Drugs are making your mind a man-made hell: ’80s celebs wanted you to “Stop The Madness”

By on November 10, 2017

Night Flight’s “Take Off to Self Destruction” — which originally aired on April 5, 1986 — focused on some of the darker elements that defined the ’80s, including teen suicide, child abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse, which is why the episode kicks off with “Stop the Madness,” a dramatically-produced anti-drug music video sponsored by the Reagan administration.

Read more about it below, and watch the episode now on Night Flight Plus!

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The video is notable for many reasons, including that it twice briefly features an appearance by Nancy Reagan, whose special sequences were shot in the Blue Room of The White House.

Mrs. Reagan — who had made the laughable “Just Say No” campaign her main cause as First Lady — was so excited about appearing in her first rock video that she reportedly joked “I may have a new career as a rock star!”

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But, have a look at rogues’ gallery of forgotten ’80s stars who appear here — most of whom weren’t noted for being singers, or involved with the music business, at all.

You’ll recognize a few of the athletes and actors, no doubt, but watching this video all these decades later feels more like a “Who Dat?”-ish variation on the ol’ game of “Who’s Who,” the one where you’re supposed to spot the famous person.

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Let’s see just how many of these celebs’ names you recognize, more or less in order of their appearance in the video (a few appear more than once):

Claudia Wells, Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers, New Edition, Steve Arrington, Tim Feehan, Whitney Houston, Jon Burford, LaToya Jackson, Kimaya Koepke, Herb Alpert, Linda Stokes and Jackie Ball (of Magic Lady), Toni Basil, Tata Vega, Andre and Sandra Crouch, Lyle Alzado, Kim Fields, David Hasselhoff, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Casey Kasem, Stacey Keach, David Keith, Michele Lee, Daphne Maxwell, John Matuszak, Gerald McRaney, Jameson Parker, Tim Reid, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Goodyear Blimp.

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We’re going to guess that a lot of Night Flight’s viewers will recognize the Goodyear Blimp, of course, and maybe half of the names we’ve listed here, if not more.

Still, you’ve gotta admit, this is an odd assortment of ’80s-era celebs.

Yes, the irony is not lost on us that quite a few of them were probably already on drugs at the time, or would end up being major drug users before the end of the decade.

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Read more about “Stop the Madness” below.

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We’re offering up original uncut air masters of Night Flight programming from the video vaults of the 1980s TV show, as well as provocative new selections from the world of music, documentaries, animation, cult films and more. Sign up today!

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The video for “Stop the Madness” was directed by producer/director John Langley, one of the co-creators/exec producers of TV’s popular “Cops” program.

His  directorial credits also included a TV special called “American Vice: The Doping of a Nation,” which featured live on-the-air drug busts.

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“Stop the Madness” — filmed on or around December 11, 1985 — was based around an upbeat dance track credited to four songwriters: Grammy award-winner producer Michael Stokes (he had mainly worked with the Detroit-based soul quintet Enchantment), Sharon Barnes, Lathan Armour and Tim Reid.

The idea for the video is credited to Reid, who despite his long list of credits as an actor/writer/producer and studio head, is probably still mostly recognized for playing deejay Venus Flytrap on the CBS sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.”

At the time, he played Marcel “Downtown” Brown, a regularly-appearing character on CBS’s primetime detective drama “Simon & Simon.”

Reid and his friends apparently had wanted spread the message via the song’s lyrics that drugs are bad news.

Here’s a sample:

Brother, we heard your cry for some assistance,
Drugs are making your mind a man-made hell,
You thought that using dope would be a party,
Now you’re a prisoner in a cell, crying to be free,
You wanna stop the madness,
Stop the madness now!

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Reid had started the Entertainment Industries Council for a Drug-Free Society — sometimes shortened to the Entertainment Council — whose founding president and CEO Brian Dyak served as this video’s executive producer.

The intent of the video and record release, in Reid’s own words, were “… not to raise funds, but to try to motivate young people to join the battle against drug abuse.”

The “Stop the Madness” video premiered on TV on January 17, 1986, on NBC’s “Friday Night Videos,” although it continued to air wherever music videos regularly aired — including on “Night Flight” — over the next six months to a year.

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Watching videos like these today — or Rock Against Drug’s “suspiciously trippy” PSAs, which we told you about in this previous Night Flight blog post — probably ended up having the unintended, opposite effect on ’80s youth.

Satirical, cynical catchphrases like “Stop the Madness” and “Just Say No” — in 1987, Timothy Leary told Rolling Stone, “Our kids should be better mannered than that! We should tell them, ‘Just say, ‘No, thank you!'” – were clearly ineffective, as were the zero-tolerance narc-snitch ideas promoted by D.A.R.E., and the overall corrosive drug policies promoted by the Reagan administration.

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Nancy Reagan’s decidedly dull anti-drug appearances on 1983-era TV shows like “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Dynasty,” in particular, were probably responsible for a hilarious 16mm short film parody, The Reagans Speak Out On Drugs, made in 1988 by teacher and filmmaker Cliff Roth (it aired on “Night Flight” in our heyday).

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This episode’s anti-drug video “Stop the Madness” — and other videos featured in our “Take Off to Self-Destruction” by Armband, Jazzy Jeff, Fine Young Cannibals and more, not to mention the PSA-style interstitials, including a brilliant one by Frank Zappa — remind us that Night Flight was willing to take on uncomfortable topics like drug abuse and teen suicide with an elegance you couldn’t find anywhere else on TV at the time.

That’s a fact, Jack, and we’ve got the proof!

Watch Night Flight’s “Take Off to Self Destruction” over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.