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She Wanted to Become a Movie Star, so She Moved to... a National Park?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 1, 2023 3:03 am

She Wanted to Become a Movie Star, so She Moved to... a National Park?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 1, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, growing up in small-town Mississippi, all Donna Martin wanted to do was move to a big city and become a famous actress. When the opportunity arose to move to California for the summer, she didn't hesitate. Only one problem... there aren't many acting opportunities in Yosemite National Park.

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Learn more about their clean standards and shop Clean at Sephora Beauty at And we return to our American stories. Up next, we'll hear from Donna Martin. She'll be telling us about her first time leaving Mississippi at age 19 for a summer job in Yosemite, California, where she thought she was headed to become a famous movie star. But life had other and better plans for her.

Let's take a listen. I grew up in Forrest, Mississippi, and I lived on the same street as a major chicken plant. So depending on what time of day it was, there may be a really horrible smell.

So that was kind of interesting. I also lived at the bottom of that street. So if I was ever outside in the front yard or whatever, there was a stop sign right there. So people would just like always be looking at you. I just remember always being like, I'm never going to live at the end of a street when I grow up and have my own house because it felt like not very much privacy.

The whole time I was living at home, it was great, but I just knew when I got in high school that I was going to leave Mississippi at some point, probably never go back. I knew pretty young that I wanted to be a movie star. I would like always think about like how I was going to get to Hollywood, how I was going to be famous. It was kind of a thing.

Like everybody did that about me. And so my really good friend was at a university and she called me when like, I don't know, spring, I think. And she's like, hey, Donna, oh my goodness, these recruiters came to our school today and they have this summer program and we can go work in California. So immediately I was like, oh my goodness, we're so doing that.

Can you sign me up? And she signed us up and I was just so excited because I was going to be in California. So I was going to be able to like work during the day.

And then on the weekends or at night or whatever, I would go for my auditions and then I was going to be famous and never come home. But they asked you was like some of your skills or hobbies and they gave you like a list of jobs that were available. I had been a lifeguard just like in the summers back home. So I signed up to be a lifeguard, had all my training and everything.

And I think that's the only thing I checked. They were like, oh, yeah. And they were like, yeah, you got hired as a lifeguard. So we got the trip planned and left on May 10th. And when we landed, we had to have some sort of transportation to get us from the airport to Yosemite. Her dad was like, I don't want y'all just taking any old taxicab.

He was scared for us girls to be by ourself. So he had us a limousine. That was really neat because I had been in a limousine one time just for like the prom or something. But like we got to be in this limousine and it was all nice. And the driver pops open champagne and like lets us drink alcohol and everything.

So of course, we're all away from our parents. And of course, we want to open up champagne. So like, yay, celebrate. So we're like having champagne and having so much fun.

And then all of a sudden he is smoking and it's not a cigarette. I'm a nervous person, so I was kind of like, OK, let's all be aware of things that are happening. And my friend is not being aware of things that are happening.

She's really relaxed and having a good time. And it's so funny because her dad made sure that we were safe to have this driver. And he's not being safe at all. And we have to start going up this mountain and it's very twisty turny. Like if you look off to the side, you're like, oh, goodness, there's cliffs. So we're going slow in this big, humongous limousine and we're going around these twisty mountains being so careful.

Well, my friend starts feeling bad from the partaking of whatever that dude was offering. And so we had to pull over and this humongous I mean, this is old school limousines. Limousines are big, but like the old school ones, it's very big. And so there's nowhere to pull off on the side of the road because there is no side of the road because you're going up a mountain.

So we're basically hogging up a whole entire side of a mountain. And by this time, the driver's starting to get testy with us, too. And he's like, you got to come on. And so I just had to like say, pull it together. You got to get in the car. You know, we finally get to where we're getting dropped off and all I took was two hundred dollars in traveler's checks.

That's what my mom gave me. So we got there and I grew up in the south. This is May the 10th. So it's really hot and humid the whole summer. So I packed, you know, shorts and T-shirts and tank tops and we get out of the car and there is snow on top of the mountains. And I am in shorts. It was freezing. So thank goodness my mom had given me these two hundred dollars in traveler's checks that were for emergencies. Well, I immediately had to go to the mountain store and buy a wardrobe.

I had to buy long johns, hiking boots, these thick socks, probably for skiers. So once I spent it, that was it. And I wasn't getting any more except for what I worked for. And so I had to wear those same long johns until it got warm enough that I didn't have to wear them. And we had to like go like to a wash interior to wash our clothes and it wasn't always available when you needed it.

So it was just kind of a dirty situation. So we go to our lodging, find out where we're going to live. And it was a tent cabin. And if you don't know what that is, the roof and sides are a literally a tent.

Like you could punch your fist through your wall. And the bottom was a wood floor. So half cabin, half tent.

Tent cabin is what they called it. And they were like, do not have any food. You're not allowed any food because there's bears and they will come and eat your food. So that was scary.

So absolutely. I did not have food ever with me. So I ate a lot before I got to my tent because you're not eating again once you're in that tent. I don't even think I knew Yosemite was like a mountain thing.

I mean, people go there to rock climb. I didn't even have those thoughts. I was just trying to get to California to go be famous. And I was thinking it was going to be close. I realize now we're in Northern California. Southern California is where I would have to go to Hollywood or whatever to do these auditions. I don't even know how many hours it would have taken to get there.

Like it would have been impossible, but I did not know that going in. So I was just like, OK, I'm going to go be a lifeguard, be all tan, amazing, whatever. And then at night and on the weekends, my days off, I'll just be bop over to Southern California, Hollywood and do my auditions.

And, you know, this will be great. So the next day is our orientation to find out what we're doing. We all go and get our little job assignment since I'm prepared, you know, to be a lifeguard.

And the pool is not open yet and won't be for some time because it's freezing. So I am going to be in housekeeping. So I'm like, OK, housekeeping, I can do this.

That's how I make money at home in my house. I mean, it was easy. I knew how to vacuum dust.

OK, this is a piece of cake. So first of all, I had to wear this stiff, scratchy, tight, horrific outfit that was like not adorable. So uncomfortable that outfit they made us wear. I don't even know what material it was. It was almost like canvas.

I don't know. It didn't wrinkle. I'll tell you that it didn't wrinkle.

You could have run over it with a car and it would not have a mark. It was really stiff. So we had these outfits and we go get our assignments. And I'm with this man who's like way older than me. So he tells us what we have to do. We got to clean the really nice hotels, nice rooms.

So this other man was kind of over that guy. And he said, you got to really clean good because he said this lady was going to come behind us and check. You're going to be in big trouble if you didn't clean it good. And she did like a white glove inspection. So I was terrified that this mean lady was going to be like mean to me. So I tried to really clean good. I found out later that wasn't true.

No one ever came and really checked on me or anything, but I made sure they weren't. And we're listening to Donna Martin tell her story, her adventure to California, where she thought she'd well, find stardom and never come home, only there was a slight detour and a slight miscalculation. When we come back, more of this American dreamer story that didn't quite work out here on our American story. There's a recipe for getting your car running just right. Whatever you're cooking up in the garage, you'll find what you need at eBay Motors dot com. They have over one hundred and twenty two million car parts and accessories in stock, all at the right prices. And that can help you turn your ride into something really tasty.

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we're back with our American stories and with Donna Martin and her story. When we last left off, she'd gotten her job assignment after arriving in Yosemite, which she thought would be being a lifeguard, something she was qualified to do. She ended up instead being placed in housekeeping. I think it's about three weeks I had to do that job.

At this point, I had to put that bathing suit on and this lifeguard bathing suit was not flattering at all. And the food there was amazing. Things I had never even heard of like manicotti.

I'd never I didn't know what manicotti was. That was so good. And you went through this cafeteria, but it was really good food. And like the dessert for these humongous pieces of cake. It was the biggest piece of cake. You can't imagine how big this cake was. So it did not take long at all to gain a lot of weight. I did not realize how much weight I really gained until when I put my bathing suit on and I bent over and like something popped and like broke in it. And I was like, oh, my goodness.

So the food was really good. So one day I was lifeguarding and I was looking around and I see like right under my chair, under the lifeguard stand, I see this little boy and I can tell that his feet are not touching the bottom, but he's not moving. He's got his head looking up and he's not yelling.

He's not doing anything. I was like, I've got to help him. So I didn't want to jump down in the water because I would have jumped on him. So I just jumped off the side and just I didn't even climb down or anything, which I didn't realize that till later. But I had this horrible bruise on my heel.

So I got him and he just went off with his family or whatever. And my heel was like really hurting. And I just called my mom back home and was just telling her about it. And she goes, oh, yeah, that sounds like a stone bruise, which I think it must be some kind of a southern thing to say, because, you know, thinking back on it now, she's like, that sounds like a stone bruise where you hit your heel on concrete, I guess. I don't know. And so the remedy for it, this is what she told me. She said, go get a potato and cut it in half and put the potato, the inside, the white part of the potato, put it on your heel.

And I guess it was supposed to take the pain away. I don't know. I did it. So I'm thinking back on that now that I'm sure everybody's like, who is this country bumpkin walking around with the potato on her heel?

What are you even doing? So that was kind of crazy to think about it. It worked. One weekend, I finally got a weekend off me and this other friend. We decided we were going to go to Santa Cruz. In my mind, we were heading far away and the word Santa just sounded close to where I needed to be. Santa Monica.

I mean, like all these places to go be famous. So we get in her car and wind down the road and we go in her little red car that was like didn't even have a backseat, just this little red car. And I realized to be fast, like it took us so long to get there. There was no way I was going to go any further. Like she's like, yeah, we're not going to make it any further. So we got to head back because we had to be back to work. And so I realized we were not going to be getting to do any auditions.

Clearly, being in Yosemite was not going to get me close to L.A. to go do my auditions. So I just thought I would go back to college again and figure out what I was going to do next. I ended up going to Ole Miss and a friend of mine was like, hey, we are hiring ten dollars an hour. All you have to do is call alumni. You're asking for money. You make ten dollars an hour.

Do you want to do it? And I was like, yeah, that sounds easy. So you get these folders of all these alumni to call to ask for donations.

So I had somebody in my little files and it said that she was in New York City and that she was an actress and that she worked at this performing art school in New York City. So I was so excited. So everybody's like making their calls. And I called her and I was like, hi, I'm calling from Ole Miss.

We're just calling the alumni. Well, I don't even ask her for the money because I just want to ask her all about New York and how she got to do this. So we had this long conversation and she gives me her permission to call her again. And she was telling me where she lived and she was going to help me.

And so I was so excited about that. So I had it all planned and I had started dating this guy and I was telling him what I was going to do, that I was going to New York and I was going to be an actress and he was going to be going to medical school. And I mean, we liked each other, but like, OK, that's great, but I guess I'll never see you again after the summer. And then I talked to my mom about my plans and I was getting excited.

No need to get our airline tickets and everything to get in New York. And she tells me, no, I want you to get your degree. Then I was like, OK, well, it was going to work out and we can hang out and like each other more because I'm going to be staying around longer to graduate. So now I'm going to be going back to school in the fall and I realize I don't like this theater stuff.

I don't even want to do that. I just want to be a movie star. I don't want to do theater. So I was changing my major again. And then it kept pushing how long I was going to graduate because I kept changing my major. I thought I was going to be a nurse and could not pass the classes. So I remember being in the grocery store with my then boyfriend and I remember saying, I've got to have something to graduate with. You know, the theater thing didn't work out.

The nursing thing didn't work out. And he goes, well, you've got a lot of English classes. Why don't you just graduate and major in English? So it ended up being fine because I had so many classes in English that I was able to graduate with an English degree.

So I ended up changing my major for the seventh time by becoming an English major. I got to take this creative writing class. We had these writers in residence that would come and teach your class. And Barry Hannah was the same as writer. And he got to come and teach the class. And so one day he gave us this exercise and it was like he said, go. And you just wrote a story from beginning to end and then he stopped you. And my story got picked for him to read to the class. So I was so excited. And it was a drama.

It was actually a tragedy. If you've ever been to Oxford, Mississippi, the roads are very narrow and there's cars that are parked all along the side in our little town off of the square. And so I would see people riding their bikes sometimes. And I always would think in my mind, what if somebody in a car opens their door and the biker goes right just at the nick of time and flips over?

I don't know. I'm just one of those people I kind of catastrophize and I would always see in my mind that happening. I would just be so nervous, like, oh, bikers, watch out for cars. So I wrote that in my story. There's a guy riding a bicycle and some man opens his car door and the biker flips.

It was terrible. I mean, I was like, oh, my gosh, he is going to love it. He's reading this. You know, everybody's going to think this story is going to be crying in the room or whatever. So he starts reading the story. He starts cracking up reading the story.

I guess because it sounded so nuts that that would actually happen, because most normal people probably don't go around thinking of worst case scenarios all the time like I do. So he has to take his glasses off. He's wiping the tears off of his eyes. And I was going, oh, my goodness, this is supposed to be so sad and everybody crying. Well, he's crying.

All right. But not kind of crying that I thought he's going to be crying. And so I just had to go with it like, ah, yeah, this is funny. Then I ended up using that degree to become a school teacher, elementary school teacher. So I became an actress in a different way with kindergarten students because every day was a show. You might be a clown. You might be Mary Poppins.

You might be a book character from one of the books they read. I had to sing a lot. It was a lot of changing outfits and putting on a show. And it was actually a lot of acting. So I didn't necessarily become well, actually, I didn't become a movie star.

I wanted to be all serious. And I just imagine these dramatic movie scenes and I guess what I should have been all along with myself and not someone else. So the way that my life went and all the little twists and turns that I took, God really had it all worked out for me because I got to see that summer in California how much I missed the south, how much I missed cornbread and sweet tea and being barefooted.

And then once I met this guy that I was starting to fall in love with, who's now my husband, God just changed inside my desires, inside my heart to be a mom and have a family. And I'm so happy the way that it actually turned out. And we're so happy it actually turned out well, too, for Donna Martin. That segment was produced by her daughter, our own Madison, who did a terrific job on the production. And what a voice you just heard. And anyone in Oxford who knows Donna knows what a storyteller she is.

The clock will start and an hour will pass and it'll be the most delightful hour you ever listen to. And my goodness, what a story she told. As Tom Waits said, I never saw the East Coast till I moved to the West.

And in a way, Madison's mom had to discover Mississippi by leaving it. A story of dreams not shattered, but reinvented. The story of Donna Martin here on Our American Stories. This February, Xfinity Flex is unlocking premium entertainment for you to try every single week, no strings attached. Celebrate during Black History Month with shows like Unsung the Decades. Snuggle up during Valentine's Day with a Lifetime Movie Club pick like Harry and Meghan, A Royal Romance. Or crank up the action with Godfather of Harlem from MGM Plus. Get down and funky with the classic soul playlist from I Heart Radio. Easily discover new free content each week across the best streaming app.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-01 04:43:57 / 2023-02-01 04:54:28 / 11

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