alex finished his. While Anaya didn’t walk away $100 richer, he did have a nice buzz. “Most people don’t know this, but that scene where we’re let out of school, and we’re walking down the steps to that hot rod with David Lee Roth … I probably would have blown a 1.8.”
Before the final day of shooting, Yano — a fitness and wellness expert, forced to close down his Georgia gym because of COVID-19 — even asked a favor of Eddie Van Halen. “I was like, ‘Can you please play ‘Eruption’ for me?’ And he’s like, ‘Sure, man,’” Yano recalls. “He goes in the back, pulled out his guitar, plugged it into a little baby amp, and dude, I’m literally sitting two, three feet away from him, and he plays ‘Eruption’ right in front of me. Here I am, in the midst of one of the greatest guitar players ever, Eddie Van Halen, and he’s playing me ‘Eruption.’ It was insane.”
Known for: His starring role in Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984)
It’s been more than 35 years since the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video was shot in Los Angeles and Dax Callner can still remember Mark Metcalf’s spittle hitting his 12-year-old cheeks as the Animal House actor mercilessly hollered at him like a repressed drill sergeant. “I guess that’s how you get that realism: you actually have the guy scream at you. Now, when I look at the video, it’s not like it was some spectacular acting on my part. I just was, like, dead — looking at him with dead eyes. And that’s all it took.”
While his father, Marty, was the video’s director, and Callner lacked acting experience, he insists his casting “wasn’t pure nepotism.” Callner auditioned, going up against the other boys seen in the video — and landed the lead thanks to his rock ‘n’ roll attitude.
“My dad bought me this guitar and I had grown up around music, so, I kind of knew the moves,” says Callner, 49, who lives in the United Kingdom with his wife and two daughters. “When we all auditioned for the main part, they gave us a guitar and we had to act like rock stars. I was the only one who could pull it off and do windmills and shit.”
Callner — the singer/guitarist in Super Jelly and has his own electronic side project dubbed DaxC— started getting recognized on the street once the video began airing in summer 1983. “I was signing autographs,” he recalls. “It was just ridiculous.”
Then, that fall, Callner started at a new school in New York. “In seventh grade, I was rejected by my school in California,” he confides. “I got beat up and bullied — it sucked. But in eighth grade, I go to this new school — and this is before social media, obviously — but, within an hour of getting to the first class, somebody asked me, ‘Are you that kid?’ And within 15 minutes of that conversation, the whole school knew about it, and I was this popular kid.” The shift gave him a profound perspective: “There was no reason for me to be considered a loser, and there was also no reason for me to be popular because I was the same idiot kid.”
Callner, who works as the strategy director for a creative agency, doesn’t flaunt the fact that he was in a Twisted Sister music video — unless he’s got the right audience. “I’ll bring it up with people in their 40s because I know it’s going to blow their fucking minds because they grew up with the video,” he says. “My wife? She truly does not give a shit. It has no meaning to her, whatsoever.”
Callner says he and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider bonded before and after the video shoot and remain friends to this day.
“He was staying at my house, working on the video with my dad. One night, we’re driving down Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles, in my dad’s wife’s Volkswagen, and he says, ‘I want you to know you don’t ever have to do drugs.’ He said, ‘You’re gonna get a lot of pressure, but you can just ignore all that shit. And you’re gonna find that you’re clearheaded, you get ahead … just know you don’t have to succumb to that stuff.’ I’m taking that in when he goes, ‘Do you like coffee?’ I told him, ‘I hate coffee.’ He goes, ‘I’m gonna make it you so you like it.’ We go to 7-11, and he fills the cup up about three quarters, then puts half-and-half in the rest with about 4 tablespoons of sugar. He hands it to me, and it’s fucking delicious. In one day, he convinced me to never do drugs, which I’ve never done and got me hooked on coffee. I started drinking coffee on that day.”
Known for: His role in Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” video (1986)
In the mid-’80s, child model Felix Howard became the envy of all teenage boys when Madonna’s clip for “Open Your Heart” first hit MTV’s airwaves. Toward the end of the video, the Material Girl plants a kiss on his lips, and next thing you know, the two are dancing together on some random sidewalk. “We met at a fashion show in London, and we got on very well,” Howard, now 47, says. “She likes people who challenge her, and I was very young, and I immediately gave her a hard time, which I think she found really funny because I was 12. It was fun getting to know her. She’s a fascinating woman – brilliant, incredibly inspiring, and very funny.”
All these years later, Howard is a bona fide music business veteran. After years of producing, managing, and developing different artists, he was recently named the director of A&R at BMG’s London office. In addition, he’s also enjoyed considerable success as a songwriter himself, having collaborated over the years with Sia, Kylie Minogue and the late Amy Winehouse on different tracks. So, for him, “the Madonna thing is fading into a dot in my rearview mirror, in terms of my life. It used to be a big part of my past, and now, it feels like something that happened 33 years ago.”
Howard and his mother were in Los Angeles for two weeks. “I got to meet lots of people, and live a different life for two weeks, and I went back to school, and there was a big fuss and then the big fuss was over, and we all got on with our lives,” he says. “When you do stuff, you don’t know, I guess, how big or small or otherwise it’s going to be. So, you just do it and it’s fun and you think, ‘Well, that was a laugh.’”
Howard does acknowledge the video did impact his life in a positive manner. “No one had ever had a video that big before, so it was pretty wild,” he says. “It definitely changed everything and not much at all. I was still going to school, I was still a normal kid, I just had this thing happen to me. And this was pre-YouTube and pre-being able to retrieve the history of the planet on your mobile device, so it was quite fascinating because it came and went, actually. At the time, it was a big deal, but then, it wasn’t.”
Known for: Bringing the Bee Girl to life in Blind Melon’s video for “No Rain” (1992)
Heather DeLoach almost didn’t make it to the audition that would end up changing her life forever. “We circled the block several times, but my mom couldn’t find the place,” she remembers. “The door was unmarked, so by the time we found it, I was late.”
The 10-year-old girl — a child actor since age 5 — waited for her turn to see the casting agents. Dressed in shorts, a leotard, and dance shoes, she was instructed to tap dance for a bit before heading offstage, crying. DeLoach did (“I don’t know how to tap, but I suppose being bad in this case was a good thing”), and days later, her agent called her mother with the good news.
DeLoach, now 37, had no idea she was about to become a 1990s icon: The Bee Girl. But it was DeLoach’s resemblance to Blind Melon drummer Glen Graham’s sister (who graces the cover of the band’s debut) that likely got her the gig, she says. “It was an old family photo, so, at the time the video was made, she was in her 20s, so they needed a look-a-like,” she explains. “It was pure luck, and I didn’t have any clue what it would turn into for my life.”
The two-day shoot for “No Rain” began just days after the Los Angeles riots. The street scenes were shot first, and then, the field scenes at a ranch outside the recovering city.
“I got to meet them that second day, and I’m a kid, so I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is so cool —there are other people dressed as bees,’ and I got to run around, and I got to watch them play,” DeLoach recalls. “I’m really fortunate that I do remember a lot about that day and experience.”
She says her life actually changed overnight. The video was an instant hit with viewers, and she was getting invited to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the MTV Video Music Awards. “The image of the ‘Bee Girl,’ along with the album, kind of took flight,” she says. “I was helping to promote them and the album, and literally just living the dream.”
Hoon’s death in 1995 left DeLoach devastated. “I was watching MTV News, and right as I heard it, my mom ran into my room,” she says. “I was 13, maybe 14. This was somebody who, with the band, totally changed my life, so, I was more blown away and in complete shock that he was gone.”
After “No Rain,” DeLoach spent years acting, landing roles on shows like ER and Reno 911!, and in films including Balls of Fury, A Little Princess, and Anywhere But Here. However, these days, the Bee Girl’s taken on a new role: Bee Mom. DeLoach and her husband had a baby girl in 2019, and she’s due to deliver a son in March. “I had an amazing childhood, and this gave me so many amazing experiences,” she says. “I will put that costume on until I’m 90. When I put that costume on, I am honoring something so amazing, for me. The Bee Girl is part of me.”
Melia Basso Rios-Lazo
Known for: Her appearance in Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” (1994)
Before being cast as “Jump Rope Girl” in the disturbingly entertaining video for “Black Hole Sun,” beating out hundreds of other girls who’d auditioned for the part, Melia Basso Rios-Lazo had never even heard of Soundgarden. “I hadn’t really listened to that type of music, so I was totally blindsided,” Rios-Lazo says. “I had no idea it would be, like, the video of the year or that people would recognize me.”
Rios-Lazo, 42, was 15 when the video was shot. She “had braces and big, ‘fro hair,” she explains — just the kind of awkward the casting agents were apparently looking for. “It’s just a weird video,” she says. “I guess I was on Beavis and Butt-Head, which I guess was cool. I never watched it, but apparently, I was made fun of. Now, when people learn I was ‘the Jump Rope Girl,’ they immediately remember, which is kind of ironic. It just goes to show you the power of that music video, that people remember it.”
The shoot took place over two days, and at one point, Soundgarden was present as the cameras were rolling. She wasn’t introduced to them, so, it wasn’t until she saw the finished video that she realized those guys who’d visited the set were actually the band’s members. “It was a fun time,” Rios-Lazo says. “It’s kind of fun to leave your mark on something that was so popular. But also, it showed me that I didn’t want to get into the industry. It totally killed the acting bug for me.”
Today, Rios-Lazo is living in Arizona with her husband and five children. An entrepreneur with multiple businesses, Rios-Lazo’s latest venture is a timely one — a Christmas Advent Card kit for families.
Known for: Her role in the video for Pink’s “Family Portrait” (2002)
Kelsey Lewis was just seven when she appeared alongside Pink in the music video for “Family Portrait.” The filming over two days “was an absolute blast,” Lewis, now 25, says. “I love Pink. She is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. She’s funny and really just the perfect person to have as someone to look up to, because she’s strong and independent.”
She worked closely with the pop star. “She told me what the song was about so that I could relate to it more while acting through the music video. At the end of the shoot, she gave me this big bag that was the size of my body, and it was full of toys that were all the color pink.”
Her touching performance would lead to even more acting roles. In 2004, Lewis was cast alongside AnnaSophia Robb in the made-for-TV film An American Girl Holiday, and later, she landed roles on Cold Case, Gilmore Girls, and Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!
Lewis acted through college, but things have slowed down. Her most recent role was in the Eric Stolz-directed Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk in 2017. That same year, the country music fan and line dancing enthusiast walked away from the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas unscathed. It would be the first of two times she’d survive such an ordeal: More than a year later, she was DJing at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, when a 28-year-old man with a gun killed 11 and injured 16 before ending his own life.
“I either have really good luck or really bad luck,” Lewis says. “I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason, and that life puts you through these trials and tribulations to test you and to help you grow, and that life isn’t going to put you through things you couldn’t handle. I feel I was meant to go through the things that I have because I am strong enough to endure them and I can help other people after.”
Jumaane Ford, Jr.
Known for: Portraying a young Lupe Fiasco in Child Rebel Soldier’s “Us Placers” (2007)
He was cast as a young Pharrell Williams, but when it came time to film “Us Placers,” Jumaane Ford, Jr., learned he’d been recast as Lupe Fiasco. “That was a weird switch,” Ford remembers. “We shot it in a day in Tribeca, and we had a big continental breakfast, which I thought was pretty official.”
Ford, now 24, was 10 when he landed the gig and the breakfast they had that morning wasn’t the only thing that left an impression on him. “They had this, like, gorgeous model come in and give me a kiss, and I was a little deviant back then,” he says. “Funny enough, I couldn’t see through those glasses; they weren’t mine. The director’s like, ‘Jumaane, you need to smile,’ so, this stunning model kisses me on the forehead, but I didn’t smile — on purpose. I think we ended up doing 10 takes.”
After the shoot, Ford, who also appeared in the 2012 film Bullets Over Brownsville, started getting recognized on the streets of Park Slope, and everyone in school knew his name. In high school, Ford was a standout football player, earning a full ride to Williams College in Massachusetts.
These days, he’s focusing on his music. “I play guitar, and music has always been a part of my life,” says Ford, who releases singles under the moniker D.Voiid. “I’ve been producing since high school, and started creating my own music, and blending genres.” He describes his sound as a mix of “indie sort of shoegaze to Juicy J/down south trap,” adding, “To find a happy medium with those two genres was the gift that I didn’t really expect from all of it. When you make something and it moves you, that’s a gift in itself and seems like a surefire sign that you have something valuable — that you should be sharing with other people.”