It’s hard to believe that the television series Fame, which was born from the 1980 motion picture of the same name, is 40 years old. It originally began airing on NBC January 7, 1982 and ran there for two seasons before airing in syndication for four more seasons. What’s even harder to believe is that the show has been around for almost all of my life. I was ten years old when it began and it’s had a hold on me ever since. No, seriously. I’ve watched every episode at least ten times, know most of the songs by heart, recite the Debbie Allen refrain during the opening credits just for fun, and event went to the 35th anniversary event in Los Angeles five years ago. I flew in just for the event.
Yeah… I’m all in. How all in am I? Since 1982 I’ve convinced myself that Bruno Martelli (Lee Curreri), Danny Amatullo (Carlo Imperato) and Leroy Johnson (Gene Anthony Ray) could sing. Like, I fought people who said they couldn’t. Such is my love for Fame.
For those who still don’t know what Fame meant to us back then, think of it as our generation’s Degrassi High mixed with Glee combined with a weekly dose of High School Musical. It was the perfectly imperfect balance of drama and music, with some of the best dance sequences ever recorded. The OG squad was the best, with Danny, Leroy, Bruno, Doris Schwartz (Valerie Landsberg), and Coco Hernandez (Erica Gimpel) putting in extraordinary work weekly. Then came the second squad with Billy Hufsey, Nia Peeples, Cynthia Gibb, Jesse Borrego and Janet Jackson, who undoubtedly upped the pretty quotient of the cast, if not the talent level.
The show had everything, with constant moments of levity being provided by everybody’s favorite receptionist Mrs. Berg, the obnoxious Mr. Morloch, the irreplaceable Mr. Shorofsky, hall monitor Dwight, the tough but kind Mrs. Sherwood, and of course the oh so fine and uber talented Ms. Lydia Grant. Plus the steadiness of dancers Stephanie E. Williams and Michael DeLorenzo. I haven’t even gotten started on the guest stars, with so many Hollywood stalwarts (Milton Burle! Fran Drescher! Peabo Bryson! Malcolm-Jamal Warner!) appearing on the show during its run.
Fame was everything. And after looking back at a few clips that are scattered online, I think it still is. There’s so much more I could write, like the fact that “I Still Believe In Me” is one of my favorite songs ever, or how I literally cried when Bruno’s dad died, or how Doris Schwartz won me over doing nothing but singing, or how I believe every time Ms. Grant yelled at Leroy an inner city kid got a camp scholarship… there’s so much. But I won’t.
Instead, in appreciation of the series’ 40th anniversary, I share with you some of my favorite moments/performances from the show I honestly couldn’t live without. May it live forever.