View the original article at: http://www.countryweekly.com/magazine/vault/reba-faces-danger-finds-beauty-guatemala-music-video-shoot-and-still-1995
Originally published in the June 6, 1995, issue of Country Weekly magazine , featuring Reba McEntire!
When Reba McEntire ventured into the Guatemalan jungle to shoot her new video, “And Still,” she defied warnings of confrontations with banditos, hijackers and guerrillas.
Instead the flame-haired superstar walked into the welcoming arms of a hardworking people and beautiful children.
She came back, she says, changed forever.
“It got kind of scary, pretty hairy,” she told Country Weekly, which is presenting an exclusive look at her visit to Central America. “But we had a really, really good time. They are such beautiful people, the scenery was so fantastic and we’ll have a real unique video because of that.”
Before she left for the Central American country last month, Reba was warned of the perils she might encounter. But she faced them, defying U.S. travel advisories and endless rumors of bandits, kidnappings, hijackings, a brutal military and armed renegades.
Instead she discovered a rugged country of industrious people and curious, innocent children living in remote villages.
Reba’s journey began in Nashville with a visit to the doctor, where she got four shots, including one for malaria. Then the spunky singer and her husband/manager, Narvel Blackstock climbed, into their Gulfstream‑2 jet for the three-hour flight to Guatemala City.
Stormy weather prevented them from flying directly to the high-altitude shooting site at Santiago Atitlan near Lake Atitlan. So Reba, Narvel and bodyguard Ohad Steinhart made the 50‑mile trip from Guatemala City in a Land Rover, negotiating the treacherous roads safely and without incident.
Most of the crew arrived on a chartered bus the following day, joining producer George Wieser and director Jack Cole, who had arrived earlier for pre‑production work.
The video stars Reba as a former Peace Corps volunteer who many years ago had met another volunteer, played by Mark Derwin, while helping people in a Third World country. They meet again 17 years later and the story unfolds.
Shooting locations in Santiago Atitlan included a one-room schoolhouse, the town’s vibrant, colorful marketplace, the lake itself—considered one of the world’s most beautiful because of its constantly changing colors—and a restaurant at the Hotel Posada de Santiago, where Reba and her husband shared a two‑bedroom villa with an oversize hammock slung on the front porch.
Worried about digestive upsets, Reba and Narvel brought their own food, heavy on such delicacies as Beanee Weenees, apple sauce, Cheerios, rice, milk, Spam, granola bars and Vienna sausages. One makeup artist, says Narvel, overdosed on local food and was flown home with a 104-degree fever.
Adjusting to a different culture wasn’t always easy. “We were bored to death the first couple of days because there was no television and no telephone,” Reba said. “I started writing a journal, but that lasted two pages.”
Boredom fled once the shooting schedule intensified. Reba obviously adored meeting the children of Guatemala, who in turn trailed the beautiful woman with the fiery red hair as if she were a modern Pied Piper.
“I was a little bit more fair‑complected than anybody there,” said Reba, who often used an umbrella to shield her skin from the tropical sun. Villagers watched, fascinated, as she applied TV makeup and waited patiently for hours when their marketplace was filmed.
“The children were precious and beautiful,” Reba said. “The thing that floored me more than anything were the little kids, 5 and 6 years old, who were responsible for taking care of their smaller brothers and sisters. Responsibility is pushed on them real early.”
Reba has high praise for both the video’s producer and director. “I enjoyed working with them tremendously. Jack is a very creative person and wrote a fabulous script that just fit. And George was very friendly, very helpful—and he had his hands full because of the communications in Guatemala. We’re like, `Click, click, click, let’s get it done,’ and they’re like, `Maybe tomorrow.’ ”
Reba also praised co‑stars Mark Derwin and Beth Ehlers, former stars of the daytime soap Guiding Light. The shoot was an exotic reunion for Mark and Beth, who were sweethearts in real life as well as on the show.
Cole, who has worked on several of Reba’s videos, loved directing the feisty redhead. “She’s not afraid to challenge the medium and the system, and she prods her own talents to higher levels,” Cole said. “Plus she has wonderful acting instincts.”
Africa had been the first choice for taping, but it proved too costly in dollars and time. But Reba was pleased with the change. “It was a lot more exciting than shooting in Nashville,” she said. “It’s the most fun of any video I’ve gotten to do—by far.”
Between her scenes Reba visited markets to stock up on beads, and cast and crew bought yards of the Guatemalans’ gorgeous hand-woven fabrics. Although Reba raved about the gorgeous table throw Narvel bought for her, Narvel said that Cindy Owen, Starstruck Entertainment’s creative director, is the one who really knows how to shop ’til she drops. “Cindy took an advance on her 1996 salary and bought out the marketplace,” he joked.
Reba was endlessly amazed by the Guatemalans’ laid-back but hardworking lifestyle. “There were women washing clothing on the rocks in the lake,” she said. “When we got on a bus, this girl had a basket on her head with two chickens in it. And there was a woman with a basket full of stuff on her head—and a scarf like a big sash around one side of her neck that held a child on her left hip and a live turkey on the other!”
Rain dampened only one day of the four‑day shoot, moving an outdoor restaurant scene indoors. Mostly it was sunny and warm—and so were the feelings of Reba, cast and crew as the shoot wrapped. After the work was all done, everyone involved celebrated with cold beer and bottled water before boarding the bus that would take them on the four‑hour ride back to Guatemala City.
Their exhilaration evaporated when a Guatemalan official boarded the bus just before it pulled away. He delivered the local banditry forecast as routinely as a weather report: “I want you to know there’s a 70 percent chance that within the first 10 miles after you leave this village, you will be robbed by bandits.”
The passengers grew silent. The official continued: “Just let them have what they want and they’ll go on their way.”
There wasn’t a sound as the bus began the journey down the narrow, winding mountain road, through jungles and forests that could hide bandits and worse. “During those 10 miles you could have heard a pin drop,” said Reba. “Fortunately we made it through without a problem.”
The risks were worth it, Reba said. She’ll always remember one moment that took place during the second day at a school. A tiny girl who had watched Reba teach the children “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” looked up at the beautiful star. Dark eyes gleaming, the tot said, “Reba, Reba, E‑I‑E‑I‑O.”
“And,” Reba recalls with her own huge smile, “she grinned the biggest grin you ever saw in your life.”
Reba said to the tiny raven‑haired beauty, “You want to sing that song, don’t you?”
The little girl nodded and said, very softly, “Si.”
“So I sang `Old MacDonald Had a Farm’ ” says Reba, “and when I pointed at her, she said, `E‑I‑E‑I‑O.’ Then all the kids joined in and we had the best time.”
Reba McEntire may never be the same, and neither may the children of Santiago Atitlan. Perhaps someday, in the heart of Guatemala, there will even be a legend about a beautiful lady with hair the color of fire and a voice like an angel—singing “E‑I‑E‑I‑O.”