Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Remember the mini-pops? they were kind of a guilty indulgence , you just couldn’t win with something so kitschy. Depending on your age, most kids over twelve thought they were annoying , grown-ups thought they were annoying and creepy - after all little girls dressed up with lipstick , lisping through Sheena Easton’s Morning Train had most cringing with hope that they eliminated the lyrics - ‘Night time is the right time ...we make love.’ But for kids under twelve and perhaps a few mums-the-word twelve year olds they were a heady rush of jubilant wish fulfillment. I mean who didn’t want to dress up like Madonna and pretend to be a star?
Best of all they had an audience who were buying their records - they weren’t just wishing , they technically were stars - it was the kind of dream fantasy every kid goes through only the mini-pops were living it. I can recall only one video - I admit it I watched the mini-pops - guilty! It was a twelve year old girl doing Material Girl and they’d decked her out like Madonna. White boxy tank top baring a strip of midriff , white lace capri pants , a white crinoline , and a scrap of white lace tying up her tawny tangle of Madonna curls. They’d even drawn on a little mole. She even had the vixen stare down perfectly! I remember thinking how cool she looked - perhaps even better than Madonna because it was so unexpected. It’s takes a twelve year old a great deal more effort to look cool.

The 80's were the perfect time for kitschy kid music I don’t know if the minipops spawned other things but it certainly got the ball rolling and snowballed a lot of other bizarre/likable ventures.

How about Kid’s Incorporated? If you don’t remember or want a memory jog open another tab go to You Tube and type it in. You won’t be disappointed! Those kids were talented! Renee Sands is great - she nails all the Madonna songs with her slightly husky voice. And Stacy Fergeson as in yup Fergie does a good job of the bouncier songs like Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on earth. Forget some of the cheesier elements of the show and just enjoy the whole feel of it. The outfits! I think that’s why I love the 80's so much it was such a fun time for fashion , for music , for series fiction everything was just so light hearted. I shudder when I think of some of the outfits kids will have to look back on nowadays - jogging pants with the words Juicy on their butt , pants cut so they can show off the wedgie-inducing thong. Check out some of the Kid’s incorporated performing outfits -
Side ponytails , fluffy perms , denim jackets studded with rhinestones , blue sequined vests , short-jumpsuits with wide belts in hot colors like pink and blue. Hoop earrings , cotton t shirt dresses , layered socks , men’s tail shirts with rolled cuffs. Grey denim. Bold colorful prints , cinch belts , skinny cotton pants.

The rocker influence had seeped everywhere - partially or maybe all to do with the fact that MTV had come out and music videos suddenly became a part of our t.v. schedule - cartoons even became musical - Kidd Video immersed live action and cartoon - I dare you to listen to the theme song and not tap your toe. Corny but it’s the 80's who cares! The incredible , unimitatable Jem and their original songs. The format was even something akin to a new kind of musical - chopping up into an outrageous music video moments - things that could only happen in a music video - Pizazz growing giant size to knock Jem & Kimber’s hand glider’s out of the sky etc. Barbie and the Rockers followed suit and then their were the regular cartoons that you could say well nobody could relate to those - however Muppet Babies with their catchy songs - Merry-Go-Round , Trackin’ , and especially fueled by the fact that they behaved like children much older than their labeling of tots - they’re fantasies were fueled by pop culture , movies , Miss Piggy even imagined once she was Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink playing out the scene where Andrew McCarthy asks her out. She even often dressed like a rock star - Madonna and dreamed of stardom. Alvin and Chipmunks were preteen like faux-children who lived like mini-popstars , traveling, giving concerts, escaping raving fans etc. I even remember an episode of the Gummi Bears where Sunni Gummi ( the young preteen gummi bear who seemed your typical child of the 80's she even sported what looked like a flippy Vidal Sassoon pompadour , her sherwood-knottingham garment looked like an 80's dress with a shredded hem paired with a nifty slouching belt ) , decided to enter a costume contest. Her outfit is a mishmash of everything 80's epaulets , crinoline , mardi gras beads , lace gloves , hair clips. The other gummi’s burst out laughing. Frustrated and hurt , she declares someday it will be what everyone is wearing -well everyone imitating Cyndi Lauper.

One of my favorite 80's movies that reminds me most of the minipop phenomenon is a movie called Hey Babe - it was done in 1980 and stars Buddy Hackett and Yasmine Bleeth - believe it or not in her first major role. Basically they were taking the formula that had made Brooke Shields famous and made their own little rip off movie. Yasmine Bleeth plays 12 year old Teresa a cynical , streetwise orphan who lives in a group home that resembles a correctional facility where the sullen inmates sit in hallways and smoke up. Teresa however is not content to stay at the facility and usually escapes - at the beginning of the movie she literally crashes the filming of a music video by sliding down a bar of neon! ( you have to see it to believe it ) , grabs the mike from the bewildered singer and takes over singing. She is thrown out of the building but not before eyeing a poster advertising a theater school. Managing to squeeze herself into the theater school by lying that her mother is a producer she still has to come up with the dough to pay for the school. The next thing we see is Teresa dancing in a new wave shop - love the disco-y song they’re playing I think it’s Two hearts Explode by Experimental Warriors which I can’t find anywhere, along with the glitter faced shop clerks , distracting them she winds a boa around one after clamping on a flashing pin & belt ( pretty cool accessory - but we’ve come a long way from merely blinking belts ) she grabs a pile of accessories ( scarfs , pins , bangles ) and rolls out the door on her roller skates.The shop clerk gives chase but Teresa hops in the open side of a Coke truck helps herself to one and drinks it down before flipping it over head behind her when she realizes the truck is coming to a stop and the shop clerk is picking up speed. ( I love the way the music plays a part in this scene as the song builds up to it’s title - two hearts explode - the Coke bottle smashes on the pavement. ) She winds up hiding in an abandoned building which turns out to be an old theater and home to Buddy Hackett - Sammy Cohen- an ex-vaudeville star turned alcoholic homeless man. He’s quirky , lippy and at first frightens Teresa - not that she can’t take care of herself she pulls a knife on him and as he says I want to make you a star she says - talk to my a** they ain’t got no ears! But she’s intrigued and when he follows her home on a subway she gives him five minutes in an eatery , but basically brushes him off. Still hoping to get some dough for her classes and having hocked the stolen accessories , Teresa comes up with a rather bizarre idea ( for what’s advertised as a family movie! ) by taking the boys to the basement and doing a striptease with a padded bra , a slip and stripped socks for gloves. Unfortunately her punchline - taking off her slip to reveal a nude body stocking with comic-ly drawn breasts as circles leaves the boys grumbling and taking back their money. Faced with the realization she’ll have to actually strip , Teresa humiliated starts to peel only to have her careworker storm in.

Having been thrown into a solitary cell , a lock down , Teresa is rescued by her ardent admirer and takes her belongings and moves in with Sammy. He is outraged but also enjoys the company , while he sleeps in a hammock Teresa lines an empty bathtube with dark red velvet to sleep in. Thus starts their weird make-shift union. Her ,playing wifey, rather like Shirley Temple, cooks , cleans ,while he grumbles and plays the sour-puss , his temperament wavering every time he thinks of his lady love and partner from the old days.

Then Teresa hocks his beloved victrola for her tuition money and Sammy spanks her shouting you must learn people are more important than money - Teresa in tears outraged - shouts that he’s a crummy old drunk. But she sort of apologizes / explains and they team up starting a street act, vaudeville style, and make enough money to get his victrola out of hock. At school the teachers notice her style is becoming more polished , and secretly Sammy is calling in some old contacts for Teresa - unfortunately she takes one look at his contact - a woman, gets jealous and while they’re in a disco club with flashing colored floors , lighted tables and three transvestites singing oh Daddy , 40's style, she lights the woman’s polyester jacket on fire and it burns up like lightening creating havoc. It’s such a bizarre, beautifully strange scene. How is she allowed in such a club? And Transvestites - ai yi yi.

While the kids back at the group home are sent off to find Teresa , Teresa celebrates getting a part in her theaters production of Cinderella - a small part - however the celebration is her washing Sammy’s back in the tub which is full of bubbles. As Sammy playfully pulls her in , several men from the group home accompanied by police officers show up and catch them in the tub only they both stand up - Both are wearing clothes - Sammy has on one of those old fashioned striped bathing suits.

Told she can never see him again , as if , she goes straight out and sees him , and later manages to get the lead in the school play when the lead ( a barely fifteen years old girl) gets pregnant and can no longer fit in her Cinderella gown. Rushing to tell Sammy the good news who meanwhile has gone and bought Teresa a present - an old fashioned make-up case complete with make-up has fallen down in the alley walking home and died.

Teresa finds other homeless people in Sammy’s place listening to his victrola dancing , divvying up Sammy’s belongings and learns what happened. Dressed in her sensational Cinderella gown - looking like the princess in The Neverending Story - I love those jeweled forehead pieces! - she goes to the morgue says her goodbye’s to Sammy, where the morgue attendant gives her the present. Teresa unwraps it and almost gives up wallowing in her grounding until recalling Sammy’s show- must- go-on attitude incorporates her ever-loving devotee for help. He steals the group home school bus and drives Teresa to the theater. The play goes off without a hitch till at the end - her furious careworker storms in huffing and puffing ready to yank her off the stage. Teresa startled freezes then improvises and starts singing a rather jazzy song - that has nothing to do with the play but livens up the audience till they are dancing in the aisles , she strips off her Cinderella gown and does some jazz-baby dances in her slip and the movie ends with how it starts a music video - only the dream realized has come full circle - what Teresa hoped to be most of all - a star , has come true. Over the end credits she is singing a pop version of the song Sammy loved ( I gotta whole lot...I gotta whole lot of you babe ) dressed in a spunky pop art style black and white jumper with full skirt in emphasized tiers rimmed with black ribbon , a headpiece of pop art style daisies - she is surrounded by matching girls surrounding her platform like Busby Berkley babes brandishing lit sparklers. The woman who’d kicked her out of the crashed music video before is now watching behind the scenes, pleased.

*The strangest thing ever was to call this a family film - there is a strange Lolita-ish moment when Teresa offers herself to Sammy to make-love he turns her down saying - there are many reasons a woman gives herself to a man one is because he’s the most important man in the whole world to her and another cause he’s the least important man. I’m not the most important.
Not bad advice. And it also saves the movie from becoming too creepy.

I adore Yasmine Bleeth’s wardrobe in this movie! It’s so kid playing dress-up. And because it hinges on 1980 it’s still got that 70's influence but it’s also got that glitter/glam punk look. Teresa has a black leather jacket with the Rolling Stone’s tongue on the back , she also wears a black Rocky Horror Picture show t shirt. Ringed knee socks that are pink and purple glitter over white fishnet stockings , blue denim hot pants with a heart decal on the back. Strappy two inch heels , a purple sequined soft beret , a purple , silver and pink sequined boob tube , with a string of plastic fruit roped around her neck like some daffy sort-a boa , glitzy glittery scarfs , feather roach clips , Lolita heart shaped sunglasses , her make-up is glitter-glam. Two fuchsia lighting bolts on her cheeks , blue glitter lips , and later heavy red lipstick , a half moon beauty mark , rhinestones glued on her cheekbones , red-hot streaks of blush and when they are performing she paints on a mask of heavy purple glitter.

The best part of the child as star is, for me, the dress up part - but I know for one of my old friends from childhood it would have been the performing part every time she came over to my house she wanted to sing for my dad. He was too polite to say anything to her face , he would merely glower and later tell my mom , would you get her outta here! She had a very supportive mother however , one that lied through her teeth and told her she sung like an angel.
She was terrible! She needed a group that could drown her out to sound good. I loved the idea of being a rock star - my mother had this old heavy crocheted black gown, I put that on , really troweled in on the drabs of her make-up ends - blush like tire tracks , eye shadow bright as tent awnings , and every gob of junk jewelry I could get my hands on. Fancying myself as the next mini-Madonna I discovered I couldn’t sing and would not even punish my own ears with my warbling, instead I loved lip syncing , my friend and I would line up our stuffed animals and put on a gala performance - oddly enough I don’t recall lip syncing to a Madonna song - our favorite was Tina Turner’s Typical Male.

**I didn’t forget the book element - here goes - Sweet Valley Twins - Jessica the Rock Star - a definite mini-pop. Jessica has to be one of the most infuriating characters ever written in teen series-dom - of course I didn’t miss an episode - be it Sweet Valley High or Sweet Valley Twins - I could never decide which Jessica was my favorite - 12 year old Jess with her Unicorn posse or 16 yr old Jess, always making a fool out of herself in her ever-loving quest for her 15 minutes of fame. This book Jessica the Rock star ( svt ) came out in November of 89 as we were about to kiss the 80's goodbye. The story starts up with Jessica keeping Liz awake reliving their exciting night at a Melody Power concert - did 12 year old go to concerts? I remember once wanting so badly to go to a Debbie Gibson concert that was playing in Toronto I was tempted even to go as a mini-Debbie complete with ripped jeans , painted knee - the whole sha-bang. Nobody in my family ever liked driving to Toronto so it was out even if the tickets weren’t outrageously high. I always wondered who was Melody Power modeled after - I mean she goes back to the 80's so I’m trying to pin point her first mention in the series to really nail it down. Unfortunately I don’t have time to skim through every book nor do I even have every book below 34. But considering the heavy make-up the pile up of scarves bracelets , and colors one would assume Melody Power is modeled after Cyndi Lauper who’s album I Drove all Night was released in 1989. Of course she could also be modeled after Madonna who’s Album Like A Prayer came out in 1989 - could also be Debbie Gibson - Electric Youth , Stacey Q? Mmmm? Hard to tell - parents who approve of a singer in the 80's? So she couldn’t be too tarty. Melody Power is described as growly voice with purple hair , knotted scarves? , and an album called Powerful my guess it’s she’s just a mishmash of all female singers. Young , hip , outrageous.

Jess’s rock star look - a Melody Power t shirt , her shortest miniskirt , electric pink tights , and matching high top sneakers , in addition it looked like she’d put on every necklace and scarf she owned - including a few of Liz’s who gasps that’s my coral necklace! Elizabeth laughs at Jess’s eyeshadow overdose and tells her the heavy layer of lavender makes her look like she has a black eye. Jessica wipes off the shadow but warns ‘when I’m a big star , you’ll be sorry you didn’t appreciate me."

At school Jess is basking in the attention she receives from having dressed like Melody Power ( accept for the Melody Power t shirt ) , Lila is pouting and struggling to change the subject because her father couldn’t get tickets and she feels left out. Jessica not wanting to let the attention slip from her grasp dramatically announces that - drumroll- she has decided to become a rock star. This gets a mixture of gasps and Lila’s wonderful statement - ‘Forget it Jess , you’ll never make it!’

Her family wavers in their support as well , Steven laughs ‘that it looks like the contents of her closet fell on her , oh what do you know? Jessica grumbles - enough not to wear thirteen colors at once.’ Jessica’s plans however start to grate on even her closest friends nerves when attempts to steer the conversation back to Melody Power are suddenly derailed. Nobody can keep Jessica down for too long and before you know it - basically an eyeblink later she finds an advertisement wanting a girl singer. Boy band alert! Aaron Dallas , Peter Jeffries , Scott Joslin and Bruce Patman - I love how sometimes in series people who don’t have much to do with one another will suddenly get thrown together. The band’s name is pretty cool though NRG.
Jessica’s competition - Sandra Ferris and Dana Larson natch - I almost fell over when I read Dana Larson’s outfit - blue jeans and a simple cotton sweater - what happened to Dana’s leopard print!

Disaster strikes the auditions - like any teen band - nobody wants them in their house , garage , block and Jessica spotting an opportunity airly says ‘you can hold the auditions at my house my parents are pretty cool’. Without telling anyone - of course, and Liz is upstairs with a good book and is nearly given a heart attack by the first deafening cords. The auditions play out and Jess of course is hired Liz ( not an Amanda Howard mystery reader for nothing ) has suspicions that Jessica is only part of the band for the use of her basement.
Liz pokes around in the following days of practice to discover that Jess has been reduced to status of groupie painting the bands names on their instrument cases ( perhaps with a bit more artwork - she could windup with a cool skeleton drumcase like the one in Desperately Seeking Susan ) , she even brings them cookies and when Bruce mockingly calls her a real gem - Jessica contemplates it as a stage name. Gem , Gem , Truly Outrageous!

Jessica happily relishes her delusions of rock star status not helped by the fact that after she sings Bruce suppressing a shudder tells her she sounds like a pro , while Liz is torn trying to decide wether she should tell Jessica how awful she sounds. While Jessica puts up posters she painted at a mall , and gets them a job , the boys are still treating her like a slave yet refusing to let her sing and annoyed that she might skip a rehearsal for a Unicorn club meeting because she won’t be there to shlep their drinks. After recording herself on tape Jessica finally realizes how awful she sounds trying to imitate Melody Power’s husky voice.

Then that coninkadink moment that might have you rolling your eyes - Elizabeth just happens to overhear Bruce and the others shopping for band uniforms , plotting to exclude Jessica from the party by giving her the wrong time so that she can save Jess. But really how else would you do it - predictable but nice - Jess’s none Melody Power performing outfit is cool
- Blue and red sweater , blue denim miniskirt , blue suede shoes , a silver and coral belt , a silver necklace and silver bracelets. But for all of Jessica’s bravado she suddenly needs Liz to come along for support and Liz is only to willing to come watch the show. As a twist the overly confident band wasn’t doing too well before Jessica showed up and suddenly her singing livens everyone up , people are dancing and calling out ya Gem! Even Lila who wrangled an invite to the party is impressed. The book ends with Jessica - er - Gem a hit and in the basement Bruce is now fetching lemonade and everyone is eager to get Jessica’s approval and advice. Jessica however has had it with singing and wants to go back to the Unicorns - ‘why didn’t you tell us that before we brought all our stuff over.’ Bruce demands ‘I though you could use my advice’ Jessica says cheekily squeezing them out as the Unicorns pile in to plan one of their many upcoming parties.
Pretty cute , and at the time nice to see a girl get one up on boys that are blatantly using her.

Hope you like the photos it’s my first attempt with photo shop so it’s not quite perfect - I had to make the album cover sorta peachy because white kept bleaching things out. The ‘stars’ were taken from various book covers - Jessica from Jessica the Rock star - Lila from Lila’s Music Video , Allie from the Party Line - Allie’s Big Break , Deena from the Cranberry Cousins and Lynn - from Alone in the Crowd , Andrea from Rock Star’s Girl and Dana from Starting Over. SVH
The others are from Hey Babe - and that’s Yasmine Bleeth.

The real Bruce Patman

The real Bruce Patman
For more 'real' Sweet valley comparisons click here it'll take you to Cliquey Pizza 2

The Real Lila

The Real Lila
Same soft , dreamy look!