by Lola Rossi-Meza
After countless re-writes, actress, singer, harpist, producer and director, Valerie-Jean Hume, has delivered an award-winning two-act play about Marty Mann, the First Lady of AA. The “Staged Reading” will be held on Saturday, August 10, at 7 p.m. in The Palm Springs Woman’s Club House located at 314 South Cahuilla Road in Palm Springs. Tickets are $10 and available at the door or in advance by calling Zigi Graham at (760) 464-2138. Proceeds benefit Michael’s House, a Palm Springs Recovery Center.
Born and raised in Saskatoon, in the Province of Saskatchewan, Canada, Valerie-Jean Hume was the middle child with an older sister and younger brother. Her Mother was a professional artist and her Father was an assistant superintendent of the public school system. They both were very talented and interested in the arts and the sciences.
“My Grandparents were among the Pioneers and settled there with a dream to be Temperance Colonists,” said Hume. “They brought with them a lot of culture and since the winters are very long and cold, they would entertain each other by performing in plays, musicals and meet for social dances. It is also the wheat growing capital of the world, and to this day, is still a very cultural community. It was a small city and a great place to grow up.”
The family all participated in music lessons growing up. “No one in my family was surprised that I chose to be an entertainer because all my life growing up, I would vie for attention. Then I found out I could do that for a living.” They all took piano lessons, but VJ decided she preferred the flute. “I took up flute just at the time when jazz came along. It was so inspiring to me because Herbie Mann was recording and Moe Kaufman wrote ‘The Swingin’ Shepherd Blues’ and the minute I heard that, I knew that was the kind of music I wanted to play. It was a very exciting time to play jazz flute. However, I quickly saw as an adult, the one way road to the poor house was to be a jazz flutist in Canada, so I didn’t pursue it.”
Years later while invited to perform on the Juliet Television Show for a Christmas Special, she sang a North American Indian song that was an interpretation of how the priests tried to explain Christmas to the Indians. “Moe Kaufman was in the orchestra, and all day I asked to meet him. After the show, all the musicians had left and I was so disappointed. I left and while walking to the parking lot there he was. So I went up to him and introduced myself and thanked him for inspiring me as a teenager to play jazz flute. He was very appreciative and told me he liked my song, too. I never saw him again, but I still remember that day.”
She took to the road and moved to Toronto to be an Actress, but when she saw how difficult it was to make a living in that profession, she started teaching theatre in a girls finishing school. When the school closed she set up the first Professional Modeling Course in the Community College in Oakville just outside of Toronto. “My girls were fabulous, some of them were contestants in the Miss Canada Pageant and some of them won, too.”
One day she remembered being introduced to the Autoharp by one of her teachers. She called a local music store and ordered one. “My teacher couldn’t play it, but after I purchased one, I became completely obsessed with it. I finally found my voice.” She could always sing, but she and the Autoharp blended perfectly together, so she went on the road with it in 1973 and she still plays it to this day.
While on the road she developed her style and was able to sing in ten languages. She was a very different act and was very successful working on various cruise ships. In 1986 she moved to Los Angeles but couldn’t find enough work there. The Musician’s Union suggested she go find work in Palm Springs where her style of music would be more suited. She moved to Palm Springs in 1987 and opened in the lounge at the Riviera Resort in Palm Springs. Dick Contino was performing in the Mediterranean Room where Hume later performed for the Sunday Brunch.
In addition to her many talents, she started doing voice overs for KWXY AM/FM Radio and later had her own show “VJ’s Corner” where she taped over 4600 shows with celebrities, authors, charities, fashion designers, journalists, actors, doctors mayors, sports figures, prime ministers and more. She won several awards including the “Athena” and “Press Woman of the Year” in 1992.
After she left her show, she went back to acting, and performed in many shows. She was asked by Ted Herman to perform in a show and that is where she met her husband, musician Ted Pethes, in 2003. They married on May 1, 2004. Since that time she is busy doing all the things she loves to do, including bringing her original play to the world, “Lush!”
I have seen this brilliantly written and cleverly directed play and highly recommend it. Mark your calendars and plan to attend, you will be helping raise funds for a very worthy cause, and leave with more understanding and compassion. I know I did.