Once, he was a kid dancing to Sussudio. Today, if it's possible, he's even more incredible than that. I first saw the Duffy Lucas tapes last week, a grainy Youtube that originally aired in 1986. Yesterday, Lucas and I connected via Facebook, and this evening, he gave me the interview you've been waiting for. Since then.
I should really charge you to hit the jump button.
LUCAS: "SURPRISINGLY NORMAL THESE DAYS..."
MERCURY: This happened in 1986, right? How old were you?
LUCAS: That's right, it was a couple of moons ago, I was twelve. It happened in LA—the show was filmed at Universal Studios, I think.
MERCURY: How did it come about?
LUCAS: I started dancing when I was four and did it for 17 years until I injured a knee. I was doing musical theater all through my teen years. Anyway the opportunity came about to do this show and I did it.
MERCURY: So it was your idea? Nobody forced you to do it?
LUCAS: I place full blame on myself—I can’t blame my parents or anything like that.
MERCURY: How much did you practice?
LUCAS: I don’t remember, but I do remember that I did all my choreography for it, and I was very proud of that at that point. The show was a lot of fun—other kids that were on there had actually gotten professional people to do professional choreography for them, and I was like you did what? I did all of this myself. At that age it was something very serious, of course. It’s just things we do when we were kids, but at the time it was very serious indeed.
MERCURY: Who chose Sussudio?
LUCAS: Originally it was supposed to be All Night Long by Lionel Richie and apparently they couldn’t get the rights to it, so about two weeks before the show they called up and said can you suggest an alternative, and Phil Collins has always been one of my favorites over the years.
MERCURY: What about the clothes?
LUCAS: I don’t know if I could admit blame for that or if they were chosen by my parents, but yeah that 80s teal blue Don Johnson jacket...
MERCURY: You scored 295 out of 300. But who won the show? Who won the $5,000 savings bond?
LUCAS: You know it's funny. Even though I got 295 out of 300, I still didn’t make it into the top ranks or even win that show to go onto the finals. The girl that got first place was this little Asian girl and she was really super cute, and she deserved it. She did a version of My Boy Lollypop, in this cute little 50s outfit. But the one that pissed me off was this guy who got up and did Kyrie, which was number one at the time, and he ended up winning second place, and going on to the next show for essentially doing nothing. It was a very disappointing moment.
MERCURY: How did your performance on the show impact your life?
LUCAS: Right after the show not much at all, it was just a fun little gig. I went on to do professional dancing for about ten years, so that was really just a minor blip on my resume.
MERCURY: What kind of dancing did you go on to do?
LUCAS: Well I danced for Disney for many years, I did a stint in Tokyo—I was Peter Pan for a while, and then I was doing choreography here in LA, up and down the strip until I hurt my knee and had to stop dancing.
MERCURY: What happened to your knee?
LUCAS: I took a bad fall, doing parades for Disney, and I ended up, I forget the name of the ligament across the top of the knee—I ended up over-extending that, and it kicked me out of dancing. I still do performances every now and then, and with the Orange County Gay Men’s chorus.
MERCURY: So you're a gay man now?
LUCAS: Yeah. Well I came out when I was 14, but I’m one of those people that have always known the situation.
MERCURY: What are you doing now?
LUCAS: I'm actually doing a job search right now for a regular nine to fiver. I do mainly senior admin, or executive administrative assistant, that kind of thing. I was actually an assistant project manager doing low income housing stuff, but obviously the economy being the way it is, I got laid off in March. I was lucky I managed to survive two rounds of layoffs, but that's the way it's been.
MERCURY: Are you still interested in computers?
LUCAS: Definitely. I went to school for network engineering but eventually I realized I talk too damn much, I’m very much a people person.
MERCURY: When did you first start seeing the clip resurface?
LUCAS: From what I understand, there was some guy in Chicago that had all these clips and digitized them and put them on YouTube around June of last year, and I didn’t hear about it until later. When I went into my manager’s office for a one on one, we realized we didn't really have anything to talk about and he said "what happens when you Google your name?" and so we Googled my name and then of course my face turned red.
MERCURY: When did you first become aware that the performance had kitsch value?
LUCAS: When I found out about it, I found out it was on Best Week Ever, on VH1, as well as a couple months after that, it was featured on Zeitgeist, this MSN site, they nominated me as the most interesting person of 1986, it got legs!
MERCURY: Any regrets?
LUCAS: The only aspect of it is, and this is something, some people have gotten nasty about it as everybody does, and that’s too much. It’s on about 100 blog sites, and some people have just gotten really negative. But that’s the only thing I feel bad about.
MERCURY: What do you think people would be most surprised to learn about Duffy Lucas?
LUCAS: I’ve become a very mellow person since I got out of the theatrical world. The most unusual thing is, I’m a very normal person. I’m actually engaged to be married.
MERCURY: In California? So has Proposition 8 been an issue for you at all?
LUCAS: Proposition 8 is a huge issue to us, especially because my partner is an attorney to boot. The Men Alive group, we’re very very involved with that, too, so we did a lot of the protests. It’s an awesome men’s group of about 160 guys down in Orange County, we perform with as many as 120 of us in a group, doing four shows a year. We just wrapped up a show of music from musicals like Wizard of Oz and Wicked.
MERCURY: Thanks so much for your time, Duffy.
LUCAS: You're welcome.