The remake of “Sparkle” heads into theaters on Friday. The new version was a pet project for the late Whitney Houston, who loved the original 1976 movie it was based on. While we can appreciate the performances of new cast members Houston, Carmen Ejogo, Jordin Sparks, Tika Sumpter, Derek Luke and Mike Epps, the original cast was memorable as well. We wanted to catch up with some of the stars of the first “Sparkle” to see what they’re up to these days. Read on.
IRENE CARA (Sparkle Williams)
Bronx, NY native Irene Cara, of Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage got her start as a child star. Like the title character in “Sparkle” Cara can sing, dance and write. “Sparkle” was her third movie, after the popular 70’s movie “Aaron Loves Angela.” She went on to achieve major fame as the star of the movie “Fame” and won an Oscar for the title song for the “Flashdance” soundtrack. While Lonette McKee tried to get the “Sparkle” cast together for a reunion concert, Cara, 53, declined, saying she had no need to relive the past. After a brief stint on reality TV, she is now working with her band Hot Caramel, who released an album “Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel” in 2011.
LONETTE MCKEE (Sister Williams)
Actress/singer Lonette McKee wanted to get the “Sparkle” cast back together to celebrate the new movie, but was unsuccessful. Fortunately she has a thriving music and stage career to fall back on. Detroit native McKee, 58, who also starred in “Brewster’s Millions,” “The Cotton Club,” “Jungle Fever” and “She Hate Me” with Spike Lee, is doing a show in New York City on August 24th with musician Michael Henderson where she will perform some of the songs from “Sparkle,” among others. McKee has kept busy in the years since “Sparkle” performing in musical theatre, recording music, writing screenplays and doing one-woman shows. In her obviously limited spare time, she teaches acting. She also played Jason Pitt’s mother on “The Game.”
PHILLIP MICHAEL THOMAS (Stix)
Now 63, Phillip Michael Thomas is best known for his role as Ricardo Tubbs in the pivotal 1980’s series “Miami Vice.” But before that, he played Stix, an ambitious manager who falls in love with Sparkle and helps her and her sisters form a group. Thomas then went on to “Miami Vice” fame but never recovered his popularity after the show ended in 1990. He recorded two albums and, for a time, was a spokesman for the Psychic Reader’s network who he won a million dollar settlement from after he was replaced with Miss Cleo. In recent years, Thomas has done voiceovers for the Grand Theft Auto video game series, but his last significant film or TV credits were on “Nash Bridges” with former co-star Don Johnson in 2001.
Ohio native Mary Alice has achieved some of the highest awards in acting, including a Tony in 1987 for “Fences” and an Emmy in 1993 for the TV show “I’ll Fly Away.” Now 70, Alice has slowed down in recent years but not before putting together and impressive resume of TV, stage and film work. She was in classic movies like “To Sleep With Anger,” “The Education of Sonny Carson,” two of “The Matrix” films and “Malcolm X” and appeared on TV in shows like “A Different World” and the TV movie “Down In the Delta.”
DORIAN HAREWOOD (Levi)
Harewood has been in a host of films since “Sparkle” but is best known for “Roots: The Next Generation” that also starred Irene Cara. In 1994, Harewood won an Emmy for his work as Clarence “Cool Papa” Charleston on the series “I’ll Fly Away,” that also starred Mary Alice. He is now doing voice-over work for NBC.
TONY KING (Satin)
King played the heavy in “Sparkle” turning in a memorable performance as the menacing Satin. While that’s been changed up with Mike Epps in the Satin role this time, King’s performance stands the test of time. King, an Ohio native appeared in blaxsploitation films including the original “Shaft” and “Hell Up in Harlem” and spent a season on the 70’s TV series “Bronk.” In recent years, he’s made brief appearances in TV and films.
DWAN SMITH (Delores)
Dwan Smith’s Delores was overshadowed by Sister and Sparkle in the movie, Tika Sumpter is fortunately to get a beefed-up role in the remake. Smith was already a working actress when she landed “Sparkle” and she continued working sporadically, mostly on TV, from then on. Her last credit was in 2001’s “House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute” in 2001.
Watch the original trailer for “Sparkle” below.