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DEBBIE AND LORI TALK ABOUT FANS, PLANS AND HARD WORK! BY JILL ECKERSLEY
On April 8th, the Kids from Fame held a lunchtime 'meet the press' party at the fashionable Pineapple West dance studio in London. As it turned out, only three of them could make it as Erica was still in America, Valerie was in Australia, and poor Carlo and Gene were feeling slightly under the weather. Carlo had a touch of laryngitis and had been ordered to rest all day and not speak to anyone, and Gene was nursing a strained leg. But it was great to meet Lori, Lee and Debbie, who looked most at home in the big rehearsal room with its piano, practice barre and mirrored walls. It was very much like the dance classroom in the series and indeed, the dancers from Pineapple West, in their trendy tracksuits and legwarmers could almost have passed for members of the Fame troupe!
Lori Singer was the first of the trio to arrive. She's taller in real life than she looks on the screen, and was wearing jeans, neat red suede ankle boots, a black sweater over a pink tee-shirt with multi-coloured stars on it, and a cute black leather cap. She's very pretty and vivacious and laughs a lot as she talks, though she was unfortunately unable to answer my first question, which was the burning query on every Fame follower's lips - "When are we going to hear. about whether there's to be a third series or not?"
"I wish I could tell you, but we don't have any news yet," she replied ruefully. "It's really hard for us to make plans at the moment, until we know what's going to happen."
Like most of the Fame team, Lori is anxious to gain all kinds of experience in acting and dancing, both on stage and in films and TV. In the break between shooting the first and second series last year appeared in a film called "Born Beautiful in which she portrayed a girl who managed to become a top fashion model.
"It's already been released in the States and I got pretty good reviews, I'm delighted to say," Lori told me. "I'm not sure when it'll be released in Britain, though. I play a really tough kid from New York's East Side a very different part from Julie Miller in Fame. I don't want to become typecast as an actress. I'd really like the chance to play as many different kinds of parts as I possibly can." Last time they were in London, the Kids from Fame told us how much they enjoyed being here and how impressed they with the warm welcome they got from their British fans, and Lori said it was just as good this time.
"We love London!" she declared enthusiastically. "We love the people and like the chance to meet more of them, plus a chance to go shopping, but we've been so busy that it hasn't really been possible. Another city I thought really beautiful was Edinburgh. I'd like to go back there one day."
The Kids' British dates were, of course only part of a month-long European tour, and Lori told me their next stop was Israel. It seems that the show has been a huge success on Israeli TV, too.
I was so busy chatting to Lori that I didn't notice the crowds of photographers sneaking up on us, and suddenly they were all around us. They all wanted to photograph Lori, so I had to get out of the way! You can really tell that Lori is used to being in front of the cameras. She has worked as a model for lots, of top fashion magazines, and was soon posing happily, much to the lensmen's delight.
It was soon after this that Debbie Allen (Lydia) and Lee Curreri (Bruno) arrived. Debbie wore a flat tweed cap, a pink and white track suit with a pink belt, and well-worn white pumps. Lee wore a black tee-shirt and jeans and was looking very fit and healthy. Unfortunately he wasn't able to stay with us for very long, but he made up for it by heading for the piano as soon as he came in and playing the theme song from Fame!
Debbie and Lori joined him and the three of them posed for photos, Lee in the middle with his arms round the girls. They all obviously enjoyed it and were very patient and good. humoured with the crowds of jostling Press people. Lee had to leave shortly afterwards, but I managed to have a long chat with Debbie, who confirmed what Lori had said, that the plans for the third series had not yet been finalised.
"I've had a lot of offers to do movies and Broadway shows, but I'm very happy to stick with Fame," Debbie told me. "My ultimate ambition is to be known as an actress and dancer who also produces. At the moment I'm best known as a dancer, as I haven't had so many opportunities to be an actress! Live shows are totally different from film and TV work, but I enjoy them all. And for me, all the travelling we are doing at the moment is a big bonus. I do like to see the world.
"Being in Britain is very exciting for us," she continued, "because we have much more contact with our fans over here. In the States, people don't very often get the chance to see us in person all together. Obviously, while we're filming, we can't have people wandering around on the set, but in Britain we all travel on the one bus. We see people waving to us as we pass, and after the shows we've had crowds rocking the bus. We love it all!"
There are many pressures involved when you are as successful as the stars of Fame are. How does Debbie cope with it all?
"It can be hard to keep yourself together," she admitted. "At the end of it all, we are just people, and we need time to rest and relax like everyone else. I love horse-riding and playing basketball, but I don't get as much time to do either as I'd like!"
Debbie also told me something about her earlier career, because she has been working on stage and screen for ten years altogether, not just since Fame started.
"I've known since I was about five years old that I wanted to go into show business," she said with a smile. "I've never had any other kind of job and I've never wanted one! Luckily, my family always supported and encouraged me, especially my mother. I had to work very hard when I was younger, because I was studying hard in school and going to my dance classes in the evenings. When I was in tenth grade, I was doing eleven dance classes every week as well as my school work. To get where we are, you really have to sweat, it's the only way! It may seem glamorous but it's not, it's real hard work but we do it because we love to dance!"
And that's Debbie's answer to all the Fame fans who write and ask her how they can get to be actresses, dancers or singers. Hard work and dedication are the qualities you need. That comes out in the Fame stories, too, of course.
"I think the secret of the show's success is that it portrays us all striving for excellence, and not just fame by itself," said Debbie thoughtfully. "As a performer, you can never relax, there's always something new to learn, or some aspect of your technique you can improve. Even now, Gene and I and the dancers work every single day."
When you love your job as much as Debbie does, the hard work is a pleasure, too.
"I think I get the most satisfaction out of creating the musical numbers," she told me. "I've always loved musicals and I was in a recent New York revival of 'West Side Story'. I've done the choreography for Fame right from the start. One number takes about two days of solid work, and that includes everything from the first idea and the dance steps, to the costumes. It's a complete package! It's a big responsibility, but it's very satisfying."
Debbie thinks it's most important that Fame is a team effort. "It shows that it's possible for all sorts of people - all different ages, all different backgrounds - to work together," she explained with a smile. "That's the way we work, too. The producer is fantastic and so is the scriptwriter. Everyone helps with ideas and suggestions so we really are a team.
"Yes, we have rows sometimes. What family doesn't have rows? We have our ups and downs like brothers and sisters do. We get tired, and mad at each other, but because we all love and respect each other, we can always work it out. I'm in control, but I'm also one of the team!"
Let's hope we'll see this particular team over here again soon!
This interview was provided to me by Stuart Farrell.
The article above is from the Official Fame Magazines from 1983. The OFFICIAL FAME MAGAZINE was published by Beat Publications Ltd. and the interviews are copyright MGM/UA Entertainment Co.