Rick Springfield puts spotlight on fans

TORONTO - Rocker and former soap heart-throb Rick Springfield says he's angling to return to the small screen and is writing an edgy dramatic series in which he hopes to star.

The Australian-born '80s singer says he's been working on several TV scripts ever since he wrote a tell-all book that was released in 2010.

Springfield says he'd like to do a lot more acting after recent cameos that included the raunchy specialty series "Californication," the geriatric sitcom "Hot in Cleveland" and a brief return to "General Hospital" where he reprised his role as the hunky Dr. Noah Drake.

So far, Springfield says most of his offers come from reality television but he's sworn off the genre.

"I've been offered those so many friggin' times," Springfield said during a recent stop in Toronto for the Canadian International Documentary Festival.

"And (I'll) never (do) 'Dancing With the Stars.' My wife said she'd divorce me if I ever did that. They ask me every year."

The 61-year-old still performs between 70 and 100 concerts a year and is gearing up to release a new album in the fall.

At the core of his fanbase is a group of ardent followers who trace their devotion to the early '80s, when Springfield broke onto the charts with his infectious smash "Jessie's Girl."

Their unwavering loyalty — and sometimes-disturbing devotion — is the focus of the documentary "An Affair of the Heart," which had its Canadian premiere at the Hot Docs festival earlier this week.

Another screening is set for Thursday.

Amid plenty of concert footage, interviews and nostalgic looks back at Springfield's heydays, director Sylvia Caminer tracks down several "Rick-a-holics" and traces the myriad ways in which they connect with his music and have even managed to bond with the star himself.

"Some people have an addiction to cocaine, people like me have an addiction to Rick Springfield," one fan declares in a voiceover.

It's soon clear she's not alone.

Stay-at-home moms Sue and Joanne make a point of catching a Springfield-related event as often as every month, with one husband bemoaning: "She wakes up and it's Rick Rick Rick until she goes to bed."

Meanwhile, an interfaith minister credits one of Springfield's harder-rocking albums with helping her cope with the suppressed anger she felt after a brutal sex assault.

Throughout, Springfield makes a point of showing supporters he doesn't take their loyalty for granted. He hosts an annual music cruise, invites fans to pre-concert soundchecks and in the case of one longtime admirer, even emailed to offer condolences when he heard her husband had died.

Springfield says he owes his career to loyal fans who stuck with him through the decades, even after he withdrew from the spotlight in a deep depression that followed his meteoric rise.

Back when he started out, Springfield says he was more focused on himself than anything else but he's since learned to appreciate the audience that has buoyed a rebirth in his career.

Meanwhile, he's pleased to see that some of the detractors who dismissed him as a lightweight years ago have become fans today.

"Certainly the longevity of songs like 'Jessie's Girl' hasn't hurt," he says of his 1981 pop smash, which was recently covered on the musical TV series "Glee."

"It's given them time to see that I'm a musician and I think because of the soap opera thing there was a lot of confusion about whether I was a real musician or whether I was just an actor pretending to be a musician. Once that was cleared up I think it's been a lot easier for people to accept me."

Part of his rebirth has also been due to acting stints like "Californication," in which Springfield played a twisted, debauched version of himself.

The role led to "a lot of high fives in the airport from guys," he notes wryly.

"Since I wrote the book my publisher and I have been working together on different scripts," he adds.

"I'm looking very much forward to doing more acting this year."

"An Affair of the Heart" screens at Hot Docs on Thursday.

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