Larry Zeiger says it was he who gave pop star Adam Lambert his first studio break. Lambert, who graduated from Mount Carmel High School in Rancho Peñasquitos in 2000, recorded a song for Zeiger’s musical Sweating Palms — A Steamy Tale of Passion with a Coffee Aroma.
“He was a riot in the studio,” says Zeiger, “singing a very sexy song…about golfing, but that’s another story.”
It is hard to talk to Zeiger without hearing a reference to a celebrity he knows, and he has known quite a few, from film editor Joe Hutshing (Jerry Maguire) to Chicago vocalist Jason Scheff, a graduate of Point Loma High.
Zeiger retired from the faculty of Point Loma High School in 2007 after 33 years of teaching cinema arts, musical theater, and language arts. Zeiger’s website states that his Gotta Sing Gotta Dance musical-theater group has had over 3000 student participants and that over 60,000 people have attended the performances.
Any new projects?
“I’m working on a new album, and this time the songs will be sung in Spanish. As a kid growing up in Cleveland, I fell in love with Latin music. I couldn’t get enough of Sérgio Mendes and Antônio Carlos Jobim.”
Do you get nervous before a performance?
“Yes. I try to meditate, even though I don’t know how. When I did those productions at Point Loma High, 33 years of original musicals with casts of nearly 100, I learned that nothing could be more difficult and stress-producing.”
Your favorite era in music?
“I love jazz standards and anything Latin. The music of the ’30s and ’40s is incredible. I also love good rock and roll and Motown. I loved dancing to Motown tunes. I even won a few prizes in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Which of your own songs is your favorite?
“The first two songs I ever wrote, when I was 15 years old. My sister Carole and brother-in-law Bob wrote the lyrics. I pulled them out last year and made them sound a bit more modern and recorded them.”
If you could go back in life, what would you do over again?
“I was accepted at USC film school for my Ph.D. and ultimately turned it down for fear that I might not be successful as a filmmaker. That was a mistake.”
Have you been told that you resemble Larry King?
“Yes. In fact, Larry King’s real name is Larry Zeiger. I played Larry King in one of the musicals I directed at the high school called Sticky Fingers — A Tale of SAKS, Lies, and Videotape. Anderson Cooper talked about the show on CNN and mentioned that I played King, and then he added that I should keep my day job.”
Your first live performance?
“I was five years old. I was the youngest student in Mrs. Van Magnus’s piano class in Cleveland Heights. It was my first recital. Every kid at the recital who received four votes was awarded a dime-store bust of Beethoven as a prize. I was the only person to receive three votes.”
Your best moment onstage?
“I would have to say that would be my final show at Point Loma High, the last night of the musical Too Hot to Handle. The theater holds about 300 people, but there must have been 400 people crowded into the theater that night.”
Has anyone had an influence on your stage presence?
“My students at Point Loma High had a huge impact on my stage presence. I learned quickly that when a student looked like he was about to fall asleep, then my performance was lacking. So I constantly reinvented myself, redirecting my own performance on a daily basis. Some days I flopped, and other days I deserved a Tony award.”
Five things you can’t live without…
1) “My upright Baldwin piano.”
2) “Local music.”
4) “Barons Marketplace in Point Loma.”
5) “My Healthy Back memory-foam mattress. I spend half my life on it.”