The 'Happy' side of Walnut Creek: A decidedly local video
treatment of Pharrell Williams' famous song
By Lou Fancher
It's never too late to get happy.
Aiming to mark the city's centennial in 2014 with a special video project, Walnut Creek photographer James Fidelibus missed his own deadline, but hit the sweet spot in 2015 with "Walnut Creek Happy Video."
The dance-filled montage to Grammy Award-winner Pharrell Williams' song, "Happy," from the movie "Despicable Me 2," garnered almost 2,300 YouTube hits as of this week, and a whopping 59,000 views on Fidelibus' James Brian Facebook page in less than two months.
Proving that Walnut Creek has funk and then some, there's Ray Nunnery, a dancing dentist flashing a grin and a "hands up" boogie; Sal DiMaggio, a barber who clearly swings with scissors; two Rossmoor golf buddies who pas de deux (dance for two) on the fairway and sweep everyone else's jiggle under the rug (except the amazingly juiced moves of Brian Richter, Oakley tattoo artist, a not-to-miss sensation at the 4:32 mark) and many others.
Fidelibus started the project in September and finished in March with 120 minutes of video. Editing brought the final version down to just over five minutes.
"Most people did the song twice," Fidelibus says. "The second time around, they were more natural."
Some of the people participating in the video were prearranged, but Fidelibus says spontaneous asks rendered some of his favorite moments. And using big DJ speakers to blast the music really set people hopping. "People were skeptical to do it by themselves. With a friend they felt better. I convinced them by telling them I'd only use two to three seconds of each person."
Ashley Russell of Lafayette appears with her husband.
"Jim asked us on our wedding day," Russell recalls. "We were on the boat on the lake and he told us that he wanted to try something out. We were completely spontaneous. I always spin around when I'm dancing and Danny's moves always put a little smile on my face."
Erin Council of Martinez wound up in a pedicab with a buddy.
"Once I got details, I was nervous due to being on video as opposed to still photography, but he let me bring a friend and we ended up having a ton of fun so all nervousness was set aside," Council said.
Nunnery's dental practice has been located in Walnut Creek for 26 years. The Danville resident wasn't immediately surprised when Fidelibus walked into his office in the Shadelands area.
"What made this day unusual was Jim walking in hauling a wagon with a boom box, a video camera, and some other high tech equipment in it," Nunnery says.
Nunnery's first instinct was to refuse the offer to bust a move, but a 20-year friendship with Fidelibus, deep love for Walnut Creek and a "Why not?" mindset was all it took. "I definitely did not rehearse for this, although my wife said maybe I should have," Nunnery says. "The only time I dance is at weddings. After seeing the video you can understand why."
Fidelibus also took his wagon to DiMaggio's barber shop with no warning.
"He asked if I knew the song 'Happy.' I am 59 years old. I said 'Yes, it's one of the few Rolling Stones songs (in which) Keith Richards sings the lead instead of Mick Jagger.' Jim said, well this one is a little more contemporary than that," DiMaggio says.
After the shop broom was claimed by another employee, DiMaggio tried going without a prop, but resorted to whirling scissors overhead to distract attention from his "lousy dancing." His wife Lynn got a kick out his performance, but he's now planning to "dance like Usher" and "threatens" to take dance lessons so that he can stop embarrassing himself on dance floors.
Fidelibus is pleased the video features local leaders like Bill Miller, the Headmaster retiring from Seven Hills School after 22 years, and Bob Simmons, Walnut Creek's mayor. Calling himself "a people person by nature" and fond of the serendipity of his profession, the unexpected enthusiasm his video is generating makes Fidelibus feel ... happy.