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Big hair day pays off

Heather McGregor
Post Independent Editor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Submitted photoDonnie Isenhart in full big hair glory just before the senior prom at Glenwood Springs High School in 1988. This is the photo that landed him a free trip to Los Angeles this week to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
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The big hair, the star-studded white Levi’s, the big hair, the shiny white tux, and the big hair, all dating back to 1988, launched Donnie Isenhart on a free trip to Los Angeles this week to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Isenhart’s segment, part of Ellen’s “Bad Paid-For Photos” series, will air as the first segment of the television show this Monday, Jan. 24, at 3 p.m. on KUSA Channel 9.

“I’m a little star-struck,” Isenhart said Friday, after taping the segment Thursday evening. “It was so surreal to be in the studio, to give Ellen a hug and talk to her. It was very exciting, being backstage, seeing everything. When you’re walking out from backstage, your emotions are up and down and everywhere. It was just an amazing time.”



Isenhart couldn’t reveal what actually happened during the taping. Publicists for the popular talk show are keeping the details under wraps until after Monday’s program airs. But Isenhart’s hints implied that his friends back home will see a funny part of his personality from the big hair days of the 1980s.

These days, Isenhart, 41, is the happily married husband of Malinda (Lahe) Isenhart, father of 3-year-old Grayson, and a partner in the Basalt-based concrete construction company High-Con Inc., where he has worked for the past 23 years. The family lives in New Castle.



The photo is from Isenhart’s senior prom at Glenwood Springs High School, spring of 1988.

“It was definitely a little over the top for Glenwood,” he said of the glam rock look that he buffed to a high gloss for the dance.

He bought the white tux coat in Denver a few months before prom. The photo doesn’t show the full glory of the coat, which was made with a shiny white paisley brocade fabric. He bought the white Levi’s and the gold star studs in Glenwood Springs and studded the pants himself.

The outfit made its one and only showing at the prom, but the big hair was everyday Donnie.

“It took a quarter bottle of mousse and quarter bottle of hairspray and about 15 to 20 minutes of time. I wore my hair like that almost every day. People used to call me Don Jovi,” he said.

Look closely, and you’ll see dangly gold earrings too. “I probably had three earrings in one side and two in the other,” he said.

Luckily, Isenhart’s peak big hair moment was captured by a professional photographer, which brings us to the present.

Malinda Isenhart, who works as an internal auditor for Alpine Bank in Glenwood Springs, is a “huge Ellen DeGeneres fan,” her husband said, and often threatened to send his prom photo in to Ellen’s show for the “Bad Paid-For Photo” segment.

On Sunday, Jan. 9, she finally did it. On Wednesday, Jan. 12, Don got a call at work from an assistant at Ellen’s show, wanting to know if he would come to Los Angeles to tape a live show.

“As soon as I got off the phone, I called my wife and told her, ‘They are really into my picture and want to know if I want to be on the show.’ We were just kind of going crazy,” he said.

On Monday, Jan. 17, the show called again and wanted to know if he could make it to Los Angeles for a taping on Thursday – less than three days away.

“The first thing you say is, ‘Oh, of course!’ They paid for our flight, hotel and ground transportation, but we had about 36 hours to come up with a dog sitter and child care for our son,” Isenhart said. Malinda’s parents and sister pitched in to help.

The couple flew out of Grand Junction on Wednesday, taped the show Thursday afternoon, stayed in Los Angeles on Friday to “do the touristy things,” and were to fly back home today.

They’ll come back loaded with gift bags from the show, and with a special invitation from Ellen DeGeneres to go back in December to be in the studio audience, along with the other two “Bad Photo” guests and everyone else who was in the audience on Thursday.

On Monday, Donnie Isenhart won’t be able to watch the show live. “I’ll probably be driving home from work,” he said. Malinda will tape the show so they can watch it later.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” Donnie said. “This is one thing we would never ever forget, by far.”


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