Another Slice Of Sam Harris

sam harris

There are a handful of voices that are so unique, so inspirational they become a cherished treasure to be savored and protected. When I was younger (and weren’t we all?), I sat in front of the idiot box way too close for my mother’s liking, sweaty hands ringing with the anticipation of seeing my first male voice crush, Sam Harris, as he competed on Star Search 1984.

I was in High School and I also had a powerful voice, but Sam’s style was unique and his range was a gift from the gods. Mine was more of a siren calling seamen to their death.

After winning the 100 thousand dollar first prize Sam was signed to Motown records. I rushed down to the record store (A place where music was purchased before mp3) to get a copy of Sam’s first single, “Sugar Don’t Bite,” a Top 40 hit, reaching #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1984. Since then, he became a multi-million selling recording artist with nine studio albums to his credit.

Sam returned to Star Search for a reunion show. His song was poignant, moving and somewhat relieving. The song was an anthem for the music business at that time and for many recording artists.

What Did I Have That I Don’t Have Now?’

Maybe it was me but you could almost see the pain in his eyes. The marinated Ed McMahon said “there’s our old Sam.” Old Sam already. Sugar don’t bite but some kisses sting.

Sam was off to Broadway, where he received a Drama Desk nomination for his role in the Tommy Tune-directed revival of Grease, and a Drama League Award as well as Tony, Outer Critic’s Circle and Drama Desk Award nominations for his work in Cy Coleman’s Tony nominated musical The Life.

I flew to New York to see Sam in TheLife and no surprise,he laid them in the aisles .

He’s also appeared on Broadway in Mel Brooks’ Tony Award winning musical The Producers, in the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and in the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar, Cabaret, Hair, and Pippin. He also starred in the self-penned shows Hardcopy, Different Hats, Revival and the critically acclaimed SAM. Harris’ most recent theatrical outing was the film-to-musical adaptation of The First Wives Club seen in a limited run at San Diego’s the Old Globe Theatre in the summer of 2009.

Now, I am a fan not a stalker.

Linda Eder, Beth Hart and Sam Harris are the three biggest voices from Star Search and I want to know why didn’t the record company’s nurture these artist? All three had fast highs and low lows as most recording artists. Why is that the norm?

The answer is very simple. The music business is the culinary equivalent to processed cheese wiz. The labels were only looking for artists they could exploit. It is hard when the performers are extremely talented. Gone (I hope) are the days of processed auto-tuned Britneys. New artists coming on the scene are like Sam,Linda, and Beth the real deal. My friend has a label deal in Nashville and he said “I have to take my royalty check to the bank. It’s too little to go by itself.”

Many artist sign recording deals only to be shelved. They feel the music biz has somehow failed them.

Failure is not falling down, it is not getting up again.

Unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes. So now the question is belting out show tunes and old standards out of fashion?

Not at all, and this year’s Grammy’s proves it with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett showing old standards are the new standard.

Sam recently completed his amazing touring show “Ham: A Musical Memoir. ” This is pork even a Jew could love.

The tour, I am told inspired Sam to write 16 essays that appear in his first book, Ham: Slices of a Life.

“I’m a storyteller, whether I’m doing it through a song or something I’ve written or something that someone else has written,” the 52-year-old actor, singer and first-time author, who shot to fame as the champion of “Star Search” during the show’s premiere 1983 season, said. “I’m a punctuation freak and a rhythm freak. It’s just a different kind of music.”

Adding writing credits to his long resume of talents is not a stretch. Harris is prolific and moving as his paints a vivid picture of his young beginnings in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. He also shares personal and inner-most thoughts about his love, husband Danny Jacobsen, with whom he tied the knot in 2008.

Sam doesn’t shy away from grim details of an adolescent suicide attempt or his longtime struggles with substance abuse. It is difficult to be all the public expect. You start taking a sip of courage to be Sam Harris. Two gulps and a pain reliever and now you can fly over the rainbow. Being a celebrity can be exasperating until you realize the first person in the audience you have to please is yourself. That can often be hard for a perfectionist. If you can stay calm while all around you is chaos, then you probably haven’t completely understood the situation.

“I’m not interested in writing something that’s fluffy or just a recounting of something,” Sam Continued

In fact, he found as much delight in recounting minute details of a seemingly routine, day-to-day activity as he did recalling Minnelli’s 2002 wedding to the “Man Whose Name Shall Go Unmentioned” and his one-on-one encounters with stars like Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler and Madonna.

“This isn’t a tell-all Hollywood book; it’s about what something means to me, what something taught me or what I’ve discovered about myself along the way.”

Although Harris has become an outspoken advocate of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in recent years, he kept mum about his sexuality during the early years of his career, and says he now regrets that in hindsight.

“When I was growing up, there were no role models,” he said. “There was not an actor, an athlete or a politician who said they were gay and happy to be so.” Of his eventual decision to come out publicly as gay, he added, “There came a point where I was like, ‘OK, this is just bullsh*t. I felt like a liar, and I was. If I do have a public platform at all, then I want to talk to that kid who is being bullied and feels alone.”

“It’s something I hope to be doing more of … exploring stories about my childhood, show business, parenting and marriage, and continuing to find a voice and a perspective about events in my life than seem singular or unusual,” he said. As for a prospective title, he added with a laugh, “Well, the first book was called Ham, maybe the second one should be called Cheese.”

This is a must have book or the perfect gift for that friend who has everything that penicillin won’t cure.

Entertainers can be divided into three groups: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.

Sam is a talent that is not wasted.

Check out more information on Sam and his NYC shows at http://www.samharris.com/

Lou Ceffer

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