Rolling Stone jiggles screen with an entertaining fiasco
The Washington Post
by Tom Shales
NOVEMBER 26, 1977
Less than halfway into Rolling Stone: The 10th Anniversary, on CBS, Bette Midler surveys the situation and sizes it right up. “The 10th anniversary of Rolling Stone!” she says. “What could be more BORING?”
If the occasion itself is hardly the stuff of tingled spines, at least the network special commemorating it had enough loony bad taste, rampant overproduction and indulgent pseudo-solemnity to qualify as a true fiasco fabuloso. It was crummy but
it was entertaining.
Midler’s segment, near midpoint in the two-hour pageant, struck the night’s high note and held it. Her parodistic vivacity and brash stance embodied the preening self-importance that saturated the show. She sang a seductive La Vie en Rose and a turbulent Da Doo Run Run, among others.
Comedian Steve Martin another of the greatest living faces in television, bullied a few comedy sketches into life as well and also served as an antidote. But the motif remained pretentiousness, and imagined hip pretentiousness at that.
In this obsession, the program may, indeed, have been true to Rolling Stone magazine, which appears to take its role as chronicler of (lie rock generation – a self appointed role – as the most divine mission since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. Watching the show was a little like reading the unrelenting me-prose of the magazine and wondering to yourself if even the greyest old head writing editorials for The Times of London could conceivably be taking himself any more seriously than these kids did.
Of course, it’s no tiny irony that a publication with roots ostensibly in the counter-culture of the ’60s now comes crawling to mainstream television like just another merchandiser – sJill trying, to some extent to merchandise anti-mercantilism. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner was listed among the stars of the program, (though he had only a cameo role in the
opening sketch and was credited as a contributing writer .and executive producer.
Trying to pick out the most preposterous of the special’s chain of independent modules isn’t easy. Martin Sheen reading an angry letter from a Vietnam veteran merits some kind of prize for fatuquence, part of it shot – by cinematographer Haskell
Wexler – in an L.A. record store’s parking lot, reportedly cost $100,000 to produce. Life in the Fast Lane (from an Eagles song) told of a fame-hungry .young woman (Lesley Ann Warren) who rubs herself with money until a smoke bomb goes off.
I think maybe there’s some heavy social comment going down, huh? The special also featured Gladys Knight and the Pips,
Art Garfunkel and Jerry Lee Lewis. They didn’t rub themselves with money, at least on camera, but producer director Steve Binder has said that money was no object in producing this Hallelujah Chorus for the world’s ex-hippies.
The Rolling Stone 10th anniversary special is the kind of ghastly mess that is pleasurable because you feel most of the people involved in it deserve to look ridiculous, and they did.