“I would rather eat worms than ride a Jap bike”
OK, how about this for idea for an American TV series: An all-girl Jpop group comes to America and teams up with a dorky American comedy guy. Sounds too good (for Denny) to be true?
In fact there WAS a 1980 television show close to the Denny dream, No, I’m NOT making this up. Despite the brain cells I killed in my late 70s and early 80s “punk rocker” days, I can still recall the NBC show “Pink Lady and Jeff”.
The NBC show is regarded by most TV historians and critics as “one of the worst television shows ever”. There was a time in the late 70s/early 80s when NBC produced a number of shows now regarded as “worst ever”. Not the type that were “so bad that they are good” – just shows that were BAD. Remember “Sherriff Lobo?!?”, “BJ and the Bear”!!?? … “Manimal”???!!!
Unfortunately, Pink Lady’s variety show is on that list. Six programs were produced, but only five aired, as it was hated so much. It did not play in Peoria. Looking back, it did NOT deserve the hatred that was set loose on it. Full disclosure: I also thought it was pretty stupid. It was full of actors and musical acts I could not care for. I want to make an apology to you Pink Lady, for my involvement and anything I said.
The following is from the Pink Lady and Jeff Wikipedia article:
“The series starred Japanese female singing duo Pink Lady — Mitsuyo Nemoto, (“Mie”) and Keiko Masuda (“Kei”), and American comedian Jeff Altman (who oddly was also on “The Dukes of Hazard” show over on CBS in the same time slot – DS). The format of the show consisted of musical numbers alternating with sketch comedy. The running gag of the series was the girls’ lack of understanding of American culture and the English language; in reality, Pink Lady did not speak English. (It is cringe-inducing to watch the dialog — DS) Jeff would then attempt to translate and explain the meaning of things, which led to more confusion.”
I do love a good fish-out-of-water story. Oh, man so much potential, and actually the ladies are pretty good. The group was very popular in Japan (here is one of their songs “SOS” linked here), but unheard of in America. Heard that before? VideoPirates on YouTube has produced a clip show here. It is jaw-dropping amazing. Forget the train wreck … this is worse … you can’t look away …
See … “UN-FREAKING BELIEVABLE LOIS!!!” Pop Culture enthusiasts: WATCH THIS!!! It is a great cross-section through the wasteland that was American popular culture. Looking back, some acts I do like. There was a nice moment where Pink Lady met the great Roy Orbison.
The producers Marty Krofft and Fred Silverman recall a story during production: When the girls arrived in Los Angeles they wanted to go to Disneyland. Of course no Americans knew who the Japanese star duo were, but there are many Japanese tourists at Disneyland, so the girls were mobbed for autographs.
It is really too bad .. and unfair that the show was over-criticized by the American audience. (Consider the crap we watched on our three channels at that time.) Watch these clips. Comedian Jerry Lewis is there, and he even performs his usual “HEY LADY” schtick. Looking back, some of the jokes were really, really bad. Many would be considered “politically incorrect” as well today. Some of the guest stars were has-beens, or “never-weres”. Some like Roy Orbison and Alice Cooper would revive their careers later in the 1980s. I have to admit it — their duet with Donny Osmond does sound pretty good. I hated seeing Playboy Hugh Hefner interacting with the girls however. (Cut to Denny imitating Homer Simpson — shaking a threatening fist ”Get away from them you old perv.”). However, all through that Mie anf Kei are GREAT! Their sweet personalities shine through the goofy sketches. They are super pretty, look great in the bikinis, and I love their musical performances. Well, now .. not back then … Sheena was a punk rocker.
“I would rather eat worms than ride a Jap bike” my leather-clad biker companions would say. In fact I would see that on T-shirts. There was a significant amount of anti-Japanese sentiment and misunderstanding in the industrial cities of America in the 1970s and 1980s.
I grew up in a corrupt American steel-making city. The mill-hicks would always go ape-shit over imported steel product.
Myself, I did not ride a Harley. I rode a “rice grinder” — a Yamaha 250 dirt bike. (FYI: This is a completely different type of motorsport than the Harley crowd). My dad was a steelworker, and cussed me out for the Japan import. Assholes would ask me: “Why do you ride a JAP bike?” “Are you broke? .. eat your import”
Why the Japan-bashing? Well, they were beating our pants off, and we union-bleeding creeps wanted our government to “protect” us. Meaning: “Slap a $1,000 tax on all Japanese auto imports.” I remember this statement getting a cheering ovation at my graduation. We made cars. Japan made better cars for a cheaper price. But isn’t that what America is all about? Man, I have seen factory workers smoke pot and snort THC right on the job. If you have ever seen the Michael Keaton movie “Gung Ho” – you will see how the comedy film captures the anti-Japanese feeling at the time. So many of the World War II veterans also had jobs in the mills, and you should know how they felt about Japan.
Things were different in California. Everyone drove imports there. I think if the Pink Lady producers knew what type of resentment there was in the US Northeast, they may not have backed the show. That is beside the point of it being a goofy idea.
Pink Lady and Jeff – unfortunately — was doomed from the start. OK, it was a goofy show, but so were all the others. Pink Lady — I apologize for the bad Hollywood television writers. I apologize for the bad taste of the American public. We just were not ready. Pink Lady (and even you Jeff) … I apologize for not seeing your beauty and talent back then. I would love to see a reunion concert or show in America.
It would be great if the media geniuses in Hollywood would take advantage of the otaku market in America and create a Japanese variety show for the US audience.
I sure know where you can find the dumb American co-host … I will wait for the call.
Starlight: It took 24 years for me to see the beauty of Pink Lady.