West Side Stories: Bert Michaels Snowboy, Jet

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on April 15, 2012

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) — Bert Michaels (Snowboy) has a theatrical resume 12 pages long.  He is a director/choreographer/ teacher whose credits not only include West Side Story but Saturday Night Fever, as well.  Michaels made one of the largest contributions to the book Our Story: Jets& Sharks – Then and Now.

AC:  When did you realize you were going to make performance your life’s work?

BM: I never did any realizing. I just was going along with being a performer who sang and danced and did whatever to amuse. It’s who I always was.

AC:  What were the steps that finally landed you the West Side Story Role?

BM: Audition, audition, audition.

AC:  How did you feel when you realized that you won the part?

BM:  I was sick and immediately went back to sleep. It was accepted as a matter of fact that I would be going back to California someday. I don’t ever remember being scared; just that this would be fun. If ignorance was bliss, I was ecstatic. I was young and happy to be employed. A movie! WOW!

AC:  The best and worst about the West Side Story experience?

BM: It was all “best.” The worst was not in view. Still isn’t.

AC:  How did you feel the first time you saw the film?

BM: Look what we did! All of us looked great and all I saw was what happened on the set when the scenes came on screen. I never really saw the film objectively until the 50th celebration showing at the Mann’s Chinese Nov.15th. I then marveled at all of us. Damn, we were wonderful. I thought about how much fun we all had. How we became a family. Corny, but true. 50 years later, as we talked about doing the book, we picked up conversations where they left off.

AC:  How were you affected by the fame?

BM: I never thought I was famous, but getting recognized on the street today, when I don’t look anything like that young man, is an unexpected shock. I love it. Working for Jerome Robbins and Bob Wise has been an enormous advantage in advancing the rest of our various careers. If we could work for these demanding giants for a year at this intense level we could do pretty much anything anyone else asked and subsequently did.

AC:  Anything you would say in retrospect?

BM: I would have found a moment at some point to tell Mr. Robbins how much I had learned from him and how very grateful I was to have been chosen by him to do this incredible work of art. He trusted all of us with his baby. And we worked like hell to earn that trust. Seems we did fine.

AC:  How do you feel about the book?

BM: Bob Banas deserves a debt of gratitude for his hard work. We all applaud him for his Herculean efforts. The best part is to getting the inside intimate histories from my film family whose stories brought me to tears more than once. It has brought us all closer.

AC:  What has the response been to the book?

BM: The response has been overwhelmingly wonderful. It seems to grab the readers and bring them into our experience. They all want to know more. There are many articles on this masterpiece and its place in film history is well documented.

AC:  What do you think of the reality-show-based dance competitions?

BM: The televised dance competitions present some of the best dancers I have ever seen. Thank the Lord, I’m too old to compete against them.

AC:  What would you like your legacy to be and how do you want to be remembered?

That I was! I did my best and now it’s someone else’s turn. They should be as fortunate as I was. I still find it hard to believe what my art has given me.

AC:  Why should people read the book?

BM: It is the only history of this masterpiece by we who lived it and it should give courage to those who want to express the art within. Is that too much?  There will always people who will tell them, “You can’t do that!” and they are right. They can’t. Don’t be afraid. Play dumb and just do.

It’s who we are!

David Probe October 30, 2012

I have had the plessure of studying acting and stage movement and dance as well as a host of other fields that are invoved in the world of theatre with this man. Bert was my teacher at BOCES CULTURAL ARTS CENTER on Long Island back in the early 80’s. He grabed me one time and put me up against the wall with ( jet like speed) cause I was joking around while he was talking and he said to me that I’ve got what it takes and better wach my step with him for the rest of the year. I went on to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and finished two years. I did some community theatre but never continued with it.When the use of computers came out I always found time to look up my favorite acting teacher Bert Michaels. Happy he is still doing it the way he away’s has. He to me is some one to know. Ineteresting person and a great actor. I learned so much from him……In my heart I hold him as a good friend.

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