a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Those silly Mon "Calendar Girls" to appear on Japan TV

TV producer Chie Berkley monitors filming of the Mon "Calendar Girls" Friday for a travel show to be televised this month in Japan.

By Scott Beveridge

MONONGAHELA, Pa. – My friend Lorys Crisafulli calls two weeks ago and can barely stop laughing.

She’s giggling because a Japanese television program heard she posed semi-nude for a charity calendar in 2008 and is soon coming to her home in Monongahela, Pa., to film her story for a travel piece.

“I can't wait to hear the voice that pretends she's me when it comes out in Japanese,” Crisafulli, 82, said Saturday, a day after the two-day shoot wrapped up.

The retired schoolteacher and antiques dealer came up with idea for the calendar after watching the 2003 movie, “Calendar Girls,” starring Helen Mirren. It’s a British comedy about older women who showed it all for a calendar to benefit a friend with leukemia.

Crisfulli and 11 of her friends kept on most of their clothing and only flashed their bare shoulders in their photos. She posed as Miss January in a black convertible appearing to just be wearing pearls while sipping champagne.

“I thought we’d sell a couple (calendars) to our relatives,” she said.

But the women ended up printing 3,000 of them because of the demand and raising nearly $15,000 for the struggling Monongahela Area Historical Society. Along the way, they became somewhat of local celebrities and also captured national headlines over the project.

The producers of Japan Broadcasting Corp.’s “World Traveler” surely chuckled, too, after catching wind of the story on the Internet. They will include a segment about the women otherwise known as the “Vixens of the Valley” in a show dedicated to extraordinary senior citizens around the globe, said the U.S. producer, Chie Berkley of Washington, D.C.

“Her personality, that’s what made it so interesting,” Berkley said, referring to Crisafulli. “She’s a magnet. She’s smart and funny. Everyone wants to be around her.”

To my surprise, she also turned the camera on me for an interview because I write for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa., a newspaper that broke the zany story in 2007.

The hour-long program will air Sept. 20 on what is known in Japan as Nippon Hoso Kyokai, the small island nation's version of America's PBS. We will attempt to gain permission from Berkley to post Crisafulli’s segment in the show on this blog.

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