Dream A Not-So-Little Dream: Corey Feldman Talks Michael Jackson, Michael Damien, And His New “Ascension Millennium” Music Video
Corey Feldman has planted a flag in the pop culture mountain that is the envy of many a young entertainer. He was the child actor with impressive turns in Stand By Me, The Goonies and Gremlins. He was half of a longtime onscreen alliance and deep friendship with the late Corey Haim — the press dubbed them “The Coreys” – in such films like The Lost Boys, Dream a Little Dream and Licensed To Drive. He was a close friend to Michael Jackson, even emulating his dance moves and fashion sense in tribute. He has recorded albums, toured live in support of larger acts, and continues to act in various film and television roles. He is one of those rare Hollywood stalwarts who seems to have pushed himself through the rabbit hole of fame and come through the other side a positive player with some deep scars. He is an actor who has moved seamlessly from genre to genre, sharing screen time with both Tom Hanks and Moby. He’s battle tested, fighting opponents ranging from his own addiction, to the death of close friends Haim and Jackson, to a schizophrenic public that doesn’t completely get him. Acting as a sort of “soldier of misfortune”, fully aware of his foothold in the modern showbiz landscape, Feldman works relentlessly with his burners up high. As a result of this tenacity, he enjoys a position on the same team as self-aware pop icons from William Shatner to David Hasselhoff to Charlie Sheen to Cher. If ever there was a Hollywood survivor still raging against the dying of the light, sometimes in spite of himself, it’s Corey Feldman.
The latest buzz on Feldman revolves around a high concept if somewhat slapdash music video for his new single “Ascension Millennium” which attempts the all-in-one-take trick employed by a few daring artists, and he nearly pulls it off. Depicting a day in the life of our hero in the “Feldmansion”, we follow Feldman around and run into fellow Goonies co-star Sean Astin, model/actresses dubbed Corey’s Angels, a large banner for Neon energy drinks, a dance floor, a pool party, and a recording studio whose walls collapse to reveal a stadium. Evoking a bizarre tone that seems like Paul Thomas Anderson touring Nikki Sixx’s house, the suspense holds from one room to the next as we see Hollywood weirdness and dreams unfold. In the end, the video’s hit count continues to grow exponentially, connecting Feldman to an audience that forwards and embeds and links before it can really ingest. Feldman might have just hit the bone marrow of the internet with a David Lynch needle, all the while moonwalking, eating pancakes, and laughing his ass off.
We caught up with the mighty Corey by phone to talk about “Ascension Millennium”, the Corey’s Angels project, his on-set experiences when shooting clips during THE GOLDEN AGE OF MUSIC VIDEO.
GAMV: How did “Ascension Millennium” being shot all as one shot come about?
Corey Feldman: Well, I’d been asked to direct this low budget film called Busted, and they basically wanted me to get some of my friends in it, and I had to figure out how to shoot these scenes with little money and little time, and so the idea came to do very very long takes. After the shoot, I tucked that idea away in the back of my mind, and when this project came about, I decided that was the only way to get in everything I wanted into the video. We shot it about 50 times, and it’s so hard to do because if just one person messes up anywhere along the way, we’d have to start again.
GAMV: It looks like it’s supposed to be a typical day in your life.
CF: That’s the idea. My life is so crazy that this could actually all happen to me in one day — I have some of Corey’s Angels at my house, I have some actor friends of mine stopping by, I have a dance party and a pool party, and I play with my band, and have something to eat — all these things that could actually happen in one day at my house. It’s somewhere between my perfect day and a typical day in my life.
GAMV: What’s up with the pancakes?
CF: Nothing! So many people think there are hidden meanings and messages in it, and honestly, there aren’t! (laughs)
GAMV: Tell us more about Corey’s Angels.
CF: This is an idea I came up with to help showcase these great women, and I have had beautiful and talented women around me for much of my career, but I wanted to put a spotlight on them and help them in a way that creates a certain respectful atmosphere. We’ll have events where they can showcase their talents, and people can mingle and talk with them and things can grow organically. We’re going to have many events so people can check it all out.
GAMV: Let’s talk about some videos you appeared in during THE GOLDEN AGE OF MUSIC VIDEO. You and other members of the cast made an appearance in Cyndi Lauper’s “The Goonies are Good Enough” video, and what jumps out at me immediately is that the Bangles are there, dressed as pirates.
CF: I didn’t know it was the Bangles at the time because the Bangles hadn’t hit yet! This was a few years before “Manic Monday”, so we didn’t really have any idea who they were. I think when I went back and watched it in 1989, I said, “hey, wait, isn’t that Susannah Hoffs?” (laughs) What I remember was being a big Cyndi Lauper fan and knowing and listening to that first album, so when they told us she was doing a song and video for the movie, I was so excited. We shot the movie, then went for a vacation for about five days in Hawaii, then we came back and shot on the same sets as the movie. Years later, Cyndi and I appeared together on a commercial for Totally 80s Trivial Pursuit.
GAMV: When you appeared in the film Dream a Little Dream, you appeared in a music video for Michael Damien’s soundtrack song “Rock On”. What do you remember from that?
CF: What most people don’t know is that I knew Michael Damien from before because he was working with me on a song for the soundtrack. The song ended up not appearing on the record, but then I was told that Michael was remaking David Essex’s “Rock On” for the soundtrack and they were shooting a video, so I was hyped that it was happening. The song I did wasn’t ready for the soundtrack in time. They told me, “Even though we’ve pressed the album and there’s no way to put it out that way, we are willing to release it as a b-side to one of the other songs.” Well, that was enough for me as long as I was getting it out there somewhere and people are getting to hear it. I went around and did some events to launch that, but the day of the video shoot, we performed at the Palace, which has now since turned into Avalon in Hollywood. We did it as a live performance piece, with Michael Damien performing on stage, and me and Meredith [Salenger] and Corey [Haim] doing background vocals and dancing around and not really doing much of anything except pretending to have fun.
However, I remember the Palace because it ironically ended up being the first place I ever did a full live concert. It was 1987 and I was fifteen years old. Anyway, we did this video and it was fun, and I was going through this stage with my clothes where I had a lot of safety pins. I also remember that there was a terrible rainstorm going on, and we kept having to stop. Because it was a music video, there were no sound issues, but it kept killing the power and there were all kinds of problems that night. I remember that when we wrapped, I went to my car, and when I turned on the radio, they said it was snowing in Woodland Hills. That was where I grew up as a kid, and I didn’t believe it at all. There was NO WAY it was snowing in the Valley! I drove straight to Woodland Hills to see for myself, and sure enough, there were snowbanks on the sides of the freeway. It was historic, so I’ll never forget that night for that reason. I saw actual snow in Los Angeles.
GAMV: You also appeared in Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl” video, which was star-studded.
CF: The only Michael Jackson video I appeared in was “Liberian Girl”, but I was actually on the set, for “Smooth Criminal”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, and “In the Closet”. That was one of my favorite things to do at that time, to frequent the sets of Michael’s videos. It’s your dream come true as a kid, right? I mean, we all watched “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” and “The Making of Thriller” and thought, wouldn’t it be cool to be there? And I thought, hey, I’m friends with him, why wasn’t I there? So then he said, “oh yeah, why don’t you come down and visit the set?” It was so great to see him perform, but not in front of an audience and not on television from ten thousand miles away, but there with the cameras as it happened. Pretty cool.
GAVM: What specific memories do you have from being on those sets?
CF: Well, the story of the evolution of “Smooth Criminal” is very interesting. At the time, he was very into Transformers, and he knew about it before anyone else. He gave me one of the first Transformers ever made. He had connections with the toy companies and technology companies. He was always on top of the latest thing. He was a total geek about that, and he would have dibs on anything new coming out. So he showed it to me and I’m like “What’s this?” and he says, “It’s a Transformer,” and gave me a few in the original packaging, which I then gave to my brothers who tore them apart, which kind of sucked. Anyway, he said, I’m going to do a video that uses this idea. I’m going to be a superhero who transforms into a robot who transforms into a spaceship, then into a car, and just keeps transforming into different things, but behind it all, I’m going to be a 1920s style gangster.” The original concept was [for] a song called “Al Capone”. Originally, the song was written about that gangster style, and it eventually turned into “Smooth Criminal”.
I went with him on the very first location scout. We went down to Sony Studios, and I saw all the blueprints and schematics for the design of the robot and all these things he was going to become. Then we went and looked at sets together at the soundstages at 20th Century Fox where they had just been shooting the film The Two Jakes. He was showing me the kinds of alleyways and “Old New York” style sets that they were looking to use for the video. Then, I went off to shoot Stand By Me, and I didn’t hear much about it, and I hadn’t talked to Michael in about a year, but I heard they were shooting at the Sony Studios. Emmanuel Lewis and his brother Roscoe took me down to the set while I was shooting The Lost Boys. I remember that when I walked onto the soundstage for the first time and I heard the bassline and drumbeat for “Smooth Criminal”, it totally floored me. I was like, “What is this? It’s genius!” I’d never heard music like that song before. Then I saw people dressed like gangsters walking around, and I saw Michael in his white pinstripe suit, and I watched them shoot this huge dance sequence. My jaw was on the floor. After they shot, Michael took me over to the screening room, we met with David Geffen, and then Michael and I sat at the front of the screening room with the whole cast and crew there, watching the dailies together. We did that every day during their lunchtime, so I got to see it grow, cut by cut. And I’m thinking, this is the most amazing video I’ve ever seen in my life to the most amazing song I’ve ever heard. I bet this will be the biggest hit off the album. Ironically, they held the single and held it and held it, and it was one of the last singles released off the album. I think it didn’t hit because people were so familiar with the album by then, the song had lost some of its luster. It was a year and a half after the album was released, and it only made it to number seven in the charts. If they had released it as the second or third single, I think it would have hit number one.
GAMV: One of the folks in “Liberian Girl” was Debbie Gibson, and you guys reunited to play Katy Perry’s parents in her “Last Friday Night” music video. How did that come about?
CF: I got a call from Katy’s agents saying she’s blowing up right now and she’d really love to have you in her video. I listened to the music and I really like what she was doing, so I said sure. That seems cool, I figured I should talk to her, and she was very sweet. And that was it! The rest is history.
GAMV: Did you and Debbie improvise your parts?
CF: Yes, we did a bit of ad libbing, the director said to us to riff a little while to see what we could come up with some stuff. I’ve known Deborah for a long time, and she’s a really sweet lady. I’ve known her since the old days, and in fact when I first started performing, I used to do a lot of Michael Jackson stuff, and Alfonso Ribeiro and I used to duet on “Dirty Diana”. With Debbie, she was doing live gigs, and I was part of this group of performers called the Rad Pack. There was a DJ in L.A. called Hollywood Hamilton, and he used to put together these club shows for young teen pop stars in Hollywood, and he called it the Rad Pack tour. It was like Tiffany, Debbie, me, Alfonso, and other teen stars at the time. We did all this together, and we just knew each other over the years. She did Playboy, so I would see her up at the Playboy mansion, and we did the “Deal or No Deal” show with Howie Mandel. We seemed to pop in and out of each other’s lives.
GAMV: Michael Jackson has been a steady influence on your musical performance style.
CF: My music career really started with covering Michael Jackson songs. People are always saying, “Why are you always imitating Michael Jackson? Why is there so much Michael Jackson influence in your music?” Well, it’s always been there. I can’t change who I am as an artist. I can add new elements and new factors to it, and with my band Truth Movement, there’s actually no Michael Jackson influence at all. It’s more like Pink Floyd and others, but with the solo career, when I do R&B or I do pop, I just can’t help it. It’s just who I am, the same with dance, it’s just there. It’s developed into who I am as a performer. As an artist, it’s part of my persona. I’m not trying to do it, it just comes out of me.