The 1980s Video Challenge

The ’80s Video Challenge

 

I was challenged recently to post my choice of videos from the 1980s. Boy, did they pick the right girl. I thought I’d share my selections along with my commentary, for those of you who maintain a sense of nostalgia for the best decade in musical history. Enjoy.

Don’t be envious, Millennials. We’ll continue to share our sensibility with you.

The Police: King of Pain, 1983

To start us off, from The Police’s Synchronicity album, tpolicehe above is some rare Australian video for this song, complete with a stuffed goat and a flaming dial telephone. This kind of eerie, Imagist camera work was considered artsy and cool at the time.

I went to the acutely famous concert promoting this album that took place at Shea Stadium, Flushing, NY, in the summer of 1983. I was 19 years-old. The LIE was transformed into a parking lot stretching across Queens, and I was twice rear-ended waiting in near-stop-dead traffic. We were so late to the event that we missed both opening bands, REM and Joan Jett, respectively. I didn’t even know who REM was yet.

According to Internet reports, it was after this one-night-only show that Sting decided to break up the band and go solo, because playing Shea Stadium (as did The Beatles) was a performance epitome for him, so he decided to move on to other pastures, where, say, the Blue Turtles roam.

Anyway, just listen…

Echo and the Bunnymen: Lips Like Sugar, 1987

Here is a quintessential ’80s dance song, although I don’t think I ever saw this video at the time. Remember, friends, there was no YouTube, and MTV had actually just emerged. Not everyone even got cable TV. So we mostly viewed these videos in the background as we danced at clubs. I hope the end of this one was supposed to be campy, because it’s as bad as some of the Godzilla films my son watches. However, the song is AWESOME, still. One other thing the rest of you ’80s people might experience:  These guys all seemed so mature and intimidating at the time. Yet viewing them now, they look like babies. Oh my Lord, the perspective of a 22 year-old.

And dig that hair.

Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime, 1980

Presenting the lead track to the movie of my life, and the theme song for my crew of girls in college. We made up a poster that had lyrics from the song magic-markered on it back in our dorm. We taped it to the ceiling, so that whenever one of us awoke on the rug the morning after a party, we’d see the lyrics staring down at us:

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?!”

David Byrne is a freaky-amazing genius and I adore him. He better not die any time soon, as losing David Bowie was enough of a blow.

Herbie Hancock: Rockit, 1983

This breaks out of my typical new wave mode, but still fits the technotronic synth-y club vibe we all grooved to at the time. I recently rediscovered this song and played it full blast, dancing through my house, remembering how wild it was with all its funky scratchiness and such.

Even my son, whose hobby is mixing “beats” all day on Mixcraft, leaned over our stair rail to ask, Hey what are you listening to?

This video was a gas in the ’80s and one of the earliest I remember seeing on MTV. The musical artist, Herbie Hancock, is funked-out fantastic. And the guy who put together these half-humanoid, half-obscene robots, a British artist and inventor named Jim Whiting, was quite The Bomb. I recall rumors at the time that the scene in “Blade Runner” where they visit the toy maker/android designer in his apartment, wherein life-size robotic toys wander aimlessly, was inspired by this guy. Although a current Internet search doesn’t back that up. 

Not exactly Disney’s version of animatronics.

**  I just learned I can’t post The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” as an ’80s video as it was actually 1979. Dang it. Can’t use “Rock Lobster,” either. Same problem.  Argh! ** Moving on …

Buster Poindexter (a.k.a. David Johansen):  Hot, Hot, Hot, 1987

I’m going more late-’80s mainstream this time, although we didn’t know back then this song would become a wedding conga-line classic. Mostly I’m posting it because I have the real inside guff this time, as I was AN EXTRA in this precipitous piece of film making.

hot

Left: Blonde in bustier. Top right, Sharon with long red curls. Orange arrow, head below Sharon with dark bangs: ME. I think.

Alas, hard as I try, I can barely see myself in it. Although refer to the arrows in the screen grab to the right. That’s us at the table in the indoor concert scene at the end. For four seconds. I see the exact table where we were sitting. I recognize the blonde woman in the black bustier dress who was sitting across from me. I see a fuzzy likeness of my friend Sharon who I dragged out to accompany me, and there’s my head below hers. The shot is nearly as grainy as a sonogram, but it’s us.

Here’s what happened:  I was working at Columbia Pictures as a script researcher and had to call a club downtown, the Latin Quarter, to fact-check something for a script. The manager said, Hey, we’re having a party for David Johansen tomorrow night because he’s filming a new video. Why don’t you come down? I grabbed my buddy Sharon and we got painted up and trucked down to the place. I asked for the manager who had invited me.

An older gentleman in a bedazzled tuxedo coat met us at the door. He looked me up and down and said (and this was cute–not sure what he was expecting):

“Oh, sweetie — you’re much more attractive than I thought you’d be. Come with me!”

Next thing you know we were signing release contracts and he sat us against the stage. They filmed the end of the song repeatedly and shouted for us to dance, throw our hair, and scream. Which we did. It was a blast.

At the time, we thought it was some weird number that no one would ever hear of. Because frankly, it was David Johansen, former cross-dresser from the New York Dolls, in a 1950s pompadour hairdo and a formal suit singing a Latin song — not something you thought would become a major hit in punky 1987.

As it turns out, I’ve been able to tell this story at every wedding I’ve ever been to.

Tears For Fears,  Everybody Wants To Rule the World, 1985

i-ran

Screen grab from the Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” video. Tin-foiled camera visible in mirror behind keyboardist.

I’ll sign off with this one, because the video for The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” in retrospect seems vaguely racist, and I can’t find the original video for that Thomas Dolby song. And the Flock of Seagulls video for “I Ran” is just too corny, with the cameras covered in aluminum foil, reflecting in all the spinning mirrored backdrops.

Soooo … I was studying a semester in England when I bought the album Songs From The Big Chair on cassette, because all I had with me was a SONY Walkman. I’d hide away in the tiny basement of our flats and play this, and literally bounce off the cinder block walls. When I hear it, I’m re-infused with the excitement and fear and wonder and expectation of my life finally beginning. I turned 21 years-old in London. And for a few moments, in my little head, I really did Rule the World.

Thank you, 1980s.

Who had more fun than we did?

 

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The Scariest Chick on Two Feet

The Scariest Chick on Two Feet

Notice I changed my banner on this blog. I replaced the slanted view of my living room with a pinky-orange fishnet placard that matches my Channillo.com short story series, “A Run in My Tights.” I also wanted to upgrade more from a middle grade to a “new adult” feel. More significantly, I changed the tagline from “Living Ironically” to:

“Chick With An Attitude.”

Time to own-up. At a recent GLVWG writer’s conference, I noticed a pattern.

Hint #1: As I explained my projects to a prominent branding consultant, she said to me, “You’re a handful aren’t you? I could tell from the questions you asked during the session.” Frankly, I felt like Little Miss Closed-Mouth at the session.

Maybe not.

Hint #2: In a panel of literary agents/publishers, one of them said A) Barnes & Noble will likely no longer be around in 10 years, and B) print book sales are on the rise. I asked him, “So how do you reconcile that statement about increases in print sales with the fact that Barnes & Noble is going out of business?”

The crowd laughed. Like I caught him in a lie or something. I felt bad.

Honestly, I just wanted to know whether print books actually were back on the rise.  (Note: He confirmed print sales are rising; Barnes & Noble’s predicted demise is a separate issue relative to its business model. Note:  I apologized to him at lunch the next day.)

Hint #3:  A volunteer from GLVWG read two pages of my waitress novel aloud during a critique session. In the scene, the inexperienced waitress is grilled by a potential employer. The session-reader caught me afterward. “Grrr,” she said, “I wanted to hear more of you in that story. I wanted her tell that guy off!”

More of me? I don’t remember telling anyone off at this or any other event. However, I’m realizing that even in environments where I feel like Bashful the Dwarf, compared to the rest of the world, I’m a freaking steam roller.

Here’s the biggest tell-tale sign. Before starting the waitress story, I perused a stack of journals from my youth, and I noticed a distinct recurring theme:

.        1981: “Bobby says I have an attitude…”

.        1983: “PJ says I have an attitude.”

.        1987: “Danny thinks I have an attitude…”

.        1988: “Mike says I have an attitude, and I think he’s right.”

One other guy from this time frame—maybe a bit more of an intellectual problem-solver than the others—would calmly turn to me when I got uppity and say:

Yes, Dominatrix.”

These were all formidable guys—the only type even remotely equipped to deal with me, apparently. Bobby was captain of the football team and drove a truck the relative size of Utah. PJ was a good-ole’ frat brother and avid Steelers fan. Danny was an Irish tough-guy from Queens. Mike was a law student who rode a motorcycle.

And the outright kicker?

One of the above guys, who lists counter-terrorism and military intelligence as professional interests on his LinkedIn page, broke up with me because he said I was “intimidating.”

Time to own up. I must be the scariest b-tch on the planet.

I suppose this is how I am able to thrive as a short-statured woman in an industry dominated by men. Large men. ADD/genius, entrepreneurial, C-level men. In the technology space.

Sometimes I wonder if I have any business hanging around with all these nice people in Pennsylvania. I fear that before long, someone will ask me to pack up and go back to New York.

Until that time comes, I’m going to take the advice of the above branding expert during our consultation (thanks SuzyQ). Just as I braced to be chastised for being too in-your-face, she said to me:

“No. I want you to run with this.”

So there you have it. I’ll embrace The Attitude. I’ll forgive myself for the journal episodes where more than one of these guys literally ran from me, sprinting up the cold cement steps of my basement apartment, while early-twenties Suzanne yelled things after them.

If I can’t get away from it, I might as well settle in.

I hope being The Scary Chick turns out to be marketable.

 

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Aside: Note my flash fiction piece, Ex-smokers, which seems to pick up on this pattern….

Will the Next David Bowie Please Put on a Dress?

Will the Next David Bowie Please Put on a Dress?

[Click to read on my Huffington Post blog.]

I’m in a state of mourning, and for more than just the loss of a music icon (or two) this month. I’m stricken by the fact that there is no one to succeed David Bowie—and I’m downright rancorous over the reasons why.

For someone who experienced college in the mid-80s, it’s particularly wounding to realize that a major creative engine of the new-wave fueled era has ceased to exist. To us post-modern, mini-skirted, artsy new wave chicks whose hair was stiff with BOY LONDON gel, Bowie was God. The Internet has since become overrun with tribute slide shows that far outnumber commentary on his contribution—especially discussion of who might continue his legacy. It is apparently easier to gather clips of his ten best videos and costume changes and movie roles than it is to contemplate the environment left in his wake. The slide show parade itself is symptomatic of why no one is waiting to take up that mantle.

Why will there never be another David Bowie? Because the current entertainment industry would never tolerate him. It has become mind-numbingly easier and cheaper to depend on recycled and homogenized entertainment than to put up with the inconvenience of nurturing an actual artist.

Genuine talent is unmanageable. It does not adhere to a contract. It is sexually confused. It throws televisions out the window and says f@ck in public. It gets pissed off at its bandmates. It will not be judged by a panel of well-styled celebrities with buzzers in their hands for the public’s general amusement.

Right now, I imagine there are a hundred Millennial Bowies out there. Instead of being fabulous, at their boldest they are mimicking contrived Disney protégés at network-sponsored national cattle calls. More likely, they’re hiding their true preferences and creative impulses so they can keep their jobs, afford their apartments and justify their unwarranted degrees. They are settling for Instagram as an artistic outlet.

Don’t think another innovator of the Bowie variety just can’t happen. As freakishly brilliant as he was, and as devastating as his loss is to popular culture, talent of this magnitude is not an isolated occurrence. Case in point:  John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew up in the same region of Liverpool. At the same time. If the world is ready to ingratiate itself to the next genius, he or she will emerge.

The deluge of online slide shows point to something deeply askew:  Rather than expound on David Bowie’s legacy, resulting in fresh insights and unique prose, the more effortless route is to embed videos or repost a collection of existing images and call it a memoriam. Such is easily digestible, and the content is free.

YouTube has become the new vocabulary of our emotions. We are a civilization that communicates via a series of regurgitated flash cards instead of thoughtful narrative.

A watershed of top ten lists is a disservice to what any genuine artist stands for: The conception of material that never existed until, magically, it is brought into reality by the sleight of the artist’s hand. Art is born, not linked.

This is why a whole generation of hipsters have devoted themselves to retro culture, rejecting the artists and even the technologies of their own era and declaring themselves aficionados of material that was conceived and produced long before they were.

I’d like more opportunity to glorify those who originate as opposed to reconstitute. Priority needs to shift back to supporting the strange and unbearable and tortured, instead of the managed and choreographed and sanitized. Until that happens, we will never see another Bono and U2. We will never see another Sting and The Police, or David Byrne and the Talking Heads. We certainly will never see The Doors, The Stones or Led Zeppelin again. Ever.

To that dormant Bowie in the audience:  Please recognize a glimmer of yourself here. Please stand up and put on a dress and dance. Write yourself out of the cultural stupor you’ve been born into. Masquerade in glitter eyeshadow and spandex and don’t care what the world thinks about it. Date men. Date women. Dye your hair. Do drugs. Shun the X-Factor auditions. Please, I beg of you—quit your day job, lay off the freaking Pinterest and spew out something amazing.

I pray this happens. But I won’t hold my breath.

Now on to the Glenn Frey slide shows …