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Gotta dance: out choreographer-actor Scott Grossman shines on top TV pageants, in films, and in Broadway shows. But first came ... football?

Not every guy who plays football wants to win the Super Bowl. Just ask openly gay Los Angeles based choreographer Scott Grossman. The man behind the sashays and chantes of Donald Tramp's Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe pageants played high school and college football because he couldn't be a cheerleader.

"I hated football, [but] I was fascinated with cheerleaders," says the former offensive tackle. "The jumping and the leaping ... and I did the splits better than they did!"

Not bad for a beefy guy who stands six foot two and weighs in at 210 pounds. But in the 1970s, decades before MTV's Camp Jim, there weren't many outlets for a young man who could do a perfect C jump. Especially not in Staples, Minn. (population 3,104), three hours north of Minneapolis. "I'd get caught cheerleading behind the barn, and I was always ashamed," recalls Grossman, 44. "'Oh, you can't cheerlead; that's for girls,' my mother would say. And all l was doing as a little kid was expressing myself."

Football became a substitute be cause the intricacy of running plays on the field felt right to him somehow. "It was kind of like choreography," he says. "Block to the left, block to the right, go forward." Although he dreaded the workouts ("So grating"), Grossman played well enough to land a football scholarship to Concordia College in Moorehead, Minn. But in his sophomore year, showbiz, as it often does, changed everything: He got the lead in the school's musical production of Li'l Abner.

"Can't you just see it?" he laughs, and then bursts into song: "'If I had my druthers ...!'

"I found a love of dance through this musical," Grossman continues. The 19-year-old farm boy gave up the school gym's chin-up bar for the ballet barre in Nancy Hoggins's basement studio. For a year, he was the only guy in a ballet class with sixth-grade girls. "All my football buddies thought I was crazy," he says, "but I knew I had to follow something. And I was a natural at it." He shrugs. "I was born a dancer."

That realization would eventually lead Grossman to a full scholarship in 1982 at Los Angeles's Dupree Dance Academy, where he began his years of professional dancing, his large, limber frame anchoring dance lines in music videos such as Michael Jackson's "Beat It." He joined the Miss Universe organization as an assistant choreographer, then took over as choreographer of that production and for Miss USA in 1993. For April's show at the Kodak Theater he worked with 51 delegates to prepare them for a live prime-time TV special in just eight days. "I get it on time and under budget so I don't get fired," he laughs. The latest sample of his wizardry, the Miss Universe pageant, was broadcast live from Ecuador on June 1.

Grossman's path as a gay man hasn't always gone quite as smoothly. At one point, lonely and flush with success, Grossman married his long-time assistant, Michelle D'Amico. He also had a boyfriend at the time--and, as he confesses now, he naively believed he could have both man and wife. "It was just so wrong," he admits. The doomed relationship ended after two years. It's telling that although Grossman says he's in a relationship now, he wears his commitment ring on a silver chain around his neck. He won't say much else.

Except that he can see his life beyond pageants. "I'm not just a pageant choreographer," Grossman says, noting that he played himself and handled the choreography for Sandra Bullock's Miss Congeniality and has choreographed many other movies, including Raising Helen with Kate Hudson and The Princess Diaries II, starring Anne Hathaway.

Grossman's heating up the theatrical stage too. In the near future he plans to work with director Garry Marshall to bring Happy Days: The Musical to Broadway.

"I keep following my heart," Grossman laughs. "From cheerleading behind the barn, doing the C jump."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:television
Author:Jones, Anderson
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Words:660
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