Tivia and Tivia Have a Chat - An Interview with Loretta Heywood
Somewhere in London a talented musician was on the verge of releasing her new album and beginning a series of live shows. She was not thinking the least little bit about laser tag or Photon...until responding to an email from me from completely out of the blue. Amazingly, that was nearly seven months ago and since then it has been such a pleasure for me to get to know singer/songwriter Loretta Heywood, known in the music industry for her work with Bomb The Bass in the early '90s and for co-writing the song "Winter In July" and adding her vocals to many other songs, but perhaps best known to any fan of Photon as the actress who played the role of Tivia on the Photon television series in 1986. For me, communicating with Loretta over the last few months has been a bit surreal because in 1986 I was seven years old and watching her on the television screen having intergalactic adventures with the rest of the cast of Photon. For anyone wondering "what does this have to do with laser tag?" let me fill in some of the gaps.
Photon was the original laser tag, invented by George Carter III and launched commercially in Texas with the opening of the first Photon center in March of 1984. To do the math again...I was five in 1984...I was NOT playing first generation Photon, though I certainly wish that it could have been an option. As the Photon laser sport game grew in popularity with players who were primarily in their teens and early twenties at that time (give or take) the idea must have occurred to someone to expand the marketing of Photon to younger kids. This was accomplished by way of a Photon home laser tag set (which showed up in toy stores in roughly the same time period as its competitor "Lazer Tag") and a live action television show aimed at a young audience, which apparently also aired in roughly the same era as the animated show "Lazer Tag Academy". All of this was happening well before the wide variety of laser tag systems, equipment and arenas started popping up and becoming a mainstay of family entertainment. It was a good time to be a kid first learning about laser tag in the eighties and many people have called the Photon television series a genre predecessor to things like Power Rangers. Now, this was almost thirty years ago. This was my earliest exposure to laser tag, even though it would be many years before I would play the game in an arena or take it seriously as a kind of sport.
The Photon television series only lasted for a season, but one season was all that it took to turn it into a cult classic...well, ok, cult classics aren't made overnight. But fast forward about 15-20 years, those kids grew up and with the boom of the internet came a crop of fan sites, message boards and communities of people who were now grown adults remembering memories of the first laser tag game along with those remembering this sweet, campy nostalgia from this show from their youth. Fast forward even beyond that to July of last year and there was even a 30th anniversary celebration of Photon held in Laurel, Maryland (which I have mentioned in this blog before and will likely reminisce about in more detail in the future). Although I had played laser tag many years before this event, it certainly was the catalyst to getting me back into the hobby in the last year. This was also where I first met actor David Stay who played Mandarr and Tamara Johnson who played Barbara Jarvis on the show as well as the creator of Photon, George Carter III. All this while playing A LOT of Photon and laser tag with people who grew up on the original sport. What a weekend that was! Upon returning from the event I reached out to Loretta and after several months of communicating about Photon, video projects and sign language we had the opportunity this past weekend to put together an interview about her experiences on the show all those years ago as well as her musical career and life since then.
Most everyone knows that my laser tag code name of "Tivia" originated as an homage to Loretta's character on the show...the laser tag playing ninja princess. So when you see me playing laser tag in any arena where I have a membership or can utilize my player name this is my I.D. (and the nickname used among a group of my closest friends). So the notion that this Tivia has the chance to chat with the other Tivia is just one of those crazy things that I wish I could go back in time and share with my seven year old self...it would blow her mind :)
Loretta was just getting ready to release her new acoustic album "The Boy Across The Road" when we started communicating from across different continents. I must say, it's remarkable how one thing led to another in these conversations which resulted in my performing one of the tracks from her new album in sign language at a show I was directing here in New York. Then subsequently that resulted in the production of this video for the latest version of her hit song "Winter In July" re-recorded for the new album. I am so pleased to share it here...enjoy!
So that is the story of how Tivia and Tivia had a chat. Big thanks to Loretta Heywood for being such a sweet person and taking the time for this interview in between her busy schedule as she is continuing her live shows.
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