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"She's a good girl, loves her mama / Loves Jesus and America, too." That's what Tom Petty sang about his female protagonist in his 1989 solo hit "Free Fallin'."
All those things likely apply to Devon Kidd. She's the girl – now a full-grown woman — who appeared in the video clip for the track, and she's been found by Marc Tyler Nobleman, the same video-girl sleuth who recently tracked down Sherrie from Steve Perry's solo hit "Oh Sherrie."
Kidd is featured in an interview on Nobleman's Noblemania blog where she reveals that her session on the video's old-school backyard half-pipe led her — much to her father's displeasure — to pursue professional downhill skateboarding.
This and the fact that the song and the clip are mostly set in the San Fernando Valley really hit home for me, since I grew up in the Valley and at one time was extremely into skateboarding. In fact, when I was in junior high, I broke my leg at Skatercross, then a skateboard park in Reseda.
Speaking of Reseda, as much as I love "Free Fallin'," there's something that's always bugged me about it. At one point, Petty sings, "It's a long day living in Reseda / There's a freeway runnin' through the yard." Sorry Tom, there are no freeways running through Reseda. The 405 runs through Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys, and the 101 goes through Encino and Tarzana, but Reseda is right smack in the middle. It's freeway-close, but there is no freeway going through anyone's yard there. Tom should know better. At the time this album came out — and for several years prior — he owned a home in nearby Encino, which was torched by an arsonist in 1987 and later rebuilt.
I suppose it's a case of artistic license, and the bit about the "freeway running through the yard" in Reseda is just as accurate as the "all the vampires, walkin' through the Valley, move west down Ventura Boulevard." At least as far as I know.
Much of the "Free Fallin'" video was shot on Ventura Boulevard, including scenes at a hot dog stand located at the intersection of Beverly Glen and Ventura, near the classic Casa de Cadillac building. While traveling to that location one day, Devon Jenkin — as she was known back then — was involved in a fender bender. "The people in the car that I hit were startled but fine; I was scared to death and worried if they were okay," she told Nobleman. "The awesome crew noticed it was me and ran over to get me out of the chaos."
While that no doubt was a traumatic experience for the young video starlet, she did have a blast starring in the clip, directed by Julian Temple, known for such films as Absolute Beginners, Earth Girls Are Easy and Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten.
Now a mother of two who lives in Colorado and works as a ski conditioning coach, Kidd is proud of her work in the video. She told Nobleman it "allowed me the respectful opportunity to speak to hundreds of kids from all walks of life about believing in their dreams, trusting their life has a greater purpose that's worth the painful work to get there, and how to use fitness as a tool for their success (with skateboarding in particular as an outlet for their frustrations)."
Ride on, Devon. Ride on.