Marie Osmond Performs the Dadaist Poem “Karawane” on the TV Show, Ripley’s Believe It or Not (1985)

Remem­ber Don­ny and Marie Osmond, the toothy, teenage Mor­mon sib­lings whose epony­mous tele­vi­sion vari­ety show was a whole­some 70’s mix of skits, songs, and ice skat­ing?

Their sur­pris­ing­ly endur­ing theme song reduced their pop­u­lar­i­ty to an eas­i­ly gras­pable bina­ry for­mu­la:

She was a lit­tle bit coun­try. He was a lit­tle bit rock and roll.

Turns out Marie was also more than a lit­tle bit Dada.

From 1985 to 1986, Marie served as actor Jack Palance’s cohost on Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a TV series explor­ing strange occur­rences, bizarre his­tor­i­cal facts, and oth­er such crowd-pleas­ing odd­i­ties… one of which was appar­ent­ly the afore­men­tioned Euro­pean avant-garde art move­ment, found­ed a hun­dred years ago this week.

If you don’t know as much about Dada as you’d like, Ms. Osmond’s brief primer is a sur­pris­ing­ly stur­dy intro­duc­tion.

No cutesy boot­sy, easy ref­er­ences to melt­ing clocks here.

The high­light is her per­for­mance of Dada poet and man­i­festo author Hugo Bal­l’s non­sen­si­cal 1916 sound poem “Karawane.”

Lose the yel­low bathrobe and she could be a cap­tive war­rior princess on Game of Thrones, fierce­ly peti­tion­ing the Moth­er of Drag­ons on behalf of her peo­ple. (Invent some sub­ti­tles for extra Dada-inflect­ed fun!)

A sharp eyed young art stu­dent named Ethan Bates did catch one error in Marie’s les­son. The ’13’ cos­tume she pulls from a handy dress­ing room niche was not worn by Hugo Ball, but rather Dutch painter Theo Van Does­burg, one of the founders of the De Sti­jl move­ment.

Still you’ve got to hand it to Marie, who was slat­ed to per­form just a sin­gle line of the poem. When it came time to tape, she aban­doned the cue cards, blow­ing pro­duc­ers’ and crew’s minds by deliv­er­ing the poem in its unhinged entire­ty from mem­o­ry.

Now that’s rock and roll.

Below you’ll find footage of Ball him­self per­form­ing the work in 1916.

Marie’s ver­sion was even­tu­al­ly released by Rough Trade Records as a track on Lip­stick Traces, a com­pan­ion sound­track to Greil Mar­cus’ sem­i­nal book.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dada Was Born 100 Years Ago: Cel­e­brate the Avant-Garde Move­ment Launched by Hugo Ball on July 14, 1916

Hear the Exper­i­men­tal Music of the Dada Move­ment: Avant-Garde Sounds from a Cen­tu­ry Ago

Down­load All 8 Issues of Dada, the Arts Jour­nal That Pub­li­cized the Avant-Garde Move­ment a Cen­tu­ry Ago (1917–21)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday


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