Valerie Landsburg Gaydar Nation interview 2001

Back in the 80s there was no escaping the success that was ‘Fame’, the series based on the film set in the New York School of Performing Arts. A hit with anybody that ever dreamed of a career in the biz that is show, Granada Plus have decided to re-run the series.

With Doris Schwartz always his favourite character, Daniel Judd leapt at the chance to catch up with the actress who played her, Valerie Landsburg.

What was it like during the height of the show’s popularity, when you were top of the charts and touring the world?
For that very brief moment in time you find out what it’s like to be really famous. We called it my ‘Miss Landsburg, Miss Landsburg’ time, because that’s all you heard.

Did you ever row with the scriptwriters over Doris’ storylines?
No. Bill Blinn the writer was my champion. His writing was so great on those first three years and I was fortunate because I got to play the deepest character.

Have you seen Geri Halliwell’s video for ‘It’s Raining Men’? What did you think of her homage to ‘Fame’?
No, I keep on missing it; I wanna see it!

Do you sometimes long to leap on a car, sing and stop traffic?
Every day! I want to jump into the street. Life will always be musical comedy for me.

Do you still keep in touch with the other cast members?
Lee (Bruno Martelli) is with me on this publicity tour and we’ve always been close friends and we were roommates while on the show. I’m very good friends with PR Paul (Montgomery MacNeil) - I call him my other husband. We’ve all reconnected now we’ve had children, and we’ve just done a ‘where are they now’ shoot with People Magazine. I’ve since spoken to Erica (Coco Hernandez), who’s doing great work on ‘ER’ and has just written a pilot.

Have you heard any rumours about the show coming back?
Yes I heard that. Lee and I had exactly the same reaction: we have to contact them immediately! He wants to compose for it and I’d love to direct and write.

If it did, would you love to return, perhaps as a teacher?
Neither of us want to star, but if anyone approached me I’d say ‘Yeah, sure. why not’. I act when it comes to me these days. My focus is really on writing and directing, and then there’s the wild card, my CD. Please, the gay community that have followed me, you must buy this CD.

Go on, give us the pitch then!
You’ll love this CD, I’m so proud of it. It’s called ‘Grown Up’ and features seven songs that I wrote, plus a re-do of ‘Hi Fidelity’ with Lee, a Lindsay Duncan song called ‘Love Song’ which Elton John once recorded, and a really cool pop song called ‘I’ll Wait For You’. There’s also ‘Never Never’ which is about dealing with the seemingly irreconcilable, which is very strong. It’s in loving memory of my friend David Graf, who you may remember as Tackleberry in the ‘Police Academy’ movies. You can order it now so if everyone could tell just one friend…!

How involved have you been with the gay community over the years?
Many years ago our two very close friends Caitlin and Catherine came to us and asked if my husband Jim would be the father to their children – as the donor. It was really a bold experiment, but we knew we had a family that was very full of love and so we went ahead and did it. Now we all go on vacations together.

I directed a play called ‘The Boys of Mariel’ which was nominated for a GLAAD award for Best Los Angeles Production. I’m with my playwright, walking down the red carpet and there’s not one single flashbulb and I turned to her and said ‘It’s a really long walk when you’re nobody!’

Departing an even bigger fan than before, I couldn’t resist asking one more question: Does fame cost and are you still paying?
Yes, but not in the way you think. Yes it costs, there were friendships and things that cannot be easily be repaired. Do I regret, would I change anything? No. Every bit of it made me the person I am today. Am I still paying? No. Now I know everything is healed and renewed, but there is a price.

‘Fame’ can be seen on Granada Plus Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm. Look out for the ‘Fame Marathon’ on 13 October when a whole day will be devoted to the show.

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