Friday, October 10, 2008

Snow White Takes Up Powerlifting

Posted by Bruce Miller
As I was making breakfast for Curt at 6:10 am this morning, Terrie walked into the kitchen after having picked up the paper at the end of our driveway. “Donna Deekens is going to be on Wife Swap,” she informed me. I dropped the spatula.

I’d never seen the TV show with this provocative name, but I’d heard of it. In my imaginings it conjured up images of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

For those not old enough to remember this quadrupley-ampersanded title, B&C&T&A was an iconic late 60s film (which I loved, by the way) about wife swapping, swinging, open marriage, free love, quad, polyamory, partnertausch … the morals of some of what we considered in the late 60s may have been pathetic, but the vocabulary was expansive.

Anyway, until this morning, I’d never expected to hear the words “Donna Deekens” and “wife swap” in the same sentence.

Donna Deekens is a longstanding friend of mine. She, Phil and Donna Whiteway, and I were theatre majors together at the University of Richmond. Donna Deekens (Donna Strother in those bygone days of yore) played Bianca in Kiss Me Kate during her freshman year (my sophomore), and I was one of her Tom, Dick or Harry suitors.

After graduation, Donna spent 20 years playing the Snow Queen during the Saturday afternoon Santa Teas at the Miller & Rhoads Tea Room in downtown Richmond. It was all about singing White Christmas and wearing long white gloves. Phil and I spent those same 20 years producing the rest of the entertainment for the Santa Teas.

(I also hosted the weekly Santa Breakfasts for 20 years at Thalhimers in The Richmond Room. I’m still stopped on the street every now and then and asked if I’m not Snow Bear’s Friend.)

Anyway, good times.

But despite the hint of naughtiness that prompted her casting as Bianca, Donna Deekens has always been the flesh and blood incarnation of Snow White. “Donna Deekens” … “driven snow.” That works for me. “Donna Deekens” … “wife swap.” Not so much.

Quoting from this morning’s Times-Dispatch, here’s a more accurate description of Donna’s Wife Swap-ing experience:

“A Midlothian woman switched families for a week, and tonight, America gets to watch. Donna Deekens, who runs a tea party business, traded places with a tattooed female powerlifter from New York for an episode of ABC’s Wife Swap. The hourlong show airs tonight at 8, locally on WRIC-Channel 8.

‘Contrast is what they’re looking for,’ Deekens said of the show’s producers, ‘and they got it with this one.’ She described the experience as ‘a wild ride … quite an adventure.’

It was an adventure she did not seek. The show’s producers contacted Deekens, having found her Web site——and apparently felt they could build a show around someone who runs a company called Teapots, Treats & Traditions. Deekens puts on tea parties, primarily for children, and along with cups of tea and dainty sandwiches serves helpings of manners, etiquette and social graces.

She and her husband, Bill, a mortgage banker, had not seen
Wife Swap until they were invited to apply to participate. ‘It was something kind of scary, and something kind of exciting,’ said Deekens, the mother of two sons. ‘We look at it as trying something completely different. I always think it’s a good thing to learn from other people.’

In this cast, the other people were the McCaslins from Tribes Hill, N.Y., who live in an old elementary school and one-time mental hospital they’ve converted into a powerlifting gym. Their business is called Iron Asylum Gym.

Sandi McCaslin, who can lift more that 300 pounds and has a tattoo on her leg that reads, “Whatever It Takes,” spent more than a week in the Deekens’ suburban Midlothian home setting up tea parties. Meantime, Donna Deekens was in New York, learning all about the gym business and trying to persuade the McCaslins’ two powerlifting daughters to become more feminine.”

Hmmm. All I can say is, time to fire up the TiVo! This is one reality show I don’t want to miss.

As for my friend Donna Deekens, I think she’s great and I can’t wait to see her take this on. Donna is a talented actress and singer, by the way, and a great mom. I’m sure a fun (and wholesome) time will be had by all.

After this night of TV, I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller
(Note: All photos feature Donna and come from her tea party website.)


debra said...

I just saw the article in the paper about this! I was lucky enough to participate in a tea room Xmas show. And I remember Santa introducing "The lovely Snow Queen". I also laugh fondly every time I think about coming out to talk to the kids as "The Wassail Wiggle Worm"! LOLLOLLOL Of course I was accompanied by the "Holiday Hound" and the "Egg Nog Elephant" amond others...heee heee! Some very dear memories of Christmases past.

Joy W. said...

I have a show tonight, but I must come and see this at your house! Sounds like GREAT fun!!

Dave T said...

We Timberlines fired up the DVR for Wife Swap because the house where the first tea party was filmed is actually the home of our neighbors, the Rogers, whose backyard backs into ours. They said that the show's crew and producers were very nice and, most of all, efficient -- in and out within a couple of hours. It was an interesting show -- with contrast undoubtedly highlighted via editting -- but I don't think it was enough to make us regular fans.