her stint at kusf was the beginning of alisa becoming a producer. she and a friend produced the first AIDs show in the U.S.. this being the early 80s, people were still whispering about the epidemic, even in SF. she wanted to give people with AIDS a chance to speak about what it was like to live with AIDS. they did. and she was happy.
alisa thought she wanted a career in music. in 1985 she took a train across the beautiful land that was/is america to new york. she listened to r.e.m. to embolden her because she only knew one person in a city she knew so little about. she had a recommendation from an sf exec who was on the board of directors at rolling stone magazine. she wasn't one of those girls who dreamed of living in ny. she had grown up in a small town in northern california. she only knew she would never live in l.a. and she didn't even know why she knew that.
her first place of residence was a small room in a woman's hotel. $67.00 a week and no men allowed in the rooms. bummer. she took a job at rko pictures typing writer's ideas for movies. she called up rolling stone to see if they would take her on. the music editor needed an assistant and they gave her a job as an editorial assistant. she loved working there. even though rs was no longer the hippest music magazine to read, she met kurt loder and they became fast friends. the brilliant writer david fricke was fun to argue with about music and her boss, although a dour man, was a nice guy. she even got to report on a couple of stories for "random notes." she was in charge of the tour column and at the time that felt like enough. she loved the band "young fresh fellows." she begged the senior editor to review their new album. she told alisa if you can stand on your head, i will assign it to someone. her nights at the hotel were spent practicing this stunt. a couple of weeks later she walked into the editor's office, stood on her head and a little band from seattle received their first national coverage. not her finest intellectual moment but....
a friend at rolling stone told alisa mtv was looking for a news writer and would she be interested? alisa was more than interested because she loved music videos. one evening in sf she saw a vj reading a news story and she thought that was cool - music and music news. the managing editor tried her out for a day. she wrote a couple of music stories and in between she gobbled half a roast beef sandwich in a bathroom stall because she was shy and she didn't want the editor to think she wasn't working. they gave her the job. she wrote three news stories a day. one day she went to central park and smoked a joint. she went back to her desk and she couldn't write. at all. she told her editor the truth because she didn't know anything but. to her surprise he laughed. she didn't smoked another joint for 13 years - which is how long alisa worked at mtv networks.
four months into the job they sent her into the field to interview bands. it was new year's eve and at the time mtv did a live show from roseland auditiorium. her first interview was with the beastie boys. they were drunk and poured beer all over her head. alisa found this amusing. she never wanted to sit in the newsroom again and punch out daily stories. they sent her out to interview all kinds of bands and she was a good interviewer even though she didn't have much experience. what she did know how to do was listen. she remembered someone gave her a tip. if a rock star pauses after he/she answers, just be quiet and he/she will start talking again. it was the best advice she ever got. you think your friends like to talk about themselves, interview a celebrity, they are their most favorite subject.
a year later the mtv execs wanted to cover fashion and they chose alisa because the two other writers - one a metal head, the other a rastafarian - did not seem fit for the job. alisa grew up with fashion because her nana was a socialite and business woman and loved dressing up. her mom was a model. alisa had traveled all over california for years shopping at thrift stores. that's how she came to know the history of fashion.
she didn't know anyone in fashion in new york so she just rang up designers. they were surprised to know mtv was interested in fashion but fashion loves publicity - for free - and she began reporting style stories. mtv ran her stories a few times a day but by then kurt loder was the main news anchor and fashion stories sounded funny coming out of his mouth. he did not like reporting on fashion one bit but ad sales were able to sell spots fast as hot cakes. alisa wrote up a two paragraph treatment on why mtv should have a style show. she gave it to doug herzog, the senior vp of programming.
he said yes to her treatment and here's the deal - "your budget is $25,000, produce a half hour show, find a host, produce a bunch of stories and have a pilot ready in six weeks."
mtv was really strict about money so she didn't sleep for six weeks. alisa knew she could produce the stories. her first choice for host was johnny rotten. the svp told her to think of someone a little bit more likable. he was very diplomatic. he was really saying "are you nuts?" he told her to look for a model. she didn't know anything about models because she didn't read fashion magazines. she paid attention and found out there was this thing starting up called "supermodels." naomi, christy, linda & cindy. the word was that naomi was a brat (she was but highly entertaining), christy turlington was too shy, linda evangelista too serious about her modeling career. she chose cindy crawford because she was the #1 model in the world and she was from the mid-west. alisa called her manager. he said "no way." she called her modeling agent about 20 times and never heard back. flummoxed, she called herb ritts, the most famous american fashion photographer at the time. alisa had produced a story on him and she asked him to give cindy her number. she rang. alisa asked her if she would like to host a style show but there would be no paycheck. $25,000 does not go far in producing a half hour program. alisa was not surprised when she said yes. she had done her research: this cindy girl was smart, read books, didn't do drugs and she was from the mid-west. alisa liked people from the mid-west because they were down to earth.
the first show opened with Salt 'n Pepa wearing clothes by indie designers, rock stars talking about fashion, a news story on the gap becoming cool and a couple of stories that alisa would like to forget. cindy was wooden as a host and not all that friendly but neither was alisa. it took a good six months before they felt comfortable with one another.
the first show aired and was an instant success. "house of style" was born and lasted for 10 years, a coon's age in tv.
alisa still continued to work in the news dept. because at first "house of style" aired 4 times a year. she loved live television and she field produced kurt loder at the video music awards for ten years. she also produced kurt for live concerts when mtv was still covering music.
she also produced and created popular shows "fashionably loud," "model mission" and a kooky show on dennis rodman when he was a hot commodity. once they shot dennis in italy where he was doing a movie with jean claude van dam or whatever his name is and mickey rourke. she thought she liked gangsters but had never met one. she met rourke. he was a gangster. she didn't need to meet another.
alisa became a vice president at mtv which was a very nice honor but all alisa cared about was producing television. she had no interest in deciding how to run a tv network.
after 13 years, tv was changing. reality tv came into play and alisa wanted no part of it. she left mtv because she had given her life to the network for over a decade and she had done everything she wanted to do at the channel. it was a great ride but it was time to move on.
she traveled. she had already been to most continents, africa and japan being her favorites but since she had traveled all the time at mtv she didn't know what to do with herself but travel. she spent time in india, england and she lived in maui off and on and on and off.
alisa was always interested in young girls issues - especially self-esteem. "house of style" had covered anorexia, bulimia and a few stories on important issues that concerned young girls but mtv told her to focus on style. they didn't want to mess up a good thing. she didn't mind, mtv gave her so much freedom to cover what she wanted, she would find a way to focus on young women's issues one day.
after traveling, alisa worked in fashion, interviewed iraqi war vets, sheiks and iraqi politicians for a study at cuny, she worked in news, worked at a fashion magazine but she didn't know what her next big consuming project would be.
when the live earth concert aired a month ago, alicia keyes came on stage. she wore a dress that came to her knees. alisa was clapping because she was showing off some pretty big calves. by alicia not covering them up, she was saying to young girls, it's ok not to be stick thin. this short little piece of video made alisa realize she wanted to cover issues that pertained to self esteem again. she read a study on self-mutilation and found out it was becoming an epidemic for kids between the ages of 12-20. she did a google search on sm and cydniey's blog showed up one day.
she asked cydniey if she could ask her questions. cydniey said ok. a week later alisa realized this girl who had self-mutilated for years had a very rich but frightening story of mental illness. what impressed alisa the most was this girl cydniey could write. she was smart as a tack. she was the real deal. she wasn't some depressed girl pouring her heart out not that there is anything wrong about that. if there was anything that alisa loved more than music and fashion, it was the written word. about 9 days ago alisa asked cydniey if she wanted to write a book. she said she was thinking of self publishing a book on some website. alisa thought if she did that, maybe 1,000 people would read it. she thought cydniey's unique story should be told around the world. having worked in the media for 20 years, alisa had a lot of contacts in the media world in ny and asked cydniey if they could partner up and have alisa pitch cyd's book to a big publishing company. she said "sure." i have worked with a lot of creative people in my life time. many of them were brilliant. after just a short time with cyd, alisa felt like she was working with someone who she would will work with for the rest of her life.
alisa registered a name for a blog this weeknd - onlyherworld.com & herworlddaily.com - very soon you will see stories by cydniey and alisa writing about self-esteem. it will also include stories on fashion and beauty and music and whatever else alisa wants to put in it.
right this minute, alisa is committed to working with cyd every day on her auto-biography "dirt words." you will see it in bookshelves around the world before you know it. alisa gives have her word.