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Can we talk? Do you remember Hüsker Dü‘s 1987 appearance on ‘The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers’
09.03.2013
10:35 am

Topics:
Music
Television

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Hüsker Dü
 
“Joan versus Johnny” was kind of the 1980s version of the Conan-Leno battle of 2010. For several years Joan Rivers had been the “permanent guest host” of The Tonight Show—her brassy style decidedly struck a chord, and her catchphrase “Can we talk?” became an ‘80s “thing,” just like breakdancing or Robin Leach. As Carson’s inevitable retirement neared, a memo circulated within NBC listing potential successors, and Rivers’ name was pointedly not on it. So she jumped to her own show on Fox in 1986, and the wounded Johnny never spoke to her again. In retrospect, Johnny doesn’t come off looking too good, and also the sexism of the late-night talk show game is particularly evident—Rivers was basically penalized for being an outspoken woman a little before her time. Although, come to think of it, Chelsea Handler notwithstanding, there still aren’t a lot of women doing late-night talk.

Meanwhile, after several groundbreaking and powerful albums, the great Minnesota band Hüsker Dü (Danish for “do you remember?”) dominated the indie rock world, and then they made a similarly calculated jump of their own—to Warner Bros., a “major label.” Hüsker Dü‘s decision to leave SST sent shockwaves among indie diehards, many of whom had themselves toiled for years in the ranks of the hardcore/punk underground. The idea of an independent band moving to a major label was, to many, unthinkable before that point—this was a precursor to the Geffen/DGC signings of bands like Sonic Youth and Nirvana just a few years later. Hüsker Dü‘s decision didn’t really work out that well—they put out Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories, fine albums both, for Warner until longstanding tensions led to the band’s breakup in 1987.
 
Could You Be the One?
 
So even if nobody knew it, in this video, dated April 27, 1987, we have two things that were about to come to an end: Hüsker Dü and The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.

It’s kind of cool that the stage set is done up in the style of the Warehouse: Songs and Stories album cover, which Hüsker Dü was supporting at the time. The two songs they played are “Could You Be the One?” and “She’s a Woman (And Now He is a Man).” As they approach the desk for the interview, cheeky Grant Hart indulges in an extended embrace of Rivers. The interview is as stiff as can be, but Rivers, in her awkward, matronly way, actually raises some points a hell of a lot of indie rock fans were wondering about: What’s with the major label signing? Are you watering down your sound? The Hüskers’ answers have the whiff of politics to them, which under the circumstances is only understandable.

It’s striking to witness the promotional clout of Warner—there wasn’t any way in hell Hüsker Dü was nabbing such a big national late-night talk show before that—as well as the oddity of Hüsker Dü‘s stately, jarring harmonics in such a corporate setting.

I’m glad that both Grant and Bob Mould each got a crack at singing lead vocal.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Truly Post-Punk: Suzanne Somers meets Wire on ‘The Late Show,’ 1987

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
David Frost R.I.P.
09.02.2013
12:39 am

Topics:
Television

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Oh dear, David Frost has died. What a lovely man. Dead at 74 of a heart attack.

There will be a lot written about David Frost in the next few days. He was at the center of major political and social events for several decades as both a commentator and brilliant interviewer. His death has triggered many personal memories of cultural touchstones that populate my life. Among them, his encounters with The Beatles. He had an ongoing relationship with John Lennon that was vital and shot through with the kind of energy that animates many friendships defined by respect and curiosity.

Here’s Frost interviewing John and Yoko in 1968 on British TV show Frost On Saturday. Kind of a Jungian mindfuck with Lennon struggling to communicate what sounds like some insights he received while tripping. Frost goes with the flow.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Evangelical Christian TV icon Tammy Faye Bakker interviews a gay man with AIDS, 1985
08.29.2013
12:28 pm

Topics:
Belief
Queer
Television

Tags:

Tammy Faye
Tammy Faye at a pride event
 
A lot of folks outside of the Bible Belt have trouble understanding Tammy Faye Bakker’s status as a gay icon. I mean sure, the make-up is befitting the most punk rock of drag queens (the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye is narrated by RuPaul), but her affiliation with Evangelical Christianity would seem to preclude her from “queer ally canonization.”

What most people either don’t know or don’t remember is that prior to Jerry Falwell’s near-monopoly on white working class Christian evangelism in America, celebrity churches were actually quite diverse, socially and politically and far less judgmental. It was Rev. Falwell who founded the Moral Majority, the organization that jump-started the extreme right-wing politicization of the Evangelical movement during the Reagan era, and it was Falwell who publicly accused Tammy’s husband Jim Bakker of homosexuality and of embezzling from his ministry. While Jim most certainly misappropriated funds (Tammy was legally determined to be ignorant of his misconduct) and had an affair, Falwell’s character assassination seemed entirely motivated by his plan to consolidate power.

Prior to the scandals, Tammy Faye Bakker ran a cable-access children’s puppet show, preaching messages of acceptance and love. As their ministry grew, she and Jim started the Christian talk show, The PTL Club, and eventually a world-wide Christian cable network of the same name. Far from being the right-wing cabal we now associate with Christian TV, The PTL Club was more about spreading the love—and passing the collection plate, natch. Below, you can see one of the very first television interviews with an AIDS patient, and a gay man, at that. Far from being a mere spectacle for gawkers, the interview is a frank discussion and a plea for acceptance and sympathy. (Steve Pieters, by the way, has had AIDS for the last 30 years, he’s a minister himself, and he is still singing in the acclaimed Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.)

The Tammy Faye backlash was in many ways a reaction to the shyster churches that scandalized the era. But it was also partially snobby bullshit. For all the make-up and crying and and bad taste in men, Tammy Faye truly seemed to be, at her core, a sweet, loving person who stood beside the maligned and took risks to live by the principles she espoused.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Who knew that the hand gestures on ‘Three’s Company’ could be so darn mesmerizing?
08.29.2013
10:07 am

Topics:
Art
Television

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Linked below is a 2006 work by Brooklyn artist Catherine Ross called Trilling.

From her website:
 

Trilling scrolls right to left across the screen, recombining footage from the early 80s television program “Three’s Company” into a sequence of traveling gestural loops. Trilling is about physical humor. It emerged out of a curiosity about my childhood obsession with the well-known sitcom “Three’s Company”. The show was written for adults, but through the actor’s performances it conveyed a humor that enabled anyone (including children) to laugh out loud. The physical comedy became the vehicle for the narrative, expressing the humor of the show in a way that words could not. Unlike verbal comedy, which needs time to register and be translated before we recognize its wit, physical humor is immediate; awkward bodily movement can trigger an uncontrollable hysterical response.

By excerpting and reformatting physical gestures from the actors in the show, I constructed a new narrative in collaboration with Trumpeter Taylor Haskins. Haskins composed the music spontaneously, creating a unique improvised response to each clip that fold together into a unified whole.

 
I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear there’s a supercut of Kramer’s feet skidding into Jerry’s apartment set to a lonesome oboe that is mind-blowing.
 


 
Via David Byrne’s blog

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Sonic Meth: Sonic Youth meets ‘Breaking Bad’ tee-shirt
08.28.2013
11:06 am

Topics:
Amusing
Drugs
Music
Television

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Raymond Pettibon’s cover art for Sonic Youth’s Goo album meets Breaking Bad in this droll tee-shirt mashup.

It reads: “I stole Combo’s mom’s RV. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. With-in a week we killed Krazy-8 and hit the road.”

Pettibon’s original illustration was based on a 1966 news photo of Maureen Hindley and David Smith, witnesses in the case of the “Moors murders” serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, as they to made their way to the trial.

It’s available at Society 6 for $18.00.

Via Suicide Watch

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
James Brown preaches the gospel of space aliens in his ill-conceived psychedelic ‘Miami Vice’ cameo
08.28.2013
10:49 am

Topics:
Television

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episode still
An actual still from the episode. For real. It’s that kind of episode.
 
Honestly, I didn’t think there was a television rock star guest spot weirder than Iggy Pop on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, but the surreal incongruity of James Brown on Miami Vice has my head spinning.

First of all, by this time, James Brown had already been dealing with a nasty little PCP problem, and had been arrested multiple times for domestic abuse while cranked to the gills. This episode aired in November of 1987. Less than a year later, Brown would be involved in a high speed car chase, and subsequently arrested again with drugs and an unlicensed gun (but not until after the cops shot out his tires). A weird choice for a part in crime show about vice cops? You be the judge!

Second, this is just a trippy damn piece of television (with cameo from a young, Jheri-curled Chris Rock, no less!). I don’t want to give anything away (come on, you know you want to watch the whole thing), but six minutes into it, Brown appears as a psychedelic vision, and the rest of the plot is spent trying to unravel his leadership in an extraterrestrial-obsessed cult (I’m not kidding). Honestly, a shyster peacher talking about aliens is kind of a perfect role for “the hardest working man in show business.”

All irony aside, the script is laughable, the “acting” is sporadic, the production values are terrible, and Don Johnson’s hair is a violent assault on your eyeballs. But James Brown? James Brown is always a good show!
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Walt giving Hank the wrong CD is quickly becoming the new ‘Hitler Reacts’
08.27.2013
05:53 pm

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Amusing
Television

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Much like the “Hitler Reacts” videos, I’m pretty certain this “Walt gives Hank the wrong CD” will surely become a thing (if it hasn’t already).

I wasn’t all that much of a Malcolm in the Middle fan, BUT… I do remember this epic and totally unforgettable scene with Bryan Cranston.

“Heisenberg” would shit himself if he knew he accidentally gave Hank this!

 
Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Albert Brooks, the inventor of anti-comedy?
08.26.2013
03:12 pm

Topics:
Television

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It’s not really clear who can be definitively credited with inventing what is today known as “anti-comedy,” (obviously Andy Kaufman, but also Steve Martin would be in the running, not to mention Brother Theodore) but Albert Brooks’ delightful ventriloquism bit from The Flip Wilson Show in 1972 is surely a key text.
 

 
Bonus clip: The classic “East Coast vs. West Coast Ventriloquism” sketch from Mr. Show after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The night Hulk Hogan knocked Richard Belzer out cold
08.24.2013
01:25 pm

Topics:
Television

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Back around 1985, the Lifetime Network, which had not yet branded itself as a channel dedicated to angsty women’s dramas, decided to dedicate an hour a week to a prime-time talk show called Hot Properties, featuring as its host a standup comedian named Richard Belzer. Of course it was many years before Belzer would cement his identity as the ubiquitous Detective John Munch, and anyone who’s seen his live act knows that Belzer, whatever his gifts and flaws, was not your typical standup comedian. His New York City edge, his rapid patter, his Reagan impersonation (which he used incessantly), and his affinity for conspiracy theories made him something like a cut-rate George Carlin for the cable TV era.

In effect, Hot Properties was a version of Late Night with David Letterman, except with no audience to speak of. The most interesting thing about it, really, was that it ran at 8pm on Wednesdays—the edge that Belzer brought to the proceedings seemed entirely out of place on the prime-time lineup. I tuned in whenever I could, but the show didn’t last very long. Detailed TV listings from the mid-1980s are hard to come by, but according to the Retrojunk website, the guest on September 18, 1985, was Quentin Crisp—pretty interesting guest! I can’t say for sure, but I think the show may have broadcast live. Anybody know?
 
TV GUIDE 1985
 
There’s virtually no information out there about Hot Properties, but I cherished it (briefly) as an offbeat source of interesting programming. Insofar as the show is remembered at all, it’s for an incident that happened on the telecast of March 27, 1985.

Belzer’s guests that night, there to promote the first-ever Wrestlemania on March 31 of the same year, were Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. After a few minutes Belzer asked Hogan to show him a few wrestling moves; Hogan put Belzer in a kind of awkward headlock and Belzer fell to the floor; he had apparently passed out. The two crazy things about the footage are that just before Hogan tries his move, Belzer actually falls to the floor on purpose, as a joke, the idea being that the merest movement from Hogan would be enough to make a pencil-necked New Yorker like Belzer faint dead away. The other thing that’s weird is that after blacking out for perhaps five seconds, Belzer immediately bounds up and, quite full of energy, offers up a fairly professional bumper to the commercial. On the show a week later, Belzer would explain, quite plausibly, that he was in shock at the time.

Belzer ended up getting nine stitches. Belzer sued Hogan and the World Wrestling Federation (as it was then known), and the parties eventually settled out of court. There were rumors that Belzer received $5 million, but in a 2008 interview on Howard Stern he said that the number was a lot closer to $400,000.

Belzer Knocked Out
 
In March 2012, I attended a birthday party for Jerry Lewis at the Friars’ Club in New York. Belzer, who’s close to Lewis, served as the MC. As I was leaving the party I happened to find myself walking next to Belzer—I took a moment to tell him how much I’d liked Hot Properties back in the day—certainly a fan testimonial he doesn’t hear every day. Belzer had hardly been listening but that got his attention; his head whipped around and he said something like “Boy, you remember that, huh?”
 
Hulk and “the Belz” tussle:

 
A week later, Belzer shows his stitches:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Burdened by an excess of living brain cells? Meet Mr. Blobby!
08.24.2013
10:57 am

Topics:
Pop Culture
Television

Tags:

Mr. Blobby
 
In a column in late 1943, George Orwell vented a bit about anti-British sentiment in the U.S.:

We ought to face the fact that large numbers of Americans are brought up to dislike and despise us. ... The typical Englishman is represented as a chinless ass with a title, a monocle and a habit of saying “Haw, haw.” This legend is believed in by relatively responsible Americans, for example by the veteran novelist Theodore Dreiser, who remarks in a public speech that “the British are horse-riding aristocratic snobs.” (Forty-six million horse-riding snobs!)

Orwell was quite right, of course, there is a marked tendency for Americans to think of the English as erudite, upper-crust people with accents you could sharpen diamonds on.

Nothing, but nothing, will disabuse you of that tendency (should you have it) more quickly and more thoroughly than ten seconds’ exposure to an astonishing character named Mr. Blobby, a British media sensation of the early to mid-1990s.

Mr. Blobby started as a recurring prank on a Saturday night TV show called Noel’s House Party—his pranks are in the tradition of Candid Camera, but in truth Mr. Blobby was also an obvious precursor to the shenanigans of Sasha Baron Cohen (who, you’ll recall, is also British). The idea was that Mr. Blobby would be inserted into this or that professional context on the pretense of filming a children’s TV show, but would then merely be excruciatingly clumsy, knock all manner of objects down to the floor, fall over, and incessantly intone the single word that existed in his vocabulary, which (of course) was “blobby.”

I grope for an American analogy—if Barney the Dinosaur worked for Howard Stern? If Triumph the Insult Dog made nothing but farting noises? Perhaps someone else can hit upon just the right equation here.

Lest you suspect that I’m abusing the term “media sensation” above, note that in the winter of 1993-94, the entity/corporation known as Mr. Blobby released a song, predictably entitled “Mr. Blobby,” that hit #1 on the U.K. charts for three weeks—additionally, it became the first song in more than twenty years to be bumped from the #1 slot and then secure it again.

Tom Ewing, in his (extremely good) “Popular” blog covering every #1 hit in the U.K. since 1952, explained the success of the “Mr. Blobby” single thus:

[The single is] just slapstick, corporate Dada, highly merchandised nonsense. It’s true that Blobby struck an awful lot of nerves – he was a lodestone for a wider debate about “dumbing down,” … a lurid, shambling “why we can’t have nice things” symbol for a vaguer sense of cultural decline.

But he was also a man in a rubber suit who fell over a lot. And this is his single, coming on like a megamix of previous novelties – the tinny Casio rush of Bombalurina, a chorus of kids a la St Winifreds, three-line-whip jollity (not quite as gritted-teeth as The Stonk), and plenty of parping and farting because, er, Britain.

One thing about Mr. Blobby though—as much as I hate to admit it, he is pretty funny. For the most part Mr. Blobby positively makes me itch, but the video’s two explicit spoofs feature extremely well-chosen targets that had elevated sleek, pompous popcraft over any ordinary human emotion (Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” and Genesis’ “We Can’t Dance”) at the end of both of which Mr. Blobby falls down all over everything. Ha! And there’s another bit I like where he kicks some footballer in the shin for no reason. So even if he is repulsive and sub-moronic, there’s something in him that appeals to virtually all of us.

Mr. Blobby is still around, too: He has a Facebook feed and a Twitter presence. He lives on in the well-publicized prank, perpetrated just a few months ago, in which, inspired by Mr. Blobby, an Essex man painted his brother’s house bright pink with yellow spots without bothering to inform him. Mr. Blobby’s Twitter account evinces some kind of minimalist genius, in that he’s permitted to use but a single word, as for instance:
 

 
Below you will find the video. Be warned, this video is NSFW unless you don’t mind your co-workers thinking you have an IQ of about 75.

 
After the jump, if you can stand it, a BBC movie featuring 70 solid minutes of Mr. Blobby’s pratfalls…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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