Restless, fearless renaissance man Peter Ivers & his Vitamin Pink revue on “New Wave Theatre”

By on June 25, 2019

Peter Ivers not only hosted the early ’80s L.A.-based cable TV show New Wave Theatre,” he was a true renaissance man, as you can see in this rare filmed performance by Vitamin Pink, collected in our “Best of the Best of New Wave Theatre,” available on Night Flight Plus.

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Ivers had lived quite a life in his thirty-six years on planet Earth before it was tragically cut short with his murder on March 3, 1983.

In his L.A. Times obituary (“Peter Ivers: A Death of Innocence”), he’s described as “a restless creative talent with impressive achievements in music, video art, stage shows and film.”

In Josh Frank’s book, In Heaven Everything is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre, one of the Vitamin Pink performers, Tequila Mockingbird, describes Peter as “a peacock in the middle of a rubbish bin.”

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He was, some might forget, a blues harmonica player of some renown, and he’d recorded several albums for Warner Bros. (Night Flight contributor Kevin Laffey worked as a production assistant on a posthumously-released compilation, Nirvana Peter).

As a songwriter, Ivers — whose song “In Heaven” can be heard in David Lynch‘s cult film Eraserhead — had a lot of success. Diana Ross and Helen Reddy both recorded “Let’s Go Up” (co-written with Franne Gold), and Phyliss Hyman and Michael Henderson had a Top Ten R&B hit with his song “Can’t We Fall In Love Again.”

June Pointer of the Pointer Sisters recorded another Ivers-Gold tune, “Little Boy Sweet,” for National Lampoon’s Vacation, and still more of Ivers’ songs can be heard in Ron Howard’s Grand Theft Auto, in the comedic blockbuster Airplane!, and in network TV shows like “Starsky & Hutch” and “B.J. and the Bear.”

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Ivers was also a classics scholar at Harvard, and he’d spent much of 1981 in Cambridge, MA, as an artist-in-residence at Radcliffe College’s Agassiz Theater.

Peter Ivers was also a yoga master — leading the crew of Caddyshack in a vigorous session of yoga on the 18th hole of the Rolling Hills Golf Club, as we told you here — and he’d earned a black belt in Shotokan karate.

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Ivers’s outrageously ambitious stage revue Vitamin Pink Fantasy Revue project — combining dance, new wave music and street theater — was co-produced by Ivers’ friend Harold Ramis, whom he’d known since the days of Caddyshack (which Ramis co-wrote and directed).

In Ivers’ L.A. Times obit, Ramis says, “The [Vitamin Pink] story followed Peter’s own progression from a hippie to a new-waver.”

In a September 5, 1983 article for New York Magazine, Vitamin Pink was described as “a surreal meeting of the aboveground and the underground, centered on two lovers who journey to exotic locales like Iran, Vietnam, ancient Rome and using songs with titles like ‘Saigon Rainstorm’ and ‘I Raged and You Ran.'”

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Ramis: “The songs could be seen as a history of people who’d come out of Sixties radicalism, been dispersed and demoralized in the Seventies, and emerged as the New Wave warriors of the Eighties.”

Ramis compared Vitamin Pink to the stage musical Hair, imagining that what Hair had been to hippies — taking something “alien” and “making them acceptable and popular” — was what they were doing with Vitamin Pink, only doing it with New Wave music, which hadn’t been attempted yet.

Ramis also told the L.A. Times,Peter was always trying to break through the wall that the punks had set up of not believing in anything,” which is why Ivers, on “New Wave Theatre,” always asked band members: “What do you think is the meaning of life?”

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Vitamin Pink was previewed during two sold-out performances at Club Lingerie in Hollywood, CA, on Tuesday June 8th and Wednesday June 9th, 1982. Fans arriving in costume were able to get in for half-price.

Harold Ramis’s young daughter Violet played the part of “The Child,” singing her solo song “I Personally Inherited a Hundred Million Dollars” after being “born” through a plastic tunnel, arriving onstage topless in a white satin miniskirt and wearing a sequined white turban.

Read more about Peter Ivers and Vitamin Pink below.

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Drummer/percussionist Russell Buddy Helm — who previously told us about the underground nightclub At Sunset, here and here — performed as “shaman/percussionist” in the Vitamin Pink revue.

“We did art events and punk venues in Chinatown,” recalls Helm, who had a loft at Sixth and San Pedro in downtown L.A., and says he hooked Ivers up with a loft of his own at Fifth and San Pedro, where some segments of “New Wave Theatre” were shot.

He remembers that Ivers had rolls of toilet paper in his bathroom with the Vitamin Pink logo printed on them.

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Helm: “Peter could always find a way to go against the grain of whatever the trend was. When he opened for the New York Dolls at the Greek, he wore a diaper on stage. That really pissed off the Dolls crowd.”

Helm says he remembers that Ivers sometimes took off all of his clothes in the recording studio and recorded songs naked, or he wore a dress. “He was fearless.”

The Club Lingerie premiere stagings had brought out potential investors, and Ivers lined up financial backing from L.A. documentary film director and producer Malcolm Leo, among others.

He had hoped to eventually perform it in New York City, and had discussed with film director Tony Scott the future possibility of filming it there.

Watch Peter Ivers‘ Vitamin Pink on “New Wave Theatre,” now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, 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.