For many '90s kids, there's a defining, mystifying question that has haunted them since their childhood. It's one of the great unsolved mysteries of popular culture, and I'm definitely not too proud to admit that I lost countless nights worth of sleep over it as a kid: Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? Well, you better fluff up your pillows and flip that memory foam topper of yours, because there's finally an answer. Todd Von Luling of The Huffington Post heroically pursued this question and, guys, the elusive Carmen Sandiego has finally been found. And, sure, this 20 year quest for answers might not point directly at the whereabouts of the fictional character, but the mysterious actress who played her on the game show of Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego has been located and, thankfully, interviewed.
As fans will be more than aware, Carmen Sandiego was a stylishly dressed globe-trotting supervillain with a penchant for stealing famous landmarks all over the world. She was a trickster, impossible to keep up with and even harder to catch red handed (despite her love for wearing matching red garments). There were video games, a cartoon, and even a board game focusing on the exploits of the character, but the game show was the only one to feature a live action version of her.
So, who was the actress who played Carmen Sandiego? And where in the world was she? Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego cleverly never revealed who the actress was who played the titular role, but thankfully Von Luling managed to track her down, living out my very own childhood fantasies of finding Carmen Sandiego myself. And, as it turns out, the actress was just as difficult to find as the V.I.L.E (Villains International League of Evil) Leader herself.
It turns out that the actress who portrayed Carmen Sandiego is a successful Broadway performer by the name of Janine LaManna, and keep a hold of your wide brimmed hats, because she gave some fascinating tidbits pertaining to some of the great mysteries of the show:
Because of the mysterious aspect of her, I don’t think they ever wanted an actor to be [associated with Carmen] ... They didn’t ever want to reveal my face probably. Then you would reveal Carmen. But don’t forget, the internet was not [as useful back then]. It wasn’t that easy to find stuff. Everything had to go through the press.
Pah, the press. As it turns out, one of the real reasons why LaMann's identity was kept a secret was due to the fact that the actress also played the "good" characters on the show — these were the very same characters who would actually help contestants to stop Carmen in her tracks before she could possibly steal any other sacred relics from throughout history. So, I feel kind of duped right now, guys. She was right in front of our faces the whole time and all of us simply thought, aww gee, what a nice lady, she's super helpful. LaMann pulled a trickster feat on a par with Carmen Sandiego's own stealthy villainy — she was basically the Keyser Soze of '90s kids shows.
It also turns out that LaManna's current life somewhat remains to echo the globe-trotting, impossible to find mystique of Carmen Sandiego. Apparently, she decided to "drop out for a little bit" and, because she's married to an Army Officer, she could be just about anywhere at any given time as her location "could change in a week." Sounds just like the Carmen I grew up with and know and love.
And sure, I realize that this is only the actress who portrayed Carmen Sandiego and not the actual character who has been found, but just let me have my closure. I spent some of my finest formative years nestled in front of the television, trying to help figure out the mystery of Carmen Sandiego's whereabouts in the cartoon, the video games, and the game show and now I feel completely sated, if slightly foolish: The greatest trick Carmen Sandiego ever committed was convincing the world she didn't exist. But she did, you guys, and listening to how LaManna speaks about the show and revisiting how she looked on it, she totally was Carmen Sandiego.
So, I'll leave you all with this prime final thought: With LaManna's whereabouts being a little off the grid and likely to be just about anywhere, it could very well be that you may bump into Carmen Sandiego, and — just as her appearance on the game show revealed — not even realise it.
Images: Fox; C. J. Odell/Youtube