You loved it when I served a fizzy collection of wacky diva clips including Bette Davis singing, Joan Crawford in "tropical makeup," and Cher playing all the roles in West Side Story, including the men. So I'm back with more--and this time, things get even more kitschily delectable. I've got everything from Ann-Margret backed by gay dancers to Chita Rivera backed by gay dancers. Talk about range! Also, Raquel, Joan, Mitzi, and Kate Smith. Believe me, you'll die--but make sure you see all 16 videos first.
BLIND ITEM! BLIND ITEM!
Let's bring things up to date with this extremely au courant little tidbit:
Someone is leaving a daytime TV show. The reasons given for this exit were totally true. But there's something else going on here, too. See, the person who's leaving is telling friends that one of her co-stars is on opiates and as a result, loses her train of thought a lot. The person we're discussing has little tolerance for that sort of thing, and finds it irritating, so she's taking the train right out of there!
Now on to the videos.
RAQUEL WELCH, SPACE-GIRL DANCE
One of the most innovative segments of Raquel's splashy 1970 TV special had her indulging in some "California Dreaming." In the clip she does a metallic glamazon dance amid Mexico City sculptures that has to be seen to be disbelieved. Modern and bold, it's as nutty as it is riveting. Thank God there's too much sun in California.
ANN-MARGRET, "STOUT HEARTED MEN" (1980)
One of our culture's biggest oddities is the smoldering gay-clone number Ann does with what look like various Village People en route to the Eagle. And people think queer culture wasn't noticed until recently! Sorry about the Germanic subtitles, but they sort of work in this context.
CHITA RIVERA, "PRETTY FOR ME"
I guess there were enough gay-stereotype dancers running around for Broadway legend Chita to whip up a number of her own. In this 1968 clip from the variety show The Hollywood Palace, Chita sings "All of the time, he is pretty for me" while flirting with a shirtless gaucho, a guy in a pants suit and beaded necklace, a stud in a leather cap, and a queen sporting a golden head band. This must have been filmed on the West Village piers, lol.
JOAN CRAWFORD WARDROBE/MAKEUP TEST FOR STRAIT-JACKET, 1964
Even in a test, Joan is all brooding emotion, simmering and swirling and wiggling her advanced ass in a variety of getups. At various points, she's supposed to be the character Lucy at age 49 and at others she's Lucy at 29, that's how vast her abilities were. Whatever.
What a glorious bit of Cher-ing from The Sonny and Cher Nitty Gritty Hour in 1971. As our superstar gently rocks and twirls around to "All You Need Is Love" in hippie-dippie fashion, the segment comes off like total time-filler--until she starts disrobing and bumping her crotch with a vengeance. At this point, Cher looks so hot (and blase), it could turn you straight--and then the number suddenly becomes an Ingmar Bergmanesque trio of empowerment that could turn you lesbian.
ANN-MARGRET, OPENING SEQUENCE OF THE SWINGER (1966)
The best part of this aggressively silly romp of a film is the pre-credits bit with Ann singing and morphing thanks to various stairs, trampolines, a swing coming at your face, and innovative camerawork. It was done by the same folks who created her genius opening number in Bye Bye Birdie. The net effect is geometrically exciting--a revolution in how to start a film.
ANN-MARGRET, "LAND OF 1000 DANCES"
I can't get enough of this tireless entertainer, who never ceases to give and then give some more. Entering on a shiny motorbike in spangled hot pants, accompanied by hot, waxed male dancers (maybe even the same ones from the above clips) at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1972, Ann is sex on a stick, minus the stick. She wows you with pure energy, then gets all shimmery and slithery before wildly revving up again. I bet she could do 1,001.
GINGER ROGERS, "LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER"
Instead of whooshing around with Fred, Ginger spends this number hoofing it with--everybody now--a bunch of gay male dancers! Keep an eye on the moustachioed one, who's really selling every spasm. There are no words.
MAE WEST AND TIMOTHY DALTON, "LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER"
Here's a much more sedate and insinuating version of the same song, this one from Mae's 1978 turkey Sextette. You gotta love the old goddess's setup ("I'll rub ya the right way") and her sprecht-singing "Whatever. Whenever..."
ANN MILLER, "FORTY SECOND STREET"
The toe-tapping star was still at it when she whooshed up a storm at the Disney/MGM opening in 1989. "Go, granny, go!" you want to yell--but others take care of that when an offbeat assortment of notables including Ashford and Simpson and Buster Poindexter congratulate her at the end.
CHER, TINA TURNER, AND KATE SMITH SING BEATLES MEDLEY (1975)
These three disparate legends were somehow stuck together singing what sounds like every Beatles song ever written, culminating with a big, goofy parade on "Hey Jude." If serious drugs weren't used, they should have been.
BARBRA STREISAND, "EMOTION" VIDEO (1984)
Way before her Partners album, Babs teamed with some biggies--in this case, Roger Daltrey and Mikhail Baryshnikov, with co-direction by her then-boyfriend Richard Baskin and backup vocals by the Pointer Sisters. The result--which has our star vacuuming in search of a better love life--is a trip to '80s kitsch at its weirdest, with lame "comic" antics, terrible fashions, and a bevy of bored club kids straight out of Sprockets. It's such a lousy video, as I'm now realizing on my one hundredth viewing.
MITZI GAYNOR, "I CAN COOK TOO"
A popular performer for decades, Mitzi was more sweet than sexy, but she managed to convince audiences she was a bombshell thanks to her winky wit and wiggly sexuality. She creates household magic in this moxie-ish medley from her 1974 TV special Mitzi, topped by the line, "My ribs get applause/My gravy will lose you your mind". Watch out, Martha Stewart.
BETTE DAVIS, "THEY'RE EITHER TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD"
Completely off-key but rather charming, Bette livens up 1943's Thank Your Lucky Stars by croaking out this wistful lament about the fact that all the appropriate men were busy in the army at that time. "I'm down to the wheelchair or bassinet," the arm-swiveling actress croons before getting swung around in a dance that's easily her roughest pairing until her later shtick with Joan Crawford.
CAROL CHANNING, "SKIDOO" THEME SONG (1968)
Very few people who appeared in this 1968 Otto Preminger mess about hippies and mobsters on drugs would ever talk about it, including delectable Carol. (I asked.) But it's a real find, sort of! For the rollicking title song by Harry Nilsson, Carol is for some reason dressed like Paul Revere and directed to romp around a mobster-studded boat, doing all kinds of nonsensical business as the rest of the cast look either comatose or astonished. "Where's God?" asks Jackie Gleason at one point. Indeed.
JUDY GARLAND/BARBRA STREISAND "GET HAPPY/HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN"
This is the motherlode, folks. It's the clip that either turned you gay or will do so now that you watch it for the first time. It's the landmark 1963 segment from Judy's TV show in which the legend spars with rising star Streisand about how much they hate each other (because they're mutually jealous), before the two proceed to engage in a full-throttle pairing for the ages. Talk about "Partners"! And "Emotion"! This extraordinary matchup needs to be remixed so we can dance to it all times.