We have been doing so many reunions on Stars In The House and I’ve been loving them! First of all, the best news is: people are continuing to donate to the Actors Fund. It’s truly amazing to me that, even in this time of so much economic uncertainty, people are still willing to part with money to help others less fortunate. So far to this date, we’ve raised $418,000 for The Actors Fund!
Back to reunions:
We had lots of the stars of the film Fame as well as the composing team, Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford. I asked Michael and Dean about the beautiful finale “I Sing The Body Electric.” The “mandate” from director Alan Parker (who sadly recently passed away) was that the song should incorporate an orchestra, soloists, a rock band, dancers, and a gospel choir. Amazingly, Michael was able to change musical styles throughout the song to accommodate all those elements!
As for the lyrics, Dean had read the script and, because it was a high school graduation song supposedly penned by the character Bruno, Dean wanted to incorporate a signature phrase from literature that Bruno probably studied during his four years of high school. He researched tons of signature required reading that most high school kids read and one night (crossing West 72nd Street!) he remembered the phrase “I sing the body electric” which is from a poem by Walt Whitman.
He loved that it included many of the arts featured at the High School of Performing arts: Singing, (“I sing) dance (the body) and synthesizers which Bruno is obsessed with in the film (“electric”)! As for the the soloists: Laura Dean, who played Lisa—the dancer who’s kicked out of the dance program—told us Alan Parker knew she could sing, but didn’t think her character should sing in the film. Well, one day, Laura was in the communal bathroom where they were filming the movie on 46th street and she was singing to herself, which she admits she often does. A man was washing his hands and complimented her on her voice. She joked that yes, she could sing, but Alan Parker didn’t want her singing in the film. Well, the man was Michael Gore and when he recorded the demo of the finale, he wound up using Laura on the first solo. Alan Parker heard it and it led to her being fully featured in the finale! Watch!
Laura’s character struggled deeply and nearly died by suicide. In the original script, her character actually did pass away, but the studio felt they could not have a lead character literally die so this scene happened instead. (Editor’s note: This scene of a suggested suicide attempt may be triggering to some readers.)
In terms of “movie magic,” Laura’s character is constantly in dance class and her teacher (played by Joanna Merlin, current casting director extraordinaire and the original Tzeitl in Fiddler on the Roof) keeps telling her to try harder. She repeatedly asks, “Where’s the sweat, Lisa?” Well, Laura said they filmed in a building with no air conditioner and it was SWELTERING! They would have four different identical costumes ready for her to change into throughout filming because she was always drenched in sweat! You totally can’t tell, though. Watch!
Michael and Dean talked about writing “Hot Lunch,” which actually was the original title of the film! Alan told Michael that he hated in musicals when dialogue ends and song begins. He wanted it to be seamless. Michael suggested a “jam” where someone starts playing the lunch table percussively, then someone else joins in on piano, etc. Alan, who was a visual artist, started sketching it out and by the end of their talk, he had all of his shots. Watch the song!
There was a time when the name of the film was Hot Lunch; that lasted until the day Alan Parker was in the 42nd Street area and saw a movie marquee with the title Hot Lunch…and it was a porn film! The title quickly changed the name to Fame. Not everyone was thrilled with it until: the designer of the film went to see a Yankees game and the next day he showed everyone FAME written in the font that the NY Yankees use. Everyone could suddenly see what the poster would look like and that’s what sold them.
As for Michael, he wasn’t the official composer of the film, he was the music coordinator. But when the movie changed it’s name to Fame no one else knew. He called Dean and gave him the inside scoop and they quickly started writing the title song. But it wasn’t used during the shoot! The song wasn’t done yet. Instead, Michael chose Donna Summer’s“Hot Stuff” to stand in and be played when the cast is on the street dancing around. Then, when the title song was finished, they substituted it in. It was the exact same tempo so it fit perfectly…but the sequence wasn’t fully exciting. The film editor realized it was because he cut it to the phrasing and accents of “Hot Stuff” and it needed to be more specific. He went back to all the original footage and re-cut it to “Fame” and that’s what turned it into this fabulous scene.
Stars In The House also had two shows dedicated to ensuring the arts are in the new stimulus bill. Please go to StarsInTheHouse.com and click the “Action Alert” button. It takes you to a pre-written Americans For The Arts email you can send to your representative. It takes two minutes!
Certain factions in the government are saying we have to focus on the economy first and then the arts…but the arts a a massive piece of the economy! Helping the arts, helps the economy. So many businesses in cities and towns across the USA rely on their local arts organizations—not to mention those organizations themselves. People that go to an arts center eat dinner at a nearby restaurant, go to a nearby bar after, park in a nearby garage, hire a babysitter. The theatre uses local electricians and plumbers and dry cleaners for costumes, etc. Not to mention all of the people who work in the building. If these smaller institutions aren’t helped, they may completely disappear.
Here’s a video with some highlights from the series where artists talk about the importance of local theatres and arts education…including Marlee Matlin holding up her Oscar and saying it happened because of a small local theatre. She did a production of Children Of A Lesser God in Chicago and was spotted by someone from Hollywood and it led to her getting the film, which led to her Oscar win. We even had an appearance by Itzhak Perlman, who I had never met!!! Afterwards, I sent him a video of playing the violin and his only comment was “Practice.” Hmph.
Look at this great highlight reel…and again, go to StarsInTheHouse.com and click the action alert. It really makes a difference when your elected officials hear from you!