Music Monday: Rex Smith

“Sooner or Later” was a made-for-television movie that was released in 1979. It catapulted singer Rex Smith into an overnight star and spawned the Top-Ten single “You Take My Breath Away.” Rex Smith played Michael, a seventeen-year old (cough!) guitar teacher and object of the affections of thirteen-year-old (cough!) Jessie, played by sixteen-year-old Denise Miller. The cast also featured such notable actors as Barbara Feldon (Agent 99 in Get Smart), Judd Hirsch of the hit television show “Taxi,” Morey Amsterdam (Buddy Sorrell in The Dick Van Dyke Show), and Lynn Redgrave of “Georgy Girl” fame.

In the video above, Jessie waits for Michael to jog past, then joins him as if she’s out jogging too and just happens to run into him. Who wears suspenders and a neckerchief while jogging, I ask? And is it just me, or does Rex Smith run like a girl? His arms flail around as much as his hair does. But hearing this song for the first time in over thirty years, it strikes me that, as hokey and contrived as a manufactured teen idol Top-Forty song can be, it’s pretty nonetheless.

Marie, my best friend in 7th grade (the same friend who owned the Candies that I coveted) loved Rex Smith. She had the book based on the movie, as well as Rex Smith’s album of the same name. That was when albums came in vinyl format, kids.

If Denise Miller looks familiar, you may remember her from “Fish,” the “Barney Miller” spin-off in which Abe Vigoda’s character Detective Fish and his wife Bernice adopted five rowdy foster children. Denise played tough-talking Jily Papalardo. Marie and I referred to her as “the girl from ‘Fish'” because we didn’t know her name. (You may also remember “Victor,” played by John Cassisi, who played “Fat Sam” in the all-child-actors gangster movie Bugsy Malone).

Here’s another clip from the film featuring Jessie jamming with Michael and his band as Michael sings “Simply Jessie.” Jessie makes it look so easy to play the guitar while simultaneously looking adoringly at Michael. Rex Smith is rocking that Andy Gibb/Peter Frampton/Leif Garrett long hair that every late-Seventies rocker dude sported, but Jessie’s hair looks glossy and lustrous too. They both look like they used hot rollers and Breck shampoo.

Many thanks to Mary on Facebook who posted about this movie and brought back so many memories.


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