“Great pictures, great music. Kitschy, funny fashions.”
As the words come out of his mouth he glances at the person sitting near him at the table; disco diva and co-star of the film, Thelma Houston.
“Thelma was never kitschy!” he corrects himself. “I didn’t mean Thelma. That is an adjective that could never be applied to the woman sitting here. And, I’ve seen many of her hairstyles over the years.”
Houston, the singer of the hit disco anthem Don’t Leave Me This Way, doesn’t think kitschy when she thinks about disco.
“I look back at it as a time when my record was at the height and a lot was going on, and everyone was having a good time,” says Houston.
The song that made her a star, almost didn’t happen, however.
“I was on the Motown label and everyone was trying to get that elusive R&B smash hit,” she says. “I was there almost everyday, in the studio trying to come up with something. Then someone, Suzanne de Passe who was the A&R person at the time, came up with the song Don’t Leave Me This Way and thought it would be a good dance song. We thought maybe this is the way to go.
“But then we had to take it to the chairman, Mr. (Berry)Gordy to have him listen to it and give us notes. Because I was friendly with Suzanne and her assistant they allowed me to go with them up to Berry’s house. We were so sure of it. I’d be there, and he would see it was going to be a hit. I was so excited.
“Early in the morning we went up there to the mansion up in Bel Air. They played a couple of things, saving mine to the end. They put the song on. He listened and I’m sitting there looking at him. When he finished hearing it, he said, ‘Hmmmm, no. I don’t get it. I don’t hear a hit.’ I was so disappointed coming down off that hill but Suzanne felt very strongly about it and she put it out anyway and it was a hit.
“For me it wasn’t just the disco era, it was like, ‘Wow, I finally had a hit.’”