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LORI SINGER - NOBODY ELSE COULD HAVE PLAYED JULIE MILLER BY KAY ANDERSON
Last month I mentioned that the first time I met Morgan Stevens, he was bandaged and limping from an ankle injury. Well, the first time I had a good, long talk with Lori Singer, she'd just sustained an injury, too. In fact, she sat in the set of the teachers' lounge at the School of the Arts holding an icepack against her face. A few minutes before, the elbow of one of the dancers had collided with her cheekbone during the filming of one of the dance class sequences. She was managing to keep the bruise at bay with the ice, which was fortunate because she had several more hours of scenes to shoot that day, but her eyes were looking a little puffy.
"It was my own fault really," she explained ruefully. "When they called 'Cut!' in the middle of a dance number, I stopped immediately, but the dancer next to me finished the combination we were on."
I'd seen it happen and it was just one of those things. During rehearsals, when people are concentrating fiercely on remembering their steps and routines, I've seen them bump into the walls, and the pillars in the dance classroom, never mind each other! After this particular collision, Lori had sunk to the floor, holding her face, her eyes watering, while everyone dashed up to try to help. The studio nurse came in with a first aid kit and produced the ice-pack. The dancer whose elbow had struck Lori was nearly in tears, she was so upset, and everyone was being soothing and sympathetic to her, too. Nobody was cross about what had happened, and when Lori had been attended to, she got up and gave the dancer a friendly hug to assure her that she harboured no ill feelings!
Even dressed in a baggy lavender warm-up suit, with her hair in pigtails and the ice pressed to her face, Lori still showed the fresh girl-next-door beauty that had landed her scores of modelling jobs by the time she'd reached her mid-teens. She may look cool and languid in some of her photos, but in real life she's got a bubbly, out-going personality that makes her great fun to be with. She is genuinely interested in everyone she meets, and says that one of the things she has enjoyed most, about being involved with Fame is that it's given her the opportunity to meet and talk to people.
"Lots of times I'd see people who looked like they might be interesting to talk to, but there wouldn't be the opportunity to start a conversation," Lori remembers regretfully. "But now we all share the same experiences in Fame, so they come up to me and start talking because they know the show and know my character, and I get a glimpse of how they feel. It's great. I love it!" Lori chuckled enthusiastically.
Like most of the actors, actresses and dancers in Fame, Lori has spent a lot of her life in New York, and misses it very much. New York has the big-city bustle and excitement which Los Angeles lacks, even though they have roughly the same population. The difference is that New York is a vertical city, with lots of people packed into high buildings in a relatively small area, whereas Los Angeles is a horizontal city, with its population spread out over a much wider area.
Lori misses the crowds more than anything else. "In New York you can stand on a street corner and if you just look, and are open to people, every kind of person walks right by you - the happy, the lost, the richest in money and the richest in spirit, and also the most distraught. But here, if you stand on a street corner, all you see are cars whizzing past you. Streets have names like Motor Avenue and Cadillac Avenue." she observed wryly.
The way in which she has chosen to come to terms with the difference is to find an apartment in a crowded part of Los Angeles - in Westwood, near the campus of the University of California.
"It's more what I'm used to," she told me. "The crowds of people in the streets, everyone walking, way into the night. I've gotten used to sharing my floor with people, seeing people in the elevator first thing in the morning. even when I go out to run at six a.m.
"There were a couple of days last summer when I stayed in and didn't run, and I realised I was missing seeing people. I love having a lot of people around me, and I always have house guests, friends who are in town, staying with me.
"This is the first time I've really been on my own, living alone," Lori confessed, still pressing that ice-pack against her. face. "When I first started Fame, I lived with Carlo and his mother in an apartment out here. Then, when Carlo's mother went back to New York, my brother Marc helped me to find an apartment. At first, I was so nervous about being alone that I couldn't sleep. I'd be awake all night. imagining all sorts of horrors!"
Lori's full name is Lori Jacqueline Singer, and she was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on November 6th, 1961, weighing less than four pounds. Her twin brother, Gregory, entered the world three minutes later and weighed a few ounces more. "He's a little taller than I am now," Lori told me, "and he looks a lot like me, except that he has dark curly hair, like Lee's."
Like most twins, Lori loves being one of a pair. "It was especially wonderful when we were little, because our family moved around and travelled a lot. But no matter where we were, Gregory and I always had each other, so we always had a playmate, someone to talk to, someone else who was completely familiar in a strange city, or a new school.
"It seems strange to be without him now, since he's back in New York," she said, slightly wistfully. "We've always been very close, though our personalities are almost complete opposites. We have a really amazing rapport. I can be away from him for a while, but all it takes is seeing him or hearing his voice on the phone, and I can tell immediately what he's thinking and how he's feeling."
Lori's father, the well-known concert violinist and symphony orchestra conductor, Jacques Singer, died two years ago. Lori's eyes still fill with sudden tears when she talks about him. She really regrets the fact that he never got to see her in Fame, or in any of her recent concerts. Her mother, Leslie, is a concert pianist and teacher, and Lori also has two older brothers. Claude, the eldest, is twelve years older than Lori and Gregory and is a writer by profession, and Marc, who's ten years older than the twins, is an actor whose credits range from Shakespeare to the recent hit fantasy movie, "The Beastmaster". He also had the starring role in "If You Could See What I Hear", in which he portrayed blind singer/ actor/composer Tom Sullivan. Sullivan himself played a teacher at the School of the Arts in a second-season episode of Fame. It's a small world in television and film-making!
After living in Texas and the Pacific North-West during Lori's early childhood, the family began spending several months of each year in New York, while Mr. Singer guest-conducted with orchestras there. They moved to New York permanently when Lori was eleven.
She draws on this experience in her portrayal of Julie, who came from the quiet upper-Midwest city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to bustling, high-strung New York. "I can understand how strange the city feels to Julie," Lori observed, "since I remember what it was like to go suddenly from a house in Oregon to an apartment in Manhattan, where, at first, we had just two rooms for the four of us."
With a family background like hers, a career in music came so naturally to Lori that she never really contemplated any alternatives. "Gregory and I were going to concerts before we were born, so maybe it was prenatal influence!" she joked. "When we were little, we were always backstage at rehearsals and concerts, watching our father work, and from the time we were three, we used to carry the flowers out to the soloists after performances."
In the evenings, the giants of the classical music world would visit the Singer household - Isaac Stern, Itzhak Periman, Leonard Rose, who later became Lori's teacher at music college, Pinchas Zukerman, after whom Lori's dog is named, and composer Aaron Copland, who used to go upstairs and read bedtime stories to the twins.
Lori started to learn the cello when she was nine old. That's always Lori's playing we hear in Fame, of course, and when she's on screen, she's always playing live, not miming to a pre-recorded track of her own music. She fell in love with the cello from the moment she started to play and she would practice twelve hours a day, starting at six in the morning, if her family would let her!
About the same time, Gregory took up the violin. "Gregory was just the opposite to me, as usual," Lori recalled. "He hated to practice and would always hide when lesson time came." He must have come out sometimes, though, because today he is an accomplished violinist who has been the featured soloist at concerts. He's played in the orchestra pit of many Broadway shows, and often does recording sessions in New York.
When she was thirteen, Lori won a scholarship to the prestigious Juillard School of Music in New York, where Gregory also studied. Like most students, Lori was always hard up, so when she was fourteen, she applied for a modelling job. She had never been particularly interested in clothes or make-up, but with her honey-coloured hair, sparkling blue-green eyes, and that tall, willowy figure (she says she's 5' 9.5", but she seems taller) that looks wonderful in anything from jeans to evening gowns, she was quickly accepted.
In the two years she worked as a model, she appeared in fashion lay-outs and on magazine covers for Vogue, Glamour, Mademoiselle and many other top magazines, and travelled all over the world for photographic sessions. Last year she put all this experience to good use when she played a fashion model in an American movie called "Born Beautiful".
"When I heard that they were casting for a Fame TV series, I really wanted to be in it, because the role of Julie sounded so like my own life," Lori told me. "I wanted to pursue acting as an adjunct to my music, which I'll never give up." (Lori practices every single day often bringing her extremely valuable two-hundred old cello to the studio with her). "For my final audition in L.A., I read a scene with someone, danced, and played my cello."
The people who saw the video tape of her audition must have liked what saw, because they were convinced that she was the best possible person to play Julie. And we're sure every Fame watcher agree with their decision because it's impossible to imagine anyone else so right for the part!
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.