Mister D: Sorry, for better or worse, Bette was humping the stage long before Madonna. Â When I first saw Madonna pull her “Like A Virgin” rolling on the floor, humping the stage stunt, my first thoughts were….Bette Midler! She set the bar for stage performances!
New York Post
Last Updated: 1:54 AM, July 31, 2011
Posted: 7:39 PM, July 30, 2011
If Yippies founder Jerry Rubin was right about not trusting anyone over 30, then MTV is in a heap of trouble. Staying connected to youth is the networkâ€™s mission, so MTV may want to forget that it was sparked to life 30 years ago with the words, â€œLadies and gentlemen, rock and roll.â€ Television hasnâ€™t been the same since.
But MTV, after its long transformation into a reality-TV juggernaut, is looking a bit more like it used to. Its underground-rock showcase â€œ120 Minutesâ€ has just returned with former host Matt Pinfield. And the networkâ€™s notorious cartoon duo â€œBeavis and Butt-headâ€ are due back this fall, along with â€œJersey Shore.â€
To commemorate 30 years of MTV, here are the networkâ€™s Top Ten most seminal pop-culture moments.
1. Pat Benatarâ€™s â€œYou Better Runâ€ (1981)
Sure, the Bugglesâ€™ prophetic â€œVideo Killed the Radio Starâ€ was MTVâ€™s first clip. But the second video, featuring Benatar in a punky haircut, striped tee and skin-tight pants, was the one that truly pointed to the future of pop.
Unlike male-dominated rock radio, MTV gave women (at least attractive women) a huge boost. Female sex appeal turned out to be the great leveler, something that has never changed at MTV, from Madonna to Britney Spears.
Pat Benatar â€œestablished a new image of women in rock â€” not only as a sex symbol but as a woman who sings the tough rock song, songs traditionally left to the guys,â€ says Nina Blackwood, one of the networkâ€™s founding veejays. With more cynicism, Benatar herself has said, â€œWhen I first came out, they didnâ€™t know what to do with me. So they went with the easiest thing, my looks, rather than marketing my voice or even the band.â€
2. Rick James â€œFreaksâ€ outon MTV (1981)
Although MTV started with an African-American veejay, J.J. Jackson, on its team, the network quickly came under fire because black pop stars were nearly invisible. Michael Jackson, however, wasnâ€™t the first to level charges of racism â€” it was Rick James.
Even though his 1981 album â€œStreet Songsâ€ had sold more than three million copies, MTV passed on his videos for both â€œSuper Freakâ€ and â€œGive It to Me Baby.â€ James chalked it up to racism, later declaring â€œa lot of black asses are going to come together and explode on MTV.â€ The network countered that it was simply because James didnâ€™t fit its rock format. Also, the clip and its writhing, â€œkinkyâ€ street girls, was too racy.
The network, though, could hardly afford to be picky. In the early years, videos wound up in constant rotation simply because there were no other clips available.
â€œWe had nothing to pick from,â€ early MTV exec Les Garland told Jet Magazine. â€œI spent 50 percent of my time just convincing artists [and labels] to make music videos.â€
Jackson, meanwhile, had already made clips for his 1979 hit â€œDonâ€™t Stop Til You Get Enoughâ€ and his smash, â€œBillie Jean,â€ which had been on top of the Billboard singles chart for seven weeks. Legend has it that Jacksonâ€™s label threatened to pull all its artists from MTV unless â€œBillie Jeanâ€ went on the air. Garland, though, says the first time he saw it, he thought it was the best video heâ€™d ever seen.
Whatever the case, on March 2, 1983, â€œBillie Jeanâ€ debuted on MTV, becoming the first video by a black artist to make it into heavy rotation and paving the way for Prince and Whitney Houston, as well as Jacksonâ€™s own crowning moment, the December 1983 unveiling of the 14-minute â€œThrillerâ€ clip, still arguably the best music video ever made.
3. Madonna at the virgin VMAs (1984)
Hosts Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler appeared in space suits to deliver sexually charged banter. Michael Jackson snagged multiple awards and Eurythmics were named the best new band for their video â€œSweet Dreams (Are Made of This).â€ The nightâ€™s big winner? Herbie Hancock, who cleaned house with five awards his robot video for â€œRockit.â€
Tina Turner, Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper and Huey Lewis all turned in performances. But the only one anybody remembers was delivered by a sexy newcomer who sang â€œLike a Virgin.â€ Clad in a bustier-topped wedding dress, Madonna danced on top of a giant wedding cake before dry-humping the stage in a turn that set the bar for every awards-show performance since â€” and gave MTV a reputation for pushing the boundaries of taste.
4. â€œRemote Controlâ€ (1987)
The goofy game show with pop-music trivia was MTVâ€™s first foray into non-musical programming. But whatâ€™s often overlooked is how the network served as an incubator for now-legendary comedic talent.
Over five seasons, â€œRemote Controlâ€ gave Adam Sandler, Denis Leary and Colin Quinn their first big breaks. A gurgling Leary portrayed Andy Warhol in the â€œAndyâ€™s Diaryâ€ segment. Sandler turned up as â€œStud Boy,â€ who described famous women heâ€™d had affairs with. Quinn croaked out tunes in â€œSing Along with Colinâ€ â€” heâ€™d start the song and the contestant had to fill in the rest of the words.
By 1990, there was also â€œThe Ben Stiller Show,â€ produced by Stiller and a guy called Judd Apatow. Two years later, Jon Stewart bombed in â€œYou Wrote It, You Watch It,â€ but returned in 1993 with his first, self-titled talk show. The rest, as they say, is fake news.
5. â€œYo! MTV Rapsâ€ (1988)
MTV may have been slow to embrace black artists, but it quickly saw the coming impact of hip hop and jumped on the burgeoning urban-youth movement with â€œYo! MTV Raps,â€ which aired for seven years. The show took hip hop beyond the boroughs and into middle America for the first time.
It also helped ignite a culture war between fansâ€™ desire for authentic videos with â€œstreet credâ€ and broadcast standards, which in 1991 nixed controversial clips such as Public Enemyâ€™s â€œBy the Time I Get to Arizonaâ€ and Cypress Hillâ€™s â€œHow I Could Just Kill A Man.â€ Ultimately, a plea from MTV executive Sheri Howell, who argued that the Cypress Hill clip had an important message, got that video aired, but the showâ€™s ratings were already in freefall.
Still, the show had a few more sparks in store, including the TV debut of Jennifer Lopez, then a dancer in MC Hammerâ€™s troupe. And in 1993, while being interviewed about his role in the film â€œPoetic Justice,â€ Tupac Shakur went off on directors the Hughes Brothers, who had fired him from their film â€œMenace II Society.â€
â€œThese chump punks,â€ he said, â€œfired me in a punk snitch way, so I caught them on the streets and beat they behinds.â€ That tough talk â€” later played by prosecutors for a jury â€” was enough for him to be convicted of assaulting the siblings. Tupac spent 15 days in jail.
6. â€œBeavis and Butt-headâ€ (1993)
Way before â€œSouth Parkâ€ introduced us to foul-mouthed brat Eric Cartman, Mike Judgeâ€™s â€œBeavis and Butt-headâ€ was a guilty pleasure. â€œShut up, butt-munchâ€ became a catchphrase and the pairâ€™s fire-worshiping fixation an ongoing meme.
But when a 5-year-old boy started a deadly blaze in Dayton, Ohio, his mother blamed the cartoon doofuses for promoting the notion that fire was fun. The network promptly bumped the hit show from 7 to 11 p.m.
At this yearâ€™s Comic-Con in San Diego, â€œBeavis and Butt-headâ€ creator Mike Judge talked about the seriesâ€™ return. This fall, Beavis and Butt-head go see â€œTwilightâ€ and then try to become vampires in order to get girls. Theyâ€™ll also spend time dissecting â€œJersey Shoreâ€ and â€œ16 and Pregnant.â€
7. â€œBoxers or briefs?â€ (1994)
If there was ever affirmation that MTV was not only the voice of young America but also a media force, it came at a town hall meeting sponsored by the network in Washington, DC, with President Bill Clinton and 200 viewers. After Clinton, fielded a number of serious political and social questions, 17-year-old high school newspaper editor Laetitia Thompson of Potomac, Md., asked, â€œMr. President, all the worldâ€™s dying to know â€” is it boxers or briefs?â€ The president paused, smiled and replied, â€œUsually briefs.â€
He smiled again and added with his Arkansas drawl, â€œI canâ€™t believe she did that.â€ Neither could most of America.
It stood as a defining moment for Clinton, who instead of ducking the question for being silly, answered it with humor and charm. Thompson, who later went to Princeton and the University of Missouri School of Journalism, later told the Associated Press, â€œIf I had just said it and Clinton hadnâ€™t done anything, it might have been a trivia question,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m glad it happened, and I got to do some really cool stuff because of it.â€
8. â€œThe Real World: San Franciscoâ€ (1994)
Reality TV as we know it was born in 1992, with the debut of â€œThe Real World,â€ and quickly reached its zenith in the showâ€™s third season, set in the Bay Area. Like Snooki getting punched in the face on â€œThe Jersey Shore,â€ the early â€œReal Worldâ€ was outrageous. It also managed to be funny, touching and daring.
In San Francisco, the seven housemates witnessed epic bickering between obnoxious bike messenger David â€œPuckâ€ Raineyâ€ and Pedro Zamora, an openly gay AIDS activist infected with HIV. Zamora decried Puckâ€™s disgusting personal habits, such as scooping peanut butter with his fingers after picking his nose. Puck mocked Zamoraâ€™s accent, sexuality and career as an AIDS educator â€” and created so much hostility that the cast voted him into exile.
Zamora died on Nov. 11, 1994, the day after the final episode of his season aired, inspiring Clinton to acknowledge that â€œthrough his appearance on â€˜The Real World,â€™ Pedro had become a part of viewersâ€™ families, and everyone who watched the show could say that they knew someone whoâ€™d lived with AIDS.â€
9. Kurt Cobain dies (1994)
Nirvana, the flagship band of Generation X was immediately embraced by MTV on programs such as â€œ120 Minutesâ€ and â€œUnplugged,â€ and what became known as alternative rock was suddenly available in a format other than obscure 7-inch singles and zines.
â€œNirvana was important to MTV and the kids because they brought the DIY ethic to rock,â€ says Pinfield, who hosted the show from 1995 to 1999. â€œYou didnâ€™t have to be pretty, there were no uniforms. The music was open to everyone and you could be who you are.â€
When singer Kurt Cobain killed himself with a shotgun blast, thousands of fans formed for impromptu memorials, especially in his Seattle hometown, MTV news chief Kurt Loder and his team crushed all other outlets with its coverage of his death. The network was seemingly alone in recognizing that, for Gen X, the tragedy was as powerful as the murder of John Lennon had been to the Baby Boomers.
ABC newsman Tom Foreman, reporting from Seattle, admitted on air that â€œmost Americans over 30 probably donâ€™t even know who Nirvana or Kurt Cobain is.â€ Loder, meanwhile, was on the air in a black jacket and shirt, choking back tears at the end of his first report. â€œThis is a loss of a gentle and wonderful guy,â€ he said. â€œThis is a really bad day for all of us.â€
10. â€œThe Osbournesâ€ (2002)
If one show ever poured everything MTV stood for into one place, it was â€œThe Osbournes,â€ a ribald mash-up of reality TV, celebrity, rock â€™nâ€™ roll, drugs, rebellion, profanity, incoherent mumbling and sheer attitude. It quickly became the highest rated program in the networkâ€™s history.
The showâ€™s formula: crazy man Ozzy Osbourne is really just a good dad who has overcome his battles with drugs and booze. But in an interview with the BBC, Osbourne revealed the truth: â€œWhen the filming ended, Iâ€™d go in my little bunker and smoke a pipe and drink a case of beer every day.â€
â€œThe three years that we were filming, he was stoned the whole time,â€ Sharon Osbourne chimed in. â€œHe wasnâ€™t sober for one day.â€
Which in many ways is a fitting epitaph for MTVâ€™s first 30 years: a network groping in the dark for the next big thing, claiming itâ€™s something that itâ€™s not and, with reality oddities such as â€œJersey Shores,â€ still managing to amuse the hell out of the most distracted, jaded generations of kids ever born.