In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the musical TV series Fame, the cast will reunite July 13 for a one-night benefit concert in which all proceeds will go to The Actors Fund.
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning series focused on the students at New York's famous High School for the Performing Arts and their journey to becoming stars.
The series will reunite onstage nine of the show's stars: Debbie Allen, Jesse Borrego, Cynthia Gibb, Erica Gimpel, Billy Hufsey, Carlo Imperato, Valerie Landsburg, Lee Curreri, and P.R. Paul. The show will take place at The Troubadour in West Hollywood at 8 p.m.
We asked some of the actors who played students for their favorite Fame memories.
"Rehearsal Hall A was the first place I experienced on the MGM lot. It was where we entered for the Fame open casting call and it was where the dance auditions were held. I can remember quite clearly Debbie Allen stalking up and down the rehearsal hall like a Lioness of Rhythm, scrutinizing our faces for any hint of talent or lack thereof. it was also the place of my first small victory when several hours later there I was free styling and showing off my moves to La Maestra in a callback dance audition. Once I was on the show, this is the studio where we would tirelessly rehearse the musical numbers for the episode. Many lunches at the MGM commissary were sacrificed to spend the time in Rehearsal Hall A to tighten up a dance number. The Rehearsal Hall itself was already legendary, apparently the place where Fred Astaire choreographed the famous 'chair routine' among others. I grew up on MGM musicals and they were an inspiration to me in my early musical theatre years, and now I could imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers twirling around the hall. Gene Kelly leaping and creating in this sacred space that now I was lucky enough to be dancing in. Then the universe came together. MGM was celebrating the anniversary of Rehearsal Hall A and they were holding a luncheon with some studio execs and other dignitaries. They invited the cast of the show to attend. They had set up the Rehearsal Hall for a nice casual luncheon and when we arrived it was full of people. Lo and behold, the star attractions are none other than Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, the artists who made this Rehearsal Hall famous! As we mingled I was awestruck to be in the same room as some of my heroes, who even in their 80s still looked vital enough to pull off a twirl or two. It was truly inspiring to hear their stories of all the fabulous work and dances that had been created there and immortalized for all time on film. It made me feel humbled and honored that I too would help create dances and entertainment that would live on long after we created them. Inspired, I have always carried that day with me for the rest of my years working in that Rehearsal Hall."
“My first day of work on Fame was in August of 1983. I had just moved from New York and I knew no one, except my boyfriend of three years (Chris Atkins)—but we were temporarily broken up at the time. The phone company in L.A. was on strike, so no new phone service was being set up. I had no furniture in my West L.A. apartment except a lawn chair and I had a rental car and had to go to the payphone in Westwood to call home. Needless to say, I was desperately lonely.
"When I went to work on day one of Fame (on the MGM set) I reported to dance rehearsal. I arrived and started to warm up. No one talked to me. I was terrified and intimidated by these amazing performers. I was close to hyperventilating with anxiety when one of the dancers came running up to me and said with a smile, ‘Hi. I’m Kim. I’m your godsister!’
"As it turned out, I had never met my godmother and godfather (who were my parents' best friends in Vermont in the early 1960s) because they moved to California when I was a baby. My mother and Joyce danced together in Vermont and became close friends. Their two daughters pursued dance careers, and all three of us ended up on Fame together. We spent three years working together and I am proud to call them my friends. I don’t know how we would have ever known each other if it weren’t for Fame!”
"My favorite memory was the episode 'Passing Grade' in which Debbie Allen and I (Lydia Grant and Coco) went up for the same part. This was really significant for me because I had seen Debbie in West Side Story on Broadway and was really inspired by her. At that time I was a junior at The High School for the Performing Arts, which was the actual school Fame was based on. The way the episode ended was that neither one of us got the part, and we sang the duet 'I Still Believe In Me' and danced together. It was truly a highlight for me, dancing together and to that particular song, which will always hold a special place in my heart."
"There are so many memories that are embedded in my heart but one that stands out was going on tour and seeing the response from fans overseas. It was Famemania. Just seeing the kids' faces and the love and admiration they expressed will always stand out to me."
“In 1983, I decided to not go on the summer tour that the rest of the cast was participating in. I had been asked to come to Australia to do a number of appearances there for press. Right when I got home, I got a call that Lori Singer was leaving the tour because she had gotten the lead role in a movie called Footloose.
"So, I got on the plane and met the tour for its last two dates in the U.K. The night we finished, we were on a bus to the airport to fly to Israel.
"I woke up on the plane on the tarmac in Tel Aviv. They hustled us into an ambulance on the runway. It was Independence Day in Israel and we were taken to a stage in the Kings of Israel Square where we sang Happy Birthday to 25,000 people. I don't think any of us ever thought that would happen.”
“I had the pleasure of writing one of the storylines for the Fame series. It was called ‘Blood, Sweat, and Circuits.’ My idea was for Bruno to come up with a computer program to express the dance movements of Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray) in colors and shapes on a computer monitor. This may sound completely commonplace now, but, remember, this was 1983. I naively thought that this was going to be easy, but I found out later that there was only one person who had ever done it, and his name was Ed Tannenbaum. Ed lived in Silicon Valley and he had an exhibit of this very thing at the San Francisco Exploratorium. The next thing I knew, I was on a flight with the story editor up to San Jose to find this man they called E.T. His fee was a little steep for our show, but the producers ended up going along with it. My favorite part was actually seeing the technology work—watching Gene Anthony's dancing re-interpreted in a collection of different colored shapes on a screen!”
"Lee and I had just finished lunch or something and we were heading back to the Fame set. As we were walking towards our respective dressing rooms, lo and behold, a golf cart appears, as if by magic, right before us! We look at each other. I don't remember who the bad influence was but for the sake of the story, and since I’m the one telling it, let’s blame Lee. Now, we were either late to the set or feeling our oats about being on Fame… so we decided to take the golf cart for a little joyride to tour the MGM lot and drive it back to our respective dressing rooms when we were done with it. No harm, no foul, right? Well, not quite. The next thing I know, there were bullhorns going off and a studio SWAT team outside our dressing rooms. The bullhorn blasted an announcement: 'Come out with your hands up and your scripts held high in the air!' Clearly shaken, we open our dressing room doors with our hands and our scripts held high up in the air. We were taken to the principal’s office and told we will never work on this lot again. After two weeks in the MGM jail, we were released—shamed and looking a little worse for wear. Thank God, we were imprisoned during hiatus and we did not miss a day of work. Other than the lurid exposé in the National Enquirer (I think the headline was: “P.R. and Lee are Having a Baby. Who’s the Father?”) and my impending marriage to a banker’s daughter being called off due to my now questionable character, everything worked out fine.
"That is as best as I can remember this story. After all, it was 35 years ago!"
"I think the first concert in Santa Monica really stands out for me. I had been on about four episodes at that point. The venue was a sold out performance for something like 20,000 people. I remember being a little nervous when I hit the stage and hearing the deafening sound of the applause. I was overwhelmed with joy and was surprised that the crowd even knew who I was. It took the nervousness right out of me; I was so humbled. It allowed me to perform to the best of my abilities. Performing with such an incredible cast fueled my internal fire to continue to train. I've continued developing my skills to this day. I consider it such a blessing to have been inspired by working with such an incredibly talented cast to watch and learn from so early in my career."
For tickets to the reunion concert, click here.
An original version of this article was published on July 1, 2017. Hufsey’s memory has been added.