deepest thanks to Diane Stow and Darrell
Redmond for helping to oversee this page. I could not have gotten it
done without your efforts! Love, Don
Manchester was already well on her way toward establishing a solo career before
she met Bette Midler. Melissa's father, who was a bassoonist for the Metropolitan
Opera may be credited for instilling her love for music, but her own talents were
apparent very early on. At the tender age of 15 she was already a published poet
and was singing commercial jingles. In high school she studied acting, and after
graduating from the High School of the Performing Arts she attended New York University.
At the university, she enrolled in a song writing course taught by Paul Simon!
she was working at Chappell Music as a staff writer and performing at clubs in
Greenwich Village and Manhattan's Upper West Side. It was at one of these performances
that Bette Midler and Barry Manilow saw her singing and playing piano. They were
impressed, and (in 1971) Bette hired Melissa as a backup singer.
one of Bette's original "Harlettes", Melissa was able to realize one
of her lifelong dreams...performing at Carnegie Hall! Only months later, Melissa
had a recording contract of her own and was soon headlining and performing to
sold-out crowds there herself...as a solo act!
of the highlights of Melissa Manchester's solo career include:
her debut album "Home To Myself"
1975-her first top 10 hit, "Midnight
1978 & 1979-nominated for Grammy Awards
to have two movie themes nominated for Academy Awards (Ice Castles & The Promise.)
Melissa went on to make Oscar
history by performing both complete songs during the show.
Grammy Award for Best Female Vocalist
(You Should Hear How She Talks About
1991-co-starred with Bette Midler in "For The Boys" 1993-recurring
role as Maddy on the hit series "Blossom"
the later 90's, Melissa wrote a musical entitled "I Wrote a Letter to my
Love" which was performed off-Broadway, co-starred with Kelsey Grammar in
Stephen Sondheim's acclaimed musical "SWEENEY TODD" at The Ahmanson
Theater in Los Angeles, and composed and recorded the score for "LADY AND
THE TRAMP II". She recently received the Governor's Award from the National
Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for her contributions to the music and
recording arts. (Photo: Melissa is in the middle, the other two are Gail Kantor
and Merle Miller, although I do not know which is which...if someone knows, please
Record with Bette: "The Divine Miss M", "For the Boys",
"Experience the Divine"
Concert with Bette: Carnegie Hall, Philharmonic Hall
find out more about one of Bette's most talented and successful "Harlettes",
visit Melissa Manchester's official website at http://www.melissamanchester.com
Record with Bette: Bette Midler, Thighs and Whispers
Concert with Bette: The Divine Miss M Tour, Clams On The Half Shell, Ol
Red Hair Is Back (TV Special)
Record with Bette: Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, Thighs and
Whispers, Experience the Divine
Concert with Bette: Carnegie
Hall, Philharmonic Hall, Ol Red Hair Is Back (TV Special)
Record with Bette: Bette
Midler, Songs for the New Depression, Live at Last, Some
People's Lives, Experience the Divine
Concert with Bette: TThe
Divine Miss M Tour, Clams On The Half Shell, The Depression Tour, Intimate Evening
Sharon Redd was born on October 19th, 1945, you could say that she already had
music swimming in her veins. Her father, Gene Redd, was an executive producer
at King Records and her stepfather performed with the Benny Goodman band. Her
brother was a writer and producer for Kool & the Gang and BMP, and her sister,
Pennye Ford, is also an accomplished singer with two albums to her credit.
grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. As a child, she took lessons in classical vocals
and also had operatic training. In her mid-twenties, Sharon was a budding actress.
She got her first big break starring in an Australian production of "Hair".
also appeared in her own television special and, in 1974, traveled to London performing
in an American production of "The Wedding Of Iphigenia".
thereafter, she moved back to the United States and appeared in a popular marketing
campaign, which brought her widespread recognition.
around this same time, Bette Midler was looking to replace Merle Miller and Gail
Kantor, who had left after Bette's 1973 tour, to pursue their own interests. Bette
auditioned over 70 performers, but Sharon's talent, experience, and exposure as
the 'Shaffer Beer Girl', may have given her the edge she needed. She landed the
job and officially became one of Bette's Harlettes. (Photo: From left to right,
Redd, Ula Hedwig, and Charlotte Crossley)
from performing as a Harlette, Sharon also provided backing vocals for Carol Douglas
('Burnin' & 'Night Fever'), and Norman Connors
('You Are My Starship'). In 1979, Sharon sang the smash disco hit 'Love Insurance',
released under the artist name Front Page (Panorama Records), and, though her
vocals were uncredited, producers had started to sit up and take notice of her
amazing voice. Soon she had a recording contract with Prelude Records.
released her first album in 1980 (self-titled 'Sharon Redd'), closely followed
by two more ('Redd Hott' - 1982, and 'Love How You Feel' - 1983), which sealed
her reputation as a true "disco diva". These recordings featured such
disco classics as 'You Got My Love', 'Can You Handle It', 'Never Give Up', and
'Beat The Street'.
After these releases, Sharon returned to her successful career as a background
vocalist. Then, in 1991 she released a single entitled 'All The Way To Love'.
This was to be her last solo recording. Tragically, she passed away the following
1993, Pennye Ford dropped the 'e' from her name and released the album 'Penny
Ford', which featured a duet with her sister entitled 'Under Pressure'.
Record with Bette: Bette Midler, Songs for the New Depression,
Live at Last, Experience the Divine
Concert with Bette: The
Divine Miss Tour, Clams On The Half Shell, The Depression Tour, Ol
Red Hair Is Back (TV Special),
Intimate Evening With Bette
the closing of HAIR in 1972, Ula subsequently went on to do a few other musicals
including Godspell, and originated the role of Ellie Greenwich in the first production
of Leader Of The Pack.
between theatre work, she sang back-up vocals in the studio and/or live for many
recording artists such as, Carly Simon, Tim Curry, Olivia Newton-John, Robert
Plant, Paul Simon, k.d. lang, Bob Geldof, Little Steven, Donald Fagan, Phoebe
Snow and Judy Collins. You might catch her on David Letterman reruns singing back-up.
is best known for having performed as one of Bette Midler's "Harlettes"
for many years. She still performs with Bette often and can be heard singing on
most of her albums.
October Ula played several roles in Pete Townsend's work-in progress rock musical,
Psychoderelict, which is being slated for Broadway sometime in the future.
her son was born 11 years ago, Ula began writing a children's musical, which finally
evolved into, The Looking Glass, which was performed in Chicago a few years ago.
Her hopes are to produce the show on the east coast someday, but until then she'll
continue to enjoy being "mom" to her best production, her son Casey.
Record with Bette: Live at Last, Thighs and Whispers, Divine Madness, No
Frills, Beaches, Some People's Lives, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York..., Experience
the Divine, Bette of Roses, Bathhouse Betty
Concert with Bette: The
Depression Tour, Intimate Evening With Bette, Divine
Madness (The Movie), De
Like many of disco's greatest artists she comes from the session singers/background
vocalist mold. That year she appeared on an Atlantic Record's Jazz Sampler recorded
at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival. Seems she also did work for George Benson
and David Sanborn that year as well.
In 1977 she did vocal work on Roy Buchanan's
"Loading Zone" album and had her first brush with disco. Seems Diva
travelled in the same circles and did many of the same sessions with future soulster/disco
star Luther Vandross. It was Vandross in fact that brought Gray into the sessions
with Bernard and Nile for what would become Chic's first album. Gray can be heard
on the mega-hit "Dance, Dance, Dance."
1978 her career was picking up steam and it seemed to be the year that exploded
for her. She joined future disco divas Ullanda McCullough and Gwen Guthrie on
the highly-anticipated soundtrack to "The Wiz." She found herself being
a highly sought after sessionist and appeared on Ray Barretto's "Can You
Feel It?" album as well as George Benson's "In Your Eyes," Jimmy
Ponder's "All Things Beautiful," Gene "Kiss" Simmons self-titled
solo outing, and David Spinozza's "Spinozza."
As disco was hitting
it's stride she found herself on 1978 releases by Joe Thomas ("In The Wind")
and T.Life ("That's Life"). But her real success that year was through
her alliance with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. Not only did she come back
for work on the sophmore Chic album, "C'est Chic," but they hired her
for Norma Jean Wright's solo outing and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family"
Though it seems Gray's musical tastes ran towards jazz and pop
it was hard to ignore the success of disco music and her own visibility within
it's genre. By 1979 disco was at it's peak and almost all of her session work
was on disco themed albums. She can be heard on Richard T. Bear's "Red Hot
& Blue," Duke Jupiter's "Taste the Night," Wilbert Longmire's
"Champagne," Spyro Gyra's "Morning Dance," and John Tropea's
"To Touch You Again." A third appearance for Nile and Bernard on Chic's
"Risque" album led to her being offered her own chance to step forward
and bask in the spotlight.
Released in 1979 on the Columbia label "Hotel
Paradise" was a head-on disco triumph. The album spawned two singles. "Saint
Tropez" peaked at number 25 on the Billboard club-play charts and "Magic
Carpet Ride" bubbled up to number 72 on the black singles charts. Both charted
in early 1980 and it seems Gray was yet another casualty of the disco back lash.
As a D.J. at the time I also remember spinning "Up And Down" from the
album to packed floors.
1979 had two more achievements. She appeared on
the soundtrack to "Sunnyside." A box office bomb that featured Joey
Travolta. The album was listed as "New York City Band" and featured
the sleaze classic "Got To Have Your Body" sung by Luther Vandross.
But the other big event was a chance meeting with Bette Midler. Midler was shopping
around for a new Harlette. She had recently lost Sharon Redd who had left to pursue
her own solo career. Gray was asked to sing on Bette's 1979 disco offering "Thighs
And Whispers." The chemistry worked and Diva was asked back to record and
appear in Bette's 1980 film/soundtrack "Divine Madness."
saw her time taken up mainly with her duties as a Harlette. In 1980 she did find
time to do session work on George Benson's wildly successful "Give Me The
Night" album, Ray Gomez' "Volume," Wilbert Longmire's "With
All My Love," The Marshall Tucker Band's "Tenth," David Sanborn's
"Voyeur," and Steely Dan's "Gaucho." It's obvious with the
disco back lash that occured at the decade's beginning that her options for session
work were more or less rock-oriented.
1981 saw even less session work.
She did join ex-Raspberrie Eric Carmen on the Euclid Beach Band album which produced
a very rare 12" single, "There's No Surf In Cleveland." And she
signed on for the Change album "Miracles."
After a decade of touring,
session work and great behind-the-scenes success Diva seems to have lightened
her work load in the 80's. She can still be heard on David Bowie's "Never
Let Me Down" (1987), Peabo Bryson's "Take No Prisoners" (1985),
Roberta Flack's "I'm The One" (1982), Garland Jeffrey's "Guts For
Love" (1983), Trevor Jones "Labyrinth" (1986), Scritti Politti's
"Provision" (1988), The Weathergirls' "Success" (1983), Andreas
Vollenweider's "Dancing With The Lion" (1989), Steps Ahead's "Magnetic"
(1985), Talking Heads' "Little Creatures" (1985) and self-titled albums
by "Charlie Sexton" (1989) and "Phantom Rocker And Slick"
In the middle of the decade she had another unusal project that
she became involved with. In 1985 she joined other disco divas Vicki Sue Robinson
and Ullanda McCullough as the singing voices in the animated T.V. show "Jem
And The Holograms." The show was well received but sluggish ratings forced
In the 1990's session work, which has always been her
bread and butter, continued. Her credits in that decade include: Roberta Flack's
"Christmas Album" (1992), The Alvin Ailey "Musical Retrospective"
(1998), David Berger's "Sultans Of S.W. Harlem Nutcracker" (1999), Marc
Cohn's "Rainy Season" (1993), Natalie Cole's "Snowfall On The Sahara"
(1999), Judy Collins' "Fires Of Eden" and "Judy Sings Dylan"
(1990 and 1993), Celine Dion's "These Are Special Times" (1998), Dr.
John's "Television" (1994), Debbie Gibson's "Think With Your Heart"
(1995), Dave Grusin's "West Side Story" (1997, Jennifer Love Hewitt's
"Let's Go Bang" (1995), Jewel's "Joy: A Holiday Collection"
(1999), Tim Rice & Elton John's "Aida" (1999), R. Kelly's "R"
(1998), Yvonne Lewis' "No Strangers In Paradise" (1995), Dianne Schuur
& B.B. King's "Heart To Heart" (1994), Spin Doctor's "You've
Got To Believe In Something" (1996) and finally longtime friend Luther Vandross'
"I Know" (1998).
After over 25 years in the music business
Gray branched out into acting. Her two appearances on celluloid so far include
the roles of a nanny in Woody Allen's 1996 hit "Everybody Says I Love You"
and a choir singer in Daryl Hannah's 2002 movie "A Walk To Remember."
As the new millenium kicks in Diva is still lending her fantastic pipes to a variety
of sessions. So far she can be heard on Fito Paez' "Abre Paez" and The
Spin Doctor's "Just Go Ahead Now."
We're glad to see that she
is still alive and well and going strong. We believe she must surely be one of
the hardest working singers to be included in the DiscoMuseum. We're proud to
share this info, however minor it is, with you and to give the "Diva"
her acknowledgement. The info above is surely only a partial list of her many
credits. If anyone has pictures or current info on Ms. Gray please write us and
share it with us. And to you....Ms. Gray ...."THANK YOU!" You are a
Record with Bette: Thighs and Whispers, Divine Madness
Concert with Bette: Divine Madness (The Movie)
Jocelyn was born on November 25, 1950 the planets surely aligned to seal her destiny.
If not the planets, then surely her family lineage guaranteed that she would be
a singer. Her grandmother, mother, a cousin and two aunts, one who just happened
to be Barbara Roy Gaskins (Ecstasy, Passion & Pain), all carried a tune. Jocelyn
spent her preschool years with her grandmother in Kinston, NC. singing in the
local church. Travelling with her family and singing with various gospel choirs
out of Brooklyn, Brown built up a solid following, becoming a favored soloist
at her uncle's church in Washington, D.C.
graduating from high school Jocelyn began singing with local bands and got involved
in session work. Her session work led to appearances on recordings by Gene Pitney,
John Lennon, and countless others made in New York in the late 1960's and early
attainted her first taste of secular success when she was hired to provide vocals
on hairdresser Sir Monti Rock's 1975 album "Get Dancin'."
the mid 1970's she became aquainted with guitarist/producer Greg Diamond who employed
Jocelyn for a string of his productions, She can be heard on "Starcruiser," "Hardware"
and Bionic Boogie's "Tiger Tiger." Around this time she also became friends with
producer Patrick Adams. Adams was already a hit disco producer with several releases
under his belt when he began using Jocelyn on several of his key sessions, most
notably Musique's hits "In The Bush" and "Keep On Jumpin'." By 1979, with disco
at its peak, he essentially formed Inner Life as a vehicle to promote her searing
vocals. Their first single was a number one club, number twenty two R&B, smash.
"I'm Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair)" became an instant classic thanks
to Jocelyn's gospel inflected performance. Their friendship combined with this
success would prompt Patrick and Jocelyn to mine the Inner Life vein for a few
years and collaborate well into the 1990's.
Jocelyn was travelling the world singing and establishing herself as one of the
top session singers of the late 1970's alongside Cissy Houston, Ullanda (Yolanda)
McCullough and Luther Vandross.
was a banner year for Jocelyn who accompanied friend Luther on the Change album
"Glow Of Love." Producer Cerrone utilized Jocelyn as the key singer on his seventh
album "You Are The One," which scored the hit "Hooked On You." And another Inner
Life album, this time on Salsoul, brought another club chart topper with her scorching
version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." This time Jocelyn received cover credit
for her work with Inner Life and brought her cousin LaRita Gaskins (Barbara Roy's
daughter) into the group. After the release of the "Inner Life 2" (actually their
third) album, which featured the hit "Moment Of My Life" the Inner Life saga ended.
She then added her voice to Joe Bataan's "Sadie (She Smokes) and the Salsoul Orchestra
track "Take Some Time (Out For Love)."
this period she kept busy touring and doing studio and live background vocals
for a laundry list of artists, eventually including Lou Reed, Roberta Flack, Mick
Jagger, Dan Hartman, George Benson, Patti Austin, Culture Club and Bette Midler.
She toured with Midler as a Harlette, replacing Sharon Redd who had left to launch
her solo career. As a Harlette she was featured in Bette's 1982 film and soundtrack
1983 Jocelyn had become another memory in the revolving cast of Harlettes. In
the fall of 1983, Brown teamed with her sister Annette and wrote "Somebody Else's
Guy," her most popular recording to date and the first under her own name. It
reached the number two position of Billboard's black singles chart and number
13 in the U.K. She followed it with another club favorite "I Wish You Would."
The success of these two singles led to an album deal with Vinyl Dreams Records.
The album included the 2-12" singles plus her earlier Inner Life hits, 5-versions
of "Somebody Else's Guy," "Hot Blood," "You Got Me" and "Hot Natured Woman."
first of several remixes and remakes of "Somebody Else's Guy" appeared in 1984
on 4th & B'Way Records. By 1985 she had secured an album deal with Warner Bros.
Records. "One From The Heart" produced 3-12" singles, "Love's Gonna Get You,"
"Caught In The Act" and "Ego-Maniac" were all charters. After disappointing sales,
Warner Bros. dropped her and she returned to background work and appearing alongside
other groups and artists. Throughout the late 1980's and well into the new millenium
she could be found on a number of hits. She appeared on Patti Austin's "Getting
Away With Murder" (1985) and "Love Is Gonna Getcha" (1990), Anthony & The Camp's
"Suspense" (1988), Adele Bertei's "Little Lives" (1988), Arthur Baker & The Backbeat
Disciples' "Merge" (1989), Vanessa Armstrong's "Wonderful One" (1990), Incognito's
"Always There" (1991), Right Said Fred's "Don't Talk Just Kiss" (1992), Off Shore's
"Got To Get Away" (1992), Bemshi's "Womanchild" (1992), K.C. Flightt's "Magic
Man" (1993), J.R. Funk & The Party Machine's "Feel Good Party Time" (1994), Kym
Mazelle's "No More Tears" and "Gimmie All Your Lovin' " (1994), Club 69's "Adults
Only" (1995), DJ Bobo's "World In Motion" (1996), Mad Professor's "Dub You Like
Crazy" (1997), AK Soul's "Show You Love" (1998), Incognito's "Nights Over Egypt"
(1999), Jestofunk's "Universal Mother" (2000) and Dalida's "Revolution" (2001).
appearing on disco classics by Kleeer, Chic, Charlie Calello Orchestra, Candido,
Manu Dibango, Elisa Fiorillo, Debbie Gibson, Debbie Harry, Cissy Houston, Janis
Ian, Billy Idol, Joyce Kennedy, Mantus, Diana Ross, Phoebe Snow, Stacey Q., Joe
Thomas and Alyson Williams she released another album in 1996 entitled "Diva"
a title she truely has earned. Without a doubt she is the hardest, and probably
the most prolific, singer in the Disco Museum. Of course this is only a small
sample of her work...so please don't be hard on me if I didn't mention one of
YOUR favorite Jocelyn hits! Just enjoy!
Record with Bette: Divine Madness
Concert with Bette: Divine Madness (The Movie)
some of her Harlette predecessors, Katey Sagal (Catherine Louise Sagal) was born
into a "show biz" family. Her father was the renowned director and producer,
Boris Sagal (who died tragically in ahelicopter accident during the shooting of
his movie "World War III"). Her mother Sarah Zwilling was a singer and
was also the first female assistant director in Hollywood. All of Katey's siblings,
except for her brother David (a lawyer) followed in the family footsteps and became
actors. Her twin sisters Jean and Liz are best known for their television series
"Double Trouble" and her brother Joey has appeared in many films.
(also credited as "Katie" early in her career) displayed her aptitude
for performing at a very young age. When she was five, she was already singing
up a storm and when she was a girl scout she would sing and play her guitar. At
the age of fifteen she started playing piano.
had dreams of becoming a rock star, but her father wasn't very fond of that idea.
Recognizing his daughter's love of performing, he encouraged her to pursue acting
as an alternative. He even cast Katey in bit parts in two of his movies, so that
she could obtain her Screen Actor's Guild card and have health insurance coverage.
When she was sixteen (1971-1972), she studied theatre and acting for a year at
the California Institute of Arts (with other such notables as Pee Wee Herman/Paul
Reubens and David Hasselhoff), before leaving to concentrate on her musical career.
the age of 18, she went on the road for a year in a musical production of Shakespeare's
"Two Gentleman of Verona". When she returned home, she discovered that
her mother was gravely ill, and at the age of 19, her mother passed away of heart
disease; living Katey to help raise her younger siblings.
this time, Katey worked as a singing waitress at The Great American Food and Beverage
Company and started a band with some of her co-workers called "The Group
With No Name". One night, while waiting the table of Gene Simmons, she struck
up on conversation about her band. As coincidence would have it, Gene Simmons
had gone to school with one of the band members.
This conversation led to an introduction with record executive Neill Bogard, and
a recording contract with Casablanca Records. The group released an album in 1976
entitled, "Moon Over Brooklyn" which was not successful. However, Katey
was asked by Gene Simmons to provide back-up vocals on his solo album, which was
released in 1978.
in 1978, Bette Midler had just finished filming "The Rose" and was preparing
to start her first international tour. Bette asked the current Harlettes (Charlotte
Crossley, Ula Hedwig, and Sharon Reed) to accompany her, but they declined.
then advertised in the "The Hollywood Reporter," and an open audition
began, to find three new Harlettes for the tour. Approximately 250 woman (and
even a couple of female impersonators) tried out for the parts. After Aaron Russo
and others narrowed the group down to their top six choices, Bette Midler made
the final selections. Katey Sagal was one of the women chosen as a new Harlette,
along with Linda Hart and Frannie Eisenberg.
worked as one of the Harlettes off and on from 1978 to 1983. She did not accompany
Bette on the 1979 "Divine Madness" tour,
but did rejoin the group again in 1982/83 for the "De Tour". She has
only recorded in studio with Bette Midler one time; on the No Frills album track
"Soda And A Souvenir".
leaving the Harlettes, Katey has enjoyed a very successful career as a singer/songwriter
and actress. Besides providing background vocals for Gene Simmons and Bette Midler,
she has also worked as a back-up singer for Bob Dylan, Etta James, Tanya Tucker,
Molly Hatchet, Olivia Newton-John, and others.
1985, Katey starred in the musical "The Beautiful Lady", at the Music
Centre in Los Angeles and she won the Drama Logue award for Best Actress for this
performance. She also caught the eye of a CBS casting agent who asked her to audition
for a part in the new Mary Tyler-Moore sitcom, "Mary". (Photo from left
to right: Katey, Linda, and Ula)
landed the part of Jo Tucker, Mary's chain-smoking, sardonic co-worker. Though
the series was short-lived, it proved to be a turning point for Katey on two levels.
Her friendship with Mary Tyler-Moore helped her to conquer a drug and alcohol
addition that she'd been battling since her father's tragic death in 1981. The
role also brought her attention from Ron Levitt, who was seeking to cast thepart
of a housewife for a new Fox television series.
auditioned for the housewife role, Peg Bundy, and soon became a household name
as the lead actress in the popular television series "Married With Children".
During the shows successful 10 year run, Katey was nominated for four Golden Globes
(1990, 1991, 1992, & 1993) and was awarded the American Comedy Award in 1990
has appeared in many films and television movies, and her voice can be heard on
the soundtrack albums "Plain Clothes" and "Loose Cannons".
She released her own solo album in 1994 entitled "Well..."(which is
now out of print and considered a rare collector's item).
most recent projects include recording the voice of Leela in the animated TV series
"Futurama", and a co-starring role in the show "8 Simple Rules
For Dating My Teenage Daughter". For a more complete listing of Katey's credits,
visit the Internet Movie Database at "http://www.imdb.com".
Record with Bette: No Frills
Concert with Bette: 1978 World Tour, De
has been singing since she was four. The oldest of three ("I have two younger
brothers"), she's from a family of ministers who have recorded gospel music
as The Harts for many years. "It's where all of my acting ability comes from,"
she insists. "I give thanks to God and to my mom and dad for that upbringing.
In my opinion, 50 percent of acting is not being fearful."
by Carol Burnett, whom she admired on television, Hart says that her first ambition
was to be a comedic actress. "I did research and found out that Carol Burnett
went to Hollywood High School," she relates. "I thought that's all you
needed to do." After hearing Hart sing, John Engel, who ran the Hollywood
High drama department, asked her to audition for a production of Brigadoon. Since
she was saddled with a thick Texas accent, Hart felt sure that she'd be unable
to appear in a musical set in Scotland; however, she worked with Engel and the
end result proved bonny. Later, Engel persuaded her to attend Los Angeles City
College, where he was a professor. "He's totally the reason I went from singing
to acting," Hart says now. "He's a very handsome, silver-haired man
who has played a doctor on General Hospital for 10 years."
graduation, Hart was offered work with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, but
a Columbia record contract required that she and her family move to Nashville.
During the next four years there, she made several appearances on Johnny Cash's
popular TV show. Kenny Rogers, a former member of The New Christy Minstrels, suggested
that Hart join that singing group. "He said that I'd learn about show business
and world-traveling," she recalls. "I really enjoyed it."
the Minstrels, Hart ventured to the Las Vegas Strip, where she was "an opening
act for a lot of stars: Buddy Hackett, Frank Gorshin, Phyllis Diller...."
However, she didn't envision herself as a country singer and felt that she'd "gotten
off my original path." Then her boyfriend at the time saw an ad in the Hollywood
Reporter: Auditions were being held for Bette Midler's new Harlettes. The notice
specified that candidates "Must sing well, dance great, and have attitude."
One of 200 at the first audition, Hart kept getting callbacks as the number dwindled
to 60, then half that and, finally, a dozen.
when Bette Midler came in," Hart remembers. "She asked her friend Tina
Turner to sit in and help her cast the new Harlettes. It was one of the most exciting
auditions of my life. They said, 'You're all great. We want to know you and what
you do best. That's what Bette wants to see.' I sang 'Amazing Grace.' At the end,
Bette had a huge smile on her face and was a little glassy-eyed. I felt I had
really touched her." For the next two years, Hart was a Harlette--"with
Katey Sagal, who later did Married With Children, and Franny McCartney. I was
with Bette on the only world tour she's ever done." Hart's Broadway debut
occurred in December 1979, when Bette! Divine Madness premiered at the Majestic.
then, she's appeared in the Midler movies Stella and Get Shorty ("We have
no scenes together in that") and in the TV version of Gypsy. "It was
great to play Mazeppa," she says. "When I was a little girl, I watched
the film version [with Rosalind Russell] over and over on TV. I said that one
day I'd play Gypsy, Mama Rose, and Mazeppa. At this point, I don't think I'm going
to play Gypsy...but, some day, I'm going to play Mama Rose!"
friendship with Midler continues: "Last month, she took me and my husband
and a couple of friends to see all the [New York City]
restoration her organization is doing." Hart met her husband, investment
banker Will Forster, through a friend, actress Stephanie Zimbalist. "Her
brother, Efrem Zimbalist III, went to Harvard with my husband," she explains.
"She brought Will to my birthday party 10 years ago, and we've been married
for six years." (Photo:
Katey Sagal, Linda, and Fran)
Anyone who saw Hart in the 1987 revival
of Anything Goes remembers her effervescent performance. "I was doing a gospel
act at the Ballroom and someone said I should talk to Jerry Zaks about playing
Reno Sweeney," she relates. "I met him, but the part had just been cast
[with Patti LuPone]. He said that he'd like me to try out for the gangster's moll.
I got the part and was later asked to be the understudy for Reno. I ended up doing
Reno for a while, between Patti and Leslie Uggams. I loved Bill McCutcheon, who
won a Tony as Moonface Martin; he just passed away. I won a Theatre World Award
for that show."
1989, Hart appeared in the short-lived Sid Caesar on Broadway. "Doing all
the Imogene Coca sketches opposite Sid was an absolute thrill," she says.
"Sid wanted to keep things as they were originally done. Perhaps it should
have been updated; I don't know. But playing opposite Sid was a real highlight
of my career." Yet the role that has brought Hart the most satisfaction thus
far, she says, was Bunny Weinberger in the 1999 Off-Broadway revival of Gemini.
read the script and it had the "f"-word on every page," she says
of that project. "In my family, if you used the "f"-word, your
life was basically over. When I phoned my mom and told her I got the part, she
said, 'You can't possibly take it.' I went to my minister, who said, 'Honey, it's
a play.' I said, 'I know, but I never want to do something that I couldn't invite
my parents to.' My mom Fed-Exed a letter: 'Whatever you do, Linda, please do not
take this part. Your career will be over.' I had it framed and hung it in my dressing
room. I'd never overcome such an obstacle...and never in my life have I gotten
such positive reviews."
is in two films that are about to be released: "In Showtime with Robert DeNiro
and Eddie Murphy, my part has been cut way down," she says. "In The
First $20 Million, which comes out in May, I play a wonderfully eccentric, sexy,
San Francisco landlady who rents a house to male students. Mick Jackson directed."
On April 1, Hart will be reunited with Patti LuPone and Howard McGillin at the
Vivian Beaumont for "a one-night-only performance of Anything Goes with full
orchestra, a full cast and chorus. I don't know how much like the  production
it will be, because we have to do it on the set of Contact. That doesn't have
a proper stage for tapping; details haven't been worked out. [The performance
will be] a toast to Joseph F. Cullman, the philanthropist, who's turning 90."
Ms. Hart can be seen in Hairspray.
Biography: LINDA HART (Velma Von Tussle, Hairspray). Anything Goes (Lincoln Center,
Theatre World Award); Sid Caesar on Broadway; Divine Madness and Detour (both
with Bette Midler); Surviving Grace (Union Sq.); Gemini (Second Stage); Livin'
Dolls (MTC & L.A. Coast Theatre, Best Actress Award); Light Up the Sky (Drama-Logue
Award); Paper Moon (Paper Mill). Film: The Insider; Tin Cup and A Perfect World
(both opposite Kevin Costner); Beautiful; Get Shorty; Stella; Showtime; The First
$20 Million. TV: Mazeppa in "Gypsy," "Queen," "Texas
Justice," "Pretty Girls in Little Boxes," "The Practice,"
"Touched by an Angel" and "Garry Shandling Show." Eleven gospel
albums with Grammy Award-winning family, The Harts.
Record with Bette: No Frills, Gypsy [Television Soundtrack]
Concert with Bette: 1978 World Tour, Bette! Divine Madness, De
Jenifer Lewis, "from Saint Louis" (ba-dum-bum), started working with
Bette as a Harlette, she was performing small roles on Broadway. Shortly after
arriving in New York City, she landed a role in the 1979 musical "Eubie",
based on the work of Eubie Blake. Soon after that, she snatched up the role of
Effie White in "Dreamgirls", but when the production moved to Broadway,
the role was taken over by Jennifer Holliday.
didn't stop Jenifer. In the summer of 1983, Bette Midler decided to take her hit
"De Tour" on a second cross-country run, and that's when Jenifer joined
the group as one of Bette's Harlettes. Some notable highlights of Jenifer's career
as a Harlette include her accordion solo of "Hold That Tiger" as one
of the DeLago Sisters, and a performance in Denver when Jenifer "stepped
over Bette's body" to perform the lead vocals on "Boogie Woogie Bugle
Boy" (Bette had collapsed backstage from the heat and was unable to return
to the stage).
"stint" as a Harlette lead to her first credited film role in the 1988
movie "Beaches", appearing in the "Otto Titsling" production
number. At the same time, Jenifer was developing her cabaret act; an autobiographical
musical comedy show which was well received. She performed the show Off-Broadway
at the Public Theatre. That same year, Jenifer moved to Los Angeles. It was a
slow period for her, as far as acquiring new roles, but she devoted her time to
perfecting her nightclub routine.
1992, Jenifer was cast in the role of one of the back-up singers to Delores van
Cartier (Whoopie Goldberg's character) in the film "Sister Act". Originally,
she was hired to provide the vocals for Whoopie Goldberg, but Jenifer convinced
Whoopie that she could sing the part herself, and ended up becoming Whoopie's
vocal coach during the filming of the movie.
Goldberg and Jenifer Lewis became close friends, and Whoopie sponsored several
performances of Jenifer's one-woman show, "The Diva is Dismissed" (which
Jenifer co-wrote with Charles Randolph-Wright). The show had a successful three-year
run in Los Angeles. Whoopie had planned to produce the show for HBO, but that
never transpired. However, the production did earn her two NAACP Theatre Awards
(Best Actress and Best Playwright). She also began receiving attention from Hollywood.
After one of the performances, the producers of the show "In Living Color"
approached Jenifer to recreate two of her childhood characters for the comedy
1992 she landed a role on the NBC sitcom, "A Different World" and spent
that season playing the part of Dean Davenport. She also had a recurring role
in "The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air" as Will's "Aunt Helen".
got her first big break in the movies with the 1993 role of Tina Turner's mother
in "What's Love Got To Do With It". She had originally hoped to play
the part of Tina, but her critically acclaimed performance as Zelma Bollack earned
her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
then, Jenifer has worked steadily in strong supporting roles in film and television,
as well as continuing her career on stage. In 1996, her performance in "The
Preacher's Wife" garnered her another Image Award nomination for Best Supporting
Actress. Critics praised her performance in the role of a lesbian judge in the
short-lived CBS series "Courthouse", and she received rave reviews of
her theatre performance in the sold-out, autobiographical show, "Now What"
(which she co-wrote).
1999, Jenifer starred in the Lifetime Television movie, "Jackie's Back",
which Bette Midler also appeared in. She currently stars in the Lifetime Network
drama, "Strong Medicine" as the receptionist, Lana Hawkins.
talented performer's credits are too numerous to mention on this one little biography
page, so please visit http://www.imdb.com to view a more detailed list of her
movie roles and televison appearances. One more detail worthy of mention, however,
is that Jenifer also appeared with Bette Midler on the last taping of "The
and stage, Jenifer devotes a great deal of her time and energy as an advocate
for AIDS awareness and prevention. She appears at AIDS benefits and fundraisers
whenever possible, lending her amazing talents toward the fight against AIDS.
It is a subject she is passionate about, having lost over 200 of her friends to
the disease since 1979.
Record with Bette:
Concert with Bette: De
or Bust (HBO)
has performed with her own act throughout the US and Canada, starred on Broadway
in Annie, was a principle singer/dancer on the 64th Annual Academy Awards Show,
as well as on a Major Tour with Bette Midler. She's been seen and/or heard on
radio/stage/screen with the likes of Ray Charles, Carl Anderson, Melissa Manchester,
Mary Wells (My Guy), Dolly Parton, Nell Carter, Mary Wilson (Supremes), Sammy
Davis Jr, Sergio Franchi, and George Chakiris (West Side Story). Siobhan has also
been featured on numerous TV Specials and Variety Shows, The Tonight Show, The
Late Show, Gimme a Break, Amen, The Gary Shandling Show, Boys Will Be Boys, Not
Necessarily the News, the feature film Footloose, and such Musicals as; Jesus
Christ Superstar, Three Penny Opera, Peter Pan, Damn Yankees, Top Banana, West
Side Story, and Carnival.
She has been involved as a singer/ songwriter/ vocal
arranger in a wide range of recordings and has choreographed her way from New
York's Carnegie Hall, overseas on the The Royal Carribean Cruise Lines through
Sydney's 2000 Olympics, to LA's TV Specials, Variety Shows, Talk Shows and Films.
Record with Bette:
Concert with Bette: De
Half), Art or Bust (HBO)
Record with Bette:
Concert with Bette: De
or Bust (HBO)
Hatchett has lived in Los Angeles since moving west from her native Chicago, Illinois.
Carol organized the band Velvet Sundae in 1998 and has performed continuously
with them around Los Angeles in such venues as the Key Club, the Gig, and the
out as a singer/dancer, Carol was one of the three Harlettes, Bette Midler's backup
singers from 1993 to 2000, touring across the country and appearing in Bette's
Emmy award-winning "Diva Las Vegas" HBO Special. She also worked with
Kenny Babyface Edmonds and Brian McKnight.
a choreographer, Carol has worked with such directors as Tom Hanks ("That
Thing You Do"), P.J. Hogan ("My Best Friend's Wedding), Robert Luketic
("Legally Blonde"), music videos (Snoop Dogg, Will Smith), and tours
(Tina Turner, Beach Boys, Bette Midler, David Lee Roth).
recently, Ms. Hatchett has appeared in front of the camera as an actress in "Legally
Blonde" and the upcoming "Ali" as well as several commercials.
She was also the lead actress of the musical comedy short film, "You Ruined
My Career" which screened at the Telluride Film Festival and featured on
a songwriter, Carol writes all the songs for Velvet Sundae and is currently planning
to record their first C.D.
Record with Bette:
Concert with Bette: Experience The Divine, ETD Again, Diva Las Vegas (HBO),
Divine Miss Millennium
Taylor was born in New Orleans on New Year's Day to a family of artists, and her
rich musical heritage has helped guide and define her own artistry ever since.
one of Bette Midler's infamous and legendary Harlettes for nearly a decade, Melanie
has been seen twirling and singing on the Emmy Award-Winning HBO Special Experience
the Divine, as well as a 6-week sold-out engagement at Radio City Music Hall,
and in a millennium photo essay in Rolling Stone magazine.
notable television credits as a vocalist and/or actor include: MTV, VH1, Jay Leno,
David Letterman, Oprah, American Bandstand, Bette, Ally McBeal, and Jag.
has been a featured vocalist on tours and TV with such artists as Donna Summer,
Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, Ronnie Spector, Jeffrey Osborne, Brian Wilson,
Jim Belushi, Sheena Easton, Paula Abdul, Jon Secada, and Willie Nelson.
a recording artist for Capitol Records, her duo group Bardeux landed a Top Five
single I Love To Bass on the Billboard Dance charts.
2000, Melanie released her first solo album entitled, "This Christmas".
The holiday CD is comprised of five of Melanie's favorite Christmas songs: This
Christmas (Hang All The Mistletoe), Merry Christmas Darling, River, Breath Of
Heaven (Mary's Song) and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
also sings jingles (Toyota and Sir Speedy nationals) and does
voice-overs and cartoon voices for a number of music houses.
film credits include One From the Heart, Antitrust, Get Bruce, and featured vocals
in Labor Pains (starring Kyra Sedgwick) and ABC's When Billie Beat Bobby (starring
has appeared on stage in Nickie in Sweet Charity, and has had featured roles in
Godspell, West Side Story, and Finian's Rainbow (for Reprise!).
continues to be active in her career as a singer/songwriter and, last told, was
in the studio completing her second CD of original pop/jazz/trip hop compositions.
(Photo: Melanie with Carol Hatchett, and Rhae Ann Theriault)
Record with Bette: Bette
Concert with Bette: Experience The Divine, ETD Again, Diva Las Vegas (HBO),
Divine Miss Millennium
Record with Bette:
Concert with Bette: Experience The Divine, ETD Again, Diva Las Vegas (HBO),
Divine Miss Millennium