Now, I read that at some point you were on the stage there with Bill Cosby?
Yes I was, but that was on an actual show. That didn’t happen until much later, because as much as I wanted to do the show, they would not let me. They said I was not ready. So what they made me do was, every show that came in there, I had to watch. I had to learn. And in-between all of this, I was going to school. And then when the thing at Juilliard happened, then that left me free to watch shows every day. I started learning songs and trying to sing in a popular style. The song I did with Bill is, “Who Can I Turn To” from The Roar of the Greasepaint. The audience loved it. It wasn’t classical; but it wasn’t straight-up R&B, either.
Do you remember any of the shows as ones that had a particular impact on you?
Are you kidding me? Yes, Gladys Knight, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Diana Ross, Nancy Wilson, the Temptations, Chuck Jackson, Maxine Brown — I even saw the Jackson 5 there. They all had some kind of impact because the whole thing was to watch them — their microphone technique; how they performed; how they related to the audience. Coming from classical music, it’s kind of opposite: everything is so regimented. I wouldn’t say I had a stick up the wazoo, but, you know, I was schooled up. Even to this day, I am a stickler for musicianship. You really have got to have your game together as a dancer, as a musician. If I’m using you to do backgrounds, you’ve got to be on top of your game. If you’re not quite on top of your game, I’ll help you get on your game, as long as you want to learn. But if you don’t want to learn, you don’t have a place working with me.
What about working on that show with Bill Cosby?
I remember when I did his show at the Apollo, I had an abscess. It was really bad, and the dentist put me on penicillin. They told me not to go back to the show for a couple of days. But I went back earlier than I was supposed to, and I remember Bill saying, “Didn’t the dentist tell you not to come back? You’re hardheaded. You’re not going to make it if you don’t lose your stubbornness.” I never forgot that. He was like a father figure.
Tell me about the experiences you had as a result of signing with Bobby and Honi as managers.