Throwback Thursday: When Bruce Jenner Made His Film Debut as a Disco Enthusiast
In 1980, the Olympic gold medalist set his sights on a Hollywood career with the Village People-inspired 'Can't Stop the Music.' Says co-star Steve Guttenberg: "I will forever be his biggest supporter and lifelong friend."
This story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
After winning the decathlon gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner had his eye on a Hollywood career. But the then-31-year-old's film debut as an uptight St. Louis lawyer who befriends a singing group and experiences a complete life change probably wasn't the best choice. The Village People-inspired Can't Stop the Music, from Grease writer-producer Allan Carr, would go on to earn the dubious honor of being the first movie to win a Razzie. The Hollywood Reporter was exceptionally kind in its review, calling the 1980 film "a thing of glitter and pizzazz." (The $20 million production grossed only $2 million domestically.)
Jenner clearly didn't hold his role in the mega-bomb against Carr, marrying second wife Linda Thompson (who had been Elvis Presley's live-in girlfriend for four years) at the Can't Stop producer's home in 1981. They separated in 1984, and Jenner married Kris Kardashian in 1991. That marriage began to unravel in 2013 amid rumors that Jenner, now 65, was transitioning to become a woman, rumors he finally confirmed with Diane Sawyer on a special April 24 edition of ABC's 20/20. Says Can't Stop co-star Valerie Perrine today: "I knew something was up because he didn't come on to me. … It's too bad Allan isn't alive to see this; he'd be overjoyed."
Co-star Steve Guttenberg still has fond memories of Jenner. He tells the story of the 21st birthday party his parents organized for him on Long Island. While the rest of the Can't Stop cast declined to attend, says Guttenberg, "Bruce picked me up at my hotel, drove me there in some exquisite sports car and stayed for the whole party. He danced with my grandmother, helped my mother serve the food, rearranged my father's basement gym and showed both my sisters his gold medal. He's Superman to me, and I will forever be his biggest supporter and lifelong friend."