Hair metal band Helix told “Night Flight” they regretted this sexist video

By on March 18, 2016

In 1984, the Canadian hair metal band Helix found themselves in Hollywood, filming themselves cavorting around with big-haired buxom 80s babes for a Miss Rock Fantasy 1984 beauty pageant parody whilst lip-synching to their glitzed-up cover of the Crazy Elephant’s “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” — they filmed two different versions, including an R-rated NSFW version, featuring an underage Traci Lords — but when they appeared on “Night Flight” shortly after it had begun airing on the show, lead vocalist Brian Vollumer expressed regret for making such a sexist video.

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Vollumer says, “The ‘Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’‘ video that was basically banned because of its sexism…uh, looking back on it, in hindsight, it probably was sexist and we’re tending to get away from that. We’re learning from our mistakes. The video probably got more mileage actually in press, because it never got played. I used to get asked in interviews all the time about the video, so in that respect we got our money’s worth.”

Now, we’re sure that even this PG-13 version is going to have a lot of you with your knickers in a twist, but we all have to remember that this was all going down during the 1980s; these were the outrageous early wild west days of cable TV programming, you see, and it was all about testing the waters back then and seeing what the programmers could get away with. So, you’d often see topless girls cavorting around in R-rated music videos, if you were lucky, and while a lot of eyebrows were certainly raised and tongues were certainly wagged, it actually didn’t feel nearly as repressive as it does now.

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This was way before the early 90s parental advisory stickers started showing up on CD artwork (courtesy of the Parents Music Resource Center, thanks very much, Mrs. Al Gore), and it was way before TVs with computer chips started being made, making it easy to block offensive nudity, and even before MPAA ratings were so specific that you’d know before a TV show began how to prepare yourself that you might be seeing some brief nudity at some point in the next two hours.

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Rock bands certainly pushed what they could get away in their videos too. By 1984, a lot of music acts were making at least two different versions of their videos: an edited, censored “PG-13″ version version for the cautious MTV folks who didn’t want their mostly teenage viewership to see what they were probably already seeing anyway, and an uncensored “R-rated” version for airing on the Playboy Channel, for instance, and on bold cable shows like Stuart Shapiro’s “Night Flight,” who regularly aired the uncensored versions on Friday and Saturday nights. Yeah, Stuart and his team were sent angrily-worded memos to their offices on Monday mornings, but usually they took those memos, stapled them to the wall of their office and threw darts at them.

According to Brian Vollmer’s own book, Gimme an R! The Story of Brian Vollmer, Lead Vocalist of Helix this uncensored version (along with the uncensored version of their tune “Rock You”) — both tracks coming from their fourth album for Capitol Records, Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge — was made for airing on the Playboy Channel. (Clever title, by the way, Bri).

Sometimes these nudity-enhanced vids weren’t much more than cheeky wink-wink parodies that slipped in a few nipples now and then, like Dwight Twilley’s catchy Girls,” which featured some naked Porky’s-esque locker room peekaboo boobies (the cheerleaders were all Playboy Bunnies, by the way).

Sometimes, however, the nudity-engorged music videos were more like conceptual high-art short films, like the uncensored 1981 video for Duran Duran’s hit Girls On Film,” directed by Godley & Creme, which featured a model in a see-through negligee wrestling with a sumo wrestler, a semi-nude pillowfight whilst straddling a greased-up candy cane, an oiled-up fat dude, and a dude in a horse mask waving his ass at the camera (yeah, the 80s were pretty weird, what can we say). “Night Flight” aired the uncensored version of that video too, by the way — it was consequently banned by the BBC and heavily edited for its original run on the more prudish MTV, who weren’t exactly known for being progressively-minded despite their reputation for being so “hip.”

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Now, looking back, this Helix video certainly looks as sexist as you think it is, and the band members were probably right to feel a little bit crappy about making the vid in the first place, but what can any of us say about that? It was a different time, the 80s. Have you lived in a different time before? We have. It felt… different.

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This particular taping must have taken place at some point in late September or early October 1984, being shot one of of Hollywood Center Studio’s soundstages, located at 1040 N. Las Palmas Ave. in Hollywood, because right next door, on a different soundstage, Richard Pryor was filming an episode of his short-lived CBS Saturday morning children’s show “Pryor’s Place,” which was kind of a straight-talk, let’s-just-be-honest-with-the-kids type of show, kind of a more cool “street” version of “Sesame Street,” which was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft.

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We know about the date, roughly, because Pryor, and some of his guests on the show for the episode he was taping that day (it aired on October 20, 1984), Robin Williams and Rip Taylor, came over to the set of the Helix vid to watch the topless dancing. We’ve read on the interwebs that Robin Williams was quipping like crazy that day, saying things like “You can always tell what religion a women is by the clothes she wears,” and “This is for all you Canadians that try to sneak into the United States, otherwise known as frostbacks,” and “God save the queen, wherever he may be!”

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Vollumer says in that “Night Flight” video we’re sharing above that Robin Williams also apparently performed a little skit that he filmed on his Super 8 sound camera (we’d LOVE to see that, Brian, get in touch with us!) and Rip Taylor ended up appearing in the band’s video at the very end, seated on someone’s bad-ass motorcycle and surrounded by the band and the girls all waving goodbye.

As you can see from the naughty vid, the girls are wearing Miss USA-type sashes, just like they do on that show that Donald Trump apparently owns the broadcast rights to. We think the blonde at the beginning is a former dancer on TV’s “American Bandstand,” Sue Bowser.

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During the vid, we see Miss New York doing a Flashdance-type routine while smoking — that right there makes it a different time, no? — and yes, that’s a quite young Traci Lords as Miss Georgia.

She is actually seen throughout the video, dancing up in back to the right of the drummer, and according to an interview Vollmer did, she had been sent over to the taping by the film company, he didn’t quite know who she was just yet. She’d just appeared in the September 1984 issue on Penthouse, for which she’d been paid $5,000 for posing for the centerfold and pictorial (it the best-selling issue in the history of Penthouse, partly because it also featured a nude pictorial on Vanessa Williams, who had won the Miss America Pageant the previous year — you see how this is all connected? — and she had possibly made her first X-rated adult film in October 1984, too, (she appeared in a non-nude scene in What Gets Me Hot! alongside Tom Byron, who later became her boyfriend off-screen) and she was just starting to make band videos, this Helix vid being one of the first ones.

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At this point in the band’s career, Helix had graduated (?) from T-shirts and jeans and were now donning leather jeans and typical hair-metal duds, and it certainly looks like if we had been in charge we would have pointed to their stylist and said something like the Donald Trump trademarked “you’re fired!,” but that’s something that can probably be said about a lot of things that happened in the 80s. You can’t fire the 80s, sadly.

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This uncensored version was fairly difficult to see for a long time, and was originally available on VHS as part of a 1984 rock video compilation released by Vestron Video called “Red Hot Rock” (a.k.a. “Sexy Shorts”), and it also was featured in a porn video titled Electric Blue 26. Start your eBay engines 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.