In 1980, I saw the movie Fame with a friend of mine. It was a rainy fall evening in downtown Minneapolis, somewhere in one of the huge old theaters on Hennepin Avenue. My friend, a Romanian émigré I had met in Hebrew class, enjoyed them film. I was enthralled.
When I graduated from high school in 1976, I had two identities. One was as an actor/theater person; the other was as a Christian. While the latter identity hadn’t survived college really intact, and though I had managed only to fit a single theater class into my curriculum, I was still, in 1980, definitely a theater person. I still had visions of the stage, though they were mixed with music by then.
Fame fed all of that. I saw high school, I saw theater, I saw romance, I saw it all. Everything I ever wanted. I was only four years older than the kids in Performance Arts.
Time has come and gone. 37-odd years now. I’ve played music (and I’m way better at it than I used to be), I’ve done a radio drama, but most of my life has had nothing to do with the theater and never will. And I’ve done stupid things, too. Saturday, I was clearing the area behind the garage, stupidly wearing sandals. Something got between my right sandal and my foot while I was carrying a piece of decayed fence, and it went into my foot.
So now I’m at home because I literally can’t walk. And I decided, for the hell of it, to pull up Fame on Netflix.
You know what?
It hasn’t changed. And my response to it hasn’t changed. I’m still seeing high school, theater, romance.
Fame has held up remarkably well. In the 37 years since I first saw it (and as far as I can tell, that was the only time I saw it before today) many things have changed and not held up. There are no more Checker cabs. There are no more heavy green telephones. If you walk around New York today, you see people not talking to each other or looking around, you see people staring at cell phones (or talking on them). The city is cleaner and less interesting. I’m cleaner and less interesting. Do you know how long it’s been since I went to a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Smoked dope? Hell, my children are now older than the students in Fame.
It hurts, in some ways, to watch Fame, because I realize what’s been left behind, and a large part of it is me. I was young in Minneapolis, and ready to stay up all night long and do fantastic things. I’ve done things that I never could have imagined, and few of them have been fantastic. But some have, I suppose. Now I sit, a 60-year-old lawyer, in a pleasant house in Connecticut. I go to bed around ten. I don’t swear as much. I don’t listen to music as much. I’m in many ways less than I was.
But the dreams haven’t changed. And I still love this song.