Kids can be deprived of their childhood in any number of ways. But the ones we often hear about are the child actors who are cut off from their peers, pushed into pre-adolescent stardom by single-minded stage parents, and ultimately filed under “Where are they now?” until something goes wrong: an addiction here, a reality show there, maybe a tell-all biography along the way.
Corey Feldman knows the feeling, having transitioned from child actor to post-adolescent train wreck, and now – thanks in large part to last September’s still-infamous “Today Show” performance – an unlikely middle-aged pop singer following up a 40-date national tour with a fall run of shows.
Feldman cites lyrics from John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” – “They’ve tortured and scared you for twenty-odd year /Then they expect you to pick a career” – to summarize a predicament he’s faced since childhood. The song, he says, speaks to him, which is why he covered it on his most recent album, “Angelic 2 the Core.”
“When I heard those lyrics the first time, I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s me,’” recalled the 45-year-old performer in a recent phone interview. “You come out of being a child actor and, all of a sudden, you’re in your 20s, and you’ve worked for 20 years, and they say, ‘Oh well, you can’t work anymore, because you’re not cute enough, you’re not this, you’re not that. So that’s over, now go find something else to do.’”
It wasn’t Feldman’s idea to get into show business, any more than it was Macaulay Culkin’s. That, he says, was the choice of his overzealous stage mother.
Feldman made his acting debut, at the age of 3, in a McDonald’s Christmas commercial. By the age of 16, he’d earned Hollywood celebrity through leading roles in blockbuster films like “Gremlins,” “The Goonies,” “Stand by Me” and “The Lost Boys.” He even appeared in a music video by his childhood hero and mentor Michael Jackson.
All of which made the transition from teen magazines to tabloid headlines that much more difficult. Feldman also fueled the fire with his own tell-all tome, “Coreyography,” in which he recounted his bouts with heroin and maintained that pedophilia is the entertainment industry’s No. 1 problem. He also urged parents of kids in the industry to get them out of Hollywood and allow them to live normal lives.
Feldman returns to the media spotlight, this time in the unlikely role of a touring pop musician.
For that, Feldman credits “God’s architecture” and, more specifically, the aforementioned “Today Show” performance. What began as a routine daytime-show booking instantly turned into something else entirely.
Feldman and his band’s quirky performance of an electronic dance music number called “Go 4 It” quickly went viral, prompting YouTube comments that ranged from curiosity to ridicule.
If you’ve yet to see it, the video is definitely worth watching. It opens with a dub-step vamp laid down by Corey’s Angels, an all-female backing band that includes Corey’s wife, Courtney Anne Mitchell, deejaying. Although dressed in slinky white angel-wear – complete with furry halos and wings – they turn out to be no match for the spectacle of Feldman, hunched over in a black hoodie, side-stepping his way to the mic in a manner that’s equal parts Nutcracker Suite and King of Pop.
With breathy, raspy and apparently autotune-free vocals, he comes across as a voiceover actor grasping for drama at all costs. If there was a tongue-in-cheek element to the performance, Feldman’s wide-eyed countenance kept it well concealed.
Later that week Feldman and his wife uploaded a new, more composed video.
Feldman is pushing ahead, having started a tour that numbers some 40 shows. He’s also producing a film about his life story for Lifetime that he expects to air this fall.
Feldman’s other big project is a return to the vampire roots he explored 30 years ago in “The Lost Boys.” He’s currently filming a new feature-length movie called “Corbin Nash,” which he’s hoping will be out soon.
Then there is the music. Feldman, it turns out, has music in his blood; his father, Bob Feldman, was a member of The Strangeloves, a mid-1960s songwriting and production team best remembered for their hit “I Want Candy.”
Fewer still may realize that Feldman has five albums under his belt, all of which have largely slipped into obscurity.
Most of the material on Feldman’s current tour, though, will come from his overly generous “Angelic 2 the Core,” a two-CD set that suggests Corey is being kept awake at night by the ghosts of Michael Jackson and Marilyn Manson. (He’ll also trade on his film success by performing non-album songs from “The Lost Boys,” “Stand by Me,” “The Goonies” and “Dream a Little Dream” on this tour.)
Feldman is hoping the current tour will lay to rest the assumption that Corey’s Angels were miming their “Today Show” performance, much like the glamorous models who pretended to be Robert Palmer’s backing band in ’80s videos like “Addicted to Love.”
“One of the harshest critiques that we got on the first appearance was everybody trying to say that the girls weren’t really playing,” Feldman said. “And yes, of course I like the visuals in the Robert Palmer videos and the idea of them all obviously faking it. So I thought, what if we did it for real? What if we had a band of smoking hot gorgeous girls that are actually talented?
“They really trained and studied and learned this stuff,” he said. “It is not easy, let me tell you, to perform an EDM song totally live on morning television. And I think what we did was a huge achievement.”
As for his own strengths, Feldman feels he’s learned from the troubles he’s had – as well as the mistakes he’s made – over the course of his life-long career.
“If you never are obstructed, and you never have any challenges, then how are you going to grow?” he asked. “I am quite proud of the person that I’ve become. I think I’m a pretty good father, I’m a decent husband, and I’m a good business man as well as a fairly decent entertainer. So I feel that I’ve earned what I have. And I think that, in due time, things will go the way they’re supposed to.”
Corey Feldman and The Angels
When: Sunday, Oct. 15. Doors at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Holy Diver, 1517 21st St., Sacramento
Tickets: $18-$75, www.eventbrite.com/e/corey-feldman-and-the-angels-holy-diver-tickets-37716258344