Main > Series > Articles/Interviews > Easter Tour
STACEY WESTON WAS AT THE APOLLO THEATRE, MANCHESTER, TO REPORT ON THE NORTHERN FANS' REACTION TO THE FAME STARS' NEW CONCERTS
(May magazine 1983)
A t four o' clock, most people were in their seats and the atmosphere inside the Apollo Theatre was electric. The stage was still in darkness, but we all knew that, at any second, the people we'd come so many miles to see would be there, in front of our eyes. Gene, Lee, Lori, Carlo and Debbie, sharing the same building as ourselves, literally a few feet away from us. . . . . it was almost too wonderful to be true.
We had known in advance, that we would have to manage without Valerie Landsburg again, but nobody expected that, due to last-minute problems, Erica Gimpel would be forced to drop out of the tour. The programme, which had been printed in advance, contained a whole page devoted to her.
Shortly after four, there came an announcement that the performance would start at a quarter past. It was almost unbearable knowing that we had another ten minutes to wait - and then, at four-fifteen, the band started tuning guitars and tapping drums and our excitement grew to fever pitch. Surely it wouldn't be long now?
Just after twenty past, with no fanfare or drum roll to announce them, the Fame dancers strolled casually onto the stage and moved the big grand piano. Then, to a stunned burst of applause, Lee Curreri wandered on, waved, sat down at the piano and started to play a succession of brilliant jazz chords while the other dancers limbered up, contorting their bodies into impossible looking positions in the process.
Debbie Allen was next to appear, followed by Carlo Imperato, in grey trousers and his orange sweatshirt with `22' written on it, Lori Singer, then Gene Anthony Ray, in dazzling, skin-tight crimson stretch pants, and each in turn received a warm, enthusiastic greeting from all of us out front.
Lori settled herself next to Lee with her cello and the dancers ceased their limbering up and launched into a painful looking routine where they all deliberately bumped into one another. Gene showed us some of his spectacular leaps, then Debbie reached for a microphone to say hello.
"We came back - we had to!" she said. "You made us feel so good last time." Then, saying that they all wanted to reach "higher ground" on this tour, Debbie launched into a powerful version of Stevie Wonder's song of the same name, with Gene and Carlo joining in.
After they'd finished, Lee appeared with a bunch of balloons and the others laughed at him, saying he'd got it wrong and the balloons were meant for later!
As this tour had been primarily organised for all those who hadn't been able to see the Kids from Fame last time they came over, the shows followed the original format, with all the stars coming on stage to talk to the audience individually, starting with Lee.
"Because I'm shy, I'm going to play for you before I talk. Is that all right?" he asked us. Amid the chorus of yeses, one voice from the balcony could be heard bellowing, "Yeah, get on with it, mate!" which really amused Lee. He sat down on the piano stool (he was wearing the black tailcoat over jeans and a check shirt, which he wore last tour in fact, most of the costumes were the same) and confided, "I'm going to check it out first. My mother always said that if anything is going to go wrong, it will."
This statement has been dubbed "Murphy's Law", and Lee proceeded to sing a number entitled "Murphy's Blues", about situations in which everything goes wrong. I hadn't heard this song before and thought it was very catchy indeed. At the show I attended during the last tour, his first solo number had been "Alone In The Crowd." The Waters, dressed in red and black outfits, came on to provide backing vocals and the Fame dancers sat on the floor and moved to the beat. Then Lee chatted about his days playing club dates and told us an anecdote about one club with a particularly awful piano.
"I had to play a song in the key of G and there was no working G on the piano. Can you get the piano tuned?' I asked, and the owner said, `Tuned? I just had it painted!'
While we were still chuckling, Lee introduced Gene, who had swapped his' yellow string vest for a blue and white tee-shirt. He and his childhood friend, Eartha Robinson, sang "Laying Back And Being Cool" together, then Debbie introduced the brothers and sisters who made up the Waters, and they performed a rousing number called "Step Up To The Mike". They really have excellent voices and a spot-on sense of harmony.
Incidentally, I do think those cordless microphones look very odd, like stage props, rather than real, working mikes. But, of course, they're a blessing to people like the Fame Troupe, enabling them to dance around the stage without tripping over trailing wires.
It was time then for Lori to show that the cello can be a rock instrument as well as a classical one. She gave those of us who were lucky enough to have been to one of the last shows, too, a second chance to hear her virtuoso performance of "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough", which she began by standing up and playing the heavy cello as if it were a guitar! I noticed that her cello has an electric pick-up enabling it to be heard amongst all the other instruments.
Then it was Debbie Allen's turn to introduce herself properly and talk about the various roles she has played in the past, including that of the infamous Daisy Parker, who used to be married to Louis Armstrong. She was noted for her performance of the shimmy, and Debbie gave us a demonstration whilst singing a song about it.
By now, fans of Carlo Imperato were beginning to grow impatient, but they were rewarded by the sight of Carlo dressed in a sexy black satin outfit, giving a very neat rendition of the current Fame single, "Friday Night". He's started to grow a mustache and it made him look even more handsome. When he undid the zip of his jacket to reveal his bare chest, whistles and screams resounded round the hall!
The next two items were familiar enough to anyone who saw the last shows. Lee thanked us all for the letters we had sent the Kids from Fame, and read out the answers to the most frequently asked questions, without telling us what the questions were. The result was amusing, to say the least! Then the whole Fame troupe gave us their version of "Desdemona", with Lori in the title role, and Gene as Othello. They all danced brilliantly, and as 'Desdemona' was reminiscing about her romance, Debbie sang a stunning, really moving version of "Memory", from the musical, "Cats", which brought the house down.
"Starmaker" closed the first half of the show, leaving us all in a dreamy, reflective mood. However, the opening number of the second half, "Body Language", certainly woke us up! After the dancing and singing had finished - which left me exhausted just from watching the sheer energy they all put into it - Debbie let go a bunch of balloons which rose up to the ceiling and started bursting, sending shriveled bits of rubber down onto the stage and into the audience. This was the cue for a street sweeper to shuffle on with a broom in his hand... only we soon recognised that the figure in overalls was Carlo! He sang a lovely, poignant song called "Sail Away", which I hadn't heard before, all about dreams of a better life, and was joined by some of the dancers, also pushing brooms around. But the wistful mood was swept aside when Debbie introduced Barry Fasman, who produces all the Fame music and writes a lot of the songs.
As he walked back to his place as conductor of the band, E.T. suddenly appeared on stage, easily recognisable as Gene scuffling about on his knees! Everyone laughed, and then he sprang to his feet and launched into "Mannequin", ably abetted by Lori and some of the dancers, in bikinis and swimsuits. Lori performed her jerky, doll-like movements particularly well, staying in character all the way into the wings after the song had finished.
When the grand piano was pushed into the centre of the stage, all Lee's fans held their breath, knowing they were in for a treat. And we couldn't help gasping at how stunning Lee looked when he walked on in beautiful white trousers and shirt with his black evening coat over them. He sat down and played his moving composition, "Could We Be Magic". Just before the end, a balloon burst with a loud pop. Lee turned to us and grinned and we all laughed. "That was part of your magic, baby," ad-libbed Debbie, winding one of Lee's curls round her finger and making us all feel jealous!
Debbie then sang "A Special Place" to Lee's piano accompaniment, and one by one the other Fame stars came on to contribute to the medley of songs recorded on the "Kids From Fame Live" album, Then, after some joking around with Carlo, Lee ordered us to "Get in the mood for a soft, tender love song" - but what we got was quite the opposite, real, raunchy, energetic rock. Everyone was dressed in red, except for Gene and Debbie in white, which enabled us to pick them out easily from amongst the other dancers. And they really were great together, as Gene flung Debbie around in some wild jive dancing.
This routine led into "Life Is A Celebration". As it was nearing the end of the show now, all the dancers were really letting rip, and this number was so inspiring that loads of people leapt out of their seats and surged to the front of the stage, amidst pleas of, "We want more!"
"We Got The Power" was the next song. Gene was `topless' by now, and we all admired his magnificent muscles! Someone threw Lori a bunch of roses and she danced with them, and Gene did an incredible back somersault. While the Waters were singing "Fame", Gene, Lori, Debbie, Lee and Carlo came to the front of the stage and shook hands with, and kissed, as many members of the audience as they could. Brawny bouncers stood behind them, hanging on to them to make sure that they weren't pulled into the audience by the scores of grasping hands!
This really was the end of the show now. As everyone filed out of the hall, some in tears at the thought of having to leave the presence of their favourite people, who really had given us everything they'd got, I'm sure that I wasn't the only one who had wings on my heels and felt a hundred times fitter and as if I could have leapt the length of the stage myself.
Even the people who had seen the Kids from Fame on their previous tour couldn't complain that they were getting exactly the same show all over again. There were several excellent new numbers, although "Hi-Fidelity" wasn't included this time. And the people who had been to the Saturday matinee like me could even get a double dose of Fame by dashing home in time to switch on the TV set and watch the first half of the BBC's film of the Albert Hall concert at the New Year. It certainly was a Fame-filled Easter!
This interview was provided to me by Elaine.
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.