Dear David -
I'm writing to you, aware that with the diminishing quality of my memory, recall and brain cells, I can't reconstruct every letter and everything I've done but there are certain defining moments that people never forget.
I didn't write to you immediately subsequent to my reading your interview where you mention our relationship, the inception at the Coconut Grove, my involvement ( just prior to the MTI acquisition) and I can't even begin to reconstruct all the people who were pitched and momentary believers (for a second) and the non-believers. I also thought about the trajectory of what you've accomplished through your fierce, relentless passion which I lovingly characterized as a pathological commitment in the Wall Street Journal story, but to some degree it is no different than the pathology of George Seurat in SUNDAY IN THE PARK and "Bit by bit, putting it together" and relentlessly spending years and years before a painting is finished and then you stand back and view it! What I thought of when I saw your article and read it was: "Look, David – you made a hat, where there was no hat ".
And that's what you did from the concept of the film to the film, to its first incarnation cinematically, to the blessing of not having to recreate a film on the stage but doing it as an original book, and not falling into the trap that we see most people fall into, going from film to theater, from theater to film. You navigated all of that, drove it, led it, directed it, captained the ship, navigated better than Homer did in his Odyssey...
I was so surprised to read how well you remembered my telling you about the Stigwood experience and the commitment to Alan Parker as well as my mother and father and my sister in the first graduating class from 46 th Street. I still see the picture of me at the Astor Hotel Ballroom at her graduation ceremony when I think I was age eleven, rotund, but it was me.
I remember the halls of the school, the smell of the rosin and the sweat from all the dancers and the joy and excitement and energy of a school of performing arts that was not a "professional children's school".
And you have kept that flame alive through the show. The original film really didn't do it as well. But seeing it on the stage makes it more accessible, more believable and more achievable and authentic.
As an added footnote which came to mind when I read your interview and you said I intervened with Robert re: the soundtrack, Robert responded to my reaction to the screening that Alan Parker provided to us (true). I should have told you what actually happened .
My deal with Robert was never to meddle or challenge his creative intuition and instinct because I trusted the outrageous things he did and if I did not, I would speak with him privately about rethinking, slowing down, further investigation and reflection and not to act just emotionally but Robert was an old-fashioned entrepreneur empresario who was willing to risk a lot and lose a lot and he did. But he was right more times than he was wrong. And when he was right, he hit the motherlode.
So it's not as though he said “No, I don't want this” and then I said “Yes” after the screening. What actually happened was (and this was more dramatic than I told you originally – and I forgot about it until I read your reconstructions of our conversations of so many years ago)… in the screening room, the lights came up and Robert looked a bit quizzical. He didn't jump up and say “Absolutely, let's go for it.” His very young mafia made up mostly of the guy who oversaw the albums of FEVER and GREASE and Kevin McCormack who was still in the movie business and was invaluable in the making of FEVER and GREASE as well as other things, or tentative were there and I said nothing but I began to cry.
That was the most powerful thing that could happen for Robert. He saw me sob.
He had never seen my cry – why should he have ever seen me cry… but I was crying. He asked “Did it really get to you so much?” I said it did. He asked me what, how, why… He challenged. Could I identify what made me cry and I told him the truth about the personal connection. And he said “What about the people who have no connection to this?” and I said “There are an infinite number of people who dream it, a fraction of them have the gift, a fraction of those have the resilience and the willingness to keep swimming upstream and this captures all of it at an early and critical stage in their lives where everything has to be kept in balance, allowing for the fact that you may have to navigate life without using your gifts and talents and it's not just about music and dance and acting and there was a wonderful thing. It resonated with me enormously and I felt it would resonate with many young people enormously and saying “Yes” to the album deal was not a big deal for us and signing Irene Cara was not a big deal for us and being nice to Alan Parker, who was a gifted guy and did not really know me, was not difficult for us but he knew Robert well (and we did BUGSY MALONE as well).” And it was emotions which drove it all and it's still emotional.
But what I said at the beginning of this note is that “ You made a hat ”. The world does not understand how these things happen. They don't know how SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER happened or how anything happens: the disappointments, the rejections, the scorn, the ridicule, the promises unkept – all of that. We both lived through those worlds/those lives/those communities. But you not only made a hat, you built an audience of believers. You built an audience of people who would not go back to see another show had they not seen FAME first. And that makes me choke up as well. It's a legacy and it's a testament to you, David.
You are Father Fame and you should feel proud of it. This isn't like being “just a producer”. You have been a driving force, decent and blessed with good luck as well. And David Saint and Jennifer and the cast I first saw back in 1988 in rehearsal rooms in New York after seeing it in Coconut Grove, then seeing what happened in Baltimore, then riding back to New York with Mr. Nishimora on the train, thinking the Japanese would be smitten with it (the most awkward train ride of my life!). All of that came rushing back. But you were constant.
Sometimes you resist counsel and advice. Sometimes you buy into it and accept it. But I just thought I'd share some rambling thoughts of just how swell I think you are (and generosity of spirit and thoughtfulness and graciousness). Myrna saves the gifts you've given her over the years, even though we've moved a few times and let go of many possessions because of the emotional attachment and the memories associated with those gifts and the trips that you took all over the world, traveling with gifts that were practical and sensible but colorful and cheerful and floral reminded her of you.
Thank you, David. Sometimes you require great patience but it's okay. You dream. You see things in your crystal ball. There's trial and error but essentially, you bring them to life and you don't scrap and go on to the next one. This is an extension of you as an author and a visionary.
I thank you and feel privileged that you are in my life and that we're still here.
With warmth, affection and respect,
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