Loretta Chandler “Fame” And Beyond
Loretta Chandler who played the bubbly yet shy “Dusty Tyler” in television’s “Fame” is once again singing and dancing up a storm in Maurice Hines’s “Harlem Suite” starring Stephanie Mills.
Loretta started singing in her hometown of Pueblo, CO with her family’s gospel group. The group, known as “The Chandler Family” was headed by her parents Rev. and Mrs. F.L. Chandler and included Loretta her sister and her two brothers. “The Chandler Family was formed when I was six years old and we continued to perform throughout my teens. We toured across the country several times. “We had a perfect compliment of voices; soprano, alto, tenor, bass”, says the talented and lovely actress, singer and dancer.
After starting a gospel program at the University of Southern Colorado, Loretta decided to enroll in the vocal program at the Institute of the Arts just outside of Los Angeles. There she founded and directed the Cal Arts Gospel Extravaganza and was looking into recording an album her group when she decided to join some friends at an open call auditions for “Fame”.
I heard they were holding auditions to replace Janet Jackson, but I didn’t think I had a chance. I mostly wanted to have fun and hopefully get a chance to meet Debbie Allen and Gene Anthony Ray. You know “Fame” is mostly dancing and dancers are itty-bitty people. I was kind of big at the time, so I didn’t really go to audition. But I was told I could not enter the sound stage unless I was auditioning, so I said, “Give me a number. I want in.” I took and number and went inside where I saw then auditioning singers. They took ten of us at a time and I was number 10 in my group. There was a long green table at one end of the room with the directors, producers, etc and a girl with a timer on the end.
Each girl was given like 5 seconds to ‘show them what you’ve got’. Well you can’t show much in 5 seconds especially if you start at the beginning of a song, so when my turn came I started at the climax of the song and I was about to whale when I hear. “Time! Thank you very much… Next”. Like a reflex action, I exclaimed, “Oh, you’ve got to let me do the high note. Please let me do the high note!” They did said, “OK.” and I sang “Ahhh!” and they said…. “Thank you … next.” I was mortified. So I made my way out the door when the girl with the timer came running across the room and told me to come back and read for them. I made the cut.” WOW! There was one more audition that day and several more in the following weeks. During that time I took dance classes to better prepare and it paid off. Loretta pauses, then continues in her soft and sexy voice, “It was great, everybody made me feel so comfortable. My stay with ‘Fame’ is one that I will never forget!”
But like most things, “Fame” came to an end. “The ending of ‘Fame’ opened the door to other possibilities.” Now Loretta is touring with “Harlem Suite”. “Harlem Suite is a terrific opportunity for me. It gives me a chance to work with Maurice Hines. You’ll love him, he’s crazy.” She laughs. “It’s a beautiful play about Maurice’s grandmother who wasn’t big time famous, but work with a lot of the greats, like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Maurice wanted to show us what it was like to be a showgirl during that time and he does it by opening up her scrapbook which comes to life on stage.”
Loretta has met another star that has had a major impact on her life. Jennifer Holiday. “When I started this play, it starred Jennifer and she’s the one who got me this gig. When we met I said to her, “Do you know they call me the little Jennifer Holiday”. She said yes and that she had seem perform and thinks I’m terrific.” I literally freaked. Thee Jennifer Holiday thinks I’m terrific. We exchanged numbers and she came over to my place. My brother came over and we hung out playing songs, etc. and decided to make plans to work together on this very show. Jennifer has moved on to peruse other things and that’s when we got Stephanie Mills. Stephanie is great too! She so charming and warm. Make you feel at ease. I love that. I understudied her part and learned a great deal from her.
Loretta doesn’t like to brag about it much, but she made a lot of women jealous walking on the arm of Hollywood hunk, Blair Underwood. Now they are just good friends. “I was really lucky to run into a guy like him, but unfortunately he came at a bad time. I had just broken with a guy that put me through some serious changes. But Blair, is real special guy who was there for me and still is.
The future is bright for these talented young women from Pueblo, CO. The way she’s going, she’s destined to become on of the brightest stars around.