Gary James' Interview With Thelma Hopkins Of

Each week millions of TV viewers tuned in to see Telma Hopkins on ABC's highly rated Bosom Buddies. No stranger to TV, Telma was once a part of Tony Orlando and Dawn, a group that sold 27 million albums, received 3 Gold albums, 5 Gold singles, 3 Platinum singles and 2 Grammy nominations for Best Song!

We spoke with Telma Hopkins about her remarkable career.

Q - How many hours a week did you put in on Bosom Buddies?

A - Well, it's really like working in a factory or something. We worked from 10 'til 6. It's pretty much a normal day. The long day was Thursday, as camera blocking day, the first day the cameras see what we're doing. Friday was a long day 'cause we tape all day and then we did a show that night for an audience.

Q - Did you find the pace grinding?

A - Sometimes it can be. With us it was a little easier 'cause it's an ensemble. If you're heavy one week you can be light the next week. I think it was harder doing variety television than it is doing situation comedy. I found our show Tony Orlando and Dawn to be a grind. It was long days, a lot of hours, a lot of songs, just a lot of different things to learn every week.

Q - You did session work for Motown Records. Why didn't Berry Gordon offer you a record deal back then?

A - They had some incredible singers in Detroit. What we were doing is background, so you really didn't get a chance to shine doing background. The only thing I ever built up was one hell of a reputation as a great background singer. I never sang lead, so nobody knew. I didn't even know if I could sing. I was never offered that opportunity and I never sought it either. I still miss doing backgrounds. We had a ball.

Q - Why did Tony Orlando select you over all of the other girls he auditioned for Dawn?

A - The main reason he called me was because a friend of his recommended me, a producer who was working for Holland-Dozier-Holland in Detroit and knew Tony in New York. Tony called and said I want a new sound for a couple of songs, a fresh sound. We did "Candida" and "Knock Three Times" without ever seeing him and went back home. He went after the sound he had on record.

Q - How were you able to keep going and Tony Orlando wasn't? Didn't you have a great deal of pressure too?

A - Yeah, but it was focused on him. We could slide out a little easier than he could. People clung to him, were all over him, more than they were on us.

Q - Why didn't someone say, Hey, we better not work the group so much?

A - They tended to overbook us. It was like we gotta make all the money right now or there won't be any next year. It was always that attitude, you better get it now, work, work, work, because you never know when it's gonna stop.

Q - How do you prevent that kind of thing from happening again?

A - The one good thing about learning it the hard way is that I knew that once I had my own career that I was in control and it would never happen again. I don't mind saying no to work. I'm thrilled to be offered, but I don't take everything that comes along. I know the value of time off.

Q - What did you do when you're not needed on set?

A - Answer fan mail, read, make rugs, play ping-pong. The girls got together and exercised. We find ways to keep busy. We visit other sets. We have a lot of fun.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.