Mindy Fradkin aka Princess Wow has been involved in the arts her whole life as a performer of Hat’s Entertainment, with her designer hats as props, as a singer/songwriter with her wasband ex Roland Mousaa, former radio show host, music promoter and founder of the Smile Revolution which raises conscious awareness of the healing power of a genuine smile. Mindy lives in the Hudson Valley, New York and is about to perform her new solo show Woodstock or Bust at a theatre in London on April 23rd at 4pm. Details at end of her piece.
I had a difficult childhood and suffered from depression for many years, chronic illnesses, mental issues, indecision and insecurity. From the outside my life looked ideal, a monied family and status in the community. Behind that, I saw lives of quiet desperation, myself included. I made a declaration in high school, while reading an Eastern religion book, it said to set an example. I said that one day I would be an example of happiness and joy.
That is how my story begins. In my comedic storytelling, part original smile music and part Hat Happening, my audience discovers the tools I used to be able to overcome my childhood and able to fulfil my unique niche in this life. A Hat Happening is an interactive event where I put hats that I designed on their heads, sometimes adding wigs, boas, eyewear to add to the fun. It’s part improv as well with us dancing or sashaying around and pretending to be the Queen of England, while I am telling stories. I always have a handy mirror so others can see how they look, of course. That is an important element. Children love to dress up and so do adults! I have several dolls in my likeness and they are always a part of any show I do these days, and Gumby may want to travel to the UK as well. Gumby always has a smile and a hug for all.
I started making hats in the early 1990s, as I was always wearing hats in New York City as a 30-something woman, after moving there from Los Angeles a decade earlier. I was a wardrobe stylist and costumed a film where I had the cast laughing daily and was told I needed to be in front of the camera, not behind it. I was also told by the special effects person that there needed to be Mindy dolls.
After that summer I decided to take a stand-up comedy class. I then went on to perform in NYC comedy clubs, and went to millinery classes at night at Fashion Institute of Technology.
I loved learning how to make hats, even though I had never sewed a day in my life! I stopped performing in clubs – too late at night, smoke filled, and I had a case of stage fright.
I missed performing when learning to make hats, so I created a show called a Hat Happening where I would put hats on people and dress them up with boas and wigs and tell stories. I sold the hats at the end and later got paid at senior homes and women’s clubs to entertain.
I also sold to top stores like Henri Benders, Nordstrom, and other high end boutiques and commissions.
I got my name Princess Wow because people would always say “Wow!” when I walked into a room with my outrageous and colourful outfits, hats and aqua wigs. Everyone else in NYC was wearing black. I was given the “Wow” name by a theatre director, and the Princess came from a noted writer for the New York Times.
I got the idea for The Smile Revolution when my Dad gave me his last smile. We had a difficult relationship, however, we had many healings over the years. I was visiting him and my second mom when he was very ill. I stayed for weeks, cancelling everything. As I was leaving, he gave me a big grin with pure love and no judgment. It meant everything to me.
The idea came when I went back to New York to perform my Hat Happening for an independent film. I was interviewed and out of my mouth came, ‘We need a smile revolution in the world!’ I have done many projects since 2005, including a blog, radio show, smile album with Roland Mousaa (my was-band), smile concerts with Pete Seeger headlining my first. When the pandemic hit, I immediately started a Facebook live show to help people smile. They were an eclectic variety of shows and I am now back to interviewing musicians, artists, authors and directors.
As for this show Woodstock or Bust – this is where the idea comes from.
I was single for many years with my cat(s), and still wanted to get married.
I was hanging out with my childhood friend who was married to a keyboard player for James Taylor for 15 years and other major musicians.
Her husband and musician got me. He said when he first met me, ‘Didn’t I see you on Saturday Night Live in the 70s?’ So I thought I needed to marry a musician! Where would I meet one? In Woodstock, of course! I decided I needed to move there. I got a job in the area and lived there part time. I did achieve my goal and married Roland Mousaa, Grammy winning musician with Pete Seeger, and got into the rarified music world. We are divorced yet still collaborating with our music and good friends still.
As the pandemic waned, I felt led to start working with my director, Best National Solo Artist, Jessica Lynn Johnson, to do a new show to take to live theatre. Before the pandemic, I was touring with my award winning show, “Ageless Wonders: A Grown-up Kids Guide to Realising We Are New.”
As an artist elder, I feel the need to continue to create and always will as long as I am able to. I feel that my generation is a role model for the younger generations that no matter what number we seem to be, we can continue to be relevant and inspire and uplift others even if we don’t look like the fountain of youth any longer. We are still here!
“Woodstock or Bust: How a Hat Designer Started a Revolution”
Written and starring Mindy Fradkin aka Princess Wow
Developed and Directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson
Lyrics by Roland Mousaa & Mindy Fradkin
Music by Roland Mousaa
New York, taking my preview to London, Sunday, April 23, 4pm, Etcetera Theatre, Camden
www.etceteratheatre.com for tickets