Main > Series > Articles/Interviews > Michael DeLorenzo - From Fame to Videos, Broadway and the Big Screen
BY AUDREY WRIGHT
Remember the name Michael Delorenzo. The former Fame star has so much going for him that to simply say he's made it would be a gross understatement.
Michael Delorenzo's real-life story could rival the script for any of his movies. As he tells it, his voice conveys incredulity, a 'Can-you-believe-it-really-happened-this-way?' wonder. His story is fantastic.
Michael's talent for dancing lifted him out of the Bronx neighborhood in which he was born, won him scholarships that exposed him to the tutorship of the biggest professional names, and made him a star on Broadway, in the movies, and on television. He has a string of videos behind him, writes his own songs, plays the piano, guitar and synthesizer, and is contemplating offers from two record companies. He enjoys the best of two worlds, commuting between the easy-going lifestyle of Los Angeles and the more hectic pace of New York. Despite all the excitement, Michael has managed to remain unspoiled, open, friendly and a constant striver for excellence.
There are some obvious parallels between his life and the characters Michael plays. In the Disney film Breaking Through, he plays a street kid who finds that his talent for dancing can provide him with an escape route from the streets and a way into legitimate theater, if only he is willing to work for it. In Fast Forward, written and directed by Sidney Poitier, he is "Caeser Lopez," a street kid who stakes out his territory anid determinedly defends it against outsiders.
A mature 23-year-old, Michael chuckles as he remembers what it was like when he began taking ballet lessons - at that time, definitely not an acceptable activity for a young boy in the Bronx. "I couldn't tell a lot of people I was doing ballet," he says. "I used to run home from school and get my ballet slippers, but I had to tell people I was going to the dentist like three times a week. It was a good thing I had braces then. I had buck teeth because I sucked my thumb, and I got teased all through school."
The fact that he was small for his age didn't help either, and Michael became "easy pickings" for neighborhood bullies. But then, as now, the members of his family were his staunchest supporters, and when Michael talks about them, his voice quickens with enthusiasm.
"My family has been the greatest inspiration in my life;' he says seriously. "My mother always told me, 'You can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it. Don't let people tell you that you can't. And I've always kept that with me. That's one of the most important things that keep me going when I'm depressed or when new challenges come up. And my father really instilled in me that I should follow my dreams, because I could make them come true."
His experiences might nave overwhelmed some youngsters, but Michael must have been born with a life script that marked him for stardom. He doesn't harp on his talent, but you know he has that indefinable 'something' that won him scholarship after scholarship to study with some of the most highly-respected names in dance.
"I got to pick from some of the best minds at an early age," he says. "I started studying with Tina Ramierez at the Ballet Hispanico of New York. She's an incredible lady. I was doing flamenco dancing. Then I got a scholarship to The School of American Ballet with George Ballanchine but I got kicked out;' he says wryly. "See, at eight I just wasn't ready' for the discipline. They kicked me out of so many classes because I was always playing."
But what seemed like a calamity turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Michael stopped dancing for about a year, then he won another scholarship, this time to the New York School of Ballet where he studied under the famous Richie Thomas.
"He was one of the best teachers I ever had;' Michael enthuses. "He and his wife were fabulous. I got all the best training, and all for free!" Most people know him for his role in the movie and TV series Fame, but Michael's professional history preceded that by many years. Michael says Fame was an excellent education for him, but admits that he left the series because he felt he'd gone as far as he could.
"They have so many principals on the show that it's hard to concentrate on one character, and I wanted to take on some more challenging jobs;' he explains. "I had been offered a co-starring role in Heartbeat, a pilot for Lorimar Productions, and I wanted to pursue other things. What I didn't want to do was to get stuck into this one character I was playing, and have that be the end of my career. I'd worked before Fame many times, and I wanted to continue to work after it."
In fact, Michael has been working since he was seven, when he made his film debut in Popi. "I was just an extra;' he points out, "But that was an excellent movie." He admits that he has been exceptionally lucky, always being able to work when he wanted. And Michael is especially thrilled that he's been able to work with top professionals in dance and theatre. One of the highlights of his working experience was the opportunity to work with The Royal Canadian Ballet and Rudolf Nureyev in The Sleeping Beauty "I learned the whole ballet backwards and forwards and put on my own production when I was 13. I starred in it," he adds mischievously. Another top-ranking experience was working on the beloved West Side Story in 1980, with such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein.
"I got to play 'Chino' and we toured all over the country before we opened on Broadway." Michael recalls. "We even played at the White House for Jimmy Carter and his family!"
Michael-thrives on challenge, stretching himself to find new areas, new projects into which he channels his talents. Besides the two movies out now, he opened in a street-opera-type play Street Heat, at Studio 54 on Broadway around Christmas time. A perfectionist who admires that trait in others, he's enthusiastic about working with Michael Jackson in the "Beat It" video, with Lionel Richie on "Running With The Night" and being the featured dancer on the Bus Boys' "Cleanin' Up The Town" from the hit movie Ghostbusters.
"Basically, the reason I've been doing all the different things I've done is because I don't want to get bored,"Michael explains. "I want to keep challenging my mind."
Michael is now contemplating doing an album, and he's had offers from Ralph Johnson of Earth, Wind and Fire, producing for Paris Records and from another major record company. He's reluctant to talk about these offers, however, because neither has been finalized. In the meantime, Michael continues to produce his material in the studio he built himself at home.
© Tiger Beat 1985