Aug. 13, 2022

Flashdance's Jennifer Beals: My 1983 Interview Tape

Flashdance's Jennifer Beals:  My 1983 Interview Tape

After 19-year-old Flashdance star Jennifer Beals enrolled at Yale, Michael thought he'd get a better interview by trying to impress her with his own academic credentials.  Listen in on this ridiculous mistake.

Stitcher podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
TuneIn podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Podcast Addict podcast player badge
Podchaser podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
Deezer podcast player badge
PlayerFM podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge


I really want to encourage everyone to watch Flashdance again -- especially if you haven't seen it since it came out in 1983.  Aside from the fact that Jennifer Beals is extremely appealing as the welder/dancer Alex, watching the film is like a kind of weird escapism back to another era.  It's so dated and outlandish that it's really fun.  You can rent it for $3.99 on Youtube.  

If you're not ready to make an investment, you can just watch the final dance, performed by Jennifer and her double, French actress Marine Jahan.

Johnny Carson interviewed Jennifer in April 1983 about nine months before I did -- somebody dressed her up to be much more '80s and much less Ivy League than when I met her.

And here's an interview in 1996 on the Keenan Ivory Wayans Show, where Jennifer tells a great story about not finding anyone who'll dance with her in a nightclub -- and where you get to see the famous bra-removal scene from Flashdance:

A few months before my little year-end article in 1983, Jennifer was interviewed for a longer PEOPLE article by Jim Jerome, whose vast talents as a writer/reporter must have given her a much better impression of the magazine.  Read his article here.

Jim's article included this photo of Jennifer and then-boyfriend Bob Simonds, who went on to produce movies that grossed billions of dollars world-wide.  (See the impressive list of Bob's producer credits.)   But in the photo, they look like just a couple of nice college kids:


I still have the first draft of my 1983 article for the Most Intriguing People of the Year issue,  typed with my IBM Selectric on grid-lined paper that helped with counting the words.  My first sentence didn't do much to sell the story -- especially since it took me forever to get to Jennifer's name...

The critics found it trivial, implausible, saccharine.  But there was one unassailable element in Flashdance, the film about a Pittsburgh wlder/cabaret dancer who dreams of becoming a ballerina.  That element has dark brown eyes that can sparkle and pout, smooth olive skin, a big bright Pepsi smile that sometimes turns sly and lascivious.  And though you have to give credit to some mean choreography and a catchy disco score, Jennifer Beals, 20, a Hollywood newcomer, truly made Flashdance into one of the 1983's top-grossing films, with home video sales of near-record-breaking $TK.

I was lucky that my excellent editors Dick Lemon, Ross Drake and others improved it to this...

The movie ads showed her coyly perched with a ripped sweatshirt stretched over one lusciously bare shoulder, and that one image was enough to launch a fashion revolution that sent scissors slashing sweats all over the country. Out of the blue, everyone wanted to look like Yale sophomore Jennifer Beals.

When I looked at both versions this week, I was surprised to see that a few hunks of my version actually made it into the final printed story, including the "kicker" -- the last sentence.

 Says Jennifer, “Every once in a while, a cabbie will blow his horn and say, ‘Hey, Flashdance, how’s it goin’?’ That’s very sweet.” Or—as they say in Flashdance—what a feeling.

If you want to see the whole printed version of the story that came out of my terrible interview, you can read it here.

Or just savor this evidence that Jennifer actually called me back for a final round of questions and fact checks.  

Maybe one day I can bring myself to throw out the cassette tape of my terrible interview, and the transcript and the many versions of my story, but... it would be really difficult to throw out the best item in the batch.  It's the letter I got in 1984 from my college friend, the brilliant and very beautiful Jill -- who happened to cross paths with the brilliant and very beautiful Jennifer Beals.

Now, anyone who listens to this episode knows that the extra note Jill wrote by hand can't be accurate.  But who cares?  This treasure is a keeper!



I Couldn't Throw It Out, Podcast Episode 4

Flashdance's Jennifer Beals: My 1983 Interview Tape


I couldn't throw it out
I have to scream and shout
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out


MICHAEL SMALL:  Hello Sally Libby.

SALLY LIBBY:  Hello Michael Small.

MICHAEL:  Are you ready for another episode of I Couldn't Throw It Out?

SALLY:  I'd say I have mixed feelings.

MICHAEL:  WHAT!?!?!  Where's your eternal enthusiasm?
SALLY:  Let's be honest.  This project is a bust. I'm supposed to be helping you throw out all those things you've saved since you were 6.   And so far, you've shredded one greeting card that I sent you.  That's it.

MICHAEL:  I know.  My record isn't great.  So now we're trying a different approach. 

SALLY:  Such as?

MICHAEL:  You know those boxes I have that are full of audio cassettes from the interviews I did for PEOPLE Magazine?

SALLY:  Would you ever let me forget?

MICHAEL: Instead selecting a highlight, I pulled out one cassette at random.  And I was shocked.  I had no memory of doing this interview.  None!   As if someone else had put it there.

SALLY:  Which means you can throw it out?

MICHAEL:  It means I blocked it out.  For good reason.  When I listened to the tape, it all came back.  In a terrible, painful way.

SALLY:  Too much fuzz on the tape?

MICHAEL:  Oh yes.  Tons of fuzz, which I only made worse when I tried to correct the sound levels.  But the real pain came from this:  It had to be the worst interview I ever did.  Maybe the worst interview anyone ever did.

SALLY:  Isn't this what they call humble bragging?  "Dear me – I have a box full of tapes of all the celebrities I interviewed.  But I did such a terrible job."

MICHAEL:  Busted!  That's me.  Mr. Humble Brag.  So I've lost you already?

SALLY:  Oh no!  If it's your worst interview ever, then I'm interested.  Tell me more!

MICHAEL:  Okay.  It was 1983.  My journalistic inexperience consisted of one year as a fact checker and two years as a reporter at PEOPLE Magazine. Nonetheless, the editors took a gamble and asked for my help with the year-end double issue.  That's the one with the 25 most intriguing people of the year. 

SALLY:  Oh, yes.  I've read those.  Of course, it was ONLY in the doctor's office.

MICHAEL:  I was assigned an interview with someone who had already been featured in a big article that year. All I had to do was to get a quote or two so we could write a few more paragraphs about her.

SALLY:  And this person was?

MICHAEL:  The star of one of the most popular movies of 1983.    It was called... Flashdance.

SALLY:  Jennifer Beals!

MICHAEL:  Yes!  These days, people know her for playing Bette Porter in The L Word.  Have you seen it?

SALLY:  I think the L train left the station without me.

MICHAEL:  It's not too late.  There are reruns all over the streaming services. Anyway, Jennifer also starred in movies like Devil in a Blue Dress, The Last Days of Disco, and Rodger Dodger. 

SALLY:  Missed those trains too.  But you have to admit -- Flashdance was a bigger deal than any of them.

MICHAEL:  Just wondering:  When was the last time you watched Flashdance?

SALLY:  Ummm....  the '80s?

MICHAEL:  Well, listening to my terrible interview made me curious.  So Cindy and I just watched it again.

SALLY:  Don't tell me it lost some of its luster.

MICHAEL:  Actually, I highly recommend it to everyone.

SALLY:  Really?

MICHAEL:  Yes, because of the surprise factor.  You may remember it as a love story. But, wearing today's glasses, it looks like a strange mix of fantasy and soft porn.

SALLY:  Oh c'mon. How soft?

MICHAEL:  Do you remember what it's about?

SALLY:  Kinda sorta.  She plays a construction worker...

MICHAEL:  A welder...

SALLY:  But she's gotta dance!

MICHAEL:  You missed an important nuance.  This female welder named Alex lives in a town with two bars.  In each bar, women like to perform extremely titillating dances.  One bar is the good bar because the dancers wear a little clothing.  The other is the bad bar because the dancers wear only their flesh.  Of course, the boss who owns the welding plant...

SALLY:  Was he played by Michael Nouri?

MICHAEL:  Good call!  Yes! He goes primarily to the good bar where he watches Alex dance and he falls madly in love.

SALLY:  Of course he does. 

MICHAEL:  The problem is, Alex doesn't want to date the boss. And she doesn't even want to dance at a bar.  She wants to dance...  at the local conservatory.

SALLY:  Of course she does.

MICHAEL:  So she has only one choice.  She must wow the super-conservative admissions officers with her flashdancing.

SALLY: You just gave away the whole plot!

MICHAEL:  We all know the plot of the Bible.  But people keep reading it.

SALLY:  One thing you forgot to remind me about:  What exactly is flashdancing?   

MICHAEL:  Ohhhh....  That's a toughie.

SALLY:  Does it involve flashing?

MICHAEL:  Maybe?  In a way?  It's very 80s.  The haircuts and the clothes are kind of...  angular.  Basically, it's beautiful women performing jerky athletic movies, looking kind of violent and scary.

SALLY:  Who could resist?

MICHAEL: They toss themselves around to songs like "Maniac."

SALLY:  "She's a maniac.  Maniac.  For Your Love."

MICHAEL: They also danced to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock'n'Roll.  And other songs that time has forgotten.

SALLY:  Don't forget the truly excellent theme song!

MICHAEL:  Remember who sang it?

SALLY:  Give me a minute.  It's right on the tip of my tongue.

MICHAEL:  She also sang "Fame."

SALLY:  Oh!   Irene Cara!

MICHAEL:  Right.  She actually co-wrote the song with a couple of music producers:   Georgio Moroder and Keith Forsey.

SALLY:  What a feeling!

MICHAEL:  Okay, so everyone knows those three words.  But what are the next words? 

SALLY:  Take your passion and make it happen!

MICHAEL:  That comes later.  What's in the middle?

SALLY:  (reconstructing it)  "What a feeling!...  Bees be divas!" Okay, I give up.

MICHAEL:  Bees be divas?!?!  This is the next line...   Bein's believin'

SALLY:  Bein's Believin'?


SALLY:  I like how you left off the g at the end of both words.

MICHAEL:  That's the official spelling.  I've been trying to figure out what the heck it means.

SALLY:  Is there a chance that you're overthinking it?

MICHAEL:  Of course!  That's my specialty!  So... try this on for flash sizing:  Bein's Believin' means...  that your own being – your own existence -- is enough to make you believe in yourself.

SALLY:  So if you want to be a great dancer, you can be a great dancer.

MICHAEL:  Actually, we'll never know if Jennifer Beals is a great dancer.

SALLY:  Wait. Don't tell me she didn't do the dancing in the movie.

MICHAEL:  Did I burst your dance bubble?

SALLY:  But the whole movie is about dancing! 

MICHAEL:  If it's any comfort, she did do the dancing.  But she also had a double.  So, for the most difficult dance moves, the face is in the shadows.  You only see her face for the close-ups.

SALLY:  All my illusions have been shattered.  If she didn't do those moves, who did?

MICHAEL:  A French actress named Marine Jahan – and she got no credit when the movie was released.

SALLY:  I feel betrayed.

MICHAEL: Imagine how Marine felt.  But, after meeting Jennifer Beals, I promise you that she's a very honest person.  So, when people asked about her dancing, she told the truth.  It caused a big hoopla at the time.  I get the sense that the producers weren't thrilled when she spilled the beans. 

SALLY:  What did she say when you asked her about it?

MICHAEL:  Hold on.  Do you actually think I'd ask such an interesting question?

SALLY:  I was overestimating your skills.  I guess I overestimated hers too.

MICHAEL:  Now don't be unfair.  In My Fair Lady, Marni Nixon did the singing.  Do we say Audrey Hepburn was a loser?  I don't think so. 

SALLY:  We never speak ill of Audrey Hepburn.

MICHAEL:  Because she did a great job.  And Jennifer Beals did a great job in her movie.  She was very appealing. Remember the scene where she takes her bra off underneath her sweatshirt and then pulls it out her sleeve?

SALLY:  I do that all the time.  Only now it's a little lower.

MICHAEL:  Unfortunately, Jennifer was getting tired of discussing that move. She had already done a big interview with PEOPLE.  And, apparently, she had enough.  We had to twist her arm to talk with us again. 

SALLY:  How could she not want to be one of the year's most intriguing people?

MICHAEL:  She was busy with other things.  Such as, being a freshman at Yale.

SALLY:  Impressive.

MICHAEL:  So this interview was a special challenge that required a special technique.  Here was my plan:  She was into academics, not crass celebrity journalism.  So I'd win her over by showing that I was an extremely academic person with a very fine college degree of my own.

SALLY:  But the interview was about her – not about you.

MICHAEL: Actually, it was really about my parent's attitude toward money.

SALLY:  Okay, explain that.

MICHAEL:  My parents always taught me to avoid debt.  So, when I needed career training, I would NEVER consider taking loans to attend journalism school.  Instead, I attended The Michael Small School of Journalism.

SALLY:  Were you the faculty or the student body?

MICHAEL:  I was both! And at the Michael Small School of Journalism, we – meaning I – had our rules. Such as, it's very rude to conduct an entire interview without sharing a thing or two about yourself.  The thinking was:  You had to give a little to get a little.

SALLY:  I pity all the poor celebrities who had that inflicted on them.

MICHAEL:   They certainly suffered.

SALLY:  Did Jennifer Beals put up with it?  

MICHAEL:  Well, here's the scene.  We're in a Manhattan hotel room.  She's 19 and I'm an older gentleman of 26.

SALLY:  But we know who was more mature.

MICHAEL:  No question.  She was.  If you listen carefully, you can hear us eating because we've ordered room service on my expense account. 

SALLY:  Bribery.

MICHAEL:  I started by revealing an exciting piece of equipment.

SALLY:  Michael!

MICHAEL:   It was my new stereo Walkman. Jennifer was suitably impressed by it.  She had never seen such a fancy one.

SALLY:  For the kids today, could we describe the Walkman as a precursor to the iPhone?

Me:  Without the phone or the email or the Internet.

SALLY:  Actually, what did it have?

MICHAEL:  It was pretty good at recording.  With a hum.

SALLY:  Oh that ancient technology.

MICHAEL:  I didn't totally trust it.  So I put it on the bed and kept my eyes on it as I kneeled beside it and took notes.  One of the first things I noted: Jennifer had a terrible cough.    

SALLY:  You sure she didn't have a stand-in to cough for her?

MICHAEL:  It was very real.  In fact, it was so upsetting to hear it again that I cut the coughing out of most of the clips I'm gonna play for you. But then I got worried that you'd accuse me of doctoring it up.

SALLY:  She was sick. You had to doctor it up.

MICHAEL:  Oooh.  Pun #1.  You've got two left in this episode. Anyway, in order to preserve the integrity of the Michael Small School of Journalism, I must reveal all. I will share with you now everything that I cut.




SALLY:  They should have written new lyrics for her:   What a fever!

MICHAEL:  That might qualify as pun #2.  I'm counting.  Anyway, I was sure she'd feel better – or at least more relaxed – if I could just convey that she was with a fellow traveler who believed in the power of academics.  So I started by asking her about every single class she was taking.  In great detail.  For 15 minutes.

SALLY:  I bet that information would go over big with the PEOPLE readers in the checkout lane.

MICHAEL:  Of course there was no way we'd print any of it.  But it was fertile ground – because it let me show my academic prowess!  If she only knew that I had attended a similar academic institution, then she might open up to me about dancing in bars and wearing ripped sweatshirts.

SALLY:  You were so strange back then.

MICHAEL:  Only back then?  The first thing I found out is that she was taking six classes.  Now I don't know if you remember college.

SALLY:  Barely.

MICHAEL:  Let's just say that others of us struggled with four classes a semester, not six.  And none of her classes were easy. She was taking the history of art through the Renaissance. And beginning Italian.  (Because she was already solid in French.)  Plus, a seminar on American writers in Paris from 1910 to 1940 – this class was meant only for seniors and she was accepted into it as a freshman.  She was also in a short story writing class. A class about popular culture in mass media.  And then there was one called Power in Social Institutions.  You have to remember, I'm interviewing the welder/dancer from Flashdance and here's a sample of our conversation.


JENNIFER BEALS:  I'm interested in organizational behavior and how people behave in groups.


SALLY:  Oh, that's what all the movie stars say. 

MICHAEL:  In your dreams.

SALLY:  I only heard one sentence, and she sure sounds smart.

MICHAEL:  Notice how I match her subdued tone, you know, sounding kind of academic.  I'm a quiet humble bragger for this particular event.  But listen to how I go in for the win.


JENNIFER BEALS:  Then I'm taking Power in Social Institutions, which is an organizational behavior class, which is sort of sociology/psychology.

MICHAEL:  Max Weber?


MICHAEL:  Sal, tell us what you know about Max Weber.

SALLY:  Was he a Flashdancer?

MICHAEL:  He's a German sociologist who died in 1920.  When I was a freshman, I took a class where his books were assigned.  So I went into the bookstore and asked for Max Webber.  The clerk gave me a withering look and said, "That Vay-ber."

SALLY:  Oh, those bookstore clerks.  He probably took the class a year earlier.

MICHAEL: Anyway, I had no idea if Max Weber was relevant to Jennifer's class. I was just trying to sound smart. The funny thing is, I did a search this morning for "Max Weber" and "Power" and he actually did write about Power and Authority.

SALLY:  You mean you were appropriate?  That ruins your whole story.

MICHAEL:  What ruined it is that Jennifer showed no sign of being impressed.  She moved on as if this were a perfectly normal conversation with PEOPLE Magazine.


JENNIFER BEALS:  We don't read his books.  She tells us about it.  But we read more modern people, like Jean Baker Miller.



MICHAEL:  May I digress for a minute?

SALLY:  Could I stop you?

MICHAEL:  Not really.  At the time, I looked at her like, "Of course!  Jean Baker Miller!"  But I didn't have the slightest idea who that was.  So I looked her up too.  Turns out, she was a sociologist -- about our parents' age.  And she had a son Jonathan Miller.  That sounded familiar.  So I looked him up too.  Turns out that he ran AOL after they bought Time Inc. So when I was working at Entertainment Weekly, he was my boss. 

SALLY:  Six degrees of Jennifer Beals!

MICHAEL:  That's the cool thing about going back to these tapes.  They make these crazy connections that we'd never remember.  At 26, I'm talking with a movie star about the mom of my future boss who had a crush on our friend.

SALLY:  Well, I guess it's more productive than your usual habit of asking celebrities about other celebrities.

MICHAEL:  Oh, maybe I did a little of that too.

SALLY:  Who did you ask her about?

MICHAEL:  There was another Yale-educated actress.

SALLY:  Jodi Foster!


SALLY:  Now that's more interesting that sociology.  Did they know each other?

MICHAEL:  Well, a little...


MICHAEL SMALL;  Now the        question that will make you want to kill me but... do you know Jodi Foster?  Are you friends?

JENNIFER BEALS (mimicking):  Are you friends?  Really?

MICHAEL:  Well, I'm doing my job.

(JENNER BEALS laughs.)


MICHAEL:  Did you hear that?  She teased me.  My academic approach was making us friends!  And here's where it lead...


JENNIFER BEALS:  Um, I met her last term I was there. Briefly. I drove her into New York.   She and I have a mutual friend and...

MICHAEL:  Charles Dickens?

JENNIFER BEALS:  (laughing)  Uh... no.


MICHAEL:  Notice what I did there.  She said "a mutual friend" and I said "Charles Dickens."  Because one of his novels was called Our Mutual Friend.

SALLY: Oh, so she'd have the illusion that you were literary from your literary allusion? 

MICHAEL: Uh huh.

SALLY:  Geez. Could you just get on with it?

MICHAEL:  But that's all I got about Jodi.

SALLY:  Very disappointing.  You get bad marks, Mr. Academic.  I hope you asked her about someone else.

MICHAEL:  There was one another actress at any Ivy League School.

SALLY:  Brooke Shields!

MICHAEL:  Bingo!

SALLY:  I wonder if they ever compared notes.  To find out how each of them were treated.

MICHAEL:  You read my 26-year-old mind!

SALLY:  I hope this one brings up your grade-point average.

MICHAEL:  It will!  Brooke is a year or so younger than Jennifer Beals.  But, based on what follows, Brooke must have gone to college early...


MICHAEL:  Are you friends with Brooke Shields?

JENNIFER BEALS:  I've talked to her  few times.

MICHAEL:  But she's not a real buddy.

JENNIFER BEALS:  No.  But the few times... the one real conversation that we had... I called her because it was at the beginning of school and everything was going really well for me.  And I thought of her at Princeton.  And I saw all these articles about her coming out everywhere.  "Brooke Shields at Princeton.  Brooke Shields at Princeton.  Brooke Shields at Princeton."   And I thought, "My God.  What would it be like to have that going on when you were at school?"  And so I wanted to call her and I wanted to send her This Side of Paradise.  I thought it was necessary reading before you went to Princeton.  I didn't know where to send the book. And so I called Scavulo, and he gave me her home phone number.


MICHAEL:  You know who Scavulo is, right?

SALLY:  The photographer?

MICHAEL:  Francesco Scavulo.  He photographed every celebrity.  Those sexy photos of Brooke as a young girl.  That famous photo of Barbra Streisand and Kriss Kristofferson from A Star is Born. The nude centerfold of Burt Reynolds in Cosmopolitan.

SALLY:  I remember that!

MICHAEL:  I'm sure you do.  Unfortunately, Scavulo died about 18 years ago.  So if you need any phone numbers, you can't call him.

SALLY:  I'll just call Jennifer Beals.

MICHAEL:  Well, here's what she might tell you.


JENNIFER BEALS:  And I called her and her mother answered and I talked to her mum for a while, who was really sweet.  And I asked her was there some place I could send this letter.  And she said, "Well, Brooke is here." She was at home. So we talked for just about a half hour just about school and about paparazzi.  And she's so polite that they don't ever go away.  She's just very sweet.


MICHAEL:  Of course, then I had to tell her that I once danced with Brooke at a party.

SALLY:  Was Jennifer impressed?

MICHAEL:  Showed no reaction at all.  As I remember, neither did Brooke.  She was so much taller that I don't think she noticed that I was dancing with her.

SALLY:  More humble bragging!

MICHAEL:  Sorry! 

SALLY:  What is it about you and dancing with celebrities?  You danced with Joni Mitchell, with Brooke Shields...

MICHAEL:  And with Diana Ross at Studio 54.  And with you, at the junior prom.

SALLY:  Who didn't you dance with?

MICHAEL:  Jennifer Beals.  The Flashdancer!

SALLY:  Life's little ironies.

MICHAEL:  We just kept dancing around the fact that I was as highly educated as she was.  And she reminded me that Brooke was too.


JENNIFER BEALS:  And she's very bright.  It really annoyed me – apparently some alumnus from Princeton wrote something, "You know I just wonder what deserving Princetonian wasn't allowed in because she was let in."  Which is just baloney.  Really upsets me a lot.

MICHAEL:  Would it annoy you if people thought of you that you were just the pretty girl from Flashdance?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Yeah, that would annoy me.

MICHAEL: Is that something you'd want to make people know – "I'm not just looks.  I've got brains."

JENNIFER BEALS:  Well, I'm not gonna go out of my way to do it.  Because I'm not that worried about it.  Because the people I care about know that I got into Yale before I did any movie.  And in a way I'm really thankful for that.  Because it says to me that I got in because of me, not from any affirmation from Hollywood.


SALLY:  Now that's interesting.  I just assumed that Yale took her so they could have one more star on their roster.

MICHAEL:  Nope.  They didn't know about her stardom.  They just wanted one more brainiac on their roster.  By the way, guess what was mixed in with all the studying?  Something that resembled dancing!


MICHAEL:  Yes!  Listen to this.


JENNIFER BEALS:  I have a 9:30 class and sometimes before class I'll jump around to Jane Fonda's voice.

MICHAEL:  Do you have the videotape?


JENNIFER BEALS:  No, no, no, no.  That would be funny.  I'd probably laugh too much.  No I have a tape.

MICHAEL:  Is that pretty regular?

JENNIFER BEALS:   No.  Every once in a while.


SALLY:  Another blast from the past!  Those Jane Fonda work-out tapes!

MICHAEL:   That tape -- the one that made Jennifer jump – was the best-selling VHS videotape of all time.

SALLY:  VHS.  That's a memory.  Those big clunky tapes before DVDs.

MICHAEL:  Yup.  Jane made 22 of them and sold 17 million copies.  The first one was in 1983.  Now she's 84 years old.

SALLY: No!  Jane Fonda?  Barbarella?  How did this happen?

MICHAEL:  She isn't showing it.  She's still acting, in that Netflix show Grace and Frankie.

SALLY:  Okay, I admit it.  There IS a lot of trivia hidden in your cassette tapes.  But did you ever ask Jennifer anything about the movie?

MICHAEL:  Oh yes.  I asked her some of the obligatory questions.

SALLY:  Just for some relief, let me hear a little of that.


MICHAEL SMALL Have things changed at all for you since the movie in terms of...

JENNIFER BEALS:  Sex?  No.  (laughs)  Sorry.)

MICHAEL:  Ah, no...


 MICHAEL:  She was so much better at this than I was.  She took my boring question and gave me the perfect lead-in to ask her about sex. 

SALLY:  And what did you find out? 

MICHAEL:  I didn't pick up on it.  That was far too interesting. 

SALLY:  Oh Michael!

MICHAEL:  Yup I steered her back to something boring.


MICHAEL:  Well, for instance, have you gone out and bought yourself a new car, or bought new clothes?  Or is anything....

JENNIFER BEALS: Have I spent a great deal of money on something?

MICHAEL:   Yeah.  Yeah.  Have you splurged on anything?

JENNIFER BEALS:  The thing I splurged, I bought my boyfriend a birthday present, and I bought him a bronze age short sword in Copenhagen.  And that was my big splurge.

MICHAEL:  Is there a reason to buy him a Bronze Age sword?

JENNIFER BEALS:   We were in Copenhagen and he looked at it and really liked it. And he said, "No, no, that's too expensive.  We can't afford it." And I said, "You're absolutely right.  We can't afford that."  So I went out and bought it for him and gave it to him later.


MICHAEL:  There's one very interesting detail hidden in there. 

SALLY:  No foul play with that sword I hope.

MICHAEL: Jennifer told me that her boyfriend was obsessed with filmmaking.  He started a group at Yale called University Pictures, and they made short five-minute movies. Jennifer acted in some. She also did costumes and makeup and producing.  Then, after college, her boyfriend went to Hollywood.  And he became a movie producer.  His name is Bob Simmons.  He produced all those Adam Sandler movies – Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer. Wikipedia says that his films grossed more than $6 billion world-wide.

SALLY:  He should pay her back for that sword.

MICHAEL:  If you look back at the first PEOPLE article about Jennifer, there's a picture of the two of them, a couple of cute kids, and you think, "Wow.  She's gonna go on and make movies and TV shows.  And he's gonna produce movies that bring in $6 billion."

SALLY:  Let's put that on our website so people can take a look and feel jealous.

MICHAEL:  Good idea.  It can be found at:

SALLY:  So once again, I ask:  Did you ever get beyond sword play to ask something meaningful about her life?

MICHAEL:  I tried to go in that direction.  But well... here's what happened.


MICHAEL:  What about other than superficial stuff, has like...

JENNIFER BEALS:  Wait.  I thought that's all we're supposed to talk about.

MICHAEL:  I mean, not even like buying stuff.  But has the moie...



MICHAEL:  Yup.  She was making fun of me.

SALLY:   In a well-deserved way.

MICHAEL:  But I did see this as an opportunity.  When you think superficial, what do you think?  I'll tell you:  Hollywood.  So, as a fellow intellectual who happened to work at PEOPLE Magazine – I'd show her that I was well aware of the shortcomings of the place that made her famous.

 MICHAEL:  Did you hear that?  Is she realizing that she's in a hotel room with someone who could be trusted – because he truly understood her academic life?

SALLY:  Just let me hear what she said.

MICHAEL:  Okay.  Okay.


MICHAEL:  I mean, the problem a lot of people have is that when you get out of that academic environment, are you going to be able to put up with Hollywood?  Or do you think you will probably stay in New York?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Well, there are intellectuals in Hollywood...

MICHAEL:  Yeah, I know there are.

JENNIFER BEALS:  Contrary to popular belief.  I'm assuming that you're defining Hollywood as pretty superficial and skidding along the ice there.  I mean, I could find that group of people at Yale too.  So it comes down to who you hang out with. And you can pick and choose who you hang out with.  So you don't have to be bothered with the cocaine parties.


MICHAEL: Well, now you know.  If you ever go Hollywood, you don't have to bother with the cocaine parties.

SALLY:  That's a relief.

MICHAEL:  It was a bit of a turning point.  I was pretty sure that I had established my cred, and she was ready to open up.  So I was ready to broach the subject that I needed for the article.  How did she feel about all the attention from her movie?  Here's what she said...


JENNIFER BEALS:  When it was first out, people would look and point and stuff like that.  But now it's much more quiet and I can walk around and go to movies.

MICHAEL:  And no one...


MICHAEL:  Don't you have to put up a bit of a shielf?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Anybody anywhere has to put up a little bit of a shield.  I mean, that sounds really weird.  That's not what I mean.  What I mean by that is that people are continually having social warfare.  Determining who has the power, who doesn't have the power.  You know, who will be the dominant in what situation and who will be the subordinate in what situation. And those sort of games go on all the time, be it in language or body language. Or anything. And everybody plays that game.  It's just with people who get their name in print a little bit more often, people assume that they have to be more protective.  When in fact everybody is protective of themselves.   I mean, you wouldn't tell me your deepest darkest secrets.

MICHAEL:  Probably not.

JENNIFER BEALS:  So, it's sort of the same thing.

MICHAEL SMALL  But if you came up to my on the street and asked me for my autograph, I'd probably give it to you,.

JENNIFER BEALS:  And I'd probably give it to you.  I mean, I would give it to you.  There's no reason for me not to.


SALLY:  Whew.  I was afraid this might be all about her.  You managed to get it back to you.

MICHAEL:  Yes.  And this is where things really get cringe-worthy.  Here's how I pushed forward with that topic while at the same time reminding her of my academic pedigree.


MICHAEL:  I don't want to belabor this but I'm probably a little bit obsessed with it myself. But I went to college with Carolyn Kennedy and...


MICHAEL:  Did you hear that, Sal?  Just planting that seed.  I mean, where would Caroline Kennedy have gone to college?

SALLY:  Okay.  I don't think you were trying to get her trust.  You were trying to one-up her.  You wanted the glory of being the Ivy League movie star who was getting interviewed.

MICHAEL:  It's true. I had lost my way.  At this point, it was clear that Jennifer was ready to talk.  But I couldn't let go of my original tactic of showing her who I was. So I dug myself deeper. 


MICHAEL:  And I had a weird reaction to that whole thing in that she was rooming with a friend of mine and I did everything I could to avoid her because I couldn't deal with her fame.  And like, at the same time, you see people wanting her to be in clubs, and people wanting to induct her, and wanting her to show up for stuff, and wanting her....  Have you found that at all?  I would think it would be hard to deal with.



SALLY:  That's so embarrassing!

 MICHAEL:  The worst thing about it:  everything I said was baloney.  If Caroline Kennedy had come up to me and said I want to be your friend, would I have said no?  I was dying for her to notice me.  We took some classes together and Jackie O. sat in a few times.  I can't remember anything else from those classes.

SALLY:  That's understandable.  One night after visiting you, I was walking behind Caroline in Harvard Yard.  And I was intrigued.

MICHAEL:  At least I made it for four years without doing what my father wanted me to do.  He wanted me to tell Caroline about our connection.

SALLY:  What connection?

MICHAEL:  You mean I never told you?  In 1962, when I was a very little 5-year-old, Jack Kennedy must have come to New Hampshire for some campaigning.  But there were very few Democrats there.  Just my parents and a family called the Dunfeys.  They owned a lot of restaurants.  Dunfey's Tavern?  So the Dunfeys and John Kennedy came to our house.  He picked me up and I rode on his shoulders. 

SALLY:  No way!  I wish I had known that earlier.

MICHAEL:  You would have been my friend for more than 50 years?

SALLY: I would have been a much better friend.

MICHAEL:  Well, anyway, I never spoke to Caroline Kennedy so there was no reason to mention her to the star of Flashdance.  But Jennifer actually responded.  I think it's worth sharing her response with you.


MICHAEL:  Some people would shy away from you, would say "Oh she's famous.  I don't want to deal with it"?

 JENNIFER BEALS:  Well, those people – I don't even know who they are.  So they're not even in my realm of perception.

MICHAEL:  But other people, I'd think, would just sort of want to be your friend.

JENNIFER BEALS:  No, it's just the opposite.  No one really goes out of their way to talk with me.  And the friends I've made, I went out of my way to talk to them because I really like them.

MICHAEL:  That's interesting.  I think it's great, actually.

JENNIFER BEALS:  I don't know how to explain... I don't know why it has happened the way it has happened.  But it's a very comfortable situation at school.  And that's another reason why I don't want the presss to come up there, photographers.  Because it's supporting my peers' faith in me that I don't think that I’m the queen of the universe or something by bringing photographers up there. I don't want people to think that.  Because I certainly don't think that way.

MICHAEL:  So like when you talk in class and stuff, you're not thinking, "Oh, are they reacting to me as just any other student – or are they thinking that I'm Jennifer Beals"?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Not anymore.  No I don't think that at all.

MICHAEL:  That's great.

JENNIFER BEALS:  Because I do my work just like everyone else.  I mean, granted, not everything I say are pure academic gems.

MICHAEL:  Oh, I know.  But that's part of the problem.  If I say something stupid, nobody gives a shit.

JENNIFER BEALS:  Well, if I say something stupid, nobody really cares either. I mean, so what?  Because they've all been in the same situation.  And they're intelligent enough to know that not everyone is as "perfect" as the word would have them.




SALLY:  Jennifer Beals and I have something in common.

MICHAEL:  Which is?

SALLY:  Nobody goes out of their way to speak to us.  

MICHAEL:  So here's where things were at:  I had done everything possible to let Jennifer Beals know she was in the presence of an intellectual equal...

SALLY:  Which wasn't true.  She was more intellectual.

MICHAEL:  For sure.  But all my attempts failed.  My alma mater had been mentioned twice.  Caroline Kennedy had been mentioned.  And yet, Jennifer had not asked me where I went to college.

SALLY:  Couldn't you give it a rest?

MICHAEL:  I finally realized that I had to do that.  So I went ahead and asked the usual questions.  Of course, I didn't ask interesting things like: How did you feel about an uncredited dancing double?  What was your experience in Hollywood as a mixed-race actress?  How did you feel about the depiction of women in your movie?  But I did find out what time she got up in the morning (8 AM), what she ate for dinner (she cooked), what designers she wore (Girbaud).  All those important things.

SALLY:  You can spare me more of it.

MICHAEL:  I had what I needed for my paragraph.  But I had one more trick up my sleeve that I often used for getting what I wanted.  I told her the interview was over.  At the Michael Small School of Journalism, we knew that as soon as we said that, the best information could be revealed...


MICHAEL:  Is there anything else you want to talk about?  That's probably it.  But, um...

JENNIFER BEALS: I mean, I can't think of anything.  But then again, I never can when somebody asks me that. I just sort of sit here and...

MICHAEL:  Some people, that's when the whole interview starts.  I get all done and I say, "Well do you have one last word" and...

JENNIFER BEALS:  Blah. Blah. Blah.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  Blah.  No.  I just think that America should do something about the Apartheid in South Africa.


SALLY:  That sounds tangential.  But her response does tell you about the times.

MICHAEL:  For me, it was the perfect setup.  She gave me a new lead in the direction I wanted to go:  The South Africa angle. As you've heard a million times, I first noticed my wonderful wife Cindy on my first day of college, partly because I couldn't understand a word of her very heavy accent.  Which, it turns out, was South African.   I don't know if you remember but she and her friend Niva Seidman started the South Africa Solidarity Committee, staging student protests until Harvard pulled all its investments out of South Africa. Their ideas spread to colleges around the country in the '70s and '80s.

SALLY:  I didn't know that.

MICHAEL:  Most of it went right over my extremely provincial head.  Endowments.  Investments.  Foreign countries. But if Cindy told me to join a march, I went.  And this gave me a chance to tell Jennifer Beals about what we did at the place I called "my school."


MICHAEL:   Yeah, I was out there sleeping on the steps, trying to get my school to divest, and nothing happened. 

JENNNIFER BEALS:  To get your school to divest?


JENNIFER BEALS:  What school were you at?

MICHAEL:  I went to Harvard.  And, uh....



MICHAEL:  She asked!  She finally asked!

SALLY:  Victory!

MICHAEL:  So I went on and on all about Cindy and South Africa.  Listening now, I find it crazy that I told Jennifer Beals all about my future wife, when I had no idea that Cindy would ever be my wife.  So I decided to let Cindy hear it.

SALLY:  Uh oh.

MICHAEL:  Yup.  She didn't love what she heard.


MICHAEL:  So I was watching your face when I played that tape for you and you did not seem particularly happy with what I was saying.

CINDY RUSKIN:  You got a lot wrong.  I thought that since I was your close friend and I thought that I had spoken to you in a way that was clear that you might have learned something.

MICHAEL:  Oh no.  You can't count on me learning anything.

CINDY RUSKIN: (laughs)  But clearly you had a mind of your own and you decided that everything we did was for no good reason.

MICHAEL:  Well, at the time, it didn't seem like anything had happened.

CINDY RUSKIN:  So you expect we march around a building and then immediately there was going to be divestment.

MICHAEL:  I don't know.  This was a few years later and it seemed like nothing had happened.  But anyway, I want to make it up to you now.


MICHAEL:  Because I want to remember that when we went to South Africa in 2015 and we took the tour of the prison where Mandela was, the guide asked you how did you know so much about South Africa.  And what did you tell him when he asked?

CINDY RUSKIN:  I told him I was involved with the divestment movement, and what did he say?

MICHAEL:  He got the entire group of about 50 tourists in a big circle and he said thank you to the American students who pushed for divestment because it made a big difference.



MICHAEL: So I promised not to share with you any of my incorrect ramblings about South Africa.

SALLY:  That was only for Jennifer Beals to enjoy.

MICHAEL:  She had opened up the flood gates. Once she mentioned the H word, we were off to the races.  She heard about all my college activities.

SALLY:  At last, it was all about you.

MICHAEL:  But the worst thing – the cringiest thing of all happened when all the college talk led me to ask about where she went to high school.


MICHAEL:  Can I also know your high school?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Francis Parker.

MICHAEL:  Ah, I had friends who went there.


MICHAEL:  This is a girl who is the most beautiful... I mean she is just incredible.


MICHAEL:  Here name is Jill.

JENNIFER BEALS:  What does she look like?

MICHAEL:  She was just absolutely beautiful. 


MICHAEL:  She was the heart throb of our entire school.


MICHAEL:  Yeah.  She was the Jennifer Beals of our school.


SALLY:  Oh, why did you have to say that?

MICHAEL: I have no idea.

SALLY:  And when she asked for more detail, all you could say is "she was so beautiful."

MICHAEL:  I tried to redeem myself by taking that topic a step farther.  At the time, people said that Jennifer Beals was the most beautiful woman in America.

SALLY:  But maybe not as beautiful as Jill.

MICHAEL:  Who could be as beautiful as Jill?   So I segued into this...


MICHAEL:  One woman said to People Magazine that you would look good even if you were picking your nose.


MICHAEL: How does that make you feel?

JENNIFER BEALS:  I think that's really funny.

MICHAEL:  Everything thinks you're the most beautiful woman in America, really, in a way.  And what does that do to you?

JENNIFER BEALS:  I tell my brother that and he laughs hysterically.  He just laughs hysterically.  He goes, "No.  Somebody's just playing a joke on you."  Because my family is always making jokes about certain things that in my head, I joke about it as well.  Because it's so untrue.  I don't know.  It's so untrue.  People haven't seen me the way I've seen me.

MICHAEL:  You think you're not the most beautiful?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Oh, by far!  By fathoms!  Yes.  I mean, you can walk down the street and see beautiful woman after beautiful woman after beautiful woman who is much more beautiful than I am.  And certainly, you can open any magazine. At least asthetically, that's where you would find the 10 most beautiful women, from the outside.

MICHAEL:  Whether what you said is true or not, people still think that you are it.

JENNINFER BEALS:  That's funny.

MICHAEL:  I guess you don't take it that seriously.

JENNIFER BEALS:  I don't think I should, do you?



MICHAEL:  Listening now, one detail stands out that really didn't mean anything then.  The brother she mentioned – the one who laughed about her looks -- she told me he was at Wesleyan and his main interest was international politics. I looked up what happened to him. He did exactly what he planned to do.  He went on to write for Newsweek, the Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, International Affairs.  He became a photographer of crises around the world.  He worked for the UN in Somalia.  And just a side note, his roommate in New York when he moved to the city was Jonathan Larsen who wrote Rent.

SALLY:  The surprising trivia never stops.

MICHAEL:  So here's my theory.  Jennifer Beals has this magic quality.  If you meet her, you will take your passion and make it happen.  Her boyfriend became a big producer, her brother became a major journalist, and I married Cindy.  We all got what we wanted.

SALLY:  I wish I could meet her.  My passion is waiting to happen. 

MICHAEL:  Your passion is this podcast!

SALLY:  Oh yes. I forgot for a minute. I'm not as grounded as Jennifer Beals.

MICHAEL:  She gave me a hint of where she got her focus. To some extent, it came from her mom.  She was a school teacher who also played bass violin in an orchestra and did a million other things.  She gave Jennifer this advice:


JENNIFER BEALS: She always reminds me that everything is sort of temporary and that an education will last me a lot longer than a movie will.  She said to me once, "Just because you've done one movie doesn't mean you need to go on and do 10 more."  You can still be a writer or a photographer or poet or whatever.  You don't need to go on.  I mean, just because I've written one poem doesn't make me a poet. You know, so it's like that kind of feeling where things are still open and I'm not locked in anywhere.  At least in my head.


SALLY:  Of course, Jennifer did stay in the movie biz. 

MICHAEL:  Yes, that turned out to be one of her goals.  I never actually spit out the words "What is your plan for the future?"  But because she was a better interviewer than I was, she gave it to me anyway. 


MICHAEL:  What about, like, I know it's too early to ask but I'm gonna ask anyway...

JENNIFER BEALS:  "What about your family life and the future?"

MICHAEL:  Well...  Exactly. Do you want to be a movie star, or you're not even sure?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Well, movie star is a pretty silly term.

MICHAEL:  So what?  So answer a silly question.

JENNIFER BEALS:  I think what I'd ideally like to be is a producer, an actress, and a writer who is married with two children.



SALLY:  It's hard to believe that's a 19-year-old college freshman – one year and one movie out of high school.

MICHAEL:  And she lived up to everything she said she'd do. Not only did she act, but she produced part of The L Word.  She wrote and published a photo book about life in Haiti.  And her photos are shown in galleries.

SALLY:  What about family?

MICHAEL:  She was married for 10 years to the film director Alex Rockwell.  Then she got married in 1998 to Ken Dixon who has pretty much erased himself on the Internet.  All you can find is one picture and a description of him as a Canadian entrepreneur.

SALLY:  Sounds like they're well off.  Do they have kids?

MICHAEL:  She has one daughter  -- and two stepchildren.  She also practices kung fu and kickboxing. She's a triathlete.  And a Buddhist.  

SALLY: A lot happened since she was 19.

MICHAEL:  A lot has happened to all of us. Which is why this one quote about how Flashdance changed things for Jennifer Beals kinda redeems the whole terrible interview.


JENNIFER BEALS:  I think my outlook on some things has changed.

MICHAEL SMAL:  Like what?

JENNIFER BEALS:  Like I appreciate the past a log more.

MICHAEL:  What past?   Your past?

JENNIFER BEALS:  The past.  It's amazing to think that I'm sitting here with you right now.  But I have no idea what's going to occur tomorrow, next week, next year.  I have no idea how things are going to develop.  And that potential for either destruction or greatness is really exciting.  Because it's not known.  And so you have sort of an appreciation for the present and the past because they have been and theyre stable.  And that's what the film mostly has done, to make me look at time differently.  And how people evolve.


SALLY:   She's so articulate and insightful.  I like her.  How can you not like her?

MICHAEL:  And, after the interview, she did me a solid. 

SALLY:  Really?

MICHAEL:  Yes.  I had totally forgotten about it.  Then I found it in my box when I pulled out the cassette.  Remember the very very beautiful Jill?  Well, she had gone into the movie business too.  She was a script reader for Francis Ford Coppola.  So on Feb. 2, 1984, I got a typed letter from Jill..

SALLY:  That's an artifact in itself.  Before email, we typed letters.

MICHAEL: And this is what the letter said...

Dear Michael, I just had to write and say hello because I ran into Jennifer Beals at the Golden Globes and she said you had interviewed her for PEOPLE.  Isn't life weird?

And then in black ink, she hand wrote a little insert that read:  "She said you were very nice."

SALLY:  There you go!  Up till now, I thought Jennifer Beals had good judgment.

MICHAEL:  It sure meant a lot to me that the very beautiful and also very brilliant Jill heard something nice about me from Jennifer Beals.  But Jennifer made one final lapse in judgment.  In the last six seconds of the interview, before the tape recorder went off, she asked me one more question...


JENNIFER BEALS:  Where are you from?

MICHAEL:  Um, north of Boston.

JENNIFER BEALS:  Did you like Harvard a lot?


SALLY:  No!  She didn't!

MICHAEL:  Yes, we can only assume that the discussion went on for another 40 minutes after that.

SALLY:  So you met your goal.  You talked all about yourself.  But, after all that, how did you story turn out?

MICHAEL:  The standard fare.  You'd never know what a mess I made of it. For anyone who wants to read it, we'll put the article on the site:

SALLY:  So we should wrap up...  but first, what about that cassette tape? Will you throw it out? 

MICHAEL:  I was afraid you'd get to that.  There's a lot on this tape that I didn't share.  I gave you only the humiliating parts.   

SALLY:  That's really all we want.  I mean, are you ever ever gonna sit down in your rocker, in your dotage, and say, "I want to hear what Jennifer Beals said again?"

MICHAEL:  But what about history?  What if historians discover that all copies of Flashdance have been thrown out by careless people and this is the only remaining commentary on it?

SALLY:  Don't flatter yourself.  Jennifer – we love ya.  But we gotta let you go.

MICHAEL:   I think the best I can do is...  I won't put it in the Save box.  I'll make an Undecided box. In case it's worth something and somebody wants it.

SALLY:  You're gonna put everything in that Undecided box.

MICHAEL:  No no no.  Because next week I believe we're doing our high school literary magazine and that's something we can toss.

SALLY:   Oh no!  Oh no! We're saving that.

MICHAEL:  We'll have to duke that out.  In the meantime, thank you so much to Jennifer Beals for being such a nice person to me when I was such a weird 26-year-old and she was such a smart 19-year-old.  And thank you to everybody for listening and to our sound editor Willie Mandeville who is so brilliant – do not blame him for the Walkman buzz that no one could eliminate.  Please remember that you can find memorabilia of various kinds that we've mentioned and others at our website and thank you to our friends who have supported and guided us along the way.  Sally, anything you want to add?

SALLY:  Bein's believin'

MICHAEL:  Bein' IS believin'!  Anything else?

SALLY:  Cut!

MICHAEL:  Okay!  Cut!  Bye Sal.

SALLY:  Bye.

THEME SONG:  I Couldn't Throw It Out
Performed by Don Rauf, Boots Kamp, and Jen Ayers
Music by Boots Kamp and Don Rauf
Lyrics by Don Rauf and Michael Small

Out here in Nancy's – her big garage
This isn't a mi-  This isn't a mirage
Decades of stories, memories stacked
There is a redolence of some irrelevant facts.

But I couldn't throw it out
I have to scream and shout 
It all seems so unjust
But still I know I must 
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out

Well, I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I'll sort through my possessions
In these painful sessions
I guess this is what it's about
The poems, cards and papers
The moldy musty vapors
I just gotta sort it out.

Well I couldn't throw it out 
I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out