Flashdance meets real life

January 23, 2008
By: Vicki Bell

I'm interviewing Brennan Palmiter, a young race car driver with a passion for welding that's almost as strong as his passion for racing. His profile will be featured on thefabricator.com next month.

Palmiter's story, along with two stories I ran across today, proved to me that there are many interesting welder stories. In one, Flashdance, the movie about a young dancer who welds, meets real life. In the other, a welder welds where few men have welded before.

The Cincinnati newspaper The Enquirer ran an item about Alexandra Harrill, a 19-year-old dancer who traded her toe shoes and tiara for steel-toed boots and a welding helmet.

According to the article, Harrill struggled with the independence of young adulthood while pursuing dancing and serving at a restaurant. She spent three years performing with a dance company and taught dancing at another studio. Seeking to support herself and achieve true independence, Harrill decided to put dance behind for awhile and pursue a job that would allow her to do so.

Her mother suggested she try welding.

Harrill's response? "Welding? Mom, you want me to weld? I don't think so."

Keeping an open mind, Harrill, with the help of the Super Jobs Center, enrolled in a three-week welder training course at the Elite Welding Academy in Springdale, Ohio. Commenting on her training, she said, "I ended up being really good at it. It was pretty exciting, and I caught on pretty quickly."

Harrill has been working third shift as a welder with a company that works for the Department of Defense. She's making $16 an hour, far more than she's ever made.

According to the article, Harrill plans to leave Cincinnati eventually, first for Chicago—her hometown—and ultimately New York or Los Angeles. She knows it can be difficult to make it as a performer, so she'll continue to weld.

Next up is Anthony Vitale, a native of Hailey, Idaho, who was a professional marine carpenter/welder until he was laid off from his company in 2004. Theatrically trained, he turned to acting.

Trekmovie.com reported that last fall, Vitale went to Paramount to audition for the sci-fi film "Corporate Headquarters." Little did he know that the title was a code name for a new Star Trek feature film.

As the story goes, after Vitale read some lines, the casting director pulled him aside and asked him, "Do you know how to weld?" He soon was on the soundstage wearing "a full genuine welding outfit" and ready to be the first man filmed for Star Trek in years.

Commenting on the experience, Vitale said, "There was real steel there for the welding. I was using a genuine welding tool & specifically it was a MIG welder—the technical term for that type of welding is gas metal arc welding. I was actually standing on concrete and there were some special effects going on behind me, but the sparks that you guys see in front of my face, those are real & I was actually welding."

The footage being shot was for a teaser trailer for the movie. Vitale doesn't know if the scene will be in the final film, but he said there was mention of him being brought back for the principal photography phase on the film in a different role.

Want to live that movie-fantasy life? Become a welder.

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209