Everyone has a story, you just have to ask
Editor’s Note: Ron Walker is a Smith Valley resident having physical therapy for a bad hip.
“You must meet Monique,” Georgia tells me. Georgia is the matriarch of one Smith Valley’s oldest and most revered families. My opportunity comes when I notice a new sign, Smith Valley Physical Therapy. I step inside and am greeted by a strikingly attractive, 5’9″ blond. “Hello, I’m Monique,” she purrs. I immediately slip into a clever and witty repartee. The result of which, of course, is embarrassing to everyone. Yet, due to her generosity of spirit and my bum hip, I become a regular at her clinic.
Monique works gently on Jimmi’s knee. Jimmi is a pretty young senior at Smith Valley High School (205 students). I engage her in conversation and she tells me she is trying out for a rodeo scholarship.
“What does your dad do for a living?” I ask. “He’s a cowboy. We moved seven times before finally coming to Smith,” she says. How often do you hear a young person tell you their dad is a full time cowboy these days?
Then there’s Rip, a 91-year-old rancher. “We cut timber up on Kingsbury grade to help build the highway in the ’40s,” Rip tells me as Monique gently guides him through his exercises. Rip suddenly says, “Time for breakfast at Rosie’s,” and bolts for the door.
The more sessions I have with Monique, the more I’ve become aware of her depth of understanding. Something clicks in my mind. Monique is applying the same tenet entertainers use when they face an audience. Fascinating.
Good entertainers never give up until they reach every member of the audience.
“How would you describe your work?” I ask. “I connect with each person I work with. I improvise according to their needs, whether it’s a physical one or one of the spirit. I love what I’m doing and I love people. I tell the therapists I hire to take an extra 10 minutes, if necessary, and if a person comes through the door with a frown, make sure they have a smile when they leave.” Monique was born on a U.S. Air Force base in Germany. “My mother was very pretty. She even had a small part in a Fellini film,” she tells me. Her dad was an Air Force colonel. Finally settling in Saltzburg, Monique learned about prejudice.
“Austrian boys were only allowed to date Austrian girls. They called me “tchooch,” which is Yugoslavian for stupid, or something,” she says.
“Because I saw what a lack of money did to my parents, I helped support my family at 17. I put together a show band and we toured all over Europe for years,” she says. Probing a little deeper into her show business background, I learn she’s written and published 60 songs. In Belgrade she did a show for 50,000 people. “I still get a small residual check once in a while from ASCAP,” she confesses.
Eventually Hollywood beckons. She and her band pool their money and try the big time. “At Atlantic Records, we had the whole deal…long table of music executives sipping champagne, but then it got complicated. I got upset…I felt that my talent was good enough and I didn’t want to pay money to get a contract,” she blurts out.
“For five years we toured the West Coast…four shows a night, rehearsals ’till dawn; it was exhausting. Finally I burned out…it all became mundane. One day I decided the arts weren’t for me and decided to go to college,” she says.
Monique’s academic life was formidable. Five years of undergrad work produced chemistry and psychology degrees. Then came her physical therapy credential. During this time she waitressed, cleaned houses in Beverly Hills, and even did singing telegrams. “Without sounding too patriotic, I would never have been able to go to college without my U.S. passport,” she tells me.
Probing deeper into what makes Monique tick, I ask “How do you recharge? You give 100 percent all the time.”
“I still sing with my group…sometimes Kirkwood, sometimes Gardnerville. Singing renews me,” she says. Monique has learned to combine her performing talent with her physical therapy skills… she’s a healer grounded in art.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley