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Fame and misfortune; AFTER LEROY'S DEATH AT 41, WE ASK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REST OF THE 80s TV CAST.

Byline: TANITH CAREY

HE WAS the original Kid from Fame - an amazing dancer whose scorching routines and smouldering good looks had 11 million viewers following his every sexy move.

But real fame flickered and died for actor Gene Anthony Ray when his life fell apart from drink and drugs and he ended up sleeping on park benches.

Now he has died at only 41 after a long battle with ill health. As ace dancer Leroy Johnson, Ray's athleticism and the barely suppressed sexual tension of his relationship with dance teacher Lydia Grant, played by Debbie Allen, was the key to Fame's success as Leroy and his classmates at the New York High School of Performing Arts pursued their dreams of stardom.

Ray grew up dancing on the streets of Harlem, just like his screen character. Like Leroy, he enrolled at the School of Performing Arts - but was expelled after the first year.

He sprang to fame when, still only 17, he held off the challenge of 2,800 rivals at an audition to win a starring role in British director Alan Parker's 1980 film which spawned the TV show.

Ray was one of the few actors who starred in both the film and the series, and he was credited with making them an instant hit.

The show was a much bigger success in the UK than it was in America. In 1982 thousands of hysterical teenage girls turned up when Ray and the rest of the cast arrived here on tour.

But soon he hit problems. In 1984 his mother was jailed for running a drug ring and he failed to turn up for work 100 times. He was axed from the show and sat at home for months in front of the TV, eating junk food. He later told how one day he looked at himself in the mirror and said: "Man, you are the fattest pig on earth."

So he went on an intensive diet, slimmed down and went on to dance with The Weather Girls in their video of It's Raining Men.

Ray enjoyed more acting success, appearing in Out Of Sync - directed by his old co-star Debbie Allen - in 1995, and the basketball film Eddie, co-starring Whoopi Goldberg, the following year. He also appeared in ads for Dr Pepper and Diet Coke.

But his fondness for wild parties, drink and drugs finally destroyed his career.

His health deteriorated, too. In 1996 he was diagnosed HIV-positive and suffered a stroke earlier this year, dying last Friday.

Here, we look at how life worked out for the other favourites from Fame.

1

LEE CURRERI

Played: Shy keyboard player Bruno

LEE became a real-life Bruno Martelli and now earns three times as much as a composer.

Now aged 42, he has dozens of keyboards in a studio at his house in California and has written famous jingles for Nike and Pepsi ads.

He has two children with wife, Sherry.

2

CAROL MAYO JENKINS

Played: teacher Elizabeth Sherwood

CAROL, who played the caring, popular drama teacher, worked in theatre after the series ended. She lives in Tennessee and, even now aged 64, she dances most days and recently starred in a stage production of The Glass Menagerie.

She loves being recognised and even kept her Fame leg-warmers.

3

LORI SINGER

Played: Sensitive cellist Julie Miller

LORI, 46, won her part at an audition against an unknown singer called Madonna.

Once Fame was over, her career - and her life - went into decline.

She became a recluse after a very public divorce from her lawyer husband Richard Emery in 1996. She sued him for millions of dollars, claiming he had conspired with accountants to steal every last penny of her earnings.

She now spends her time working for a charity.

6

GENE ANTHONY RAY

Played: Brilliant dancer Leroy JohnsonDESTINY: Ray beat off competition from 2,800 other hopefuls to win the role he was born to play

4

VALERIE LANDSBURG

Played: Zany Doris Schwartz

IT was only after Fame ended that Valerie confessed how playing Doris, the ditzy yet fiercely ambitious actress, had driven her to drink. She sobered up after counselling in the late 80s and went on to appear in Dream On and alongside OJ Simpson in the sitcom First In Ten.

Valerie, 45, now lives in LA with her musician husband of 20 years and their two kids. She is a singer/songwriter.

5

PR PAUL

Played: Budding thesp Montgomery MacNeil

PAUL R Rosenbaum, who trimmed his name down to PR, made forgettable guest appearances in 80s TV shows such as Chips and The Dukes Of Hazard before turning his back on acting for good.

At 47, he now earns his living running a clothes shop in New York - a business his family have owned for 35 years.

In his spare time he enjoys a spot of baseball coaching.

7

ERICA GIMPEL

Played: Feisty singer Coco Hernandez

ERICA still works as an actress both on TV actress and on stage, but she has never scaled the heights the Fame kids aspired to. She has starred in US TV shows Babylon 5, Law And Order and ER.

Erica, 39, is currently playing a prostitute and nightclub singer in a play called Intimate Apparel touring the US.

She is single and remains fiercely protective of her private life.

8

CARLO IMPERATO

Played: Comedy character Danny Amatullo

CARLO, 40, who played the class clown, now makes his living the other side of the camera as a carpenter on film sets in LA.

He also teaches drama, owns several branches of the Golds Gym franchise and helps his wife run her beauty salon.

Carlo credits the show with saving him from a life of crime and giving him the chance to escape from New York's Bronx, where he grew up.

9

DEBBIE ALLEN

Played: Dance teacher Lydia Grant

WHEN fame ended, Debbie, now 53, worked hard to build a reputation as a choreographer on Broadway.

She went on to become one of Hollywood's most respected film producers and worked alongside Steven Spielberg on Amistad in 1997.

She now runs the Debbie Allen Dance Academy - a large dance school in Culver City, LA.

She has three children with husband, Norman Nixon.

10

ALBERT HAGUE

Played: Prof Benjamin Shorofsky

A GERMAN Jew who fled to the USA before the war, he had never acted until his role in fame.

At the audition he said: "I'm not going to act for you. You can ask me some questions and I will answer them."

After his wife of 50 years, actress Renee Orin, died in 2000 he lived alone in California. He was an award-winning composer for Broadway shows until his death two years ago.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 21, 2003
Words:1118
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