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Inside Fame on Television Book By Michael A. Hoey


My Review:

I first heard about the prospect of a behind the scenes book on Fame in June 2008, when Michael Hoey contacted the Fame Forever site and asked fans to write to him about the show. I was excited and knew I wanted to take part so I sat down and wrote quite a long email. Not knowing exactly what he wanted or if anything I had to say would be considered important enough to use, I wrote why I loved the show, my favourite episodes and about meeting Valerie Landsburg.


Michael wrote back very quickly and seemed like a really nice guy and was grateful for what I sent. We exchanged a couple of emails and at that point it looked like the book could be out by the end of that year or the beginning of 2009 and Michael promised to keep me updated.


The book got put back and it wasn’t until August 2009 that we had any information about the release, which was scheduled for Spring 2010. At least I discovered a quote from my original email was in the book, which was very exciting and we got to see the cover art. I was pleased that Nia Peeples and Jesse Borrego were to be on the front cover as so often it’s only the original cast that are remembered for being on the show particularly when it comes to reunions and retrospectives.


Finally in January this year I discovered that the book had been released in America and was due out in the U.K. in May. I couldn’t wait until May so I ordered it from America although that looked like it was going to take a long time. Then to my surprise I received another email from Michael Hoey. I’d mentioned my Fame site to him and he said he’d like to have the publishers send me a copy of the book in case I wanted to review it on my site. I would have done so anyway but I was so thrilled by the offer. I quickly cancelled my own order and Michael passed my details to the publishers and we were then in their hands waiting for the book to arrive.


Friends mentioned that they had their books and had started to read and I really wanted my copy to come so that I could join in. Michael contacted me a few weeks later to check if the book had arrived but sadly it still hadn’t, so he promised to chase it up. I still thought it would be a couple more weeks before it arrived but then on Thursday March 4th there was a thud on the mat as the postman posted something through my door. I wasn’t expecting anything else and so was curious what it could be and then it dawned on me that it could be the book. I had to get Michael my partner to open it as I didn’t want to get my hopes up.


Then there is was and I was very excited that it was finally here. Although at the same time I had a nagging feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to read it. You see originally when we were buying the book it was going to be a present for my birthday and was to be put away until October! So now holding it in my hands I didn’t want it to be put away and have to wait another 7 months to read it. Then it dawned on me,  "why was I fretting?" This had been a gift and I didn’t need to put it away after all, I could just start reading it!  As luck would have it, it was my day off from work so after a couple of brief emails to friends to say it had arrived and one to Michael Hoey to thank him, I sat down and started to read the book.


Now usually I’m not much of a reader and haven’t actually sat down to read a book in years so I thought it might take me awhile to get through it. However, before I knew it I was half way through.  I would be intrigued when something got mentioned and then stated that story would come later. So I certainly hadn’t intended to read the book all in one day but as I just kept going, and as I approached the end, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop.


First impressions were that the book was actually smaller than I‘d expected but it was easy to read and very enjoyable. Before actually reading I skimmed through to see the pictures and was happy to see a couple that I'd never seen before. Pictures seemed to mostly come from producers private collections so they aren't just the standard publicity shots we've seen a million times.


Reading the book filled in gaps on my behind the scenes knowledge and confirmed a few things that I'd always thought was the case but didn't know for sure. In some instances the book informed me of things I didn’t know before, which is always a bonus. It’s been a long time since there had been something new like this on the show. Back in the 80s I would buy and read every interview and article I could find on the show and the cast but now here was a whole book and I was in my element.


Parts of the “Fame” story about starting life as the film and then transferring to TV, but being cancelled after 2 seasons on NBC, I obviously already knew but it was nice to read the thoughts and feelings of those behind the scenes.  There are quotes from the cast but they are all taken from other interviews which most fans would already know, so if I had one disappointment (but only a minor one) it was that the cast hadn’t been interviewed specifically for this project. It would have been nice to hear their comments on some of the points that were being made by the book. I know we've had lots of interviews and reunions with the cast before and I guess the book wanted to take a different view point but for most fans it is the cast that we feel closest to and so always want them involved.


There were times where I felt that some of the writers and producers, being  interviewed, made critical comments about some of the cast so I would have liked the cast to have had the opportunity to respond to these comments.


At one point Erica Gimpel is referred to as difficult to work with by a couple of the producers because she always questioned everything. They state she wasn’t deliberately being difficult or a diva or anything like that but had a desire to do the best work possible and always wanted to know why her character was doing certain things and questioned shouldn’t she be doing things in different ways. (Sounds just like Coco to me!) Christopher Beaumont  stated that Erica had an alcoholic parent and kids growing up in that environment have difficulty trusting people and this was given as the reason for Erica’s behaviour.


Personally I would have liked to hear Erica’s side of the story and see what she has to say, if anything, on the subject. Maybe it’s my own troubled childhood that makes me find it difficult to trust certain things and makes me question them too. Maybe there’s a little bit of Erica/Coco in me that finds it difficult to accept certain things that people say. Naturally these producers are entitled to their opinions and could actually be right. I certainly believe that our childhood experiences shape our personalities but I struggle to accept that just because “A” happened that this always results in “B” behaviour occurring. We are after all individuals and we react differently to similar situations.


I was fascinated by the behind the scenes information. Like when the show moved from Network TV to syndication and the restructuring that took place, or at how MGM wanted the show to change and be more of a comedy and so they kept hiring Executives Producers to try and achieve that. I never knew the story of how Ken Swofford left the show and his conflicts with Donald Reiker and Patricia Jones so was very interested to hear that at the end of the filming on “Ebenezer Morloch” he kept the cameras rolling as he ranted on about how bad the executives were and this sadly cost him his job. As season 5 wasn't shown in the U.K. at the time it was being made it was always virtually impossible to hear what was happening on the show. As we've never heard anything from Ken on his departure it would have been great to hear him talk about it here just to expand on how he was feeling at the time.


I was most amazed to hear that Melissa Etheridge auditioned to be on Fame. Now I love Melissa especially her first couple of albums but it's hard to ever imagine her as a Fame kid. It would have been interesting though to see what they would have done with her, especially if they had gone down the route of making the character lesbian too.


There are a few minor mistakes in the book that fans will spot as they read through. Like where it states “Savage Streets” is a season 4 episode, when of course it's from Season 5 or that the Season 6 producers, the Longstreets, had Loretta Chandler re-record the theme for season 6. When in fact is was the season 5 producers who introduced the new recording. However these things don't detract too much from the story.


I found the book very moving at times particularly when it discusses the filming of Michael Thoma’s final scenes and Gene Anthony Ray’s behaviour. I was surprised that Gene’s struggles manifested so early in season one. Who knew those legs on the album cover holding Debbie Allen up from "Life Is A Celebration" should have actually been Gene's and Michael Delorenzo had to step in at the last minute?  How he kept his job and stayed with the show for 6 seasons seems like a miracle. Although personally I never realised there was a problem until season 3 when it became obvious that some of the plots Michael Delorenzo was getting had been intended for Leroy. The show and it's cast certainly managed to keep it's secrets from the fans while the show was being made and for years afterwards so it's nice to finally read about some of the things that really happened.


I was also touched by the small number of fan quotes at the end of the book, a number of them like my own talk about how important Fame was helping us come to terms with who we are as people and finding our places in the World. As a lost 14 year old you think there’s only you who feels that way but so many years later you hear the stories and meet the people, who shared those same feelings making the show such an important part of our lives even today.    


So all in all a great read and a must for all fans, with some great stories and behind the scenes details that leaves this fan wanting more but then I always do as I never get enough of Fame!  

Michael A Hoey:



Inside Fame on TelevisionA Behind-the-Scenes History Michael A. Hoey
ISBN 978-0-7864-4665-0 photos, bibliography, indexsoftcover 2010
Price: $35.00 Marfarland Publishing.

Description: Fame, the hugely popular 1980 musical film inspired by New York’s High School of the Performing Arts, was adapted as a weekly NBC television series in 1982. Though cancelled by the network after two seasons, the TV version of Fame rose from the ashes to enjoy a long and successful run in syndication. Among the series’ cast members were such gifted performers as Debbie Allen and Janet Jackson.For five of the six years that Fame flourished on television, Michael A. Hoey was closely involved in the series’ production. He has written a compelling behind-the-scenes history of the trials, tribulations and triumphs surrounding the filming of the hit series, interviewing a number of the creative principals as well as recounting his own experiences.

About the Author Michael A. Hoey is a multi-award-winning film editor, screenwriter, director and producer. His numerous credits include six Elvis Presley films, the TV series Dallas and Murder She Wrote, and the annual Creative Emmy Awards presentation. He lives in San Clemente, California.
For more information and to order the book click the link to go MacFarland Publishing:
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