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?

 

#

 

 

A Message from Jason, 9/11

A MESSAGE FROM JASON, ALL RIGHT

I am a huge fan of Guideposts. Yet I’m not a huge fan of eNewsletters.  You’d never know this, because I receive an electronic heap of them per day. SmartBriefs, trade newsletters, Chicken Soup newsletters since I am a former contributor, spam eNewsletters … up the wazoo.  So many go unopened that a majority now end up in my spam file. I’ve been too distracted to go into them and unsubscribe.

A Guideposts eNewsletter appeared in my spam file yesterday.

Eh, I thought. Maybe I’ll read one today.

I clicked on “This is not spam.” The newsletter moved to my inbox.

THE STORY WAS ABOUT MY COUSIN.

My cousin Jason DeFazio worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, he was 29 years-old.  He had gotten married three months before. Much of mjason micheley mother’s family was at his wedding, laughing and celebrating with him. On September 11th, his wedding pictures hadn’t even come back from the photographer yet.

The last his mother (my mom’s first cousin Roseann) heard from him, he was in a stairwell.

That was all.

His family held a service for him in October.  Around the room, his wedding photos were displayed in frames on bakers racks. “This is all I have of him now,” Roseann said to me as she walked me through the sets of portraits. She had nothing to bury. She didn’t receive a physical scrap of him back. This is difficult for an Italian family. We want visceral closure, backed with physicality. We want something and somewhere to visit, to pay our respects.

I held Roseann’s hand. I wanted to repay her. I hadn’t spent a lot of time with her family in Staten Island, but almost 15 years before, my aunt had died of Lupus. Still a teenager, and one who identified fiercely with my Aunt Joanne, I was devastated enough to develop allergy symptoms that mimicked her disease, which continued for months to come.  Roseann came out to Long Island for the funeral and held my hand. She told me stories about when she, Joanne and my mother were girls. She stood in my grandmother’s basement and took my mother’s hand and tap danced on the concrete floor like they did when they were kids in dance class, and made my mother laugh. It made me feel like my beautiful aunt would not be forgotten, did not go into the ether. Note, that “Chicken Soup for the Soul” contribution I mentioned was about my aunt.

Right now, I don’t feel like being eloquent. I feel like figuring out what this is supposed to mean. I Google Jason’s name and see a plethora of photographs of him that make me cry, even though he was not a cousin that I spent time with. It still makes me want to repay Roseann more. Like the world owes her more.

The crux of the newsletter was that Roseann was receiving messages from Jason. I can’t help but wonder what message I was meant to discern when I randomly rescued an item from a spam file that turned out to be a posting about my own relative. Except that maybe I should write about him.

This is the story Guideposts sent around:

A Message of Comfort from a Loved One Lost on 9/11Marquee_GreenAngel

 

 

 

Amy and Nina and the Statue of Liberty

liberty stairsAmy and Nina and the Statue of Liberty

I saw a meme with two young girls walking, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. “Who was your best friend when you were 10 years old? Tag them if you’re friends on Facebook.”

*          *          *          *

I was the type of kid who only needed one good friend. One person I trusted, who liked me better than anyone else.

Amy and I knew each other since we were seven. It’s been kind of unbelievable.

Amy, however, always preferred to have a lot of different friends, even while being devoted to our kinship. I was loyal as hell, but in the cold light of day, I was likely downright clingy and isolated and over-emotional compared to an easy-going, bawdy kid like her, who attracted leagues of buddies and pre-pubescent boyfriends at a time. She’d often try to share them with me. Through it all, I knew she would always liketen me best.

Amy’s other friends always noticed—and often resented—the bond between us. Not all those other friends took kindly to our attachment. Or to me. Instead of branching out with additional friendships of my own, I took it personally. I was intense.

In fifth grade, Amy became buddies with another girl in our class named Nina. Amy “shared” Nina with me, bringing the three of us into one fold, which worked out nicely for a while. In time, Nina got tired of being the third girl in the triumvirate. She wasn’t always so friendly anymore. She’d invite Amy to do cool things like ice-skating on the pond by her house, which my mother didn’t allow me to do, edging me into sporadic third-wheel status.

Throughout fifth grade at our Long Island elementary school, we students had been building classroom “points” for tasks and good deeds and high grades and such. Our teacher Miss Harrigan conducted a year-end class auction where we could purchase garage-sale items based on the points we accumulated.

There was a grand prize offering:  A trip to New York City with Miss Harrigan to the Statue of Liberty. Only five kids could win that, whomever bid the highest amount, secret-Chinese-auction-style.

I didn’t need the trinkets Miss Harrigan assembled. I bought a magenta glass brooch shaped like an apple, then dumped my remaining wad of points into the New York City prize envelope. Amy said she’d do the same.

Me, Amy, Nina and two “popular” girls in the class won the trip. I wonder if Miss Harrigan hand-picked a set of power girls and claimed we were the highest bidders. I resolved to go, even if Nina was no longer crazy about me, even if I was a loner and not Miss Popularity like the rest of the bubbly crew.1003NewYorkCity092 Statue of Liberty View through Crowne towards Manhattan

We climbed hundreds of steps to the crown. Amy, Nina and the girls were cordial enough, yet I waited for the shoe to drop where Nina might decide to cool it and not speak to me. I still felt that veil of threat between us, even knowing that some of it was a threat I represented to her, the girl who reciprocally forced her to apportion Amy’s attention. Meanwhile, my relationship with the best friend I had in the world sat squarely in the hands of a third party.

I’m not sure what happened to the teacher, but we ended up five eleven year-olds alone at the top of the Statue of Liberty. We gazed through the panels of the crown across a gray New York Harbor, the skyline miniaturized as to fit into a snow globe. I stared at the Gulliver-sized book Miss Liberty tucked under her arm (“JULY IV”). Satisfied, Amy and our two other classmates shot back down book july IVthe steel spiral staircase, echoing chatter. I moved to tag along—always the follower, never the leader.

Nina grabbed my arm and squeezed.

“DON’T LEAVE ME.”

I thought she was kidding.

Our friends’ footsteps were already too far below to hear. “Come on, let’s go,” I said. “The other girls are way ahead ….”

Nina had a death grip on my forearm against the stair rail. Her body vibrated like a scrap of paper caught against the back of a fan. Fifth graders in New York would rather burst into flames than cry in front of each other. Yet Nina stared at me, wide-eyed and blinking back tears, her feet rooted in place.

“YOU HAVE TO HELP ME DOWN,” she said. “Please, Suzanne. Please-please-please. I can’t do it.”

Amy was nowhere to be found.

I couldn’t leave Nina there.

I hugged onto her shoulders and said, okay, let’s go slow. We literally took one step at a time, resting on each step before she could face the next one. She wouldn’t let go of me. Every pace, she insisted she couldn’t finish. Every step, I said, it’s okay, try just one more.

Three hundred and fifty-four steps.

It took us nearly an hour. She asked me not to tell the other girls.

*          *          *          *

This morning on Facebook, I saw the meme again. It warmed my heart to see two friends from middle school tag each other across the miles, defying decades.

Then Nina tagged Amy—and me.

 

 

 

#

 

 

Note I changed the names here.