Main > Series > Fanzone > Encounters > My Rendezvous with Valerie Landsburg



Remember those lyrics from 'The Kids From Fame's song 'Friday Night' that Carlo Imperato sang?  "Friday night's gonna be alright, it's gonna be right. It's gonna be alright now baby!"  Well this particular Friday night was no exception!

My boyfriend Pete and I set off in a hired car that day (I decided his van would be too slow, so I paid £28 for the car, which was pretty cheap.) The journey wasn't too bad, and we got there quicker than we thought we would. We left Buxton, Derbyshire at 3.00pm and thanks to the M1 being fairly clear, we got to London in 4 1/2 hours.  Made a few mistakes getting on the right road (A5) which lead us to the pub we were meeting in, but other than that it was no problem.

We actually got there before Sue and Val.  So I ended up phoning from a call box down the road (as the one in the pub wasn't working.)  They were stuck in traffic near Euston station, but it wasn't far. They arrived about 8.00pm.  We waited for a while, then decided to order a meal, as they were closing at 9.00pm.  When both ladies walked in I immediately recognized them.  Sue has straighter hair and dyed reddish nowadays, but Val looked so like her old 'Fame' character, Doris Schwartz.  When I told her she hadn't changed a bit, she explained that for a long while she'd had a shorter style.  However she'd been over in France recently, and hadn't bothered doing much with it...so ended up with the familiar 'Doris' hairstyle we knew and loved!

She joined us over at a couple of tables in the restaurant area, and introduced us to her now 14 year old daughter Taylor.  She has straight dark hair, wore glasses and was taller than her mum!  I reminded her later of her very first TV appearance in the last episode of 'Fame' which was called 'Baby Remember My Name'.  Doris had returned to The School Of The Arts for the school alumni reunion, with a little baby girl in her arms.  "Yep!  That was Taylor!" Val told us, smiling.  The rest of our little group included a very outward going young lady named, Julia (who I'll be adding to my email list), a German lady (who had traveled all the way over from Europe that Friday, and a lady in a wheelchair.  Then there was of course Sue, my boyfriend and me.  Small but cozy and we all got on with one another rather well, which was nice.  Val spoke to us as if we'd all been friends for ages!
She's a very lovely, kind and sophisticated lady with a great sense of humour and that wonderful 'wild' streak that was 'Doris'.  She said to me that she still had that character very much inside her.  She told us all how much of a 'crazy' time she had had working on 'Fame' and how everyone was like part of a huge family. Her closest friend on the set was Carol Mayo Jenkins (who played the English teacher Miss Elizabeth Sherwood) and she said how she and Carlo Imperato (who played Danny Amatullo) used to fight like cat and dog, for weeks!  But it was all part of being this 'family' which was a very wild part of her life.  ( She joked about everyone having 'incestuous relationships' in the cast, since they were so close!)

She has been a director over the years, and also teachers drama in workshops (and is at present looking for venues in Europe.)  She mentioned the 'spiritual' side which interested me, so I told her about my belief in the Buddhist values and how I meditate in front of a small shrine at home.  We had an interesting discussion about how one can learn to become centered in such a hectic life we lead.  Particularly for someone such as Val, living in Hollywood!

I told her how 'Fame' had been an inspiration in my life (especially after seeing the 'kids' in concert back in 1983), and how I enrolled for two years at a drama college (even though my parents, at the time, didn't think I stood much of a chance due to being disabled with two artificial legs.)  I even ended up auditioning for 'Fame - The Musical' in Manchester, and my audition piece was 'Out Here On My Own' sung by Irene Cara in the movie. Val told me she also sang this song for auditions.  Later she signed my autograph book, saying how she was blessed and honoured to have been an influence in my life. She had also brought b/w photos signed in gold pen (with her short hair style.)  I received one for myself and a few for friends (who I have known ever since the 'Fame' days.)  We had a few problems with pens, which were writing on the photos ok, then refusing to. Taylor took out a rather snazzy pen with fluorescent blue ink, but that failed in the end.  Accidentally my boyfriend picked it up and put in his jacket pocket!  He only realized he still had it when we were on the motorway heading home! Ooops!  Taylor was asked if she liked doing drama and would she follow in her mother's footsteps?  She enjoyed doing roles here and there, but would rather pursue a career in art.

Val went on to tell us how famous celebrities such as Julia Roberts and even our own Julie Walters have come up to her and said how much 'Fame' had been an inspiration to them too.  She didn't realize the impact the show would have on so many people until much later in life.  It came as quite a pleasant surprise to her!  She has a female idol of her own, namely Barbara Streisand, as people used to think she looked a little like her.

During the evening, one of the ladies, Julia, asked Val which was her favourite 'Fame' song?  To which she replied ' Just When I Really Needed You.  I reminded her that was the one she sang at the Israel concert. She started singing some of it, and a few others, including 'Shadows and Light' from the episode with the ghost, and 'The Child In Me' from the episode where Doris got mugged.  I told her that was my favourite song she's ever sung.  She mentioned her up and coming CD, which she's working on with her husband and musician/songwriter James Macvay and a band consisting of members from previous famous bands.  The CD will be of various styles including jazz and rock.  One of her songs (and she's written many) is a revamped version of the 'Fame' song 'High Fidelity.'  All through the meeting, Julia was taping it on her home video camera, then asked Val if she would sing 'High Fidelity'?  She was a little reluctant, but said she would if Julia would? (Julia had been joining in along with myself when we were recapping over fave songs.)  I offered to sing along, and so I joined Julia and Val on the other side of the table, and we sang on the video!  That is both Julia and I did, as Val was, as I put it gently, "chickening out!" Valerie was laughing and saying how it should be mine and Julia's debut tonight!  We also started singing 'Starmaker' and Val did join in with a few lines!  I noticed how her voice has mellowed out over the years, giving her a stronger and deeper tone, compared to her younger days as 'Doris'.  I am looking forward to hearing her CD eventually, which should all being well, be released by the end of the year.  However she's putting out several songs over the Internet soon, through her website run by Sue Hinds. I must say it was a lot of fun singing along with her in the pub!!

My boyfriend is a self-employed landscape gardener, and ended up asking Val who took care of her garden in California?  He made me laugh when he asked her if she got ants?  She grinned and replied that she gets ants in the summer and mice in the winter!  He also asked her what she did in her spare time?  The answer was she loved to cook.  I explained that I can't cook, and she told me it's easy.  I was telling her how I'm a chocoholic.  Val's eyes lit up and she told me all about this rich chocolate/ chocolate cake that she and her daughter had made not so long ago (sounded truly decadent!)

The place itself 'The Crocker's Folly' was a typical small pub in London, and the bars were packed that Friday.  The restaurant area was quieter but there was this foreign waitress who was pretty useless.  She ended up putting all of our meals on one bill!  I had a credit card, so in the end everyone paid me in cash and I used my card.  Sue covered Valerie and Taylor for the time being, as they only had French francs in their possession, since they'd just got back from Europe.  Pete was very tired (as he'd worked solid all week with hardly any rest), so I suggested we went?  Val gave me a very warm hug and wished us both a safe journey back.  However by the time I'd sorted out who was paying me what (due to the mistake with our payments), Sue, Val and Taylor were leaving anyway!  Before we said goodbye I managed to get a few photos, including one of Sue and myself.  I had one with Valerie, one of Taylor, and we all ended up having a group photo (with everyone's cameras!)  We were also filmed on the video camera, and decided we'd have to do something rather than just stand still.  So we all started singing 'Fame'!

Pete and I left at 10.35pm and headed back to Buxton.  Due to there being not much traffic on the motorway at such a late hour, we got back at 2.30am...exhausted!  I insisted we stop at a motorway cafe at about 1.00pm, as I could see how tired my poor baby was!

All in all, it was a great evening out, and such a wonderful surprise to meet Valerie, after so many years had passed since 'Fame' was THE No.1 show in my life!  If you're interested you should check out her website - www.geocities.com/Valerie_Landsburg/home.html

There is also a website for 'Fame' which is... www.fameforever.com

You can email Val herself, and I may do just that in the near future.

Finally I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to my friend Sue Hinds, for making the evening happen! Best of luck with joining the police, babe!

PENNY xx


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