This morning it is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my favorite actresses, Ms Taija Rae!
Like a little more than half of the planets population, Tianna O’Keefe Reilly was born at a very early age as a small, puffy, female infant, and specifically for her, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (39°57′N 75°10′W)... where Rocky lives.
Philadelphia of course has historical significance for our country and once served as the capital of the nation temporarily, from 1790–1800, while the Federal City (later to be known as Washington D.C., named after a general in the Revolutionary Army. I’m not sure which one) was under construction in the District of Columbia. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia! How many other cities can say that?!
The great linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and logician, Noam Chomsky, was also born in Philadelphia. What an amazing coincidence! The cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead; Heather Dewey-Hagborg, the information artist and bio-hacker; the 19th-century biscuit entrepreneur Maria Anna Fisher; the actors Kevin Bacon, Bradley Cooper, Linda Fiorentino, Tina Fey, Richard Gere, Grace Kelly, Jack Klugman, Will Smith, Kelly Monaco, and Seth Green all come from Philadelphia. Serial hypno-drug therapy sex counselor Bill Cosby comes from Philadelphia. As does social activist and cheese straightener Miguel Witsnetsky. Flagulist Betsy Ross was born there. Certifiably insane Michelle Malkin is a Philadelphian. MSNBC hero Chris Matthews, time tunnelist James Darren, and stooge Larry Fine, come from Philadelphia. Everybody except freaking Sylvester Stallone comes from Philadelphia.
Tianna’s mom, Maggie Aoibheann O'Banion, a physical chemist, and her dad, Ciaran Reilly, an executive for the Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company, were of... oh, let’s say Irish ancestry, always supported their daughter’s interest in the entertainment field, which she became interested in after seeing the film “Citizen Kane,” when she was eight years old. Young Tianna excelled in the tap and modern dance courses her mother enrolled her in. At age nine she began ballet studies at the prestigious Philadelphia Dance Academy, and yoga, at The Yoga Garden on South Street, two disciplines that she would draw from later in her film career.
“The yoga and ballet I learned when I was younger would come in handy as I advanced in the film industry,” she said. “As I could be way more bendy and flexible than other actresses.”
At age thirteen Tianna came in second place in the banana eating contest at the Philadelphia County Fair at the Oval. Her expertise in banana eating would also come in handy later.
After graduating from Parkway Center City High School, she attended the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Bioinformatics, Computer Science (specializing in operating systems and database management), Animal Husbandry, and Dramatic Arts.
In 1980 Tianna graduated with a Master of Science in Bioinformatics and Computer Science, a Bachelor's degree in Animal Science (specializing in selection, breeding, care for, processing, market livestock and small farm animals... but no chickens!), and a Artium Baccalaureatus in Theater and Performance Studies.
My research indicates that after graduation Tianna helped make ends meet as a massage therapist, and she also worked in a “call house,” for a while.
That we have that in common. I once worked in a call house as well. Two of them in fact. One in Northridge California, and the other in Burbank, as a long distance operator for AT&T. It was one if the best jobs I ever had! Of course now that type of job is all automated. Perhaps automation is what pushed Tianna out of the business, who knows?
Any way in 1983, a year after I got out of the navy, Tianna was “discovered,” by the famous Philadelphia talent firm, Lynx Management, who prompted Tianna to change her name. I don’t know why. Tianna Reilly is a perfectly lovely name, but no matter. Tianna chose Taija Rae as her stage name. Taija Rae is pronounced Tay-zha Ray, just like it sounds. She says she got the name from an Asian cocktail waitress she once worked with, and Rae from the actress Fay Wray, whom King Kong once fondled. Tianna... er, I mean Taija changed the spelling of Wray’s last name to Rae because she doesn't like names that end in “Y.”
Another thing we have in common.
Lynx Management offered these amazing statistics:
Taija has brown hair and eyes. Is 5 feet 5 inches tall. She weighed 130 lovely pounds. Measured a stunning 38D-24-37, and had a 7 shoe size.
Isn’t it wonderful!
Taija was screen tested as an independent contractor in New York City, and soon became familiar with the various aspects of, and people in the industry. She worked on the east coast, with such distinguished filmmakers as Ron Sullivan (the sequel to “The Devil in Miss Jones,” and “Blame it on Ginger,” starring the lovely and talented Ginger Lynn, who I’ve actually met),
Charles Vincent Dingley (“Hollywood Hot Tubs,” “Bad Penny,” and the classic “Roommates”), and Dave Darby (don’t know who this guy is, but the odds are he’s a distinguished director).
According to Wikipedia Taija’s first professional acting job was to appear in “Dangerous Stuff,” and “ Scenes They Wouldn't Let Me Shoot,” both in 1983. As a matter of fact they were both filmed on the same weekend, which reflects the marvels of modern film making technology for that time.
According to the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB), her first film was 1984‘s “Urban Heat,” with Tish Ambrose.
I have no idea which film was the first one that Taija appeared in, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. The point is that she had broken into the business, and her career was about to take off.
The IMDB offers this brief description of Taija: “Throughout most of the 1980s this luscious, New York-accented, sexy "girl next door" was a fan favorite. Unlike the typical movie queen, Taija was neither svelte nor surgically enhanced; she had a "this is pretty much the way I am" look that appealed to men and didn't threaten women. She seemed approachable, the kind of girl you could meet in a club and offer to buy a drink without getting laughed out of the place. She was a very good actress and an exceptional performer.”
Well, wasn’t that nice.
Taija was on her way and there was no stopping her.
She continued her film work, appearing in “Good Girls, Bad Girls,” with another Irish lass, the lovely and talented Colleen Brennan and Sharon Mitchell. “Make Me Feel It!” with Kelly Nichols, Sharon Kane, and Kristara Barrington. And 1985s “Hot Rockers,” with Sharon Kane again, and Melanie Scott.
Her career flourished, and she appeared in a series of successful movies, one right after the other. 1986‘s “Christine's Secret,” with Carol Cross, and “Cherry Tricks,” with superstars Tracey Adams and Lois Ayres.
That year she also got her first leading role in “Breakin In,” with Nina Hartley, Sharon Mitchell again (boy she got around), Jeanna Fine, Honey Wilder, Siobhan Hunter, and another girl next door, Shanna McCullough. The story concerned a blind burglar and her pet miniature schnauzer, which is deaf. Taija came in second place to Angel for the Best New Starlet AVN Award, for her work.
But it wasn’t until her breakout performance in 1987‘s “Living Doll,” with Ginger’s sister, Amber Lynn, Siobhan Hunter, Nina Hartley, Sharon Mitchell, and Shanna McCullough... pretty much the same exact cast as in “Make Me Feel It!” and “Hot Rockers.”
The film brought Taija to the forefront of the entertainment industry here and abroad, nationally and internationally. Sudden and overwhelming fame and recognition of her immense talent was of course unnerving at first. Having your whole world turned upside down virtually overnight can be quite unsettling. It’s a good thing that she had plenty of drugs and alcohol close by in order to cope with the ordeal.
Taija had maintained a home in Pennsylvania, but more and more work was coming her way out of L.A., so in 1988, after a stint in a Broadway production of “The Crucible,” with Tony Randall, Keli Richards, Rhonda Jo Petty, and Kay Parker, she finally packed up and moved out to the west coast.
After the success of “Living Doll,” Taija went on to make such fine staples as “American Babylon,” the musical “DreamGirls,” with Melissa Melendez and Candie Evans. 1987‘s “Spoiled,” “Smooth as Silk,” with Viper, Nina DePonca, “Motel Sweets,” with Nikki Knights, Ona Zee, and Renee Summers; 1988's “Decadence,” with Cassandra Leigh and Carol Cross, “Samantha I Love You,” with Erica Boyer, “Twins,” with Careena Collins, her one woman show, “Outrageous Games,” “Exposure,” with Laurel Canyon, and 1990's “Inner Blues,” with Frankie Leigh.
Taija has been romantically linked to Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Jerry Brown, Mick Fleetwood, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Keith Richards, Barbara Boxer, Sam Donaldson, Muhammad Ali, David Letterman, Ed Asner, Stephen Hawking, Cat Stevens, Don Pardo, Chris Matthews, Dean Koontz, Charles Koch, and Henry Kissinger, but has never married, or had children.
Sadly she left the movie business in 1990, leaving Los Angeles as well and relocated in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she has been employed as a computer code writer by a consortium of defense contractors including, but not limited to, Du Pont, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Mcdonald’s, working on a highly classified program called Skynet.
In a few years she will be partially responsible for the subjugation and destruction of the human race by the machines.
Let’s see, what else?
Oh yes, Taija’s name in Elvish is Eámanë Silimaurë.
And everyone here at Joyce’s Take wish her, and her friends and family, continued good fortune and health, and of course, a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Taija!