Robert Evans, the wunderkind Hollywood studio executive best known for his work on Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown had gotten himself into a bit of a jam back in 1980.
He was busted after agreeing to purchase $19,000 worth of cocaine—an amount he claimed was for himself as a user, denying the federal selling and distribution charges that were brought against him. Evans was convicted, and in a punishment befitting a big shot Hollywood producer, he didn’t get jail—he was ordered to create a public service anti-drug campaign. The end result of this slap on the wrist was one of the biggest TV mega-turds of all time: Get High On Yourself which aired on NBC in the Fall of 1981.
Evans put up $400,000 of his own money and recruited That’s Incredible‘s Cathy Lee Crosby to co-produce an hour-long “very special program.” Evans put his rolodex to work and pulled in over 50 celebrities including Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Muhammad Ali, Paul Newman, Scott Baio, Robby Benson, Kristy McNichol, Herve Villechaize, Dana Plato, Mark Hamill, and Bruce Jenner. Evans hired the jingle-writer responsible for “I Love New York” to compose the cornball earworm theme song. The special consists of the celebrities getting together to sing the song—a format which would be used to much greater success a few years later with Band Aid’s “Don’t They Know It’s Christmas” and USA For Africa’s “We Are the World.”
NBC turned this preachy anti-drug celebrity clusterfuck into a week-long celebration titled Get High On Yourself Week. At least 28 different commercials and promos were shot for the NBC roll out which was promoted for weeks in advance. NBC aired one Get High On Yourself spot every hour during prime time for eight days.
In his autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture Robert Evans cites Get High On Yourself as the high mark of his career.
Check out the clip below bearing that in mind. The Godfather it ain’t. Some WTF moments include Bob Hope being introduced as “Mr. Robert Hope” and then quickly cutting away from him before he speaks, and some very curious baritone vocal overdubbing on the shots of Paul Newman. In fact, all of the editing on this thing seems a bit wonky, as if they just went out and shot a bunch of footage and had no idea how to put it together.
You really have to wonder how much cocaine went into the making of this…