This is from the Dangerous Minds’ archives. Originally posted last Christmas Eve.
I’m probably among a handful of people who prefer the universally reviled Star Wars Holiday Special to any of the actual Star Wars movies. Broadcast once in 1978 on CBS and then quickly banished to TV purgatory, this holiday fiasco is one of the strangest things ever to be piped into the living rooms of an unsuspecting America. At 8 p.m. on November 17, 1978, Star War fans were plunged into stunned disbelief as their sacred mythology was reduced to something more akin to an earthbound shitfest than a spectacle in a galaxy far far away. The only thing missing from the special that would have transmutated its alchemy into the realm of the genuinely mindaltering would have been an appearance by Divine, Edie the Egg Lady and the ghost of Alfred Jarry.
In a highly amusing article that appeared in the December 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, writer Frank DiGiacomo describes George Lucas’s cathode ray bomb as…
[...] a campy 70s variety show that makes suspension of disbelief impossible. In between minutes-long stretches of guttural, untranslated Wookie dialog that could almost pass for avant-garde cinema, Maude’s Bea Arthur sings and dances with the aliens from the movie’s cantina scene; The Honeymooners’ Art Carney consoles Chewbacca’s family with such comedy chestnuts as “Why all the long, hairy faces?”; Harvey Korman mugs shamelessly as a multi-limbed intergalactic Julia Child cooking “Bantha Surprise”; the Jefferson Starship pops up to play a number about U.F.O.’s; and original Star Wars cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill walk around looking cosmically miserable.”
I highly recommend you read the entire article by clicking here. It’s a lot of fun.
With a happy holiday heart, I present for your viewing pleasure the gloriously bizarre Star Wars Holiday Special, which has never been re-aired on TV or officially released on video. And as a bonus, this video includes all the original commercials for Star Wars merchandise.
The 50 second text crawl at the beginning is silent.
In this San Francisco TV news report from 1967, 19 year old entrepreneur Steve Metz (looking Johnny Deppish) offers hippies round trip cruises to Europe aboard the good ship Lark.
Just imagine it - six hippies to a room, light shows and live rock bands playing all night.
“I think they’re [hippies] economically, politically and in every other way growing more and more important each day because they are growing in number, as well as in thought. And the country is coming round to their way of thinking, slowly but surely.”
Metz was way ahead of the curve in grokking the market potential of the counter-culture and in the setting of hipster fashion trends. Where is this dude now?
We were working on our first Mondo 2000 issue. It was going to be the cyberpunk theme issue and we’d gotten interviews with the major cyberpunk SF writers, except Gibson. Gibson’s management wouldn’t put us in touch with him. And then we heard that he was coming to the Bay Area and we turned up the heat, but his press agent had him set up for interviews with major outlets only and we were nobody and it was just a brick wall. So somehow, Mu wound up on the phone with Leary complaining about this and Leary offered to let us transcribe a tape of him and Gibson in conversation about ideas for the game spinoff that would accompany the release of the film of Neuromancer — all of this being planned then — back in 1989. Leary was going to lead the development of the game… at least conceptually. (Well, it was all conceptual, ultimately.)
So, the next day, we all showed up at a Gibson appearance in Berkeley radiating some kind of weird intense energy and Gibson was drinking warm beers and glancing nervously over at us while he signed books. We probably looked to him like some weird cult preparing a kidnapping. And after the line of autograph seekers cleared out, Mu strolled up with this insane bezoomny rictus grin that she has and told him that we were running this interview that Leary had done with him. And he literally held the side of the desk like waves were making him seasick and shouted, “That was no interview! That was a drunken business meeting!”
The article ran and Gibson eventually became friendly. This edit from the tape features Leary and Gibson talking about the characteristics of Case (from Neuromancer) and then they go on to talk about William Burroughs. I recommend listening through headphones. Gibson’s voice is rather quiet. There is also at least one other male voice that you’ll hear and that would be someone from Cabana Boy, the Production Company that had the rights to Neuromancer at the time. If you hear a female voice, that would be Barbara Leary, who was Timothy’s wife at that time.
I recently interviewed Gibson for the MONDO project and he had this to say about his vague recollection: “I dimly remember being annoyed that that was going to be published. Mainly because I hadn’t been asked, I imagine.”
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
I was foresaken by rock and roll in the early 1970s. Gene Vincent, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones had died. The Beatles disintegrated. The Byrds broke-up and then reunited to record their worst album. The Stones released their last great one. The Who were making tedious, bombastic operas choked with bad symbolism and simple minded metaphors. Pink Floyd took the brown acid and became boring. The Dave Clark Five became Dave Clark and Friends. Phil Spector went into seclusion. Elvis went to the White House to shake Nixon’s hand. Bob Dylan went Nashville. Brian Wilson went mad and Arthur Lee wasn’t too far behind.
Top 40 radio was in dire need of a Rotor-Rooter. The pipelines were full of excremental sludge consisting of some of the worst songs to be sprung from the a-hole of rock n’ roll.
“A Horse With No Name” - America
“The Candy Man” - Sammy Davis Jr.
“Joy To The World” - Three Dog Night
“One Bad Apple” - The Osmonds
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” - John Denver
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree” -Tony Orlando & Dawn
” Bad Bad Leroy Brown” - Jim Croce
“The Way We Were” - Barbra Streisand
“Seasons In The Sun” - Terry Jacks
“The Streak” - Ray Stevens
“One Hell Of A Woman” - Mac Davis
All of the above were best-selling singles from 1971-74, all of them appearing in the Top Ten.
And when it came to rock criticism, Robert Christgau’s insulting and utterly clueless one-line review of Tim Buckley’s masterful 1970 release Starsailor is one of the most odious things that sandal-wearing beatnik ever wrote:
A man who was renowned for his Odetta impressions on Jac Holzman’s folkie label switches to Frank Zappa’s art-rock label, presumably so he can do Nico impressions.
Yes kids, it was a wasteland. If it was some fresh badass rock and roll you were looking for, you had to look hard. If you were lucky, you found Iggy… and eventually you’d come upon a few other shards of light within the shitstorm: Marc Bolan’s Electric Warrior and Roxy Music’s debut album, with Lou Reed’s Transformer and Ziggy not far behind. The guys with the make-up, glitter and hairspray brought something essential back to rock and roll: big hooks, guitars, a little danger and sex.
I took a pass on Bowie. Reed, as a Velvet, was already a hero. Roxy music knocked me out, but it was Marc Bolan that blew me way. Everything about T. Rex worked for me : the chugging guitar riffs, undeniable hooks, propulsive tribal rhythms, sassy vocals, surreal alliterative lyrics and Marc’s pimped out fashion sense. It all came together with a certain inspired savoir faire. Bolan, like Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Elvis, exploded fully formed out of the rock and roll godhead. He was one for the ages. His influence reached far and deep, inspiring and setting the stage for The Ramones, The Runaways, Blondie, The Clash and The Sex Pistols.
Marc Bolan:The Final Word is a BBC documentary that provides a fairly detailed overview of Bolan’s life. It’s narrated by Suzi Quatro and features contributions from his companion Gloria Jones, brother Harry Feld, producer Tony Visconti, Queen’s Roger Taylor, Steve Harley, Zandra Rhodes and more.
By god, it’s true. From Tom Jones’ TV variety show circa 1969. Tom seems to be inspiring a certain level of vocal enthusiasm from the other fellas here. Even the untouchably cool Neil Young seems inspired by the odd pairing. I never knew…
In, I think, 1988 or 89, I mailed hundreds of letters to all of the freaky organizations and crazed loners listed in Rev. Ivan Stang’s classic book on oddball culture, High Weirdness By Mail.
I sent the exact same form letter to all of them (“To Whom It May Concern, I am interested in more information about your organization, Thank you, Richard Metzger”) and within a very short period of time—about two weeks—my mailbox was overflowing daily with completely insane shit from some extremely marginal individuals. I used to have boxes and boxes of it. I’m sure that the current tenants of my former East Village apartment still to this very day get whimsical, creepy and outright alarming things addressed to me.
Among the high weirdness highlights were these people in Kentucky who sent me several homemade cassettes featuring some seriously demented (and low IQ) “alien channeling” sessions with “The Commodore” that became more and more paranoid and racist with every tape. This stuff was out there, existing in a parallel continuum of irrationality far beyond anything heard then on Art Bell’s radio show. With each cassette they’d send me—there were dozens sent for my one single letter of inquiry—there would be a crude drawing of their house and an appeal for money so that they could build a “UFO landing lookout” (something that you and I might call it a “porch”).
Equally persistent, but no less nutty, was the curious assortment of incredibly stupid items I received from disgraced TV televangelist Peter Popoff. Popoff—who was exposed as a fraud a long time ago on The Tonight Show and many times since—must assume that the people who contact him are the dumbest people on Earth and for the most part, maybe he’s right. Among the nonsense I got from him were a “prosperity prayer rug”: You were instructed to kneel on the “prayer rug”—a cheap paper poster with a dotted line circle—and put your wallet in front of you and pray for money (for a monetary donation, Popoff would also personally pray to God on your behalf) and a Handi-wipe type thing with supposed “holy water” that would make your debts vanish by supernatural intervention. Or something.
(He’s still around. The last time I saw Peter Popoff on TV, he was on BET and had re-invented himself as a sort of preacher/debt councilor)
The zaniness is broken down into categories like Weird Science, UFO Contactees, Jesus Contactees, Weird Religion, New Age Saps, $chemes & $cams, Cosmic Hippie Drug Brother Stuff, Weird Politics, Rantzines, Comics, Badfilm & Sleaze and Rudeness & Sex Wars.
You’ve got your slack cut out for you…
Honestly, I must say, spending 3 or four hours writing to all of those kooks was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I highly recommend High Weirdness by Mail. No really, in some ways, it changed my life! Praise Bob!
An oral history of the origins of Def Jam Records, as told by Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, L.L. Cool J, Bill Stephney, Chuck D., Glen E. Friedman, Hank Shocklee, Tim Westwood, DMC, Joe Perry, Beastie Boys and others. Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 2.