Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Meowwwwwwwr! Here come the Wildkats!

Female trio likes to wear crazy costumes when the perform

Wearing leopard skin costumes from toe to chin, topped off by fruity headdresses, three long-time Minneapolis friends have enjoyed writing and performing zany songs for 15 years. Their newest production is a book: WILDKATS! Our Life in Leopard (Confes-sions of a Middle-Aged Girl Group).
“The funny parts of our songs are taken right from life,” Sharon Englund says. “Our motto is ‘Middle-aged women with attitude.’ We’ve discovered there’s no top limit to middle age.” Beth Anderson adds, “You know the old saying, ‘If you don’t laugh, you might cry.’”

The trio have normal day jobs. Englund is Volunteer Coordinator for the Minne-apolis Area Synod of the ELCA. Anderson teaches piano (quipping that some people think she’s given one lesson too many) and LaVonne Garcia is an endoscopy nurse. As the WILDKATS! they morph into LaDonna Rose (Eng-lund), Liz Ranes (Anderson) and Vonnie Valdez (Garcia).

Their music ranges from country to pop to 1950s rock. “My Legs Are Blue From Waitin’ On You” is an audience favorite. Another song, “Last Week I Had Butter” begins, “This week the experts said, ‘No butter.’ / I’m a butter gal …” and complains, “Why can’t they agree / What’s good for you and me?”

Their song, “You Haven’t Changed a Bit” is a natural at high school class reunions. They have produced three CDs: “Done to Purr-fection,” “On the Prowl,” and “Tastefully Tacky.”
“Beth is our guru,” says Englund. “She writes all our tunes and lyrics, but once in a while LaVonne and I will help fine-tune.” Anderson comments, “Sharon is a show girl all the time. She’s uninhibited. LaVonne and I have to be in our leopard skin before we’ll perform.”

Their headquarters, a room in Englund’s home, is decorated from top to bottom in leopard.

Occasionally the trio’s lyrics relate to religion. One number, “The Pastor’s Wife,” includes the lines, “Her husband brings her flowers often / Though they’ve been on someone’s coffin.” Englund’s husband Rob is interim pastor at New Life Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Oak Grove. The women confess to having serenaded an ELCA bishop with their song, “Cozy Middle-Aged Man.”

The WILDKATS! book project fell into their laps. “Out of the blue I got an e-mail from a woman named Nancy Radford in Durham, England,” Anderson says. “She had gotten one of our CDs, and she thought we should write a book. She offered to put up the money [to publish it].”

When they heard the name of Radford’s publishing company, “Roundtuit,” they knew she was their kind of woman: she had finally gotten “around to it.”

Anderson continues, “We did the entire book by e-mail. It was a lot of work, but it turned out well, and we’re pretty pleased.” The 60-page soft cover memoir, written by Anderson with an assist from her two sidekicks, includes photos, stories, song lyrics and a CD.

Venues at which the WILDKATS! have entertained include: the National Association of Church Business Admini-strators; Minnesota Nurse’s Association; St. Paul Lion’s Club; Bloomington Rotary; the Minnesota State Fair; and numerous women’s clubs. They appeared at New Life Lutheran congregation’s Sonfest in August 2006.

Sometimes members of the audience get into the spirit by wearing leopard clothing. When the WILDKATS! sang at a Dog Day Afternoon AIDS benefit at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, costumed dogs added to the fun.

December 2006 began with the group’s book signing party. “We each add a lipstick kiss to our names,” Englund says. They also enlivened a Christmas tea at Glen Cary Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Ham Lake. “The church wanted something different this year. They invited four or five other congregations. We included a Christmas song and wore our Christmas earrings.”

The trio, who have eight grown children among them, belonged to the same baby sitting cooperative years ago. “We always said that when the kids got older we’d do something for ourselves, but we didn’t know it would be this weird,” Englund says. Adds Anderson, “We thought we might just be going out to lunch.”

In summer 2006 they rented a house in Provence, France. “We didn’t bring our costumes, but we sang our brains out in the pool. We sang in the lobby of our hotel in Paris and in a women’s restroom in Iceland. Two weeks together and we’re still laughing and still friends. We’d like to visit Nancy and do a show in Durham,” Anderson says. “As my mother used to say in her letters, ‘We must persevere.’”

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For further information, visit the web site, www.wild kats.net. To purchase a copy of the book, send $15 to the WILDKATS! at P.O. Box 17273, Minneapolis, MN 55417.