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The Legacy of Astaire Deserves Much Better

September 01, 1997|FRED ASTAIRE | Fred Astaire (Frederick Henry Astaire) is the grandson of Fred Astaire

I know a little about Robyn Astaire's intentions; I know a little about Ava Astaire's intentions ("Managing the Memories," Calendar, Aug. 17). I know absolutely nothing else about the affair of managing my grandpa's legacy. But I do know this: It's being botched up pretty good.

My grandpa worked clean and hard and achieved top recognition as a dancer (whether or not he was No. 1 in the world is secondary to the fact that he was among those considered). Yet today, just one generation after his death, half the people I run into on a daily basis do not even know what he was about; there are extras on "Hogan's Heroes" reruns who are more recognizable.

This is directly the fault of those who manage his film clips. There is absolutely no reason why he is not more popular--and his dancing more inspiring to new generations of dancers--today than when he was alive. His dance clips are great and would even work well in today's high-tech market. Only ignorance could not determine how to use them wisely.

His dance clips are like little videos within a movie, and there are lots of them. From sweeping, beautiful ballroom scenes to dancing with props like drums, golf clubs, chairs, hat stands, boxes, firecrackers--you name it.

My favorite is the beatnik jazz scene in "Funny Face." Then there's the fact that the likes of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin gave their best songs to him to sing. That probably says more about him than anything.

Instead, what do we have? We have dry documentary specials watched by his older admirers. We have cornball Fred Astaire Dance Studios in which he remains forever "seniorized" (he broke his arm riding a skateboard in his later years, for goodness sake; he was never "seniorized" in real life). And we have vacuum commercials using the totally antiquated revolving ceiling routine--what a joke! How many aspiring dancers, musicians and actors do you know who are in the market for a vacuum?

Here's a little lesson for those involved with shaping my grandpa's legacy: If your target market is not the next generation of dancers (city kids, age 13 to 24), then you do not have my grandpa's best interests in mind. Yield your authority to someone with artistic insight.

I can hear my grandpa's voice in the distance: "No more help, please."

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