Fame star Irene Cara may have sung about wanting people to remember her name — but she turned her back on fame in her final days.
Neighbors of Largo, Fla. Cara, who died on Nov. 25 at the age of 63, the 80s hit singer-songwriter-actress, lived as a hermit in recent years and obsessively protected her privacy.
“He was a liar. He wouldn’t talk to anyone,” Roseanne Nolan, who lives across the street from Cara, told The Post. “I didn’t even know he lived there until a few years ago. It was the best kept secret.”
Maria Contreras, 59, who lived next door to Cara for years, said she tried to befriend him before she knew who he was. But Contreras said he’ll never be able to convince Cara that he once was lit up the stage with live performanceswalking with him to the nearby beach or socializing.
“I would text him or call him to ask him out, but I wouldn’t answer for days,” Contreras told The Post. “And he would never call from his cell phone. She called from her computer because she was concerned about her privacy. “He was not looking well and he said he had health problems.”
Contreras said he never saw anyone come to the house other than the man mowing the lawn.
“But nobody, including him, entered his house,” Contreras said. “He met you outside by the garage. He was very angry with me when I tore down the fence between our houses because I wanted to put up a new one. He sent me such crazy messages that I saved them on my phone. He was worried that he would not be safe even if the fence fell for even one day.”
Cara’s representative, Judith Moose, and her Los Angeles-based manager of nearly two decades, Betty McCormick, have painted a different picture of Cara in recent years. They told The Post that she left Hollywood and the music industry of her own accord and has been trying to revive her career in recent months.
McCormick said drugs and alcohol did not play a role in Kara’s death, and it was not a suicide, he told The Post. He disagreed with his neighbors’ assessment of Cara’s last years, but said the pandemic had been very difficult for the singer.
“He was very afraid to take [COVID] virus,” McCormick said. “He really struggled during that period.”
Cara’s once stellar career faltering early has left many wondering why she disappeared from public life when she made so much noise at such a young age.
1980’s “Glory” and 1983’s “Flashdance … What a Feeling” were Cara’s biggest hits. SHE IS It won an Academy Award Grammy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Pop Vocal Performance for Flashdance.
Born in the South Bronx, Irene Escalera said her factory worker father, Gaspar Escalera, originally from Puerto Rico, brought merengue to the United States. His mother, Luisa Esqueira, was a cashier of Cuban descent.
She was Irene from the block 10 years before Jennifer Lopez was born in the Bronx and paved the way for Madonna, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
Carey posted a screenshot of “Glory” and her hit single after her death.
“I put the original Fame in honor of the late, great Irene Cara, he wrote on Twitter. “Such an inspiration to many, especially to me. Her beauty and talent are amazing in this movie. Rest in peace, dear angel.’
Cara began her career in the Miss America Little pageant, and then at the age of 8, she made a stunning appearance on Ted Mack’s show. “The original amateur watch”. Continuing to study piano and dance, she regularly appeared as a singer-dancer on Spanish-language television shows.
Cara told Cosmopolitan magazine in 1985: “I don’t want to be modest, but I never doubted that I would be successful, and I was never afraid of success. he would be a star.”
He appeared on the PBS children’s show The Electric Company from 1971 to 1972. Her many early stage credits include Broadway’s Maggie Flynn (1968) with Shirley Jones, the Obie Award-winning No One Knows Me (1970), Across the Galaxy (1972) with Raoul Yulia and 1978 in the cabaret show Ain’t Misbehavin’ starring Nell Carter and Hadestown Tony winner Andre DeShields.
One of her most memorable roles was as the sensational star Coco Hernandez in the 1980 film Glory – which chronicled the lives and times of students at what was then called the High School of the Arts and is now called Fiorello H. La Guardia. High school, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Cara herself attended the professional children’s school that was mocked on “Glory.”
In the film, his character is preyed upon by a predatory director. The plot ominously foreshadowed Cara’s decision in 1985 to sue Al Coury, the label head who signed her to her Network Records, for $10 million in breach of contract for depriving her of royalties.
He was eventually awarded $1.5 million, but the label went bankrupt and never paid him. Coury died in 2013, and Cara said she believes he was vilified in the industry.
“I knew Al Coury,” veteran music producer Ed Steinberg told The Post. “Let’s just say the business model of record companies has always involved petty theft. Being a Latina from the Bronx at the time meant she was even more vulnerable. He was a great singer, but he didn’t have the connections and the big crew behind him.
“I worked on myself, on my spirituality,” – Kara told People in 2001 about the years after the lawsuit and shortly after her divorce from her husband of five years, stuntman Conrad Palmisano. “I went through periods of bitterness and anger because these people took so much from me.”
Betty McCormick said that the trial was difficult for Cara, but in the end, the singer did not see herself as a victim.
“What we’re hearing now is racism and people being oppressed,” McCormick told The Post. “Irin was not like that. He was very proud of his Cuban, Puerto Rican and African ancestry. He was not a victim of racism. “I don’t think he’s really blacklisted.”
McCormick and Moose claimed Cara “retired” from the business because she disliked the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
“We had some great conversations last year,” Moose told The Post. “I think he was happy with his life in a way. He tried to stay in the game, but he was really blackballed by the corporate powers that be.
Cara continued to perform sporadically after 2005, and in 2010 she recruited a group of female musicians into a girl group she called herself. Hot caramel. Cara produced and arranged all the songs, according to two Hot Caramel members, vocalist Audrey Martells and guitarist Cheryl Bailey, who is also an assistant professor of guitar at Boston’s Berklee School of Music.
“Women in music can be more than just midriffs, abs, bleached hair and lip syncing,” Cara said in a TV interview shortly after launching Hot Caramel. “I wanted to make a statement that women in music could be sexy and glamorous and cool and hop and cool and be about the music.”
“I learned a lot from him,” Bailey told The Post. “I thought I knew a lot about regulation and observation, but he knew a lot more.”
According to Bailey, the group wrote five or six songs, but wondered why they were never officially released by the label.
“I think he wanted a project where he had total control,” Bailey said. “He was cheated by the industry. I think the fact that he was a young star also hurt him. I think when you start so early, sometimes you struggle when you’re older.
According to McCormick, Cara re-recorded two of her hits, “Fame” and “Flashdance,” so she’ll own it a la Taylor Swift.
Although her neighbor in Florida said Cara drove an old car and had a minivan with good tires that had been sitting in her yard for months, there was no indication that the singer had broken down at the time of her death.
Audrey Martells: “What I loved about Irene was that she never changed into a room.” “You’d think everyone would want to be the center of attention, but I don’t think he really cared. He cared about music. He stood in his truth. I think he was doing well, living off his royalties and licensing his music and doing things his way.