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Producer Danny Salles on Episode 9: Birthday Blues

Joan does not like the B-word: “Birthday.” We found that out in a rather obvious way. When we were reviewing her calendar to plan out our shoot schedule, we asked what she was planning to do to on her birthday to celebrate. I naturally figured that the party would be a fun thing to include on the show. Joan quickly shot back, “absolutely nothing.” And she insisted on no cards, cakes, flowers and certainly no gifts from the crew. Oookay. We got it. Do not bring up the birthday. But the devious producer in me realized that there was a much better story brewing around this birthday than a mere party scene. I figured that there was no way that the staff and crew, not to mention the friends and family who love Joan, would want to let the occasion go by unnoticed. And you should also know that Joan never lets another person’s special occasion go uncelebrated. When I was nominated for an Emmy during our shoot, Joan and Melissa surprised me with cupcakes. It was a lovely gift that I will not soon forget. And that’s just one of many thoughtful things they did for crew members this season. They are both so generous and thoughtful. Anyway, you can imagine that the people around Joan were eager to celebrate her despite her protests.

But Joan does not like the idea of growing older. Melissa says that her mom doesn’t feel any older, so the advancing numbers are about as welcome as a donut at a Weight Watchers meeting. Watching everyone walking on eggshells that birthday week, and poor Melissa having to cancel plans and hide gifts became the jumping point for our episode. Little did we know it would take us to New York where her friend, Margie, went to great lengths to get her friend out of her funk. This led us to tattoo parlor in New York City where Margie convinced Joan to get a tattoo. And where did Joan want one? On her butt. So there I was with two camera crews, zeroing in – carefully – on Joan’s posterior with the tattoo artist placing a picture of a bumble bee on her rump. These are moments that they don’t prepare you for in film school. Ah, the glamour of reality TV. I love it!