Susan Anton Interview
She’s a star of stage, screen and television.
Q – You actually did over 5,000 performances at The
Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas?!
A – Yeah. Isn’t that something?
Q – How do you keep from getting bored or stale after
so many performances? You’re pretty much doing the same thing every
night aren’t you?
A – Pretty much. Over the 5 years the show changed, certain elements changed. There would be a new production number or I would change what I did in the show. It’s called a Star Turn where I would have my own solo spot. So, I would change my material to try and keep it fresh. And then we would do holiday shows. So, we always looked forward to that change of it. But, it was a challenge to keep it fresh because it is very repetitious and also it’s not “live” music. I’m singing “live”, to a pre-recorded track. That was the most challenging to me, because as a singer you need that energy as a “live” musician to be able to generate that excitement of the moment. What I found out was, the more you focus on the audience, the more they make each night incredibly unique. So, even in the confinement of a very regimented show, I found it was important for me to carve out a unique relationship with the audience and remember that each audience was seeing this for the first time. So that’s what really helped me.
Q – You were doing what, one or two shows a night?
A – We did 10 shows a week, so it would vary. For the most part we did two shows and we did have one day off. Into the second or third year, I can’t remember which, I came up with a formula that worked really well for myself. I would work for 3 months and take 3 months off. The Rockettes were amazing, but, they all had back-up dancers. There was nobody to back me up, ‘cause they needed a headliner for the show, a celebrity to attach to the show. So, I would take 3 months off and Maurice Hines would come in and that was a wonderful fit ‘cause Maurice did all the choreography for the show after Joe Layton died. So, that made it a much more manageable thing for me as well. It made it more fresh for me, to be able to leave and come back.
Q – Where is home for you-----Las Vegas?
A – We have two homes. Since we were in Las Vegas for so long, we did get a home, my husband Jeff and I, and we established Nevada residency. My husband built a film and television studio as well. So, he has a business there. He directs commercials and film and television projects. We have a home there, but, when the Radio City Show closed, for the most part, my work is back in Los Angeles and on the road performing with my band which is what I really, really love.
Q – I see you do quite a bit of cruise ship work.
A – Well, you know, they’re one of the few real showrooms left for an artist that’s kind of in the category that I find myself in. I’m not J Lo out there selling 8 billion albums. So, I’m not in a big concert hall. A lot of the Las Vegas showrooms are either lavish production shows or extravagant productions with Celine Dion. She’s coming in there which is great, ‘cause we’re gonna have a strong woman on the Las Vegas strip and kind of break-up the ‘ole boys club which I’m looking forward to. So, there’s the room that used to always be there for a artist that does what I do which is just get up and entertain and put on a great show every night, but, I don’t have a stack of hit records to stand on. So, these rooms are hard to find. Cruise ships have fabulous showrooms. You know, about 2,000 people per show with a 12 piece orchestra and wonderful technology. So, I do about eight of those a year for Royal Caribbean.
Q – What type of material are you doing?
A – We do everything from Bruce Springsteen to Beth Neilson Chapman, to John Lennon’s “Imagine”. We do “Wonderful World” with just acoustic guitar. It’s a very eclectic show. I’ve been closing my shows since 1984 with my favorite song which is Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”. So, the show for the most part is relatively contemporary. It’s the music of my time and what I care about.
Q – For about 2 years you were opening for Kenny Rogers.
A – Right.
Q – How long did you get to perform onstage then?
A – I did about 45 minutes to an hour. Then we’d have intermission and Kenny would come out.
Q – How were you treated by his audiences?
A – Oh, they were amazing. The Country audiences are so fantastic, because obviously everybody’s there to see Kenny Rogers. This was when Kenny was just at the peak, red hot. He’d had a string of massive hits and Gallagher, the comedian was his first act. Then I would come on. I had a Top Ten record on the Country charts at the time called “Killing Time”. So, people were familiar with me. Because Kenny had me onboard with him, people just embraced me. They figured, if Kenny loves her, we’ll love her too. And they were fabulous. It was so much fun playing in those giant arenas. The Meadowlands, with all these screaming fans and the best lighting equipment and then I got to travel with Kenny on his plane. It was pretty sweet.
Q – You did not start out to be in show business did
you? You wanted to be a Child Psychologist?
A – When I was in high school, the idea of really being able to be an entertainer was just a fantasy. It was a dream that I thought couldn’t possibly happen. I was planning on being a nursery school teacher, so, I was majoring in child psychology when on a dare from my high school boyfriend-----he dared me to enter a local beauty pageant. Then, when I saw there was going to be a talent portion, I said well, I’ve always wanted to sing, so maybe I’ll get up there and do it. It might be the only chance I’ll get to do that. I won and I did not know it was a preliminary to Miss California and subsequently Miss America. So, I went on to Miss California which I won. And then I went to Miss America and became Second Runner to Miss America. So, after performing on quite a few stages by that time, I realized that this is really what I loved. I decided at the age of 17 to throw my hat into the Big Ring too. I didn’t want to find myself 20 years down the road saying, I wonder what would’ve happened if only I had tried.
Q – What did you think acting would be like, and how
different was it when you finally got to do it?
A – (Laughs) Well, I think being from a small town and falling in love with the idea of acting based on watching movies that I loved. I saw all the glamour of it. Wow! What a fabulous thing! You wear beautiful gowns. People do your hair and make-up and you travel all over the world. You have handsome leading men. What an exciting life! Then you get into the reality of it. There’s the fame aspect of it and there’s the hard work aspect of it, learning your craft. I fell in love with it even more when I got into how gratifying being on stage or being in a film, or a television project where your actually inhabiting another character and you get to tell a story with your own spin on it. It’s an incredible opportunity and a wonderful way to learn more about yourself.
Q – Is it important for an actress to be diversified?
If you said, “I only want to act in movies”, would your phone
still ring with offers?
A – It’s really an interesting thing. It’s what works for the individual, like Michael Caine who we all know and is an incredibly acknowledged and accomplished actor-----Michael always says there’s hardly a job he’ll turn down. A job is a job and an opportunity to discover something new about yourself. So, there’s a part of taking on everything that comes your way and seeing what really works. I think quite honestly that the more you get very, very specific, especially if it’s in the beginning of your career, the better off you will be. If I could go back and do something differently, I think I probably would’ve stayed focused more on one thing and let that really get solidified, let that really take roots and then be able to branch off from there. If you try to do too many things at one time, even if they’re all doing well, it confuses the public too much. It confuses the industry too much. People might be looking for someone to act in a movie and think Susan Anton is a singer. And someone who is looking for someone to headline their musical might think, Susan Anton? No, she’s t.v. So, you’re constantly having to prove to people, no, I do that as well. It’s important to figure out what is your first true passion. Stay very focused on that, always acknowledge that source. Nurture that source and stay visible in that source and then branch out from there.
Q – Tell me if this story is true: You were on the dance
floor of a disco, maybe it was in New York, maybe Beverly Hills, and Sylvester
Stallone sees you on the dance floor. He taps one of his bodyguards and says, “I
want to meet that girl. Bring her up here”. Now did that happen?
A – (Laughs) Well, kind of, but, not quite like that. It was back in like 1978, or 1979, ‘cause I was in New York doing promotional work for my film “Golden Girl”. So, I was with some of the people from the film. We were at Studio 54 dancing, having a good time. Sylvester Stallone was there. I don’t know if he had bodyguards or not, but, he was standing on the sidelines of the dance floor, watching me. We never communicated that night. I had to leave ‘cause I had an early flight the next day. When I got on the plane the next day he happened to be the plane as well. And that’s how we met. He never had any bodyguard that said “Bring that girl over”, ‘cause had he done that, I certainly would not have. (Laughs) I would’nt have been interested in that.
Q – I don’t even remember where I saw that story.
A – It’s one of those things that has just enough truth in it to be right-----but, it’s not completely right.
Q – Well, at least we got it right now.
A – There you go.