Thursday, July 26, 2018

Varietal Spice

They say variety is the spice of life? Then I have a few spice girls to show you today. This post started out as a visual tribute to the sometimes elaborate hair of female guests on 1960s variety shows, but soon evolved into a general appreciation of the whole package: the carefully coiffed 'dos, the elegant gowns, the sparse yet glamorous sets, colorful lighting, etc... For the most part, variety shows (ala The Ed Sullivan Show, Hollywood Palace, etc...) are dead now, but in their hey-day one could spot a lovely lady coming out on stage all decked out and singing a song or dancing. Like many folks, I love scampering through youtube and coming upon things like this. Bless the people who take care to upload them. Sometimes it's amazing, sometimes less so, but they nearly always LOOK interesting! Ha ha!  I've attached links so that you can witness the performances yourselves should you wish to.
Today's cover girl for this post is Miss Barbara Eden, romping around to the strains of "Spinning Wheel!"
Many a teen-aged boy dreamed of Jeannie (and a few probably dreamed of BEING Jeannie! - ha ha!)
Here she is in an earlier appearance, singing "Big Beautiful Ball" and sporting some of that piled-high hair we love so much.
This is the one that actually started the whole idea off. One look at Miss Julie London's crown of tresses and false eyelashes and I was all in! She's singing "Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast."
Miss Shirley Jones starts off this number in a sleek, but conventional '60s hairstyle and wedding dress, but soon morphs into a green gown and a higher stacked coiffure. (As an aside, I have always adored pale green and purple as a color combination.)
The song is "Love Walked In." Sadly, I was unable to get a look at this creation from the back.
Variety show staple Miss Leslie Uggams sports a fairly high hairpiece here.
She's belting out "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues." I just love the beaded detailing on her gown.
It's Christmas in July as Miss Florence Henderson (Mrs. Brady) performs a medley while bedecked in period wear and an elaborate hairdo.
Generally, I'd rather take a bullet than listen to children singing, especially in unison as happens for much of this... Thank God we can at least appreciate Flo's lengthy curls.
Miss Nancy Wilson (who sang the jaunty theme song for one of our guilt pleasures, Love Has Many Faces, 1965) is icy blue with Andy Williams here.
Here are some close-ups of her colorful eye makeup as she's performing "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" with Williams.
Miss Diana Ross (I'm bound legally to refer to her that way! LOL) along with The Supremes joined up with The Temptations for a mash-up. They took turns singing songs made popular by the other group!
Gladys Knight and the Pips perform "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" which is obscured throughout by psychedelic effects.
Miss Knight generally wore her hair long with maybe some height at the top, thus this piled-up, curly do is something of a departure for her.
Miss Ann-Margret does one of her characteristically sultry performances in a slinky pink gown with a bejeweled neckline.
She does "The Look of You" and later "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." What sends this over the top for me is her hooty bedazzled microphone!
Now entering the Miss Bobbie Gentry wing of this exhibit. She croons "Let it Be Me" with Glen Campbell.
I love her eyelashes and hair, but get a load of the shoes!
Here, she performed an entire medley with Bobby Darin in profile! The two remain nose-to-nose throughout. (For some reason he is afforded a brief close-up from another angle, but she isn't...!)
This is the way most of us recall Gentry if we do at all. Looking as if she's just auditioned for either Valley of the Dolls (1967) or Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), we adore her hair, her lashes, her ensemble and, well, just all of it! She's performing a song called "Touch 'Em With Love."
Arguably, her most famous numbers, though, were "Fancy," later remade with success by Reba McIntire and, as seen here, "Ode to Billie Joe." Her makeup here does Sharon Tate proud!
The talented songwriter-producer and vocalist abruptly retired in 1978 after having come up against behind-the-scenes sexism and a spate of lackluster sales of her work and is, thus, unjustly forgotten by many.
Heading old school for a moment, we catch up with Miss Ginger Rogers, hoofing her way through "That's How Young I Feel" and "Dancing," both from Jerry Herman shows she performed on stage (Mame and Hello Dolly!) No close-ups of Ginge in this instance.
With it's teal and kelly green colors and the gazebo, this set brings to mind the Promenade Room from my beloved The Towering Inferno (1974), but the attraction here is Miss Alice Faye singing a medley of songs.
This set is punctuated with some slick costume augmentations and a fair amount of choreography for the fifty-one year-old performer. Love the necklace!
Another frequent variety show performer was Miss Peggy Lee. Here, she is doing "Walking Happy," followed by "Little Girl Blue."
At this time, she was elegant and glitzy (and, of course, very blonde.) Lee perfected a style that was very stationary and quiet. Reportedly, she adopted this method while singing in a noisy, hectic supper club wherein she barely sang out in order to force people to silence themselves and listen in order to hear her!
If you look at later appearances, she really went off the rails with her hair, makeup and clothing, eventually appearing quite alien! But, here, she was still pretty lovely.
Here we find Miss Lee in one of those cascading Grecian hairstyles we live for! She and Dean Martin are engaged in a medley.
Rounding third and heading for home, I give you this. I nearly died when I saw it. Not only do I adore the instrumental of "Love is Blue," but I've recently become obsessed with Mitzi Gaynor in her many TV specials. How many things I'm insane about could this clip combine? The song (which she hilariously overdramatizes, but who gives a shit!?), the cool color scheme, the sheer drapes, a dazzling Bob Mackie gown with a mind-boggling neckline and the shapely, always "in it to win it" Gaynor...
Did I mention the neckline of this show-stopping dress?!
No, this is not Bride of Frankenstein (1935) as colorized by Ted Turner... It is my ALL-TIME favorite variety show appearance. I've featured it before many moons ago, but I never tire of it.
It's the jaw-dropping Miss Nancy Ames (another practically forgotten performer who was exceedingly popular in her day.) She sings a really unusual combination of "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Games People Play." The first time I heard it was sort of shell-shocked. Soon after I began to love it and eventually to crave it! LOL
The powerful alto was charmingly introduced by Engelbert Humperdinck and they proceed to duet, making a gorgeous couple. (She even allows some room in her hairdo for him to rest his chin!) Look at her startlingly beautiful face in close-up...
Ames receded from view in the 1970s to focus on an event planning enterprise (which is still in operation) and it was the television and recording worlds' loss.
We love watching Ames on old episodes of Password (even if she could be a bit of a cheater with gestures!) and in her many variety appearances (the vast majority of which are NOT on youtube), but it is for this neck-bending confection that we place her in The Underworld's highest esteem!


D ODay said...

There used to be so much music on TV! Kraft Music Hall, Hollywood Palace, Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, Dean Martin, Glen Campbell, Tony Orlando and Dawn, etc. - and those were just the regularly scheduled shows. Add the almost weekly specials by every name you can think of, and the 60's and 70's really were a golden age for TV entertainment - we just didn't realize it. No wonder I spend so much time on YouTube. I still have my LP soundtrack from GIT On Broadway special with the Supremes and the Temptations. I guess Bette Midler was the last to do one of those old style music specials.
Oh, happen to be watching "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe". A bare chested and sweaty Buster Crabbe is being whipped by one of Ming's minions. Just thought you'd like to know.

paintbrush said...

The sets, the outfits, the make-up, the HAIR-DOS. Man, have times changed. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Shawn McGuire said...

Hi, the link to Gladys Baby I Need Your Living takes you to the Supremes/Temptations mashup. Can you fix that? I’d love me some Gladys.
And that hairdo on Barbara Eden in spinning wheel was popular. I remember Charro with it. But Lady Bunny really kept it going.

Scooter said...

I miss the variety show. Odd that it is absent from American televisions when it remains a staple in other parts of the world. Perhaps shows like America's Got Talent, American Idol and X-Factor have filled that void?

Scooter said...

Sorry. Have to comment again. I hadn't watched the clips earlier. It is hard for me to think of Barbara Eden as anything other than Jeanie but this was a great reminder that she was, in fact, a well-rounded entertainer. Loved the clip of Glenn Campbell and Bobbie Gentry singing Let it be me. While I am a fan of Shirley Jones from her days on Partridge Family (we are from the same general vicinity in Western PA), I've always found her singing voice to be a bit stilted (truly, not looking for a fight)! Finally, I wish I had seen Julie London's number earlier in my life. I had no idea that Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast. Hell, I cooked it and cleaned up before leaving - LOL!

Poseidon3 said...

D ODay, they always say that it was the expense of them that drove variety shows off the air - and they did involve not only a lot of expense, but a lot of very hard work, too! There was a true glut of them in the '70s from Donny and Marie to Tony Orlando & Dawn to The Captain & Tennille to Pink Lady and Jeff (LOL!) I recall Dolly Parton trying to relaunch the format in the '80s. But I think the majority of peoples' tastes have changed. Hipsters generally don't want to sit and watch people do anything tender and romantic or even elaborate and showy. And who would perform on them?! So few people are capable of an actual live performance, it seems. Buster Crabbe sounds dreamy, but I can't scan though 12 episodes of the serial to find that one hot section. LOL

paintbrush, I'm so glad you liked this!! Thank you.

Shawn, I did fix it. I was worried that I was going to somehow screw up one or more of the links because sometimes in my haste one won't copy properly and I have to be quick about it. Sorry about that!

Scooter, I seem to recall something about Barbara Eden doing a nightclub act that may have even involved her then-husband Michael Ansara! Glenn and Bobbie had a nice chemistry together. As for Shirl, everyone is entitled to their opinion, so no worries here...! I always felt she sounded so proper and it was odd to see her shaking her head dramatically on some eps of TPF like she was Janis Joplin or something while this high-pitched trill is coming out! LOL (Fun fact: Her voice was added on to some of the songs on the show, but on top, after the initial recordings were done, so you could sometimes pick her out on the show, but never on any of the released records...) Hilarious about your chore duties in the morning ("the morning after!")

Gingerguy said...

Greatest post ever. Spinning Wheel is in top 20 and my friends post it on FB all the time. Epic.
I LOVE Julie London's look and was always confused as a child by her butch look on "Emergency"
Nancy Wilson was so pretty.
Love me some Ann Margaret but don't get sometimes. In the redhead rule book we all got it says don't ever wear pink, and yet she does.
Bobbi Gentry was always fabulous. 10' s across the board.
That's how young I feel got several of these treatments, see the Carol Channing one sometime. It defies explaination.
Omg, lol Mitzi"Love Is Blue" I adore!!! There is a doc called Razzle Dazzle but warning its a total tease of short clips and will give you Mitzi blue balls. Stellar Poseidon, bless you!

desertboi84 said...

. . . though she didn't typically wear glamorous gowns, tons of flattering make-up or pile her hair in a grand hair style of the period, (except maybe once on 'hollywood palace'), petula clark was always fabulous! who can forget her nbc tv special 'petula' in which she had the audacity to touch harry belefonte! nbc & chrysler wanted to reshoot the scene but it was in her contract to make the final calls so it stayed in and was aired the way it was filmed, nbc apologized and the head of chrysler was fired making way for lee iacoca (i think) and petula clark the first white female to have live interaction with a black man, this was before uhura was kissed by kirk on 'star trek' but ironically the same week or so that MLK was assassinated.

Gingerguy said...

Also Miss Nancy Ames is very "Dinah East"

Poseidon3 said...

I do adore Petula Clark. Saw her live once about 15 years or so ago in the front row and she was divine. And while her stance with Belafonte was notable and admirable, the two had met in February of '68 on "The Tonight Show" where Belafonte (guest-hosting) kissed her on the cheek! But Nancy Sinatra had them all bear when in December of '67, she kissed Sammy Davis Jr on his cheek during her special "Movin' With Nancy." And in 1966, some viewers were writing in to complain about Barbara Bain's proximity to Greg Morris on "Mission: Impossible," prompting nervous execs to mention it. The result? The producers deliberately began finding new ways to put Bain and Morris together as much as the plot allowed....! In time it became a non-issue.

Rick Gould said...

What a fun post, Poseidon!

I was a very wee lad when those '60s variety shows were all the rage. I actually remember that duet between Bobbie Gentry and Bobby Darin--we thought it was pretty funny! Now there would have been a couple: Bobbie & Bobby!

But I really came to appreciate variety shows in the '70's, particularly Carol Burnett and Cher. And you're right about the genre being a grind. I remember an interview with Burnett saying she looked like John Carradine by the end of each season. And Cher, who Sonny worked like a rented mule, did the TV show, recorded albums on weekends, and toured in the summer. Back in even pre-Internet days, rumors flew about the effect it had on her health and their marriage. But as a fan, I remember how we loved the Burnett show for its classic comedy and Cher for singing and looking fab in those Bob Mackie costumes!

I also recall as variety shows were on the wane in the '70s, there was still tons of TV variety specials, with just about every star you could imagine. What a great era, and glad I caught the tail end of it.

As for that Barbara Eden clip, that was part of a special with Gene Kelly. I'd love to see the whole thing. Eden looks so fab, and she was pushing 40 at the time!

And Mitzi looks like a million in those shots. Also, noteworthy is that Mitzi was the star who first put Bob Mackie on the map. Then came Carol Burnett. And then came the star who sealed the deal, Cher.



Poseidon3 said...

Rick, one of the most potent childhood memories of mine is watching "The Carol Burnett Show" with my mom (and then catching the truncated 1/2 hour versions in syndication.) Also "Sonny & Cher" and then "Cher" were great. This link is to an entertaining interview clip of Mitzi's about her collaboration with Bob Mackie. You may have seen it, but perhaps others who are interested might not have. She is such a captivating storyteller and looks terrific (with her own hair, styled nicely after decades of punishment in her shows!)

Rick Gould said...

FYI any Barbra fans with Netflix: They are showing her two famous specials, Color Me Barbra and My Name is Barbra. All-Barbra, natch!

Sam Dixon said...

Most of these variety shows and other entertainment pieces were of a time BEFORE MTV, cable TV, and other forms that we now take for granted. Then TV was one of the few ways that one could SEE and HEAR their favorite performers, as well music from a variety of places. Thanks for this trip down memory lane.

Poseidon3 said...

Very true, Sam. Often it was something of an event to know that a popular (or even new, unknown, but rising) singer was going to be appearing on TV in a variety show! Thanks for commenting.