If you’re planning on flying somewhere with actress Lori Singer, don’t count on getting the seat next to her. Chances are it will be occupied by her cello--for which she’ll have paid a child’s fare.

She may be one of the more interesting newcomers on the screen today, as many critics maintain, but when she was growing up, everyone confidently predicted that her future lay in music.

That’s what she was trained for, at home and at Juilliard. She became a familiar sight, lugging her cello on and off buses and on and off subways in New York.


“It is an attention-getter,” she admitted in Los Angeles the other day. “I mean, it’s hard to ignore a woman lugging a cello around.”

However, judging by the notices she’s been receiving for her work in movies, her days as a cello lugger may soon be over.

Of her feature-film debut in “Footloose,” critic Pauline Kael said, “She has a startling, zingy radiance; she obliterates the other people on the screen.”

The other people on the screen didn’t care for that too much, but Singer loved it. Of her work in the comedy “The Man With One Red Shoe,” The Times’ Sheila Benson wrote: “The discovery of the picture is the light-comedy charm of the sinuous Singer.”

Now she’s waiting to see what the critics think of her new film, “Trouble in Mind,” in which she appears with Kris Kristofferson, Genevieve Bujold and David Carradine. It’s the first movie of hers she’s been able to sit through without flinching.

“Usually I can’t watch myself,” she said, “but I’m rather proud of this one. Alan Rudolph (the film’s director) is an actor’s dream.”


If she’s as good an actress as they say, and secretly always wanted to be one, why did she spend all that time learning the cello? (She wound up as first cellist in the Juilliard school orchestra.)

“You must remember I grew up around music,” she said. (As a child, it transpires, she was once tucked into bed by Aaron Copland.) “Three of my family were musicians”--her father, the late Jacques Singer, was an orchestra conductor; her mother, Leslie, is a concert pianist; her brother Gregory is a professional violinist--”so it was sort of inevitable.

“I went to Juilliard when I was 13 (she’s now 24). And even when, half way through my studies, I decided I’d rather take acting classes, I couldn’t. ‘You made your choice,’ they said, looking at my cello. ‘Live with it.’ ”

So she did--until at 19 she landed her role in the TV series “Fame.” Now, even though she studies at the Actors Studio twice a week, music remains a very important part of her life. And she continues to play her cello.

She doesn’t like Los Angeles much, she says. “When I was doing ‘Fame’ here, if I had a Thursday off, I always flew home for the weekend,” she said. “People tell me I’d be better off for my career if I lived here, but I don’t intend to move. I love New York.

“Anyway, the movies I’ve been in have been filmed all over the place, so what’s the difference? ‘Footloose’ was made in Utah, ‘The Falcon and the Snowman’ (in which she played Tim Hutton’s girlfriend) in Mexico, ‘Trouble in Mind’ in Seattle. So what’s the point in being here?”

STILL HOPING: Steve Shagan, best-selling novelist (“The Formula”) and screenwriter (“Save the Tiger”), is still hoping that his first effort at playwriting--”Africa”--will be produced.

Completed 14 months ago, the project was planned for a Broadway bow last fall with George C. Scott directing. But that fell through.

“I found the whole experience infinitely more frustrating than writing a book,” Shagan said the other day. “It was always my dream to have a play on Broadway, but now I’d be just as happy to see ‘Africa’ done Off Broadway by some small group. It’s still theater.”

Meantime, Shagan has a new novel coming out in June from William Morrow, “Vendetta.”

NO FAKING: Walter Matthau spent many months last year in North Africa filming “Pirates” for director Roman Polanski. He plays a bearded pirate, complete with eye patch and peg leg.

“It’s all authentic stuff,” says Matthau. “Polanski even imported rats from Paris to nibble on my wooden leg.”

QUOTE--FROM JAMES GARNER: “I like to stay at home. I only go into Beverly Hills about twice a year and that’s to have my teeth cleaned.”