Deidra Burtonelli- 1986-2010Entertainment, News2 — By Buddy Sampson on September 27, 2010 at 7:31 pm
As a child, Deidra had dreams of being a TV host and interviewer and often role played with her father, renowned artist Roederick Vines and her taking turns interviewing each other. It helped in her later interviews as a professional. A terrific interviewer and host, Deidra attended Charles W. Eliot Middle School in Altadena and John Muir High School in Pasadena and excelled in English and History. Roland Bynum, one of her teachers in high school, who was also a radio personality, mentored her and recognized her as a budding talent. Additionally, the creative lady dabbled in art and music, playing keyboards and clarinet. A humble soul, she never mentioned her accomplishments. However, she received honors for writing and English, including an award from California State University and was a fantastic student. She was a volunteer at the Jackie Robinson Center in their after school program and worked as a volunteer in nursing homes. A former student of Pasadena City College, Deidra was a quick study at everything she chose to embark on. When she came to work for The Scoop LA, she did her first red carpet interview, interviewing the cast of the Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. Although nervous, she displayed a natural talent that couldn’t be taught. Louise Bartholomew, Deidra’s grandmother, spoke of her accomplishments. “In her 24 years, she has lived a lifetime,” said Louise Bartholomew. “Because a lot of people have never gone outside of their area. She had the experience of going to school and travelling and working in various occupations and that is a lot to say for 24 years.”
But Deidra fought a very silent fight, a fight that few were aware of, except for those in her close immediate circle. “She had her first stint of cancer when she was 17,” said Roederick Vines. “She went through the treatments and everything.” Diagnosed with lymphoma, she suffered through painful bone marrow, radiation and chemotherapy treatments upon graduating from high school. She went into remission for a few years, until it reappeared a few years ago. Throughout it all, Deidra was courageous, with few who knew the painful battle she faced on a constant basis. Deidra chose to focus on her career and she was very successful, on the brink of superstardom.
Deidra’s father wrote a song about his daughter for a play that he hopes that will bring awareness about cancer and the plight of young men in the community. “I’m very, very enthusiastic about getting this play out there,” he said.
Although Deidra attended many events, she never was an individual that hung out on the Hollywood scene. She didn’t believe in hanging out or was the type of person that would go to an event and party later. She believed in family first, and often spent time with them. “She was always family-oriented,” said Vines. “She spent every Christmas with us. Tan (Deidra’s Mom) let her spend the Christmases in Georgia with us.”
One of Deidra’s last assignments was to cover the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, a member of the brass of the Pageant attempted to exclude her for doing interviews. Undaunted, Deidra was determined. She was going to get her interviews. “She said, Dad, I went through the back door,” said Vines. “I know exactly what she meant. She just made her way until she interviewed the persons who she wanted to interview. I was proud of her. Some people would call it moxie, but I call it guts.” That grit, sheer will and determination snagged her an interview with Donald Trump. The video of that interview can be found on You Tube. “She was subtlely aggressive,” said Vines. “But she would harm no one, even in her aggression. Deidra would hurt nobody, not even with words.”
She was bigger than life and while her magnificent beauty captivated most who encountered her, her down to earth and ebullient personality are the qualities that made this wonderful lady loved by everyone. But what made this special lady so special? “Her positivity and cheerfulness,” said Tangya Burton, Deidra’s mother when asked. “She always smiled. You barely saw her complaining. When she wanted something and she took the time to figure out a way to do it, I said to her, ‘one problem, ten solutions, you figure out which one works best for you,’ and that’s what I think she did. She was pretty good in that area.” She succeeded in life as a personality, and for those that were fortunate enough to have met her, you know that she immediately brightened a room upon her entrance. She was on the fast track to success and was determined that nothing was going to deter the amazing lady from obtaining her dreams, but cancer proved to be too formidable a foe. Deidra, however, leaves a legacy of fine work that will last forever.
To give you a perspective of just how talented a writer Deidra was, we were able to get a copy of a poem she penned while in the 5th grade, an essay about a small sparrow that made a difference.
“The view below made the sparrow sad. As she flew high above the withering landscape, her tiny shadow skimmed a parched African plain. If not for the constant sun, she thought the air would cool. Plants could grow again, animals could thrive and children could play in the rain. But the sparrow was so small, she was helpless against the unrelating sun. Or was she?
Suddenly, she had a thought. She flew off and excitedly chirped her idea to a wise old woodpecker, who nodded in approval. Being a sociable fellow, the woodpecker informed a flock of pigeons, who scattered to tell others. Soon the skies were abuzz with the sparrow’s idea, darters and snipes, hornbills and hawks, osprey and pelicans. Even the crows were interested. Only the vultures turned a cold wing to the plan.
The day arrived-bright and hot, like all the others. At the appointed hour, when the sun was at its height, the birds came. From east and west, from north to south, they flew shoulder to wing. They strained to fly as high as possible, circling in the mid-day heat. Plants and animals looked up in disbelief. The earth had suddenly cooled, the searing sun blocked by the great cloud of birds soaring overhead. Each day, the birds returned. Day after day, protected from the scorching sun, the earth soon sprouted. Animals frolicked and people found new hope. Then, for reasons that the birds did not understand, the sky began producing its own clouds. Soon the rains came. The sparrow looked down and smiled.”
This poem was a story of how one being, a sparrow, made a difference by coming up with an idea and inspiring others to carry out its vision. Deidra, in a parallel that mirrored her own life, was a gorgeous sparrow, inspiring others, including this writer, to make a difference by carrying out her life in the right way- being kind to others, making people laugh, and most of all demonstrating a mountain of courage, in her silent, but courageous fight against an insidious disease- cancer. For all those whose lives she briefly touched, she made a huge difference and was an inspiration. Deidra Burton is now looking down at us from heaven, like the sparrow and smiling. We will never forget this amazing and wonderful soul. May her spirit rest with the angels forever. “We know this, she is absent in the flesh, but she is in the presence of The Lord,” said Roederick Vines. “We know that she is in God’s hands.” Deidra Louise Burton-Vines, aka Deidra Burtonelli, March 19, 1986- September 16, 2010. She will be dearly missed.