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HomePuppetSesame Avenue's Punk Rock Teen Speaks: An Interview with Danielle Striker

Sesame Avenue's Punk Rock Teen Speaks: An Interview with Danielle Striker

Not way back on this very web site, I printed an article a few human character who was seen on Sesame Avenue precisely one time and by no means once more. I had discovered a newspaper article from 1987 wherein producers described the character as a “punk rock teen,” and revealed that they'd determined the character was too edgy for Sesame Avenue. In the event you haven’t learn the article I wrote on the topic, you possibly can learn it by clicking proper right here.

After I shared the hyperlink on the Robust Pigs Fb web page, a reader named Michael Engel instructed within the feedback that we should always comply with up by talking with the actor who performed Tanya, the aforementioned punk rock teen. It was an fascinating concept. So I did it!

That actor’s identify is Danielle Striker, and he or she generously agreed to share her story with Robust Pigs. As you’ll see, the story options some surprising twists and turns, and consists of a powerful profession as a poker skilled and founding father of the corporate Poker Samadhi. I talked to Striker and her Poker Samadhi colleague Susan Kennedy over Zoom.

And now, Danielle picks up her story from the start!

Danielle Striker: It’s so humorous since you’re going again fairly a while right here. That is 1986! And I had a really fascinating life after February 1986. June was very troublesome… It was a cataclysmic occasion which I’ll let you know about.

I’ll offer you as a lot as I keep in mind. I need to say it was late 1985. I had been on Broadway with Anthony Quinn in Zorba in 1982 and 1983, and previous to that I used to be in a nationwide tour of a present known as They’re Taking part in Our Music. I used to be a Broadway performer, a triple risk: dancer, singer, actress. That was actually my chosen career.

My agent on the time, who was Barbara Andreadis – I can’t even imagine I do not forget that – she stated, “You’re not going to imagine this, however we obtained a submission for a ‘punk rocker teen’ for Sesame Avenue.” And I stated, “Sesame Avenue? Sesame Avenue, like Sesame Avenue the present?!”

I knew Madonna again within the day as a result of Madonna and I had taken lessons collectively.

Robust Pigs: Oh, wow!

DS: Yeah, we had taken dance lessons collectively. It’s a really, very small world. I didn’t know her very properly, however I did take dance lessons together with her. She was simply getting actually large – she’d performed “Vacation” and launched her first album, and I feel “Like a Virgin” had simply come out. So everybody was carrying quick hair and black rubber bracelets – and actually, she wasn’t a punk rocker, however she was stirring it up.

TP: Proper, and possibly to the “normies” that will have seemed to be what they'd contemplate punk rockers.

DS: Precisely! So somebody writing at Sesame Avenue thought this could be an excellent character to have, and I used to be hell bent on getting this position. It was imagined to be, if it labored out, a recurring position. That’s what I keep in mind.

TP: That’s one thing I used to be going to ask about. That’s fascinating.

DS: Yeah! I used to be actually excited, so I went to a dressing up retailer and I obtained this large, black, spike-haired wig, and all these punked-out ripped t-shirts. The auditions had been on Broadway at 67th or 68th the place [Children’s Television Workshop corporate offices] was positioned. I had black boots, these large Doc Martens, they'd simply come out. I used to be excessive. And I actually drove my bike to the audition! For some purpose I believed they'd see me, however after all they didn’t see my bike. However I got here in with my helmet, completely punked out, and I used to be excessive, and once I walked in, they only went, “Oh my God, you’re it.”

It was nice. They gave me the script; I learn it. They stated, “Don’t change something; we find it irresistible, we love you.” It was a type of form of excellent auditions. In fact, being in present enterprise you go, “Yeah yeah, I did my finest.”

I left. I known as my agent and stated, “I don’t understand how I did.” And she or he stated, “I already obtained a name!” Earlier than I even known as her! As a result of again then we didn’t have cell telephones, so I obtained on my bike, drove to my condominium, took every part off, after which I known as her and my agent stated, “I already heard. They need you.”

TP: So that you don’t even know what number of different individuals they may have introduced in, or should you had been the one one.

DS: I feel I used to be one of many final individuals, so I don’t know what number of.

TP: So, you bought the punk look they had been going for, clearly.

DS: It was simply so my deal, so my jam. I simply went in as this character, and so they had been like, “Oh my God, that is simply too nice.” They wound up calling my agent, and it’s humorous as a result of Susie [Kennedy, Danielle’s Poker Samadhi colleague] was asking me how a lot I used to be paid… I have no idea, however I keep in mind getting residuals. I feel I obtained like a thousand {dollars}, or twelve hundred {dollars}? It was very minimal. However I might get these ten-dollar checks for like ten years afterwards.

TP: Proper, that’s the time when Sesame Avenue would air these segments over and over. Most likely the “Grouch Women” tune was recycled time and again for years after that.

DS: Yeah! So, my agent calls, I get the contract, I signal it, and so they say, “Okay, you’re gonna movie!” I used to be so excited. “I’m gonna go to Jim Henson’s Muppet studio!”

TP: Had you grown up watching the present?

DS: No, I used to be 25 once I obtained that position, so…

TP: So, you had been a little bit previous for it when it was on.

DS: I used to be well past that, yeah. I keep in mind The Electrical Firm, and (sings) “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom-a Zoom!” That was a little bit extra my period.

So anyway, I take my bike, and – that was the previous Dick Cavett studio, I feel.

TP: Yeah, from what I’ve learn, they had been taping on the former Dick Cavett Present studio.

DS: Yep. So, you park on 54th Avenue or one thing, I went in, it was early within the morning… and I walked in and it was like magic. You actually stroll in from the road — and any person escorted me down a couple of steps — and there you might be! You’re within the land of Sesame Avenue! Have you ever been?

TP: Yeah! I’ve been to the present set, and it’s a fairly surreal expertise to be strolling down a hallway with fluorescent lighting and linoleum tiles, and then you definately open a door and there’s Hooper’s Retailer proper in entrance of you.

DS: And there it's! The funniest factor is, I keep in mind strolling in… and Huge Hen walks proper by me! It was freezing in there, and I’m like “Oh my god, there’s Huge Hen!” The unique man! He takes off [the top half of the Big Bird puppet], and he’s like, “Hello, I’m [Caroll Spinney] and I play Huge Hen!” Very nice man. Tremendous good man.

I stated, “It’s good to fulfill you,” and he stated, “Properly, what are you doing right here at present?” and I stated, “I’m taking part in the punk rocker.” They stated, “That you must get to make-up,” in order that they took me, and the gal who performs Micki got here out and he or she’s like, “Hey, you need to run some traces?” I hadn’t even seen the script. You bought it that very same day, and it’s an all-day factor. You’re there from, like, seven within the morning to seven at night time. They do the entire thing in a single shot.

TP: Had been they solely capturing your episode that day?

DS: Sure.

TP: Okay, ‘trigger I do know they had been doing one thing like 130 episodes per season in these days.

DS: It was nuts.

TP: But it surely was simply your episode that day.

DS: I’m fairly certain it was solely my episode. They may have performed one thing behind me, however I’m undecided.

Anyway, you get there and all people’s so good, and “You need one thing to drink?” and so they have all of the meals and the break room. You go to make-up, which is one room – they do make-up, they do the hair. They go, “What do you need to do costume-wise?” and I went and picked out all my costumes. They’re like, “You simply select no matter you need, what you are feeling like is you.” They’re very artistic and open. So, I decide what I would like, and so they sprayed my hair and did my make-up.

Then I’m strolling out and so they go, “Do you need to go to the Muppet room?” Oh my god, of course. Have you ever been to this room?

TP: You imply the room the place the puppets are?

DS: The place the heads are! The place all of the Muppets are! Oh my god, it’s so cool! You stroll in and there they're – it’s Elmo, and Snuffleupagus – that factor’s enormous. And all these little heads simply sitting there on a chunk of wooden!

TP: Had been they conserving Snuffleupagus hung up from the ceiling at the moment?

DS: Sure. He was hung up from the ceiling. ‘Trigger he’s so large! And Huge Hen – that man was already strolling round, working towards his traces and doing Huge Hen. I used to be simply in awe of all these Muppets.

DS: Then I feel we did the Elmo scene first. The man who performed Elmo was, if I keep in mind, an African-American gentleman.

TP: Kevin Conflict.

DS: That’s proper. He was so good, and it’s so nice how they do that, as a result of they sit on the ground – we had been at a desk. He was like, (deep voice) “Hello, I’m [Kevin] and I’m taking part in Elmo,” after which it’s (excessive, squeaky voice), “HI, I’M ELMO!” Like, wow! What a spread!

We did all our traces, all our rehearsing, after which they had been like, “You able to shoot?” and I feel we possibly did three or 4 takes, and it was such a cute script. I keep in mind there was a phrase that repeated…

TP: Yeah, the episode information on Muppet Wiki says Tanya and Micki train Elmo the that means of the phrase “unique.”

DS: “Authentic! Authentic unique unique unique!” Sure, that was it! He was like “What’s unique?” after which I clarify what it's. I don’t even keep in mind my traces anymore, however Elmo goes “Authentic! Authentic! Authentic!” and Micki and I are like “Yeah, okay, Elmo…” We did that scene, and that was a extremely quick scene, and that went properly.

DS: Getting the Grouch Women, that was a giant deal, as a result of they practiced and practiced on a loop, as a result of that wasn’t performed dwell, clearly.

TP: They had been lip-synching.

DS: They had been lip-synching, proper. They've the recording and also you hear it within the background like forty occasions earlier than you ever get to movie it. (singing) “Grouch Women don’t wanna have enjoyable!” And Cyndi Lauper was enormous right now. She was thought of a punk rocker.

Then we practiced all our traces with the Grouch Women, and I feel there have been two individuals behind the Grouch Women. There’s three Grouch Women, however I feel there have been solely two Muppeteers.

TP: So there might need been one puppeteer doing two of them on the identical time?

DS: Two of them on one. We’re doing our traces, and in the course of this factor, I can’t keep in mind Micki’s identify. In the event you discover, once I’m speaking to her I'm going, “Come on… (pause) … Micki!”

TP: I wasn’t going point out that, but it surely does appear like there’s a little bit hesitation! However I truly love that stuff, watching previous Sesame Avenue the place they'd simply form of let that stuff go. It feels very natural.

DS: (laughing) Oh, it was horrifying! After I noticed it, I'm going, “No, you must have edited!” However once more, we solely did two or three takes. They’re nice; they've multi-cameras and it’s only a nice group of individuals. It was actually enjoyable. They only allow you to do no matter you need – “Simply dance and have enjoyable!” It was simply (singing) “Grouch Women don’t wanna have enjoyable!”

We did that, and I had a pleasant dialog with the man that performs Huge Hen. He was nice. Tremendous-nice man.

TP: Was there any studying curve of the entire “Take a look at the puppet, don’t look down on the puppeteer” factor with Elmo or the Grouch Women?

DS: Sure, they let you know to take a look at the puppets. To look over the puppet, truly. You don’t need to upstage them both, and also you don’t need to look backward. You’re on an angle and also you’re probably not them but it surely appears like you might be.

TP: The digital camera makes it appear like you’re making eye contact.

DS: Proper. They need you to look over them so that you’re probably not them. It’s humorous; you notice there’s any person down there so that you form of need to go like this (glances down), however they train you not to do this.

So, you’re there for the entire day and the day flies by, and earlier than you realize it, it’s 6:30 and so they’re like, “Okay, that’s a wrap!” They usually cherished it. The shoot comes out, and the producers are nice. They name my agent. They love me: “Oh, we expect that is gonna be a recurring position. It’s so cute! All people laughed! Blah blah blah blah blah.”

Now the factor comes out in February. I did see it – I’ve seen this “unique unique unique” factor as soon as.

TP: The model that aired on TV, within the episode?

DS: The model that aired on TV, [episode] 2155. It goes off, and my agent’s so excited: “We’re gonna get you a recurring position! We’re gonna get you again!” Again then they had been paying actually good cash to be a recurring position.

TP: Good! Did you get to fulfill any of the opposite human forged members, or was it simply Micki on the set that day? Or did you meet any of those actors who performed Susan or Gordon or Maria or Bob…?

DS: I did… I imagine I met Bob, and I feel Maria was there however I didn’t truly meet her that day.

Anyway, the factor airs, and everybody’s ecstatic. Then we hear “some girl,” who I didn’t know on the time, known as up and was simply… past… that this “punk rock” character was going to affect the youngsters, and be such a nasty affect. I used to be mortified. I used to be like “Are you severe?” Barbara says, “They’re not gonna make you an everyday, however they’re gonna preserve Micki.” Okay. Life goes on.

TP: It’s so humorous… I don’t know should you noticed the newspaper article that I wrote about, however I suppose possibly in 1986, to the pinnacle of Youngsters’s Tv Workshop, possibly that character appears excessive. However if you truly have a look at it, it’s so innocuous.

DS: No tattoos… Look what we've got now! However it's a must to notice, it’s 1986. Madonna was on the scene and he or she was making all types of waves. I can’t keep in mind if “Like a Virgin” was out but or not, but it surely was beginning to make rumbles. We had CBGB’s in New York, which was enormous. Cyndi Lauper was already urgent the sting, and MTV was enormous and creating quite a lot of uproar with The Conflict… This was a very long time in the past, however this was a giant deal!

I feel Sesame Avenue was like “We’re actually pushing the envelope going this route, so we’re simply gonna maintain off.” Then my character was by no means renewed and I by no means obtained to return.

Consequently, I used to be in an enormous bike accident 4 months later in June.

TP: Oh no!

DS: Yeah. I wound up in a wheelchair for nearly three years and my whole Broadway dance profession was over. So, 1986 was a loopy 12 months.

TP: Wow, yeah. Speak about highs and lows in a single 12 months.

DS: Proper. That was actually the top of my profession. I had a extremely nice run, so I can’t complain. I had additionally performed [the Broadway musical] Child. I performed the Liz Callaway position within the nationwide tour. However that was form of the top of my profession. It was actually robust to bounce again – I used to be two and a half years in a wheelchair, and I by no means actually did come again from that.

Susan Kennedy: That was one profession. Then you definitely had one other profession!

TP: Yeah! So that you then transitioned into the poker world?

DS: No, you realize what occurred was, after that I used to be very fortunate as a result of I went and labored for Meg Simon. She was a casting director and I labored for her for a short while, however I knew I couldn’t be in casting. Whereas I used to be in my wheelchair days, I had gotten a pc, and I wound up falling in love with the pc. I began engaged on computer systems and I ended up having a twenty-plus 12 months profession in know-how. I’ve been in plenty of startups and I’ve been wildly profitable.

My husband knew Susan and her husband Kirk very properly and all of us grew to become very shut mates, and Susan has been a world-class advertising and marketing govt for years in know-how. She was working at one firm at one level and I used to be working at Intel, then we wound up working collectively. We’ve been mates for years. I wound up shifting to California – I met my husband in New York Metropolis after my accident, in 1989 – we moved to California and I made a extremely nice profession transfer to Silicon Valley. I did quite a lot of startups… only a nice know-how profession.

TP: Wow, yeah. That’s actually spectacular!

DS: Yeah! You must re-invent your self, you realize?

SK: I feel that’s the story right here, too: How do you come from this unhealthy beat – it’s what we name a “unhealthy beat” in poker. She took a nasty beat and turned it into one thing. She modified herself. She modified her complete being. A profession on Broadway led to Sesame Avenue after which to a profession in know-how. Now she remains to be in know-how but additionally simply launched an organization known as Poker Samadhi.

DS: That’s what’s loopy. To make a protracted story actually quick, in 2002 we moved Southern Cal to Las Vegas, me and my husband. We moved for his profession, however I wound up – making a protracted story quick – getting very closely concerned in poker. Studying poker, taking part in poker. And I wrote a ebook known as Poker Samadhi. I’d at all times studied human potential and knowledge, and actually, I took quite a lot of the identical issues I had performed in dance, turning into a grasp in dance and singing and performing – taking that mastery and shifting it into poker.

I observed that poker was actually a metaphor for all times. The way in which you play poker is the way in which you might be in life. I wound up studying 400 books on poker and I wound up learning with all people and taking part in with all people, and having this loopy profession as a semi-professional poker participant.

Susan has at all times been there by my facet saying, “We’ve obtained to inform this story ‘as a result of it’s simply unbelievable.” I’d been in tech, and I’m nonetheless in tech, however we wound up creating Poker Samadhi which is actually bringing life knowledge and poker knowledge collectively and serving to individuals establish their poker mantras. There’s plenty of them, and my private mantra is “decelerate,” and you'll inform why. Folks have been telling me that my complete life. Perhaps if I’d slowed down I wouldn’t have had a bike accident. It’s taken me my complete life to discover ways to decelerate. And the poker desk was the place the place I actually discovered easy methods to decelerate and actually get my complete whole life actualized.

And that’s what occurred! Now I’m a profitable poker participant and we've got a enterprise known as Poker Samadhi. I used to be laughing, as a result of I stated, “Wouldn’t or not it's humorous if I wind up again on Sesame Avenue with life and poker knowledge with Poker Samadhi, instructing easy methods to play poker and what an excellent sport it's? That will actually be pushing the sting on Sesame Avenue!” (laughs)

TP: Yeah, Sesame Avenue has gotten a little bit extra progressive possibly than it was again then, however I don’t know in the event that they’re prepared for poker!

DS: So, I’m at all times method forward of the time!

TP: Positively.

DS: Yeah, poker’s an excellent sport as a result of it’s a sport of statement and other people. Poker’s actually a individuals sport performed with playing cards. So my complete life in present enterprise helped me – studying individuals, learning performing – and all of it got here collectively. And now I’m totally actualized in my present career.

TP: That’s fascinating. I suppose much like performing or dancing, you form of have to make use of your complete self on the identical time.

DS: Yep!

TP: Have you ever stored up with Sesame Avenue in any respect? Have you ever seen any of the current seasons?

DS: I haven’t, however I’m an enormous fan of the Muppets. I’ve seen all the films, after all. Who doesn’t love Miss Piggy? Elmo is type of close to and expensive to my coronary heart, after all, as a result of I obtained to spend time with him.

TP: Yeah, that was form of earlier than he was the massive star of Sesame Avenue if you labored with him.

DS: Oh, I knew Elmo when he was only a lowly character, attempting to make his option to stardom. Yeah, he had solely been on possibly a few times! We’re going again 30-some-odd years. We simply thought he was the cutest factor. And naturally, Elmo grew to become wildly in style. It’s simply wonderful, what goes on. I don’t even keep in mind who the director was…

TP: Would which were Jon Stone? Bearded man, middle-aged?

DS: Presumably! I simply had such an excellent expertise, and so they handled all people like royalty. I might say Sesame Avenue is the happiest place on Earth. I do know individuals assume Disney is, however I feel Sesame Avenue is.

TP: There’s one thing to that! Properly, it’s a outstanding story, and I’m sorry they didn’t carry Tanya again. They undoubtedly ought to have.

Is there anything you’d like Sesame Avenue followers to know?

DS: Properly, it’s simply fascinating that you just by no means know what’s going to occur in your life, so that you at all times should see life in a method that, when issues don’t occur in a method that you just assume they need to go, your life will at all times work out.

Click on right here to be taught the that means of the phrase “unique” on the Robust Pigs discussion board!

by Ryan Roe –


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