When grandmother Martha Halas decided to “unlearn” everything she’d been told growing up, she had no idea it would put her on the music map and earn her a starring role in singer-songwriter Jackie Greene’s latest video.
The three-time cancer survivor started dancing alone at her local restaurant on Florida’s Gulf Coast five years ago. With her colorful outfits and beaming smile, word quickly got out among bands that Halas would always get the party started.
But she had no idea just how far her fame had traveled until she received a phone call from Blue Rose Music’s managing director Meredith DiMenna asking her to take part in Greene’s “Crazy Comes Easy” video. “She has this incredible energy that is so infectious,” says DiMenna. “The bands around her hometown of Englewood, Florida, will reserve her a table in front of them because she gets the dance party going.
“I knew she had this incredible wardrobe – just follow her on Instagram — it’s something that would take a stylist months to put together.”
Halas, 76, went through 39 costume changes in a single afternoon as she boogied her way through the three-minute video, playing a Mother Earth in love, sprinkling magic dust on a monochrome world and turning everything around her into a rainbow of colors. “It was especially relevant because she has done this in her own life – as a three-time cancer survivor, she really knows how to focus on the positive,” says DiMenna.
Greene, who has played with BB King, Huey Lewis and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, was delighted with the results, along with Halas, who jokes it now takes her longer than ever to enter a restaurant because she is stopped by so many fans.
Halas had just moved from Connecticut when she was diagnosed with three different cancers. After five years of intensive treatment, her son Emil took her to lunch at a restaurant with live music. She enjoyed the show so much, she went back alone the next day.
“I thought what the Hell and began to dance. When I started to dance I felt better. I had walked out of my illness,” Halas says.
“I was always told a woman couldn’t go out alone or dance alone. Well, I came out of my box five years ago and started unlearning everything I was taught as a child. I started dancing alone. My life started to begin. I got to live when I fought the cancers. Now I am so happy and I love my life.
“A friend said I was so colorful, I should go on Instagram. I didn’t know how to do it but one night when I couldn’t sleep, I googled it on my phone and I did it between 2am and 3am. I put 50 of my favorite pictures on there and just three weeks later I got the call about the video.”
“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t know Jackie’s music. But I was really happy to do so and I got to show off my clothes, which are all from vintage stores. My wardrobe is so extensive. My home is the same way; it’s very eclectic. People ask who I have to decorate, it’s all me!”
Since the video came out, she’s gained an army of fans, including several would-be suitors. “This is really funny, one man told me he wanted to marry a woman like me, three others wanted to get to know me better,” she says. “They were really not right for me. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in meeting a guy. But I am no sugar mommy and I am certainly not looking for a sugar daddy.”
Asked what aging with attitude means to her, Halas doesn’t hesitate. “If you give love and it’s in your life, you’re happy,” she says. “I helped set up a music therapy drum-circle group for people with chronic pain and those going through chemotherapy. I’m involved in the community. I’m a very busy senior. If you retreat into yourself, you will get old. I get out there and just enjoy my life. I have a feeling if someone needs me, I am there for them. But professional complainers aren’t for me; I say sorry, I can’t help you.”
Jackie Greene’s “Crazy Comes Easy” can be seen on YouTube and is featured on his upcoming EP “The Modern Lives Volume 2.” Photo credits are courtesy of Blue Rose Music.
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