Quick — what do Valerie Bertinelli and Chuck Norris have in common?


          They’ve both been in a movie with Karen Kimball.


          Kimball is a Lake Highlands resident and has been Lakewood Elementary’s music teacher for 15 years.


She also recently worked as an extra for the new “ Walker, Texas Ranger” made-for-TV movie. (In the late ’80s, she was in a Bertinelli-starring flick called “Pancho Barnes” — more on that later.)      


          The “ Walker ” experience started simply enough. Kimball was reading a newspaper when she noticed a call for movie extras. She sent in her picture and soon after received a call inviting her to show up for filming.


          “I was surprised,” she says.


          So early on a hot August afternoon, Kimball drove to Fair Park ’s Hall of State, where the courthouse-depicting scenes were being staged and filmed.


Kimball and the other extras worked until around 10:30 that night. For her eight or nine hours of work, she says, she was paid $48. But it wasn’t about the money.


“It is just very interesting,” Kimball says of the experience. “The people who were there that day — there was one woman from Garland who had been in virtually every “ Walker, Texas Ranger” in the ’90s. There were people there of all ages, from every part of Dallas and Collin County .


“It’s just really a lot of fun,” she says, adding that she hopes to repeat the experience on other Dallas-based productions in the future.


And, in fact, this is not Kimball’s first brush with a small part of the spotlight, though it’s the first time she has sought out the experience on her own.


For the “Pancho Barnes” movie — based on the real life of pioneering female aviator Florence Lowe Barnes, played by Bertinelli — Kimball and the music group she belonged to at the time were recruited by one of the group members’ relatives, who was a casting agent for the film.


“In our scene, we sang ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,’” she says.  


Then, in the late ’90s, Kimball’s image and voice started appearing in Whataburger commercials. She became involved with that project through one of her student’s parents, who worked for an advertising agency. The parent showed up at the school and filmed some of the teachers, taking the footage back to show her creative board.


“They chose about six or seven teachers to actually go to Whataburger, and we were filmed talking about certain sandwiches,” Kimball says.


Two of those spots, Kimball’s and Lakewood ’s then-physical education teacher, were chosen to air.


“We got paid a little for doing the filming, but we got money if any of our parts were actually used,” Kimball says, laughing and adding: “I didn’t get paid nearly enough. I mean, for nearly two years, I was on the radio, the TV … talking about ‘the bacon, the cheese.’”


          Kimball estimates she should be in three or four of the “Walker Texas Ranger” scenes, which has not yet been scheduled to air.  


          It’s an experience, she says, she recommends to anyone.


“It’s interesting that Dallas really is a place where there are things being filmed, and there are lots of opportunities for people of all shapes, sizes and ages to be extras in productions.


“It’s really a lot of fun.”


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