Valerie Landsburg 2001 interview with Jamie Walters

ALL-SINGING, ALL DANCING Valerie Landsburg star-jumped into the hearts of the British public in the 1980s as the neurotic and diminutive Doris in Fame, currently re-running on Granada Plus. Since then, 43-year-old Valerie has done her utmost to ensure we remember her with numerous acting and directing credits.

Has Fame dated or do you think it is ageless?
Without the clothing, it's ageless. If you take Coco, for instance, and put her in a little T-shirt with a pierced navel and coloured hair, then shift the music away from the 1980s sound and have us doing the kind of stuff you hear now, it would be contemporary. 
Was it the issues dealt with by the show that were timeless?
Our stories were always about how to grow up and how to deal with life problems. That year on television led the way for a lot of stuff. St Elsewhere led to ER; Hill Street Blues created that entire genre of television shows and we did the same. But I don't know if there's a place anymore for musical TV shows, they can't compete with a $1million music video.
Do you meet up with the old cast often?
Lee Curreri [who played Bruno] and I are still really good friends, and I see Cynthia Gibb [who played Holly] all the time. We're hoping to be in People magazine in the fall having done a whole reunion.
With everybody?
Yeah, they just decided they wanted to do a back to school issue. It's the first time a lot of us have been in one place in a lot of years. It was great to see everybody.
Was Janet Jackson there?
No, and it's funny because we had a reunion about seven or eight years ago at Cynthia's house, so we put out the call to everybody. We called Janet's manager and they were like: 'Who is this, what do you want?' And we were like: 'Look, we get it that she's busy but we just didn't want her to feel left out so please tell her she's invited.' I doubt if they even gave her the message.

Fame was based around the New York performing arts college Julliard. Would you have got into Julliard on your own merits?
It's actually based around the High School Of Performing Arts, Julliard's the college. I did get into Julliard but I didn't go because at the same time as I was accepted, the pilot of Fame was picked up.

Was that a tough choice?
Yeah, it was funny because I'd been on Broadway for two years. I was 22 or 23 and a friend of mine who was at Julliard said I should audition. So I auditioned and got in but they picked up the pilot of Fame - I was torn.

Do you ever regret not going?
Who knows what my life would have been like? I met my husband the year I moved back down to Los Angeles. I've had so many forks in the road, if I begin to dwell on the road not travelled it would make me crazy.

Were you quite like your Fame character Doris?
She got to be me at that sweet age. She went through a lot of the difficulties I went through but sort of one step removed. I remember doing certain things on the show that were very emotional for me because I was still really close to that time.
You grew up in LA.
Well, I was born in New York and moved to Los Angeles when I was four and a half.
Did that condition you for a life of celebrity?
I grew up in a television environment but I didn't grow up in a showbusiness family. My father was a producer and my mother was a college professor and writer. I went to Beverly Hills High, so I went to school with movie star kids. I remember having this little beat-up used car at school and every day Gina Martin, Dean Martin's daughter, would come to school in her black XKE with a licence plate that said BRAT 1.
Was life at Beverly Hills High anything like it was in the show Beverly Hills 90210?
The biggest element they're missing in Beverly Hills 90210 is that Beverly Hills High is 85 per cent Jewish but I think the idea was right.

Were you a naughty girl?
I got suspended three times from school. I couldn't stay there, it was just so boring. I suffer from dyslexia and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. I was never going to go to college because I wasn't going to take a test and get a score that made me look like a moron. I remember looking at the stars when I was eight thinking: 'I want an interesting life'. What I know today is I am intelligent but at the time I just couldn't be bothered.

Do you still want to live forever?
No, I don't. It'll be time when it's time, though there's still so much to do and I feel only half way there.
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