‘Fame’s’ Debbie Allen: We’re in a War to Save Arts Education

Debbie Allen is hoping that the new “Fame” feature that opens Friday (9/25) will do more than entertain – it will serve as a reminder of the importance of arts education at a time when “the money dries up right and left.

Debbie Allen

Debbie Allen

“We have a war going on,” declares the dance great.  “Where is the money for the arts?  There is no money, but the arts should be one of the last things to be cut.  We need the arts to initiate, to create, to have a voice.  The performing arts are one of the best ways to connect people.  It’s character education.”

 Allen is in the new “Fame” – making her the only performer to appear in the hit 1980 film, its spin-off TV series, and the new movie.  Her character may be named Principal Simms, but to Debbie, she’s playing the same fiercely dedicated teacher she’s played all along.  “After all this time, I am the same character.  Lydia Grant is married – this is her married name,” she says with a laugh. “That’s how the world is going to know her.  I’ve never left it.” 

 Indeed, she carried Lydia Grant into her own life, founding her immensely successful Debbie Allen Dance Academy that’s already seen students hitting the big time, including her daughter, Vivian Nixon, of Broadway’s “Hot Feet” — and “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant William Wingfield.  She’s had other dancers and choreographers land work on stage and screen – including “Fame.”

 “A few of my students are in it.  One of my right hands – Marguerite Derricks – choreographed it.  When I saw it, I just beamed and gushed about how wonderful her work is,” she recounts.

 Debbie herself recently choreographed and directed Mariah Carey’s big new Las Vegas show.  Now, besides her ongoing activities presiding over the school, she is getting ready to direct the London production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” that she directed on Broadway last year – starring her sister Phylicia Rashad and Sanaa Lathan.    

 SO GOOD IT’S BAD:  “I appreciate that people are taking better care of themselves, but I’m like your dirty secret,” says Blythe Beck, who is starring in her own Oxygen reality series “The Naughty Kitchen With Chef Blythe Beck,” debuting today (9/22).

 “I am the naughty chef.  I call my food sexy new American – food you ate growing up but I make it naughty.  I’m all about beer, butter, pork fat, and loving on your food.  The more love you give to it, the naughtier it is,” claims the sassy chef, who runs the Dallas restaurant Central 214.  “You wouldn’t eat this food every single day, but you come to me when you want to celebrate the good times or be comforted in the bad times.  I just want people to come in my restaurant and let me love on them for a little while.” 

Despite so many cooking shows on television at the moment, Beck claims her show is different.  “My show is not just about cooking.  It’s more of following me around as a chef.  My life alone has been like a television show with the ups and downs of working in this field, and now it actually is one,” she adds with a laugh.  “I’m just blessed that cooking is the gift God gave me.  It’s the best gift ever.” 

Adam Hicks

Adam Hicks

YOUNG STAR ON THE RISE:  Adam Hicks, Luther Waffles to fans of  “Zeke & Luther,”  is resting up a bit between his and fellow star Hutch Dano’s just-finished promotional sweep of Europe and the start of second season production of their popular Disney XD show.

 “It was amazing!  Everything was a new experience.  Hutch and I are open to all these new things all the time.  I had a blast,” he says.  “I got to see the Eiffel Tower; I’d always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower.  I loved Germany…”  And he got recognized in Paris, he reports.

 Did he and Hutch ever get on each other’s nerves?  “We never really did.  We have a good relationship.  We balance each other out,” he says.  “We’re constantly working together, so that’s great.”

 Hicks, who starred in the big screen “How to Eat Fried Worms” and has a sizeable list of TV and movie credits,  recalls feeling “a different vibe” about “Zeke and Luther” than anything he’d done previously.  “It was more fast-paced, fast cut — a lot of outrageous comedy with us skateboarding down the streets and stuff like that.  I wondered if people would be open to this new flavor of comedy.”

 They were.  Now the amiable red-haired 17-year-old is getting used to being asked questions about what makes a good kiss and such by the teen magazines.  He seems to be taking it all in stride.  “I’m open to answering a lot of the questions.  I’ll give you my best advice,” he says.

FEELING GOOD:  “The Biggest Loser” host Alison Sweeney admits to pangs of jealousy over her husband’s ability to eat just about anything without putting on weight.  “He’s so thin,” she says of her mate, California Highway Patrolman David Sanov.  But it’s not as if he gets a free ride as far as staying in shape, she points out.  “He works out.  It’s interesting.  You learn it’s not just about how many pounds you see on the scale — it’s about what’s going on on the inside, too.  So it’s about what you put into your body and maintaining your health and fitness.” 

 With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster