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BEFORE FAME MADE ALBERT HAGUE FAMOUS, HE HAD A COLORFUL CAREER AS A MUSICIAN
By Lisa See
"Jazz is the glorification of the inexact", Albert Hague told Allen Parker, the director of the movie "Fame", during his audition. Hague didn't have a beard, wasn't an actor and had never done a screen test before. Parker, to put Hague at ease, asked him to talk about music; the answer was perfect- pedantic, professorial. To this day, Hague doesn't know exactly how he got the job. "Howard Feuer, a New York casting director, called and asked if I'd like to read. I thought he was calling for my wife", says Hague, who's married to actress Renée Orin.
Today, Albert Hague, who won the role of Prof. Benjamin Shorofsky in the movie and now plays him in the television show, has a trademark beard and an international following of young kids who write him asking to become his pupils. Fame, cancelled in it's second season by NBC, has found new life in syndicated form. The show has just been picked up for another year and recent auditions for three new characters brought in 10,000 eager applicants. It is a hit in 65 countries.
"Fame represents that part of America that people adore", says Hague. "The music and dancing are innocent. It's not the demented part of rock where snakes urinate on stage."
Is Hague his character, or isn't he? In the syndicated version of Fame, the character of Professor Shorofsky has been expanded to reflect Hague's own life. Shorofsky fled Germany from the Nazis; Hague says,"I left Germany because they were trying to kill me." Shorofsky loves table tennis but can't drive; ditto Hague. Shorofsky is a musician; Hague is the composer of such musicals as "Plain and Fancy" and "Redhead", for which he won a Tony Award in 1959. He occasionally writes pieces for the show. Shorofsky, for all his irascible, rumpled, musty professor act, has a sense of humor; many who work with Hague say he's a Jewish Santa who tells really dumb jokes.
After Hague fled Germany, he studied classical music in Italy, then went to the College of Music in Cincinnati. He didn't speak a word of English, nor was he familiar with contemporary American music. When he heard that a piano player could make $35 dollars a week in night clubs, he went down to the House of Rink and applied, wearing a sport coat and a polka-dot tie. "Truck drives wouldn't go slumming there", he reminisces. A "dirty female emcee" taught him the tunes. Within a few years, he was known in Ohio as the "King of Boogie-Woogie."
Following service in World War II, Hague moved to New York where, to make ends meet, he played the Spanish orchestras in clubs and became known as Alberto Haguée. At the same time, he was putting together his first musical, "The Reluctant Lady." Where he met and married the star of the show, Renée Orin. In 1955, "Plain and Fancy" became Hague's first hit on Broadway. Four years later he won the Tony award for "Redhead". Since then, he has composed for numerous musicals and collaborated with Dr. Seuss on "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" for TV.
In 1976, Hague and his wife produced and starred in a show in New York called " Hague 'n' Hague: His Hits and His Mrs." Renée Orin recently wrote an episode for Fame and later starred in another. Over lunch at the MGM commissary, she talks about her husband. "Not a day goes by when Albert doesn't say to me, 'I love you. Your beautiful.' Communication is what's kept our marriage alive for 33 years. Why did I marry Albert? He was the only man who taught how to play bridge instead of yelling at me. He has the patients of a saint."
His wife isn't Hague's only admirer. Although years of experience and different upbringings seperate him from the kids on Fame, they appear to be devoted to him, if a little irreverent and teasing.
"Albert's the papa of the family," says Carlo Imperato, who plays Danny.
Valerie Landsburg (Doris) is at a loss for words until Hague walks by. "He's a horrible actor," she yells. She waits til he's out of ear shot, then turns serious. "My relationship with Albert is very personal. I was working with my sister on audition material, and I asked him if we should do a piece that was known or unknown. He said that it didn't matter if 800 people had done a scene before, as long as we did it better."
Perhaps no one on the set is a close to Hague as Lee Curreri, who plays Bruno, Shorofsky's headstrong, yet shy, protégé. Like Hague, Curreri is a composer in real life and often writes songs for the show. "I'll play a tune for Albert before anyone else," says Curreri. "If he likes it, I know that the tune was crafted right. He's an honest guy. If he has a student who has a terrible singing voice, he won't mislead them. He'll say, 'Why don't you check out bricklaying.'"
While some people at age 63 are slowing down, Hague keeps busy off the set. During Passover this year, he went to Israel for a children's festival. During hiatus, he'll be on the college-lecture curcuit. He's also writing a book on audition/job interview techniques and working on a new musical for Broadway called "Flim Flam," based on four O. Henry short stories.
"I'm treated with tremendous respect here at Fame, but sometimes I worry that people think I'm pompous. I hope they're discovering that I'm fun too." Hague gets a twinkle in his eye and says, "Just because I have a beard doesn't mean I know everything."
This is an article on Albert Hague from a May 19-25, 1984 edition of TV Guide.
Copyright © May 19th, 1984 TV Guide.