Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. - e. e. cummings

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An All Star Salute To The Troops!

"Sometimes you need to put everything else aside to support
 and honor our nation's military."  - Toby Keith

The Academy of Country Music did just that with the "ACM Presents: An All Star Salute To The Troops." The show was taped the other day with a live audience of 16,000+ at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with hosts LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell, and will air on CBS on May 20th.

It was great to be a part of the production as a rehearsal actress. Though it is always a pleasure to work on these concert events, it was especially true for this one. One of the best surprises of this show is that almost all of the country music superstars are performing with a talented member of the military!

Army Sgt. Christiana Ball, myself and Air Force Staff Sgt. Bailey Zimmerman
Whether it was Lee Brice accompanied by Army Sgt. Christiana Ball on I Drive Your Truck, Rascal Flatts & Marine Corps. SSGT Brandon Valentine on Rewind, Keith Urban and Navy STGC Destiny Coates performing, For You, or any of the other powerful and poignant performances, adding this element to the tribute was meaningful and exciting!

Of all the genre of musical performers I work with it has always been the country music artists who seem the most grounded. For one thing, they never just "phone it in." This was evident more than usual in this case. The passion, honor and respect shown by the likes of Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley, Hunter Hayes, and others moved the crowd, (including myself) to tears many times during the taping that night.

Carrie Underwood made the event extra special and personal by co-writing and performing a special song just for the occasion called Keep Us Safe...which can be downloaded soon.

More important than our emotional indulgences, (anyone can cry), it reminded many us of the commitment and sacrifice made every day by these fine people. If this invokes action on the part of viewers of this special tribute in the way of volunteerism, donations to various veterans programs, and compassion for our active and retired military, among other things, then the show has truly done its job!
Kellie Pickler & Air Force Staff Sgt. Bailey Zimmerman perform...Photo, bingimages.com

To cap off an amazing night Toby Keith was surprised with a "Spirit of the USO" award. Not many people know this, (I didn't), but since 2002 Toby Keith has toured on behalf of the USO performing over 300 shows on 11 USO tours in 15 countries! Even in extremely remote regions, he has managed to show up.

Toby Keith was surprised with the "Spirit of the USO" Award...Photo from USO.org

Toby Keith USO Tour, Iraq 2011

Set your DVR's for May 20, (CBS) and be motivated by the strength, courage and perseverance of the individuals that make up our country's Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Reserves!

Interested in volunteering for our veterans?



Ever thought of enlisting?



This blog article is dedicated to two of my family members...Justin Hattesohl, Decorated Afghanistan Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient, National Guard 849th, (2014), and Sara Wendt, Iraq Veteran (2007-2008) Staff Sgt. 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

Also, a special salute to other family veterans, Navy; Ernest Duane Wendt,  Gary Wendt, Ralph Nelles and Bill Nelles. Army; Barry Wendt, Robert Lumpkins and Air Force; Cory Schneider. Thanks to all of you for being a positive representative of our family and a role model to the next generation by way of your military service.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

ACM Awards final curtain call at MGM Grand Garden Arena?

It was nine years ago that I worked my first Academy of Country Music Awards. I was standing in for Carrie Underwood (among others), and back then she was only known as the winner of American Idol. But with her first single Jesus Take the Wheel rising up the charts, it wouldn't be long before that changed for good. Listening to her perform that song at rehearsals it was obvious that she was born to be a star. Nine years later it's hard to imagine she ever wasn't!

I've had the privilege to witness many artists like her go from excited newbies to seasoned pros and everything in between.....It's a great inside perspective and a fun part of the job.

Carrie Underwood 2005.....Photo by justjared.com via bingimages.com

Back then Darius Rucker was still "Hootie" to most people and now he is now more known as a country music artist than anything else. Taylor Swift was 12 years old and dreaming while she wrote her little songs hoping to get a record deal someday. Nobody had ever really heard of Jason Aldean. There was no "Miranda and Blake." Brooks and Dunn were still together. Facebook had just launched the year before and social media was not part of national television advertising or promotions.

Since then and during the nine years working this show, besides standing in for Carrie every year I have accepted and presented awards for "Best New Artist", "Song of the Year", "Best Female Artist", "Entertainer of the Year", and more. I have danced onstage with Brooks & Dunn, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton, to name a few. I have performed as Carrie Underwood with my sister Karen next to me as Miranda Lambert and done Reba McEntire's job  (as her rehearsal host), before she arrived.

Now at this year's ACM Awards I am feeling a little nostalgic because I found out the show next year, which will be the 50th Anniversary, is going to be be held and broadcast live from Dallas. So I won't be working on it. I'm sure they'll all enjoy the change of pace, but they will be back here very soon.

ACM Stand in/Rehearsal Actors group selfie....Scott, Anna, Heather, Phil, Brian, Karen, Rusty

According to reliable sources quoted in the Las Vegas Review Journal this past Thursday, the ACM Awards will be back in Las Vegas for its 51st...Better yet, it is expected to be one of the very first events held in the brand new mega arena that is going to be built by MGM Resorts International and AEG. This 20,000 seat arena will be placed near the Monte Carlo and New York New York properties and is set to break ground later this month, and be completed in the spring of 2016.

The only thing constant is change and with that in mind I will enjoy what will likely be the last Academy of Country Music Awards in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Hats off to you, you've been a great host!

Digital rendering of new Las Vegas 20,000 seat arena by MGM Resorts Int'l and AEG....bingimages.com


Las Vegas Review Journal, November 5, 2013 and April 3, 2014 issues



Monday, March 31, 2014

Checkin' out the Chippendales

I first saw the Chippendales perform several years ago when they gave tickets to my sister and me after we all worked together on a VH1 Divas Las Vegas special. I was happily surprised at the quality of their show! These guys are tanned, toned and talented.

So when I recently found out some girlfriends of mine were coming to Vegas I decided it was time to check out the Chippendales again since it had been so long. I also knew it would be the perfect way to show my friends a great night out!

For those who don't know, with the Chippendales there are no dollar bills thrust into the G-strings of these muscled men by overly excited and somewhat inebriated females. The Chippendales and their show in Las Vegas is an actual show, a Broadway style male revue with professional dancers, set to modern music such as rock, hip hop and techno. Although the guys occasionally dance in the audience (like a lot of shows), there is a no touching, no tipping policy.

Back to me and my friends. It was an hour and a half of music, dancing, zip off jeans, tear away tank tops, motorcycles, black light and fluorescent body paint... to name a few of the highlights!

Tanned, toned and talented....Chippendales perform in Las Vegas

Established in 1979, Chippendales was the first all male stripping troupe to make a business performing for mostly female audiences. The story of the early years of the Chippendales is racked with drama as co-owners fought over the entity and who should control it. However, the Chippendales brand has  come a long way, with none of the former owners involved for over a decade now. Today and for many years the Chippendales have produced and performed Broadway style shows worldwide. Officially, these men are seen by over two million people every year. They are exciting and entertaining, just like their adopted hometown of Las Vegas!

If you think the story of the Chippendales would make a good movie, you're right... "I Am Chippendales" is a big budget feature to be brought to the screen by writer and director Alan Ball (True Blood). This film is an adaptation of the book by Rodney Sheldon. Ben Stiller is rumored to take a lead role in the film as the choreographer Nicolas de Noia. This is a story about how the male dance club became one of the most famous adult entertainment shows in the world.  Sources: Variety.com 3/31/14, Entertainment Weekly 3/31/14 and Deadline Hollywood 3/31/14 posts.

Chippendales hard at work onstage in Las Vegas

Chippendales was voted Best Male Strip Show for the third year in a row in Las Vegas Review Journal's Best of Las Vegas issue. 3/30/14

Pictured above after their 3/27/14 show: Bottom...Jonny Howes,  Jaymes Vaughan (singer), James Davis, Ryan Stuart, Top ..Sami Eskelin, Mikey Cross, Matt Marshall, Nathan Minor, John Rivera...(John Cook not pictured)....Also pictured, Lisa Cross and me (Anna Wendt)

Want to audition to be a Chippendale? According to their website you should be at least 5'10", be able to dance and learn choreography, rehearse for four hours a day, and maintain a healthy lifestyle, among other requirements.  For audition information email info@chippendales.com, or fill out the online application at Chippendales.com, click on recruitment.

Want to see the show?

The Chippendales perform nightly at their special theater in the Rio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas. There are also special appearances in certain cities as well as occasional touring productions.


Photos courtesy of Chippendales




Link to Variety.com story on "I Am Chippendales"


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hollywood Underdog turns 3!

Today is the third birthday (anniversary) of my blog! I started Hollywood Underdog on March 23, 2011.

The catch is that I wrote several blog articles before I actually published or told anyone about it. Although excited about the idea of it I just wasn't sure if I wanted to be a "blogger." Was it a commitment I could keep? Or would I start it and then not be able to keep it up and forget about it? After several months I felt I had the hang of it and published them all at once in 2012.

It took some time to get used to writing a blog or article every few days. This can be hard sometimes and always will, and is the number one reason of bloggers who quit.

Bingimages.com....Illustrator unknown

During those first few months I trademarked the name and secured the domain. That first year I also spent weeks learning Google's Blogger application.  This included creating my blog layout and various settings, my Adsense account and application, selection then placement of advertising, listing the blog with the various search engines for optimization, and much more. Thanks Google for making this process as understandable as possible! What a great mental exercise! My husband would come home and find me hunched over my laptop, eyes glazed, neck stiff but excited about grasping something that would get me closer to launching my blog.

I learned what I needed to and got to the point where anything more technical will require more time or a real expert and so "it is as it is" until it is time to change it.

If you read my beginning blogs from 2011 and 2012 you would notice they are more personal and "journal" like,  and that was fine. However I realized I wanted to write more complete pieces, so I do that mostly now. Although more challenging, I find it to be more satisfying as a writer.

This opportunity to branch out has been so good for me. I have always enjoyed a dual career in entertainment and marketing. However, sometimes because the money is better in corporate America than the entertainment biz, (at least for me),  I had tended to ignore my creative side for long periods of time. What I've learned is that I really need to do both to be content, balanced and to grow as a person and a professional.

The last thing I need to express is how much the people who supported me with my blog in the beginning helped me, especially my husband, two sisters and my mother in law. It's not easy to put yourself out there and I was unsure and a little nervous as to how it would be received. Their encouragement has meant a lot, and so has anyone else who read, commented, or passed it along to others.  Also, for those I have interviewed, gone to their shows to blog about them, or been involved in a story in any way thanks for your positive contribution to my passion project!

Here are some of my blog articles that have meant the most to me to write in the past 3 years either because I really enjoyed writing them or they had significance in another way....

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com....Why you should call your Mother

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com...Bringing Change to Mind

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com...My Day Without Mirrors

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com....Ivan's Rules

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com....Rediscover a Downtown

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com....Ten Tips to look good in every Photo

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com....Broadway Cares in Las Vegas

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com....Ode to the Marys

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com...A Taste of Shakespeare, my first "Vlog"

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com...The Blonde in the Convertible

Hollywoodunderdog.blogspot.com....Sometimes I Miss Vinyl

Anna Wendt...Copyright 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Smart is Sexy...Free Online Classes

This is a blog article that I have received emails about asking for the information again. So, here it is for those who missed it the first time back in Jan. 2013. I can tell you quite a few friends have taken some of these online classes and have had positive experiences with them!

"The mind, once expanded to the dimension of larger ideas, 
never goes back to its original size." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

My friend Nicole Pano turned me on to these websites below that offer online courses sponsored by those well known schools most of us have heard of but many have not attended. Some of them are even Ivy League.

These sites offer online classes of which several are free, and others very inexpensive.

The best part is they are open to everyone, (unlike their brick and mortar counterparts).

Sites and links...

https://www.coursera.org/#courses  (This one is mostly Stanford, Caltech, Princeton & Duke)

https://www.edx.org/ (Includes Harvard & Berkeley classes)

http://www.udacity.com/ (This site started by a Stanford professor)

http://oli.cmu.edu/learn-with-oli/see-our-free-open-courses/   (Carnegie Mellon University)

Just for fun here are a few more online educational websites.
(This one is more creative, some classes are not free but still very inexpensive)

SCORE Online Workshops (A great resource for entrepreneurs)