We've waited decades for this day: October 21, 2015. It's known all over the world as Back To The Future #BTTF Day, because of the culturally iconic film, Back to the Future, that came out in 1985, racing a DeLorean across the big screen, and bringing us into a version of what some of us dreamed the future would be like. The future, is now.
Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) steps into a world of hover boards, self-drying jackets, and an ‘80s cafe, on October 21, 2015, with his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, (Claudia Wells) by his side in a flying car with Doc Brown, after leaving good ol’ 1985.
Maybe it was the fact that both of us are single mom’s that led to an instant bond. Maybe it was the antipasti at the Italian restaurant or the coincidence that we both love the color purple that led us to toast to our similarities and celebrate our journeys. Maybe it’s our shared love of shoes and amazing manicures that allowed us to enjoy each other’s company. Or – all of the above – led us to have a conversation, as if we were friends for decades.
I’d like to think that fate’s time machine landed us exactly at the right place at the right time. So while Marty is busy flying around with Doc Brown in a DeLorean in Hill Valley today, come on an adventure with me and the original Jennifer Parker, Claudia Wells, right here on the blog.
When Claudia Wells was cast in Back to the Future, she and everyone else had no idea that the movie would become such a cultural phenomenon.
“The truth is I was so honored and excited to be in a Spielberg film. What happened after the fact, never occurred to me to be a thought in my head. It was my very first movie I ever did, and I got to start at the top,” says Claudia.
“And interestingly enough, I wasn’t even nervous for my audition at all. I only had one audition that was 2 ½ hours with Steven Spielberg, all the Amblin executives, Bob Zemeckis... In the last few months [prior to the #BTTF audition] I had screen tested for Goonies, Gremlins, and Young Sherlock Holmes. They were all Amblin Films, and it was down to me and one or two other girls for each role. So, I got called into another audition with another Amblin Film. I walked in saying “Hi, it’s me again!” Claudia laughs.
“For them to not cast me three times, and you know its starts with the ‘I don’t know how many people are auditioning…' so when, and only when, you get to see the director and the producer, but still to get down to two to three girls for a starring role for three films and not get them, I had no nervousness for when it was for Back to the Future. [I thought] that most likely the same thing was going to end up happening.”
“And now because of a job I did at 18 years old, I get to travel the world. I love and am thrilled to get respect from wonderful people from all over the world, and I get to meet them and travel.”
Many, including myself, have their own favorite moments from Back to the Future. There was a time when my brother and I could recite the dialogue word-for-word. So I had to find out what Claudia’s favorite film moment was; and it was actually off-screen rather than on.
“My favorite moment of being on Back to the Future was when I was sitting in the BMW in the driveway in front of the house where Marty was living, and listening to the music that Michael (J. Fox) was listening to on the radio. Because I grew up with symphony and opera, Elton John and Simon &Garfunkel… I knew nothing of modern music, and he was listening to some modern radio station. I thought, ‘Wow, this is kinda cool.’ That was my favorite moment. It wasn’t about filming; it was just about hanging out. We were so comfortable with each other. We used to walk, and he would put his hand in my back pocket, and I used to pretend that I was the cool girl in high school, because I never was. And, in fact, when I saw him in London a few weeks ago, we had lots of time backstage, before going on stage for press, and when someone pointed out Michael, I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’ and we just ended up hugging and talking about personal things, and I forgot anyone else was even there. We still had the same connection that was there when I was 18 and he was 24. Just incredible.”
“He (Michael) showed up to a Hollywood show I did once because he was doing a book signing at UCLA, and he decided to come over to visit. I hadn’t seen him since I was 18, and when he hugged me, it was like the same hug from years ago. It was like a little friendship bond. It doesn’t matter how many years that we’ve been separated; it’s like time had never gone by. And he still put his hand in my back pocket. He and I were friends, and that friendship is still there to this day.”
With the release of Back to the Future II, the role of Jennifer Parker was resumed by Elisabeth Shue since Claudia’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and she felt she needed to put family first.
“I did want to say something about Elisabeth Shue. It still amazes me that I get to be the Jennifer Parker who gets to travel the world, for the Back to the Future. I was called Back to the Future’s biggest cheerleader. For me it’s like an honor because I’m the cheerleader for the franchise. We (Elisabeth and I) ended up auditioning for the same movie, and she got it, so I felt honored that she took my place as Jennifer Parker. My goodness what a great actress,” shared Claudia.
As the original Jennifer Parker, you may be curious as to the circumstances Claudia first saw BTTFII. Additionally, you may wonder if Claudia thinks that any of those incredible inventions such as flying cars, doors that opened when you pressed your fingerprint to it, or accurate weather up to the second would exist. Read on and find out!
“When the movie came out, I went and saw it by myself, at a theater in the mall, scrunched down, eating my popcorn, just so I could see Back to the Future II. I didn’t think any of those things would be real. I was just kind of overwhelmed by all that was going on in it. And I was also (thinking) 'Wow, this is the movie that I said no thank you too.’ I didn’t pay attention to many of the details, I promise you. But I do remember, which I thought was very cool, which has not yet been created, and I don’t use a microwave anymore - but when they set that little pizza in the microwave and it came out as a big one, that’s the key that I remember! I grew up with the Jetsons. So when I was in 8th grade, someone from NASA came up and talked to the class and they said, ‘By the time you’re adults, there will be cities in space, there will be trips to see the cities- some people will live there, some people will visit.’ So, that was my expectation of the future, literally, so anything modern that’s in movies, doesn’t surprise me, it’s what I expected when I was a kid. “
When Claudia’s not time traveling as Jennifer Parker, or hanging out after school with Marty McFly, she’s been a little busy over the past three decades driving a purple and turquoise Lincoln Continental to meet Roger Moore, operating a designer clothing store for men (Armani Wells) in California, hanging out with Eddie Van Halen trying to name his songs, and raising her son as a single mom. You know, the usual.
Claudia and Men
Claudia changes men – one at a time; literally. She has a passion for taking care of men.
“The reason why I opened my store because there are a lot of retail shops aimed towards women. Women have the ability to go out and by a five-thousand dollar dress for six or seven hundred dollars, and men have never had that option. Men’s clothing is far more expensive than women’s if you want to look nice, if you want to wear the finest fabric and the finest tailoring, make, and measure, or shoes that were French pressed in England, and hand made. If they spend three to four-hundred dollars on a brand new suit, they feel like cardboard.
And other men have the ability that can pay twenty-five hundred to eight thousand on a suit. It’s an entirely different world. It gives them the feeling of self-respect. And they get respect when they walk in anywhere. Even if anyone doesn’t know anything about fashion will recognize fine tailoring and fine cloth.
And so, I decided, women have their choices; men don’t! So I’m going to open up a store. And men of any financial status will be able to leave with something beautiful,” she says with excitement in her voice.
The success and concept of Armani Wells, (Claudia’s men’s store) has brought many prominent people through its doors. This is what led her to dress Roger Moore in a tuxedo for an event at the penthouse in the Universal Hilton hotel.
“The funniest thing is, nobody knows this, I was driving a ’79 Lincoln Continental made by Gucci, with white leather seats, and it was a purple and turquoise car. I was driving up this huge hill, to get to the Universal Hilton, when my car ran out of gas half way up the hill. I just called the producer, who was waiting with Roger Moore and his wife. I was like, ‘It’s Claudia. I am half way up the hill, and I am out of gas.’ I left my car on the side, left my blinkers on, and got into his (Roger Moore’s) convertible Rolls Royce, and he drove me the rest of the way. I was sitting with Roger Moore and his wife, telling them that they looked like absolute perfection, from head to toe. Especially his wife, from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet, she was perfection of elegance and beauty, and it was magnificent. Amazing! I told Roger Moore that I’ve boycotted every Bond movie ever since he wasn’t in it. And it’s true, I haven’t seen a single one since. And then, I had these handmade beautiful tuxedo shirts with a tail that goes from the back to the front, and it buttons in the front. It keeps your shirt perfectly smooth at all times. So here I am, explaining to Roger Moore, why I was there. He looks at me and says ‘My darling, do you know how this started?’ and I said, ‘I don’t.’ He said, ‘I was doing a cowboy TV series in the 50’s, and I always needed to look excellent when I got off the horse. I invented that, so my shirts always looked tucked in, with everything, no matter what I did.’”
“So here I am, with Roger Moore saying that he created the same thing for something that he did in the 50’s. I went back a few times between the fittings. When I went back the third time, he needed more than one shirt. By the third time, we were more like buddies by this point, and he and his beautiful wife followed me in their car to my store, and I dressed them in my store, and it was wonderful. It is a family place. It is a friendly place, no matter if you are an icon or a valet. Everyone is treated the same,” shares Claudia proudly. “It’s so much more than a store. You are walking into my home and I am treating you that way.”
Sometimes even celebrities don’t recognize all celebrities when they walk through their door.
“I never know who anyone is,” laughs Claudia. “Sometimes I have to have them sing their songs to me. Eddie Van Halen was playing the guitar for me, and he goes ‘You do know this one, right?’ and I said, ‘No…’ and he goes ‘It’s Jamie’s Crying.” And I was like, ‘Oh…’ and he looks at me and goes, ‘You really don’t know any of my music, do you?’ I said, ‘That’s what I told you when we first met,’ Claudia blushes, as she tells another star-studded true tale.
“I’m very easy to get along with, but I don’t get star struck if I don’t know who you are. I also grew up in opera and everything, [She’s Plácido Domingo Jr’s childhood friend] so I’m not the type of person who gets impressed on what someone does.”
Like me, Claudia is an old fashioned girl at heart, and is single, as well.
“I believe in a man being a gentleman, and I believe in a woman being a lady. I have never been married, but I do believe in the different gender roles in marriage. I always tell people I am an old fashioned girl who lives a very modern and independent lifestyle. I’m self-sufficient because I haven’t married for any reason, and won’t, other than, wanting to be madly in love with my husband, and having a partnership, and all of that. So I am a single mom; never married,” shares Claudia.
She has one son.
“My son asks why I’ve never gotten married, and I tell him I am waiting for my husband to come and find me. It’s the truth. I was the kind of girl who drew her wedding dress when I was five or six, or whenever The Sound of Music came out and I saw her walking down the aisle with the beautiful dress and the romantic groom. I said, ‘That’s my wedding dress, and that’s my wedding.’ It doesn’t need to be more than thirty people there, but I do want it to be elegant and full of love. I mean, who knows, I may end up being barefoot on a beach. I don’t know, but that was my childhood dream. And I’m surprised, because out of all of my siblings, I thought I would be the one married first. But I’m not, and I am 49.”
“I get along better with men, naturally. Always. As the years have gone by, I do now have a group of women friends, and what do they say, ‘Men will kiss your ass but women will hold it.’ I have women friends that are so unconditionally loving and who are so very protective of me. They are there for me 24/7, non-judgmental, and when it really goes down, they are my strength.”
If you have the opportunity to meet Claudia you will be captivated by her youthful energy and passion for her career and life. And, you’ll be shocked as hell that she’s 49 and looks so much younger. What’s her secret?
“What works best for me is that I have an inner joy - that heart towards people and life - and I think that flows through. Even when I’m not wearing makeup and my hair isn’t done, people love me so much, that it’s okay to look at,” bubbles Claudia.
To her, age is just a number.
“I think that the most crucial thought of age is to not be scared of the number. My mom never told anyone her age because she felt she had less of an option of work or being taken seriously. When I was 18 they formed a Wiki-page for me, and it said I was born in 1966. My age is public information. I am proud of my age. It shows I made it, like I survived up to now, and I think the number one thing is not being afraid of your age.”
“The number two thing is having a joy within that comes out, and for me it’s knowing that God loves me, and it has nothing to do with my work or my actions, or anything. It only has to deal with who He is. So, if I’m down and out, He still loves me and created me and made me in my mother's womb, and He has purpose for my life. My confidence in that, and my faith in that, keeps me going, and keeps me knowing that I am loved no matter what. When I was a teenager, if you said to me ‘Hi, how are you?’ if I couldn’t tell you ‘I’m great,’ I thought I was worthless. I was a good student and a nice person, but none of that meant anything to me. For many years, living as a normal independent person, I realized that none of that matters for my work. My work depends on God loving me, no matter what. I can’t earn that love, it depends on His grace. Interestingly enough, Grace is my middle name.”
After seeing Claudia play the cool girl in school in Back to the Future, it’s hard to imagine that she didn’t have great days every day as a teen.
Claudia on Beauty and Health and Eating
Claudia and I share another belief: sometimes you need a little sprucing up on the outside, even when you feel great on the inside.
“I’m the girl who goes to the hairdresser constantly. I’m always changing the color. I’m the girl who has great nails and toes. I get manicures and pedicures all the time,” she relates.
Besides a sense of humor, which she says is essential to turning back time, while she admittedly cracks herself up every morning, she has a love of smoothies. Generally, she makes one every morning with a mix of power greens, hemp seeds, and frozen organic fruit. Then she’ll blend it with a big hunk of ginger that still has the skin on it or throw in Persian cucumbers. Sometimes she will mix dried hibiscus powder with water or coffee.
“I’ll fill up 3 - 32oz to-go cups and stick it in my fridge that I’ve got and I’ll sip on that. It’ll keep me going though half the day. So I try to eat well, but I’m also the girl who limits myself. I even it all out. I’ve gotten into sprouting lately. I’ve sprouted spinach and broccoli. You soak the seeds overnight then you rinse them and you stick them in this brown bag; you have to keep it dark. It’s like a burlap sack with a shoe string on it. And they grow. And all of a sudden, wow! This teeny tiny little seed is now a sprout and I put it in the fridge and I mix them all together with sauerkraut because of all the probiotics, and I put high end pepper and curry in it. Sometimes I’ll use avocado or tomato in it, and because of the juices you don’t need dressing. I’ll put it in the big huge bowl, and I’ll eat it anywhere.”
“My favorite spot to eat anything is in the bed. I’ll put it on a towel so I don’t get anything messy, and I’ll chat on the phone with friends, and I’ll just eat it. But that salad that I make, its pure protein and health. And it tastes really good, and it’s made from things I actually sprouted, and I am not a gardener. And I don’t have a green thumb, except for my poinsettia that I have from last Christmas! Sometimes I use hibiscus water, to make it taste different, but I start off my day with a pot of coffee and a smoothie and I’ll end my day with some sushi.”
Claudia on Being a Single Mom
“I got pregnant after my store was three years old, so 18 years of it, I was as a single mom as well. And that has its own trials and turmoil amongst moments of beauty,” tells Claudia of her years post #BTTF.
“I used to think that I would look up to the married mom, having the ‘Mommy and Me’ classes, you know, and sometimes, think they’ve got it good. But, some married women have their own moments of trials and turmoil amongst beauty also.“
“My son, who I’m very proud of, is a kind-hearted, hard-working, independent human being. We have had our troubles and turmoil because I am a woman raising a man; and there is no male person in the house that he could learn how to shave from. It’s funny because I raised him to be a gentleman because he was born a male. So, when he was 3 or 4 years old, I was showing him how to open the door for a girl, and he would always push it to open the door for me. When we would go to the bank, (I would call it the ‘money store’), and they would have those big glass doors, he would push it open for me. But then he would see someone from 20 feet away, and he would keep the door open. It was just precious. He used to say to me, ‘Mommy, I don’t know why a girl would always walk in front of a boy. Why does the girl walk in first?’ And I would say, ‘Sweetheart, there are just certain things that girls get and there are just certain things that boys get, and you are a boy.’
And you know what he said to me when he was like, 7, he said, ‘Mommy, I want to work when I grow up.’ I said, ‘Of course you do.’ But he said, ‘I don’t just want to shop, I want to work.’ And I looked at him and I was like, ‘Wow, all he knows is that Mommy works, mommy owns a business, and then men shop at her store.’ Men do shop at my store, but men do work. It’s just an amazing thing. Being both a mom and a dad - there are a lot of difficulties, but it’s great. I think parenthood is the best kept secret in the world, because when you’re pregnant, no one tells you how hard it really going to be.”
“I have a gift for being friends with men because I have a strong male aspect of my life since I am a single parent. You know, I have people whose livelihood depends on me because I am self-sufficient. My nanny, that I hired when my son was three, who was from West Africa said to me, ‘You are the man of the house,’ and I realized that I am. I guess I always have been. So in that, I am always being so strong. I have people who love me when I am weak. We all just seem to carry each other. I’m amazed with the caliber of love and friendships that I have that are very close to me; and they love me no matter what- if I’m overweight, or if I’m not looking great, or not sounding great. They don’t judge. They never ever, ever, ever judge. We all have our own kind of crazy. So yes, the classic insecure, jealous, envious side (of women), is not my forte.”
“I grew up with a single mom. [My parents] They were divorced when I was two, so I didn’t have a male figure either. That’s all knew when I opened my store. As a result of experience. I used to tell my son, ‘Courage doesn’t come from doing something. Courage comes from walking through it.’ And for me, the business sense that I have was shown to me, after I opened my store. As an actress, you have a lawyer, manager, business manager, and agent, and you’re not taught. Other people are doing the negotiations, and (when I was 18) I didn’t care about how much money I was making. I used to think you had to pay to be an actress. I was astounded, that they paid you. I was shocked. I got paid to be an actress. That was cool.”
What Claudia’s Up to Now
When motherhood took the forefront, Claudia’s acting went on the back burner.
“I knew when I left acting, I would come back to it, but I would come back to it on my own. When I was asked to do an independent film, and I was on set and they said ‘Action!’ I was like ‘Wow!’ my passion for this is the same as it always has been,” shares Claudia about a recent experience on set.
Her son is now grown and she would love to get back into acting now. She feels her life experiences will add more dimension to any character she can play.
“Now I know I can say to myself, I know I have grit, because I used to hear, ‘You need more grit. You’re so angelic. You are so sweet, and kind and whatever.’ Now I have lived so many different lives in one, I’m able to bring any serious reality to anything. I still love comedy, and I love drama, and as an adult woman with the experience that I have, I can’t even imagine, how much more I can bring to acting now than I used to be able to. I knew I wanted to be an actor since I was a child.”
Besides acting, did you know that Claudia can sing? She started singing opera in San Francisco when she was 8 as a member of the San Francisco Girls’ Choir and recently she had the opportunity to participate in a ‘We Are the World’ type album with many professional singers around the globe with David Longoria Productions. One of the tracks she is on is called “We Are One” from the album called “Journey” anticipated to be released at the end of this year. It’s her first album and recording experience.
“I know that God is doing me a favor giving me these opportunities because they don’t come to everyone; and I am grateful for the chances that I do get,” shares Claudia, from her very big heart with a very big smile.
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