Alright, I’ll admit it. I love Showgirls. I love the skimpy, sequined ensembles, the melodramatic music, the stripper-meets-Step It Up style of dance and the fact that it stars my favorite Saved By the Bell alum, Elizabeth Berkeley. I love the Kentucky-fried hair, the campy cattiness and the fact that, apparently, the Showgirls wardrobe department was where acrylic nails went to die during the mid-90’s.
Which is why I was so excited when I saw that Elizabeth Berkeley was resurrecting her career via a new reality show on Bravo. When I found out that the new show was called Step It Up and Dance, I was ecstatic. When I watched the first episode, with all of its dramatic, dancing glory, I was entranced.
So imagine my delight and surprise when I found out that Jessica - a young dancer who also happens to be a veritable goldmine for great on-camera drama - is a graduate of the Theater & Dance program right here at UCSB. According to an article on the website SanLuisObispo.com, Jessica Feltman is a 22- year-old San Louis Obispo native, who graduated with a degree in dance from UCSB last June. Unfortunately, she was kicked off the show this past week, but the article says she has a stable, full-time job managing the Urban Outfitters in SLO, so at least there’s that.
As someone who is about to graduate and go out into the world, with only my natural charm and a liberal arts degree - also known as the degree most likely to result in at least a few years of waiting tables to make ends meet after graduation - it’s nice to know there is some future for those of us who pursue the less practical paths here at UCSB, even if that future only entails fifteen minutes of Bravo reality fame and a lifetime of layering tees at the nearest Urban Outfitters. (Hey, it could be worse. It could be VH1.) Either way, the discovery of the dancing Gaucho inspired me to look into some other UCSB alums whose post-college career paths were anything but conventional.
It’s no secret that Isla Vista is a hotbed of scandal, intrigue and all the salacious gossip that accompanies them. Maybe that’s why former Gaucho Harvey Levin, who also happens to be the man behind gossip giant TMZ, made a career out of being in the know.
Other Gauchos behind the proverbial camera include costume designer Paula Kaatz, makeup artist Michael Westmore, screenwriters Eric Roth, Scott Frank, Georgia Jeffries, filmmaker Gregg Araki and United Artists President Danny Rosett. Actors Michael Douglas, Benjamin Bratt, and Barbara Rush also graduated as Gauchos. And, of course, the UCSB Film Studies Department boasts internationally-acclaimed musician Jack Johnson on its list of alumni - a fact made abundantly clear to anyone who gets to hear Film Studies Professor Edward Branigan’s shpiel about how his Classical Film Theory class inspired Johnson’s hit single “Inaudible Melodies.”
ESPN sports commentator Jim Rome roamed the UCSB campus back in the mid-80’s, and Pulitzer Prize-winning L.A. Times reporter Bob Sipchen did it a decade earlier. Former Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Morris made his way to class on the UCSB campus in the late 1950s. Laker Brian Shaw first wore gold as a Gaucho, back when he played men’s basketball here in the late-1980s. And, Olympians Richard Schroeer, Sandra Nielson, Carin Gabarra, Eric Fonoimano and Jason Lezak were all students here at SB.
Clearly, the University of Casual Sex and Beer begets more than just pretty pictorials for Playboy. From show-business to sports, the Oscars to the Olympics, Gauchos have been getting noticed in plenty of places far above and beyond the basic business and sciences you would expect from a world-renowned research college.
In fact, if this little trip down UCSB’s memory lane has made any point for me, it’s the knowledge that no matter how much I may complain about the UCSB Career Center seeming only to cater to people whose paths intersect directly with the big four accounting firms or the many Fortune 500 companies who come to campus looking for middle-management superstars to fill their ranks, there are still plenty of people who managed to matriculate from UCSB and move on to making movies, making it in the majors and just plain making it work with all sorts of surprising success stories.
And hey, now I know, if all else fails, there’s always a spot for a good Gaucho on reality T.V. And, it’s even the classy kind - as far as I know, no Gaucho has ever gone on Flavor of Love.