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 cowrote and produced 33 musicals, one for each of the years that he taught at Point Loma High. His Gotta Sing Gotta Dance company may be the longest-running musical theatrical group in San Diego County schools, having had over 3000 student participants, with over 60,000 people attending the performances.
In 2009, he released a concept album, Meetchu in Machu Picchu, and Zeiger has wanted to make a music video ever since he recorded it. Not just a video, he says, correcting himself, but a musical film with a story line, something with the smoke and the heft of a movie like Chicago. “And then it turns into an extravagant dance production number.”
Zeiger needed about a hundred dancers to fulfill his own Busby Berkeley vision of choreography. But the mini-movie turned out to be more work than Zeiger thought possible. “Gabriel Soto’s production company Semper Productions is doing the filming. He was here today from noon to about 5:30 p.m. Five and a half hours to do a five-minute movie.”
Gilbert Castellanos, the local jazz trumpet player, performed on the original recording. He and his trumpet make a cameo appearance in the film version. Zeiger also enlisted salsa dance pros Serena Cuevas and Marilyn and Rodrigo to star in the dance scenes.
In 2013, Zieger partnered with fellow teacher and guitarist Jack Beddows to publish a short story collection called Nice Legs. Each of the stories was inspired by the drinking of a type of wine, hence the title. “It’s when you have a glass of wine,” explains Zeiger, “and you swirl it around and hold it up to the light and see ‘legs’ running down the insides?”
“That’s an indication of quality,” Beddows says. “You say, ‘Nice legs!’”