It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 40 years since the cast of Fame danced their way onto our screens and into our hearts. They wanted everyone to remember their names, and while some have been more successful than others, they all went on to pursue their dreams of being dancers, actors, or musicians.
It’s been quite some time since these talented teens graduated from The High School of Performing Arts, based on the real New York City Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Let’s see what the cast of Fame from the movie and TV series are up to today.
Debbie Allen as Lydia Grant
Debbie Allen’s character Lydia Grant was first introduced in the film Fame in 1980. Although her role in the movie was small, Lydia became a central figure in the television adaptation. In the opening of each episode, Grant told her students, “You’ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying … in sweat.”
Allen was nominated four times during the show’s run. She is the only actress who appeared in all three adaptations of Fame. She made the show what it was after killing it in the film version. Allen was also the choreographer for the film and television series, winning two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography. She was a trailblazer for women and women of color during the ‘80s.
Debbie Allen Now
After Fame, Allen turned her focus to off-camera work. She became the producer/director of the television series, A Different World. She transformed the show from a bland Cosby Show spin-off to a lively, socially responsible situation comedy. Besides her work behind the camera, Allen also released two solo albums with several singles.
In 2008, Allen directed the all-African American Broadway production of A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, and Anika Noni Rose. These days, she is best known for her role on Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Catherine Avery Fox. She was nominated for an NAACP award for this role, and she also serves as an executive producer.
Erica Gimpel as Coco Hernandez
As her first role on television after she graduated high school, Erica Gimpel killed it as Coco Hernandez. When she auditioned for the role in Fame, Gimpel was actually a student at New York’s esteemed High School for Performing Arts, where the show was set. It was as if the role was made for her.
After the pilot episode, Gimpel received outstanding reviews for her performance. One paper wrote that she was an engaging and enthusiastic actress with a smile that knows no bounds. Everyone loved this version of Coco, and Gimpel really shined. This helped her carve out her place in Hollywood to go on and get bigger and better roles.
Erica Gimpel Now
After appearing in almost every season of Fame, Gimpel has gone on to have an incredible career. The list of her roles in film and television goes on for miles, but some of her most notable roles include her role as Adele Newman on ER and Alicia Fennel in Veronica Mars. Gimpel also toured the U.S. and Europe with her mother, Phyllis Bash, in the play Porgy and Bess.
Some of her more recent work includes roles on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, True Blood, and Chicago Med. While balancing a full acting career, Gimpel is also a singer and songwriter, blending pop and jazz styles. She performed with a trio of singers for a while, and she is also an active member of the World Peace Organization.
Carlo Imperato as Danny Amatullo
Heartthrob Carlo Imperato starred as Danny Amatullo, the drama student who desperately wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Unfortunately, his jokes weren’t always so funny, and he wasn’t very likable on first impression. He was always hanging around his friends and getting into fights. Imperato was perfect in this role.
There have been a lot of breaks in his career since he finished filming Fame in 1987. After the show, he took a few small parts in shows like True Blue, Friends, and Oh Baby. However, his acting career began to slow down in the late 1990s, and Imperato decided to take a ten-year break from acting in 2005.
Carlo Imperato Now
While taking a break from acting, Imperato focused on his family life. He married his wife Angela in 2000, and they decided to grow their family while he stepped away from the spotlight. After ten years, he had a small role in Grey’s Anatomy but hasn’t done much since 2015.
Today, Imperato and his wife have two children, and he owns four Gold’s Gyms. He also has a son from a previous marriage. Imperato keeps his life private now that he is no longer acting, but maybe one day he will return to Hollywood if there is ever a Fame reunion show.
Lee Curreri as Bruno Martelli
Bruno Martelli played the piano on the show, and he was the keyboard maven of the series and in the film. However, after the series ended, Curreri only had one acting role, leaving the small screen. He wasn’t finding much success in the acting world, but Curreri found more success in the music industry.
Before Fame, Curreri was a musician in New York, where he played piano and trombone. He had a band and was even a church organist before landing the role in the Fame movie. He was one of only four other actors to replicate his role in the Fame TV series.
Lee Curreri Now
After Fame, Curreri turned his focus to the music industry. He started writing music for artists like Natalie Cole and composed for TV, film, and commercials. He also wrote music for Phil Perry. In December 2008, he appeared on Channel 4’s Bring Back… series when Justin Lee Collins managed to get some of the original cast back together.
Curreri released a CD called Aquabox, which had a booklet with pictures of one of his sons, Joey. The series might have brought him to L.A., but he stayed to put his spin on different genres of music. Although he is not in front of the camera, he is still in Hollywood behind the keyboard.
Valerie Landsburg as Doris Schwartz
Even though Valerie Landsburg had many roles after Fame, it is still the role most people remember her for. Her role moved deeply into the hearts of people of all ages. During the series run, Landsburg wrote and directed one episode. Shortly after she left the show at the end of the series, she co-starred in two different comedy shows.
The first series she worked on was You Again? but it only lasted for one season. The second series, from the creators of Cheers, was called All Is Forgiven, which NBC canceled after just nine episodes. Despite its limited engagement, the series was rebroadcasted on other channels during the ‘80s.
Valerie Landsburg Now
For most of her career after fame, she worked on the other side of the camera, focusing on indie films and shorts. She also worked on films for the Hallmark Channel and Norwegian Wood. However, she did have many guest and recurring roles on TV series and movies made for the small screen.
Besides her work in Hollywood, Landsburg travels extensively as an adjunct faculty member of UCLA and Rockport College. She also created a Master Class for Euro Disney. Landsburg tries to live a quiet life in Maine away from the public eye in Hollywood.
Gene Anthony Ray as Leroy Johnson
Like some of his castmates, Gene Anthony Ray starred in the Fame movie, and his character was brought on for the TV series. Ray started his career dancing in the street and at block parties. He then attended a performing arts school and skipped class one day to audition for Fame.
Much like his Fame character, Ray had little training, but he possessed raw talent. Unfortunately, Ray was dealing with some tough things at home as his mother was a drug dealer. It caused him to be fired from the show because she was arrested for running a drug ring, and he missed work 100 times.
Gene Anthony Ray Now
After being fired from Fame, Ray had his own struggles with addiction and alcohol. He worked intermittently after the series ended. He appeared in a few ill-fated Broadway shows and a movie with Whoopi Goldberg. Ray’s last performance was in a Fame reunion documentary in 2003 on the BBC.
Sadly, Ray’s life slowly fell apart. He was a frantic partygoer and, at some points, slept on park benches. He tried to launch a Fame-style dance school in Milan, but it never worked out. In 1996, Ray was diagnosed with HIV and sadly passed away from a stroke in 2003 at just 41 years old.
Carol Mayo Jenkins as Elizabeth Sherwood
Carol Mayo Jenkins is best known for her role on Fame as Elizabeth Sherwood. She was the school’s liberal and stern but fair-minded English teacher. However, she left the series at the end of its fifth season in 1986. Luckily for fans, she made a return for the series’ finale a year later.
After Fame, Jenkins appeared on a few TV series, including Aaron’s Way, Matlock, and Max Headroom. About a decade after Fame, she decided to retire from the acting world in 1995. She decided that she had more of a passion for theater work instead of the small screen.
Carol Mayo Jenkins Now
After retiring from acting in 1995, Jenkins founded the Interact Theater Company and moved to Tennessee. She also teaches acting at the University of Tennessee, where she frequently appears on the Clarence Brown Theater stage. She didn’t like living in the spotlight all the time, and the jobs weren’t coming quickly.
Jenkins has a passion for the arts and teaching. Instead of leaving behind the world of acting completely, she instilled her wisdom onto other aspiring actors who want to make it in Hollywood. Maybe they will also make it onto a show like Fame.
Jesse Borrego as Jesse Velasquez
Growing up in Texas, Jesse Borrego considered joining the Air Force to become a pilot but ultimately decided to pursue acting because it came naturally to him. After graduating with a performance degree in 1984, he earned the role of Jesse Velasquez on Fame for Seasons 4, 5, and 6.
He was a regular on the show for the final three seasons and then appeared on Married… With Children in the late ‘80s. He is also well remembered for his performance in the film Blood in Blood Out. Then he took his chances to pursue a career on the theater stage.
Jesse Borrego Now
Besides his work on the small screen, Borrego has also produced theatrical productions and concerts, and two short films. He is a member of the theater group “Tribal Players,” and Borrego has been on some pretty successful shows like 24 and Dexter.
Borrego has had his hands in directing, including a no-budget indie film called Closer to Bottom. In 2017, the film won an award for Best Made in Texas Feature Film at the Austin Indie Fest. Borrego looks back fondly on his time on Fame and said it was better than school.
Lori Singer as Julie Miller
Like her character, Lori Singer was also a cellist. After appearing in the first two seasons of Fame, Singer left to play Kevin Bacon’s girlfriend in the 1984 film Footloose. Madonna reportedly auditioned for the same role. After she shot to fame from the film Footloose, she appeared in several other popular films.
Following Footloose, Singer starred opposite Sean Penn in The Falcon and the Snowman and The Man with One Red Shoe with Tom Hanks. However, she decided to take a break from the spotlight in 1997, right before she divorced her husband of 16 years in 1998.
Lori Singer Now
Singer returned to the acting world in 2004, and her last role was in 2017. These days, Singer spends most of her time doing charitable work. She continues to play the cello, and although she was trained classically, she enjoys playing other genres of music like rock.
She is a prominent supporter of the DISHES Project for pediatric AIDS. Singer is one of many generous celebrities to donate her time and money to the cause. Currently, she lives with her son in Manhattan and occasionally gathers people at her home to play the cello.
Janet Jackson as Cleo Hewitt
Who remembers that Janet Jackson was on one season of Fame? She played Cleo Hewitt for 23 episodes during the first season. That was the third TV show she appeared on after Diff’rent Strokes. Jackson quit before the season ended because she claimed that producers mistreated her and other young cast members.
After she left Fame, Jackson had her first hit album, “Control,” in 1985. From there, Jackson’s career skyrocketed as she produced more music, but she terminated business affairs with her family because she wanted to get out from under her father.
Janet Jackson Now
As we all know, Jackson became a huge success with plenty of music and acting roles. However, she hit a road bump in her career after a wardrobe malfunction during her Super Bowl halftime show. The internet ripped into her even though it wasn’t her fault that her boob popped out of her shirt during a dance number.
In recent years, Jackson has had a Vegas residency, performed a series of concerts for the 30th anniversary of Rhythm Nation, and has an upcoming world tour. Jackson has no plans to slow down, and even though Fame wasn’t a great experience, it is part of her history.
Albert Hague as Benjamin Shorofsky
Born into a Jewish family and raised as Lutheran to protect him from the Nazis, Albert Hague and his family fled Germany and moved to Italy. After attending a music conservatory in Rome, he earned a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati and emigrated to the U.S. in 1939.
When the producers of Fame called him, he had never acted before, but he was an award-winning composer and writer of Broadway musicals. The producers said all Hague had to do was play himself and grow a beard, so he joined the cast as the music teacher.
Albert Hague Now
After Fame, Hague appeared in Not Just Another Affair, Passions, and TV shows such as Murder She Wrote. Besides his work in TV and film, Hague and his wife Renee ran workshops for people who couldn’t go to music college.
Hague and his wife later toured America performing his Broadway hits, and he wrote an autobiography called “From Ellis Island to Fame.” Sadly, Hague passed away from cancer in 2001 at 81 years old. He had a long and fruitful career after growing up when his life could have turned out differently.
Irene Cara as Coco Hernandez
In the original film Fame, Irene Cara played Coco Hernandez before Erica Gimpel reprised the role in the TV series. Besides playing Coco, she was also the voice behind the movie’s hit title theme. She was initially cast as a dancer, but the producers heard her voice and rewrote the role of Coco.
Besides the film’s title, Cara also sang “Out Here on My Own.” These songs helped the movie’s soundtrack become a chart-topping, multi-platinum album. She made further history at the Academy Awards that year because it was the first time two songs from the same movie were nominated in the same category and sung by the same artist.
Irene Cara Now
Although the ‘80s were the height of her fame (no pun intended), she continued to act and sing into the early 2000s. Cara had some chart-topping dance hits in Europe. Cara retired from singing in 2004, and she was among the artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Cara has primarily stayed out of the spotlight since the 2000s, and she currently splits her time between Florida and New Mexico. She also works with her band Hot Carmel that she formed in 1999. Her career has been quite successful, and Fame is the reason she is in the spotlight.
Boyd Gaines as Michael
In the film Fame, Boyd Gaines played Michael, whose story showed that no matter how talented you are in high school, you can still struggle to find success in the arts, even among gifted performers. Although his character struggled to find success in the film, Boyd has found success both on the screen and on Broadway.
Throughout the ‘90s, Gaines appeared on shows like L.A. Law, Law & Order, and Piece of Cake. However, his most notable TV role was Mark Royer on One Day at a Time. Gaines appeared in the final three seasons of the series.
Boyd Gaines Now
In more recent years, Gaines worked on many Broadway shows, including The Heidi Chronicles, Driving Miss Daisy, and Gypsy. Throughout the 2010s, Gaines has appeared in feature films such as The Independents, The Goldfinch, and No Pay, Nudity. Throughout his career, he earned three Tony awards.
Besides his life on stage, Gaines got married and has one daughter. His time in Fame might have launched his career, but his talent helped it continue throughout the decades. While he hasn’t appeared in anything in two years, he might make a comeback once the theater goes back to normal.
Laura Dean as Lisa Monroe
Laura Dean plays Lisa Monroe in the film Fame, as the student who gets kicked out of the dance program. While she is most known for her role in Fame, Dean found success as an actress, performing on Broadway in shows like The Who’s Tommy and Doonesbury.
Since Dean was a young girl, she played the New York City Opera for five years in La Bohème, Die Tote Stadt, and Mefistofele. In the ‘90s, she also had appearances in the hit sitcom Friends during the 3rd and 4th seasons as Sophie.
Laura Dean Now
In the early 2000s, Dean was in the film adaptation of Chicago. However, she hasn’t done much since then. Dean has stayed out of the spotlight as much as possible as she isn’t working. Her most famous role will always be Lisa Monroe.
After marrying her husband, Steven Koch, in 1987, she had two children. It seems she lives a low-key life away from the spotlight, and she enjoys that much more than being on stage these days. She did appear on Stars in the House to support the Actors Fund during the coronavirus pandemic.
Antonia Franceschi as Hilary van Doran
After studying dance at the High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, Antonia Franceschi was cast as a dancer in the 1978 film Grease. However, she wasn’t legally allowed to work because of her age, so the producers falsified her birth certificate. Subsequently, she was expelled from her high school.
She went on to play Hilary in Fame, a ballet student from a wealthy background. The movie was set at the same high school she was expelled from. She focused on more traditional ballet performances following her brief film career, working at the New York City Ballet.
Antonia Franceschi Now
In 1995, Franceschi moved to London to work as a dancer and choreographer with Ballet Black and the Scottish Ballet. In 2002, she developed Up From the Waste, a semi-autobiographical account of her difficult childhood. It showed her eventual escape through dance but reflected earlier traumas from the demanding environment of her work.
Franceschi has choreographed for both British and American companies, and she has her own company called AFD Just Dance. Her career has taken her all over the world, and people come from all over to see the shows she performs in and produces.
Paul McCrane as Montgomery MacNeil
After graduating high school in 1978, Paul McCrane studied theater at HB Studio in New York City. With his abundance of red hair, McCrane then portrayed the earnest Montgomery MacNeil in Fame. He was the lead vocalist in three songs in the feature film.
McCrane later played Frank Berry in The Hotel New Hampshire and Emil Antonowsky in Robocop. He continued on a positive streak in movies like Shawshank Redemption and TV series including The X-Files and ER, where he was a regular cast member and returned for one episode during the final season.
Paul McCrane Now
McCrane appeared in other series like 24, Ugly Betty, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation throughout his career. More recently, he took on the recurring role of Assistant Attorney Josh Peyton in the NBC series Harry’s Law. In this role, he won an Emmy for Guest Actor in a Drama Series.
He also currently stars on the show All Rise as Judge Jonas Laski, which is still running. McCrane has another project in the works, which doesn’t have a release date yet. He is currently married to Dana Kellin, a jewelry designer, in 1998.
Maureen Teefy as Doris
Maureen Teefy’s career began before she was cast in Fame. Her first role was a small part as a USO singer in the 1979 Steven Spielberg comedy, 1941. In the same year, she was in two other minor productions before landing the role of Doris in Fame.
Doris was a young, naive student, and Teefy was perfect for the role because it almost reflected her real life. The following year, she starred in the CBS Afternoon Playhouse episode “Portrait of a Teenage Shoplifter.” Her career was slowly on the rise.
Maureen Teefy Now
Other films featuring Teefy included Grease 2, Supergirl, and Sunset. She also starred in the 1993 supernatural horror film Star Time. Surprisingly, she was the voice of the female robot “host” Chrome on the 1997 HBO horror series Perversions of Science. No one would have guessed that it was her voice.
However, she hasn’t worked on any projects since 2017 because her acting career developed much more into a theater career. She has slowed down in recent years and prefers a quieter life. The most recent project she worked on was writing, producing, and starring in A Subject for a Short Story.