When Andy Warhol Guest-Starred on The Love Boat (1985)

On Friday, August 31, 1979, Andy Warhol records in his diary that he took a cab to Elaine’s to “meet the guy who might get me a guest appearance on The Love Boat.” But nearly five years pass before he writes that the writers are working on his episode; with the shooting dates set, “I started to get scared, I don’t know if I can go through with it.” A couple of months later, as the appointed time approaches, he hears the plot: “There’s a girl on the boat named Mary with her husband, and she used to be a superstar of mine, and she doesn’t want her husband to know that she used to be ‘Marina Del Rey.’ And I just have a few lines, things like ‘Hello, Mary.’ But one of the lines I have to say is something like ‘Art is crass commercialism,’ which I don’t want to say.”

Whatever his objections to the script, Warhol doesn’t seem to have been an especially difficult participant, of whom The Love Boat must have had more than a few in its 250 episodes. During its run on ABC from 1977 to 1986, the series became an American pop-cultural phenomenon of a scale difficult to comprehend today. But as a connoisseur of American pop culture, Warhol would have comprehended it fully. By the time of his appearance in October 1985, The Love Boat had entered its ninth season, presumably hungrier than ever for attention-grabbing guest stars; on “his” episode, Warhol shares that billing with, among others, Milton Berle, Happy Days‘ Tom Bosley and Marion Ross, and Andy Griffith (who, Warhol notes, “seems bitter to be on The Love Boat“).

“If there was any space where painters and artists could brush shoulders with soap stars and teen idols, it was aboard the Pacific Princess,” says MeTV. “In one episode dedicated to the fashion industry, designers Gloria Vanderbilt, Geoffrey Beene and Halston all came aboard.” Warhol’s coming aboard, then, “was both unexpected and somehow inevitable.” You can witness this surprising yet unsurprising cultural crossover in the video above, which contains just the scenes from Warhol’s story within the episode (which, like most Love Boat scripts, has three different plotlines). Even if it delivers few profound insights into the nature of art, celebrity, and human aspiration, it does capture Warhol’s presence as it seems really to have been during his final years.

“My Stephen Sprouse jackets were there on the wardrobe rack,” Warhol writes in his diary during the shoot. “When I wear them, I think I finally look like people want Andy Warhol to look again.” That must have been true of the shiny silver number he wears in his first scene of the episode, when first he rolls up with his “entourage” to the ship’s reception desk. “As we’re walking off, the Love Boat girl asks Raymond St. Jacques, ‘How does an artist know when a painting is really successful?’ And he says, ‘When the check clears.'” But on one take “they did it wrong and it was better — she said, ‘When is a painting really finished.'” Unfortunately, that version of the line seems to have been a bit too Warholian for the Pacific Princess.

Jon Hamm Narrates a Modernized Version of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Helping to Diagnose Our Social Media-Induced Narcissism

The Matrix gave a generation or two reason to reconsider, or indeed first to consider, Plato’s allegory of the cave. That era-defining blockbuster’s cavalcade of slick visual effects came delivered atop a plot about humanity’s having been enslaved — plugged into a colossal machine, as I recall, like an array of living batteries — while convinced by a direct-to-brain simulation that it wasn’t. Here in real life, about two and a half millennia earlier, one of Plato’s dialogues had conjured up a not-dissimilar scenario. You can see it retold in the video above, a clip drawn from a form as representative of the early 21st century as The Matrix‘s was of the late 20th: Legion, a dramatic television series based on a comic book.

“Imagine a cave, where those inside never see the outside world,” says narrator Jon Hamm (himself an icon of our Golden Age of Television, thanks to his lead performance in Mad Men). “Instead, they see shadows of that world projected on the cave wall. The world they see in the shadows is not the real world, but it’s real to them. If you were to show them the world as it actually is, they would reject it as incomprehensible.” Then, Hamm suggests transposing this relationship to reality into life as we know it — or rather, as we two-dimensionally perceive it on the screens of our phones. But “unlike the allegory of the cave, where the people are real and the shadows are false, here other people are the shadows.”

This propagates “the delusion of the narcissist, who believes that they alone are real. Their feelings are the only feelings that matter, because other people are just shadows, and shadows don’t feel.” And “if everyone lived in caves, then no one would be real. Not even you.” With the rise of digital communication in general and social media in particular, a great many of us have ensconced ourselves, by degrees and for the most part unconsciously, inside caves of our own. Over the past decade or so, increasingly sobering glimpses of the outside world have motivated some of us to seek diagnoses of our collective condition from thinkers of the past, such as social theorist Christopher Lasch.

“The new narcissist is haunted not by guilt but by anxiety,” Lasch writes The Culture of Narcissism. “Liberated from the superstitions of the past, he doubts even the reality of his own existence” — wonders, in other words, whether he isn’t one of the shadows himself. Nevertheless, he remains “facile at managing the impressions he gives to others, ravenous for admiration but contemptuous of those he manipulates into providing it,” and dependent on “constant infusions of approval and admiration.” Social media has revealed traces of this personality, belonging to one who “sees the world as a mirror of himself and has no interest in external events except as they throw back a reflection of his own image,” in us all. It thus gives us pause to remember that Lasch was writing all this in the 1970s; but then, Plato was writing in the fifth century B.C.

Related Content:

Hear John Malkovich Read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Set to Music Mixed by Ric Ocasek, Yoko Ono & Sean Lennon, OMD & More

Two Animations of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: One Narrated by Orson Welles, Another Made with Clay

Plato’s Cave Allegory Animated Monty Python-Style

New Animation Explains Sherry Turkle’s Theories on Why Social Media Makes Us Lonely

The Case for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts & Doing Valuable “Deep Work” Instead, According to Computer Scientist Cal Newport

A 1947 French Film Accurately Predicted Our 21st-Century Addiction to Smartphones

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch Bing Crosby’s Final Christmas Special, Featuring a Famous Duet with Bowie, and Bowie Introducing His New Song, “Heroes” (1977)

Bing Crosby died in October of 1977, but that didn’t stop him from appearing in living rooms all over America for Christmas. He’d already completed the shoot for his final CBS television special Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, along with such collaborators as Ron Moody, Stanley Baxter, the Trinity Boys Choir, Twiggy, and a young fellow by the name of David Bowie. Of course, Bowie had long since achieved his own dream of fame, at least to the younger generation; it was viewers who’d grown up listening to Crosby who needed an introduction. And they received a memorable one indeed, in the form of the Bowie-Crosby duet “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” previously featured here on Open Culture.

This year you can watch Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas in its hourlong entirety, which includes performances of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Side by Side by Side” (from the late Stephen Sondheim’s Company), a (perhaps embellished) musical delineation of the extended Crosby family, and a session of literary reminiscence with none other than Charles Dickens.

The setup for all this is that Crosby, his wife, and children have all been brought to England by the invitation of the previously unknown Sir Percival Crosby, who desires to extend a hand to his “poor American relations” — and who happens to live next door to Bowie, that most English of all 1970s rock stars.

The search for Sir Crosby proceeds merrily, at one point prompting his famous relative to chat with Twiggy about the nature of love and loneliness, emotions “just as painful and just as beautiful as they ever were. Whether you’re a novelist, poet, or even a songwriter, it’s all in the way you sing.” These reflections lead into a stark music video for the title track of Bowie’s “‘Heroes'”, which had come out just weeks before (coincidentally, on the very day of Crosby’s death). Though a somewhat incongruous addition to such an old-fashioned production, it does vividly reflect a certain changing of the transatlantic pop-cultural guard.

In their scene together, Crosby and Bowie do exude an undeniable mutual respect, the younger man admitting even to have tried his hand at the older man’s signature holiday song, “White Christmas.” Having set off the 1940s Christmas-music boom by recording it 35 years before, Crosby sings it one last time himself to close out this special. Before doing so, he describes the Christmas season as “a time to look back with gratitude at being able to come this far, and a time to look ahead with hope and optimism.” Like all the elements of Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas not involving David Bowie, these words were nothing new even then, but somehow they still manage to stoke our Christmas spirit all these decades later.

Related Content:

David Bowie & Bing Crosby Sing “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” (1977)

David Bowie Sends a Christmas Greeting in the Voice of Elvis Presley

Johnny Cash’s Christmas Specials, Featuring June Carter, Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman & More (1976-79)

Revisit Kate Bush’s Peculiar Christmas Special, Featuring Peter Gabriel (1979)

Why “White Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Let It Snow,” and Other Classic Christmas Songs Come from the 1940s

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Class Critiques in Squid Game, Succession, etc. — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #112

Popular shows have commented on wealth inequality by showing how dire the situation is for the poor and/or how disconnected and clueless the rich are. How effective is this type of social commentary?

Your host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by philosopher and NY Times writer Lawrence Ware, novelist and writing professor Sarahlyn Bruck, and educator with a rhetoric doctorate Michelle Parrinello-Cason to discuss the appeal of both reality show (“fishbowl”) horror and satire. Is it OK if we don’t like any of the characters in Succession? Does Squid Game actually deserve its 94% on Rotten Tomatoes? Are we even capable as American viewers of appreciating what it’s trying to do?

We also touch on White Lotus, The Hunt, Schitt’s Creek, torture porn, social commentary in songs, and more. Lurking in the background here are foundational works for this trend: Parasite, Get Out, Battle Royale, and The Hunger Games.

A few articles we may have drawn on for the discussion:

Hear more from our guests on past episodes: Law on various PEL discussions on race and religion, Sarahlyn on PMP on soap operas, Michelle on PMP on board games. Follow them @law_writes, @sarahlynbruck and @DaylaLearning.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Watch 11-Year-Old Billy Preston Duet with Nat King Cole: A Star is Born (1957)

The Beatles aren’t the only fab talents causing a stir in the recently released Beatles documentary, Get Back.

As has been widely noted, soul singer Billy Preston lights up every scene he’s in.

One of the 60’s finest session keyboardists, Preston contributed to the Beatles‘ Let It Be and Abbey Road albums, and joined them for their famous final gig on the roof of Apple Records.

He also served as a leveling influence when tensions within the band frequently exploded into fits of temper.

“It’s interesting to see how nicely people behave when you bring a guest in,” George Harrison observed.

In addition to his successful solo career, with a number of funk and R&B hits, Preston gigged for a host of all time greats: Ray Charles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones…the list goes on.

A childhood prodigy who never took a music lesson, by 10, he was backing gospel luminaries like Mahalia JacksonJames Cleveland, and Andraé Crouch.

A year later, he entered America’s living rooms, when he appeared on The Nat King Cole Show, above, to duet with TV’s first national Black variety show host on “Blueberry Hill,” a 40s tune Fats Domino had popularized earlier in the decade.

“You have a very excellent career ahead of you,” Cole predicts, following their performance.

Daughter Natalie Cole later enthused that the celebrated crooner “lets this kid have all the glory,” though the self-possessed pre-teen holds his own ably, alternating between organ and his own impressive pipes.

Within the year, Cole and Preston shared the big screen, and a memorable part, when they were cast as “The Father Of The Blues” W.C. Handy, as a child and adult, in the 1958 movie St Louis Blues.

As an adult, Preston’s star was tarnished by addiction, arrests and self-sabotaging behavior that his manager, Joyce Moore, and half-sister Lettie, said was most deeply rooted in his mother’s refusal to believe that he was being sexually abused by the pianist of a summer touring company, and later a local pastor.

It’s part of a lurid, longer tale, calling to mind other promising, oft-prodigious young talents who never managed to get out from under damage inflicted by adults when they were children.

He was 9.

Related Content:

Watch Paul McCartney Compose The Beatles Classic “Get Back” Out of Thin Air (1969)

The Beatles’ 8 Pioneering Innovations: A Video Essay Exploring How the Fab Four Changed Pop Music

Is “Rain” the Perfect Beatles Song?: A New Video Explores the Radical Innovations of the 1966 B-Side

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Punks, Goths, and Mods on TV (1983)

The Rivethead preoccupation with fashion is inescapably related to their anxiety over being confused for subcultures they profess to hate: Goths, Punks, Metalheads, Death Rockers… The fact that so many subcultures claim black as their color of choice contributes to the confusion.

There are two points upon which theorists of post-industrial British subcultures generally agree: 1) No matter the music or the fashion, the boundaries between one subculture and another were rigorously, even violently, enforced (hence the wars between the mods and rockers), and; 2) The music and fashions of every subculture were subject to cooptation by the machinery of capitalism, to be mass produced, packaged, and sold as off-the-rack commodity, a phenomenon that occurred almost as soon as punks, mods, rockers, goths, teddy boys, skinheads, New Romantics, etc. began appearing on television — as in the post-Grundy Irish TV appearance of four young individuals above from 1983.

The interviewer introduces these punks, goths, and mods by referring first to their employment — or lack of employment — status, and then to the number of children in their family. Comments dripping with class disdain sit alongside a characterization of various subcultures as “gangs” — the Hell’s Angels thrown in among them just to drive the point home. Of course, there’s more to say about the denizens of early-80s UK subcultural street corners — more than these four representatives have to say themselves. It is communicated through performance rather than verbal exposition, through the affiliations of clothing, music, and pose — as in the mini-historical slideshow of late-20th century British subcultures below, from the 50s to the 80s.

In 1979, British theorist Dick Hebdige published what many considered the definitive analysis of these working-class scenes, which frequently centered around forms of racial and cultural exchange — as with mods who loved jazz or punks who loved ska and dub reggae; or racial and cultural exclusion — as with fascist skinheads and chauvinist teddy boys who glorified the past, while other subcultural ideologies looked to the future (or, as the case may be, no future).

Hebdige’s Subculture: the Meaning of Style begins with a story about French writer Jean Genet, humiliated in prison by homophobic guards over his possession of a tube of Vaseline:

Like Genet, we are interested in subculture – in the expressive forms and rituals of those subordinate groups – the teddy boys and mods and rockers, the skinheads and the punks – who are alternately dismissed, denounced and canonized; treated at different times as threats to public order and as harmless buffoons.

The irony of subcultures is that they identify with social outsiders, while re-enforcing boundaries that create exclusivity (cf. the quote at the top, from Hebdige-inspired Subcultures List). When the novelty and shock recedes, they become ripe fodder for commercial cooptation, even luxury branding.

What we usually don’t get from tame retrospectives, or from patronizing mass media of the time, are deviant outsiders like Genet who cannot be reabsorbed into the system because their very existence poses a threat to the social order as so construed. So much of the fashion and music of post-war Britain was directly created or inspired by West Indian migrants of the Windrush generation, for example. In too many popular representations of postwar British subcultures, that essential part of the working class UK subculture story has been entirely left out.

Related Content: 

A History of Punk from 1976-78: A Free Online Course from the University of Reading

The Sex Pistols Make a Scandalous Appearance on the Bill Grundy Show & Introduce Punk Rock to the Startled Masses (1976)

The History of Punk Rock in 300 Tracks: A 13-Hour Playlist Takes You From 1965 to Present

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch Hilarious Spoofs of Classic Film Genres: Film Noir, Spaghetti Westerns, Scandinavian Crime Dramas, Time Travel Films & More

Comedian Alasdair Beckett-King has a keen ear for entertainment tropes and subscribes to the belief that “putting too much effort into things makes them funnier.”

The result is a series of one-minute videos in which he spoofs the conventions of a particular genre or long running series, with perfect visuals, meta dialogue, and faithfully rendered performance styles.

Beckett-King put his London Film School training to use with this project during lockdown, spending “absolutely ages putting together something very tiny.”

Witness his take on every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generationin which the captain of the ship, a Patrick Stewart doppelgänger and “vegetarian space socialist who is always right” negotiates with a “representative of a kind of iffy alien race not necessarily based on a specific human ethnicity.” As Beckett-King told Eric Johnson, host of Follow Friday podcast:

That one was very, very hard work because I had to do a CGI bald cap for myself because I have long, long flowing hair. I had to try and do an impression of Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise… it’s not that good. There’s so much work that went into it.

Before I posted it, I was convinced I’d wasted my time. Then luckily it did quite well and people really liked it. People kept saying, “When are you doing Captain Picard again?” I’m like, “I’m not! because it took ages to do the bald head, and you’ve seen it now.” I think what’s nice about it though, is you get to try something, commit to it and then see if it’s funny afterwards. It’s quite like doing live standup.

(Beckett-King’s partner Rachel Anne Smith gets credits for the non-CGI costumes.)

Some other favorites:

Every Single Scandinavian Crime Drama: The killer could be anyone in Helgasund. That’s over seven people.

Every Single Spooky Podcast: The frozen soil was littered with what appeared to be discarded Casper mattresses and Bombas socks.

Every Single Spaghetti Western: Yeah, well your lips don’t synch…

Every Haunted House Movie: It’s the perfect place for me to quit drinking, finish my novel, and really come to terms with that deer we hit on the way over.

Every Episode of Popular Time Travel Show: Help us, Doctor. The intransigent Implacablons are poised to destroy us.

How Every Film Noir Ends: Talk your way out of a snub nosed pistol held at waist height.

Should you find yourself at loose ends, waiting for the next Beckett-King “every single…” episode to drop, try  biding your time with his Art House Movie Spoilers and North East of England spin on Jaws.

Buy a Coffee for Alasdair Beckett-King here.

Related Content:

Hardware Wars: The Mother of All Star Wars Fan Films (and the Most Profitable Short Film Ever Made)

Download a Complete, Cover-to-Cover Parody of The New Yorker: 80 Pages of Fine Satire

The Time When National Lampoon Parodied Mad Magazine: A Satire of Satire (1971)

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Jazz Virtuoso Oscar Peterson Gives Dick Cavett a Dazzling Piano Lesson (1979)

Duke Ellington once called Oscar Peterson the “Maharaja of the Keyboard” for his virtuosity and ability to play any style with seeming ease, a skill he first began to learn as a classically trained child prodigy. Peterson was introduced to Bach and Beethoven by his musician father and older sister Daisy, then drilled in rigorous finger exercises and given six hours a day of practice by his teacher, Hungarian pianist Paul de Marky. “I only first really heard jazz somewhere between the ages of seven and 10,” said the Canadian jazz great. “My older brother Fred, who was actually a better pianist than I was, started playing various new tunes — well they were new for me, anyway…. Duke Ellington and Art Tatum, who frightened me to death with his technique.”

Despite his own prodigious talent, Peterson found Tatum “intimidating,” he told Count Basie in a 1980 interview. He responded to the fear by learning how to play like Tatum, and like everyone else he admired, while adding his own melodic twists to standards and originals. At 14, he won a national Canadian music competition and left school to become a professional musician.

He recorded his first album in 1945 at age 20. “Since his ‘discovery’ in 1947 by Norman Granz,” wrote International Musician in 2002, five years before the pianist’s death, “Peterson has amassed an incredible legacy of recorded work with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Fred Astaire, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker, among countless other greats.”

In the video at the top of the post from the Dick Cavett Show in 1979, Peterson shows off his elegant technique and demonstrates the “stylistic trademarks” of the greats he admired, and that others have heard expressed in his own style. He begins with his albatross, Tatum’s “stride piano,” a style that requires a good deal of left hand articulation and which, done right, can “put the rhythm section out of business,” Cavett jokes. Peterson then shows off the “the two-fingered percussiveness of Nat Cole,” the “lyric octave work of Erroll Garner,” and double octave melody lines, a very difficult two-hand maneuver.

It’s a dazzling lesson that shows, in just a few short minutes, why Peterson became known for his “stunning virtuosity as a soloist,” as one biography notes. In the video above, producer and YouTube personality Rick Beato explains why he thinks Peterson played the “Greatest Solo of All Time” in the 1974 rendition of “Boogie Blues Study” further up. As David Funk, who posted the Cavett video clip to YouTube, puts it, “What more can you say?” To understand why Louis Armstrong called Peterson “the man with four hands,” we simply need to watch him play.

Related Content:

How Music Unites Us All: Herbie Hancock & Kamasi Washington in Conversation

Deconstructing Stevie Wonder’s Ode to Jazz and His Hero Duke Ellington: A Great Breakdown of “Sir Duke”

Jazz Deconstructed: What Makes John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” So Groundbreaking and Radical?

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.