Fashion and “Flesh For Fantasy”: Night Flight’s “Visions of Video Music and Fashion, Pt. 1″

By on April 19, 2016

“Ever since Elvis Presley sang about his ‘blue suede shoes’, rock music and fashion have been intrinsically linked,” says an offscreen announcer who seems to have a genuine gift for stating the obvious but he nevertheless sets the proper educational tone for Visions of Video Music and Fashion, Pt. 1, available now on Night Flight Plus (the original show was two nearly full hours, and this is just the first half; Pt. 2 is coming soon, we promise, just be patient and please don’t panic and dial 911).

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This popular Night Flight show was an exploration, originally airing in 1985, telling us how many impressionable fans of the music aslo wanted to play dress up and outfit themselves to look like their favorite rock stars and pop idols — at least what they were wearing in their music videos — and so this show presents roughly ten of the most memorable music video examples, most of which don’t really bare out the theory, but hey, play along with us here, again.

If you were alive back then, and you watched videos on “Night Flight,” or pretty much any of the video shows on MTV — and barring the outside chance you’re suffering now from Alzheimers or even have occasional senior moments — you’ll likely remember these were some of the most popular videos of the era.

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“Night Flight” didn’t mess around when it came to finding crafty new ways to present videos you had probably seen hundreds of times by the middle of the 1980s, and lucky for you this show has been perserved in a climate-controlled, temperature-controlled steel vault so none of the original cheesy flavor has been spoiled. This is all really tasteful cheese, all these decades later, no refrigeration necessary.

If you weren’t alive back then, how nice for you. Presented here are music videos which in one way or another or for one reason or another are perhaps better left undescribed for your discovery, but since the point of this blog is to get your interest appropriately and sufficiently piqued, and so we’re going to tell you about a few of them. Buckle up, or if you’re not wearing pants, adjust your waistband any way you can.

First up, we have the music video for Madonna’s “Material Girl,” directed by Mary Lambert, who had directed Madonna’s videos for “Like a Virgin” and “Borderline.” Lambert has said she was inspired by Madonna’s admiration of actress Marilyn Monroe and wanted to find a way to pay homage to Monroe’s performance of the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” from the 1953 film in which she/it appears, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

She also came uup with a separate storyline about Madonna’s love interest, portrayed here by actor Keith Carradine, who appears to be a movie director or a producer or someone who has apparently has a good reason for sitting in a dark screening room with actor Robert Wuhl, and we certainly hope and there’s a reason for doing that, as otherwise it is not a good idea at all.

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Up on the screen in that dark screening room — while his sycophantic sidekick “yes” man Wuhl jabbers in his ear, saying “She could be great… she could be a major star” — we see what Carradine sees, blonde actress Madonna, dancing and flouncing around onscreen and on set whilst draped in the finest of diamond jewelry (from the collection of Connie Parente, a popular Hollywood jewelry collector, or so we’ve heard, but it could have just as easily been strands of cubic zirconia and we wouldn’t have known any better).

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The music video was shot over two days, January 10 and 11, 1985, at Ren-Mar Studios in Hollywood, and on the staircase set we see that Madge is pretty much doing the same dance routine we saw Monroe doing in that old fifties movie (the one with the tuxedo clad dancing boy toys), and so the producer Carradine falls instantly in love with her, and wants to me her — right now — which is an indication he is not only filthy rich and usually gets whatever his little heart desires (gentlemen prefer blondes, ya know), but it means that the sidekick is tasked with bringing her to him, which essentially makes him the world’s goofiest looking pimp ever, with his sweater vest and bow-tie.

(Madge, incidentally, is the nickname many have for Madonna, and years ago she told TV host David Letterman she was tired of being called that because it made her feel middle-aged, so of course we’re going to continue to do it).

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The video plays on, and we see Carradine falling hard for Material Girl Madge but then he lavishes her not with diamonds but with daisies. Yes, cheap little handcut yellow flowers. Hey, don’t judge, if you were as handsome as Keith Carradine was in the mid-80s you could probably get away with avoiding to dole out the diamonds until you were ready to put a ring on it, and hey kids, remember — this is just a first date, anyway, so don’t feel too bad for our girl Madge.

It turns out that she’s actally just looking for romance, not rhinestones or even expensive jewels, and what she really wants is to be romanced, so Carradine goes out and he arrives at the studio in their vehicle for the date, a dirty looking old pickup truck which kinds looks like it’s already turned into a pumpkin.

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Eletra Casadei

We’ve spoiled that one enough, but before we move on to the next music video we’re highlighting, let’s mention here that there are also short fashion designer segments which briefly deter us from having to watch another video, including segments for designers Betsey Johnson, Elmaz Huseyin, and Eletra Casadei, whose TD4 line of dresses which look like prom dresses from the 1940s (the Forties were another big decade for 80s-era kids playing dress-up at home, apparently, who knew?).

TD4 stood for “To Die For,” no, seriously, it did, and the California fashion designer who came up with the idea was, according to her obituary in the L.A. Times, was “one of the first Los Angeles designers of her generation to gain a national reputation for something other than swimwear, and claimed Old Hollywood glamour as her inspiration and fantasy dresses at affordable prices as her niche.”

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Born and rasied in the east San Francisco Bay town of Hayward, where she was awarded the title “Maid of Hayward” as a teenager, Casadei found her actual niche was scratched down in L.A., where she built up an empire of strapless, backless, slit-to-here prom dresses — for ages 14 and up — that were described as “over the top and a lot of fun,” and her designs often appeared on TV shows of the day, like “Dallas” and “The Golden Girls.” The dresses she made typically featured big shoulders, draping fabric, appliques, sequins and the models who modeled them who wear purple streaks in their hair and iridescent fuchsia nail polish.

It was Casadei who capitalizes on the music video craze, marrying it to fashion, and she played the lead in Steve Winwood’s video for “Prom Night,” which also revealed that women in prom dresses also happen to like it when their male dates show up for the evening decked out head-to-toe in black leather.

Eleta Casadei sadly passed away in 2008, from brain cancer, age 55.

Let’s turn now to the music video for Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith,” directed by Howie Deutch, who directed a handful of the videos presented here.

The song is being sun in another 50s-era setting — remember how nearly everything in the reality of the 80s was presented in a typical 50s-era setting? Yeah, we don’t either — and this time we’re in a courtroom and Joel is on trail to determine whether he’s innocent, and “keeping the faith” (sounds like a very religious judge he’s trying to impress) or whether he’s guilty as sin. Apparently we’re going to have to watch the video and see Joel make his case to the judge.

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One things for certain, there’s a few more actors here you might recognize, including the judge (character actor Richard Schull), and the video is actually bookended with appearances by Richard Pryor (at the beginning) and Joe Piscopo (at the end) and Joel’s then still-wife-to-be Christie Brinkley also appears, and we don’t know if any of them were paid union scale or did it as a favor or whether Joel was actually blackmailing any of them for some particular reason.

Joel bounces around singing about all kinds of fashion items (oh yeah, remember, that’s what this special was about, kids dressing up like their favorite 80s pop stars who, in their videos, were dressed up like their heroes from the 1950s). Here’s some of the lyrics: “We wore old matador boots, only Flagg Brothers had them, with a Cuban heel, iridescent socks with the same color shirt and a tight pair of chinos / Oh I put on my sharkskin jacket, you know the kind with the velvet collar, and ditty-bop shades, oh yeah / I took a fresh pack of Luckies, and a mint called Sen-Sen, my old man’s Trojans, and his Old Spice after shave.”

We’re pretty sure that none of these clothing items he mentions actually caught on with the kids at home although we’re not too sure about his “old man’s Trojans,” those might have been pretty popular back in the 80s. If you’re not sure, ask your mom, she’ll explain it to you.

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There’s a bit of a segue necessary here as we see another bit of that interview Night Flight did with “the most famous fashion trendsetter of punk movement,” Malcolm McLaren, who tells us:

“I remember the days when I was trying to have to try to gain a contract with the Sex Pistols, the thought that I was a fashion designer, which is what I was at the time, was considered absolutely nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll. My premise was that it had everything, more than they even knew, and it is true to say today that the likelihood of videos being seen and not heard, and suddenly the discovery… the trousers this chap or girl has on will become more important to a guy watching it than the music or the person singing it.”

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Next, we turn to another video directed by Howie Deutch, who we should tell you is actually best known now as a film and TV director who has directed over twenty films and many, many episodes of TV shows, even winning  a CableACE Award for his direction of an episode of the HBO series “Tales From the Crypt,” entitled “Dead Right.”

Back in the 80s, though, he was mostly known for his collaborations with filmmaker John Hughes, directing Hughes’s screenplays for two beloved 80s movies, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful (that’s where he met his wife, actress Lea Thompson).

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Howie Deutch

He’d begun his career in the ad business though, working for United Artists Records, where his dad was the company president. Deutch — in addition to lensing that memorable “Keeping The Faith” video for Billy Joel we just told you about — worked on Billy Idol’s “Flesh for Fantasy,” from the former Generation X howler’s second solo album Rebel Yell.

We’re including it up at the top as a perfect illustration of what exactly represents fashion in the 80s although we can’t remember anyone dressing up as either Idol or any of the actors and actresses displayed in the video. Believe it or not, this video captures Idol at a time where he went from playing in small clubs and theaters to arenas, all over a span of touring for ten months, and much of his success is a direct result of his music videos, which were given heavy rotation on MTV.

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For “Flesh for Fantasy,” there’s a great story in Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Mark’s I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, where Idol talks about a previous video shoot for “Eyes Without A Face,” and how he had been outfitted with contact lenses for the first time and had been up all night shooting the video (“For three days, I didn’t see anything but dry ice, smoke, fire and naked bodies… we hardly slept”), and ended up having to be taken to a hospital after waking up after a plane trip to Arizona, where he fell asleep with the new lenses in his eyes, which had dried out. He ended up having to have his eyes bandaged for three days until the cornea grew back.

Okay, not that great of a story if you’re Billy Idol, and nothing to do with fashion, we admit that, but sorta also fits into the concept of the song “Eyes Without A Face,” don’t it?

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Deutch had been given the job of directing “Flesh For Fantasy” because Idol had seen and liked the trailer for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and Deutch (in that same I Want My MTV book) says his biggest memory is actually working for so long directing the video that his own contact lenses were stuck in his own eyes and he couldn’t get that out.

What can we tell you about the video itself, though, which presents Idol as a snarling leather boy on a set that appears to have spent so much money on some kind of triangular light bar contraption (you see it at the end) that there was no money for any of the other necessary effects and so the dancers and Idol have to cavort around on black trash bag lining for flooring.

Let’s also point out here that no mid-80s era video compendium would be complete if it did not include two more you see here: Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going To Take It” and Duran Duran’s “Rio,” and so let’s no close this out our highlights by mentioning a little about both.

For the first, director Marty Callner decided to present Twisted Sister’s solo Top 40 single as a family drama replete with stunt-filled slapstick comic elements to illustrate what happens when the answer you give your father when he asks, “What do you want to do with your life?” is “I wanna rock!!”

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The video features actor Mark Metcalf, best known fohis role as Doug Niedermayer from the 1978 National Lampoon comedy Animal House, which he reprises here to great effect. You can clearly see the spittle flying out of his frothing mouth, twisted up in anger (you can almost imagine him asking his son what he wants to do with his life in that same voice he used when asking “Is that a pledge pin?!”) as he watches his son transform into every dad’s nightmare, Twisted Sister lead vocalist Dee Snider, which is perhaps one reason why you shouldn’t ever beat your children or get in their face if they’re truly meant to rock, as it can be hazardous to your own health.

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Snider has said in interviews that he’d written the hook for ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It” in 1980 — four years before it was released, and before the band even have a record deal — but he’d hung on to it, and recorded the song in 1984, for their Stay Hungry LP. The concept for the video itself, he’s said many times in the last thirty-plus years, of being sent up to his room for not finishing his supper and then having a fight with his father, had come from real life.

Let’s now close this blog by telling you about “Rio,” directed by Russell Mulcahy, who brought the band Duran Duran to the Caribbean island of Antigua in May of 1982 in order to film the beach scenes with a lovely London-based model credited only as “Reema.”

Reema Ruspoli was apparently employed by the Models One agency, and is striking in her appearance, no question about it — half English, half Lebanese is what we’re reading — but boys being boys decided that the best way to treat the lovely lady was to paint her body with paint.

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Since this is supposed to be about fashion — we got off track again there, didn’t we? — let’s mention that although our announcer tells us that Duran Duran were known for their New Romantic outfits, we actually see the band in this video wearing Antony Price suits, looking suitably natty although it’s also it’s also fun to picture Nick Rhodes from the band getting dreadfully seasick while aboard the yacht they used for filming (those scenes with a wooden Fife yacht called Eilean which later fell into a serious state of neglect after the video was shot).

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Visions of Video Music and Fashion, Pt. 1, also features music videos by David Bowie (“Fashion,” naturally), Wham (“Careless Whisper”), Prince (“1999″) and Bruce Springsteen (“Born In The U.S.A.”), among a few others, and as we said above, Pt. 2 is coming soon, so if you enjoyed Part One you’ve got more to look forward to.

We recommend that you go to the closet and pull out your fanciest prom dress or go to your dresser and find those fingerless leather gloves you haven’t worn in years and put them on then watch them both, starting with this first half (since it’s the only on we can show you right now).

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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.