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This Single Mom RULED MTV

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momlogic's Vivian: Proud mom (and grandma!) and music-video maven Sharon Oreck just penned a hilarious memoir about how she revolutionized the art of music videos for the likes of Janet Jackson, Prince and Madonna -- and what single motherhood was like in the '70s.

Video Slut

momlogic: Your book was hilarious and impressive! Have you been writing all along?

Sharon Oreck: I did no writing whatsoever. I kept journals, my Filofax and job files that would remind me of what was going on at that time. But in terms of the bigger stories -- the "Nasty" video for Janet Jackson and "Like a Prayer" for Madonna -- those I had to retrieve from my memory banks. They were long labors of love!

ml: You certainly didn't have it easy as a single mom back in the early '70s. Your son was born in a home for unwed mothers when you were 16. Yet the girls there talked you into keeping your baby. Share with our readers what made you change your mind.

SO: I think it was in my heart, but it would have presented so much conflict with my family that I didn't even dare think it consciously. And being there, among young women who were so balls-out to begin with, they made me fearless. They gave me the courage. Of course I didn't tell my parents [that I was keeping my baby] until I was actually at the hospital with the baby. The conversation that's in the book was what really happened. Being in that environment changed my life in so many ways, rather than being in an incredibly boring suburb where we had to create so much trouble for ourselves just to have any activity. It also affected me on a musical level.

ml: Raising a kid by yourself when you werea kid yourself must have been some challenge!

SO: I think I lived very much in the now. I look back, and it never occurred to me that you would have to worry about money, or what to do with a baby; that I'd have to learn about diapering someone. The first time you give your baby a bath can be scary. But when you have a baby at 16, you aren't afraid. You don't know. Of course, when you're young, you don't feel young. When I look now at 16-year-old girls and I think that I had a baby at 16, it's much different.

ml: Did you have any help?

SO: My parents helped with insurance. I was still finishing high school when he was born, so the state helped me with daycare. I wasn't exactly a helicopter mom: He would go to daycare and I would go to high school, then I went to college. I was on welfare for the first five years, so I could only get jobs that paid under the table. I was an assistant to the film professor at City College; I worked for my father's company; I worked at a children's clothing store called "Little Britches." (Of course we used to answer the phone, "Little Bitches.") I worked at an endocrinologist's and had to get there at 5 AM and was always exhausted and they fired me. I got fired a lot. But I'd get my welfare check for $200 per month. I'd work odd jobs until I got my first job in the shitty, low-budget film industry. I got a job working on a horror flick called "Wormeaters 3" and got paid $25 a week. But it was my first movie. I took every other job to get more money or a higher position, and that actually worked.

ml: There's no motivator like motherhood.

SO: I felt I had two jobs: I had to prove I wasn't a loser and had some legitimacy in the world; I wanted to really be a success -- that was really important to me. And I wanted to find a father for my son. I approached both very seriously.

ml: Had you always wanted to be in the music business?

SO: I got into the music business through the film business. I might have dreamed at 16 that I had a life that touched on music, or meet Mick Jagger. But I only imagined I'd get to run into him at a gas station or something. One day, 25 years later, I'm standing in a club with Mary Lambert, and in front of me is Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck and the drummer from Toto singing "Little Red Rooster" live and asking Mary and I what we thought. We couldn't believe we were getting paid. If I'd had a time machine when I was in the unwed-mothers home, I'd tell myself not to worry. I'd know that I was going to do something that was going to be great.

ml: Being a mom probably taught you a lot about dealing with those wacky music-biz personalities, too!

SO: Being a mom is definitely what brought me to my job ... and what made me leave my job. Being a mom is bound up in everything, because as a producer, you are essentially an enabler. Especially when you are in a business involving entitlement, there's a lot of caretaking. It's definitely part of my persona and everything I am. I grew up really fast, but in a good way. I really do think my son saved my life, because if I hadn't had him, I would've gotten eaten alive.


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