Thursday, February 24, 2005

My Witness to Television History and Jeff. (Click PODCAST)

As a child growing up in Hollywood we, got to take some great school field trips. We would go to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theater or the Mark Taper Forum to see plays, the ballet and the opera. In the late 70's budgets for these field trips were cut. So now our trips consisted of going to NBC Burbank to see a taping of "Real People" . One day (Nov. 1979), my drama class from Bancroft Junior High School went to NBC Burbank to see a pilot for a new show called "Pink Lady". The show featured two Japanese girls (a singing duo called Pink Lady) Mie (Mitsuyo Nemoto) and Kei (Keiko Masuda) who were a big hit in Japan giving sell out concerts. Someone (Fred Silverman) thought that they could conquer American television and gave them a Variety Show.

NOTE TO READERS: The era of the Variety Show was not dead yet but on life support.

The girls were teamed up with a talented comedian named Jeff Altman who served as comic relief and emcee. We watched poor Jeff Altman trying to do some comedic banter with these two girls who could barley speak English. This banter was so bad that it made the bad pre-scripted banter given by award show presenters look like an evening with Nichols and May.

We could hear every bad World War II joke imaginable from the audience and the back stage crew. These jokes became even more funny when Jeff introduced the girl's who were going to sing a traditional Japanese song. The girls came out in kimonos and sang a few bars in Japanese. Then they ripped off their kimonos to reveal skimpy sailor outfits. A backdrop rises from the floor giving the appearance that they are on the deck of a battle ship. The girls break into the Village People's "In the Navy". Followed by more banter with Jeff (See quote below).

The show ended with the girls dragging Jeff kicking and screaming into a hot tub. What young heterosexual male would turn down an invitation into a hot tub by two sexy bikini clad Japanese girls in the pre safe sex world of the late 70s early 80s? Just as Jeff is starting to enjoy himself in the hot tub when a big guy (Ed Nakamoto) immerges from the water dressed as a samurai.

Who knew that we would be the first to witness a show that would later make many "Worst TV Show Lists". Actually the show we saw would be re-shot on a different stage but sadly most of the material was used again.

The best part of the day was in between scenes where Jeff Altman kept my drama class entertained by doing his boxer (Leonard Moon) character, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Johnny Carson. He also did some of his Stand-up routine including some blue and pot material. It would be years before we were old enough to see that type or performance at the Comedy Store. For my friends and I, who at the time dreamt of being the next Robin Williams or Not Ready for Prime Time Player, we were amazed at his talent. We loved that he did not talk down to us. He showed us the professionalism that our drama teacher Mr. Holland tried to teach us. I got to meet Jeff Altman years later at a comedy club, but I didn't want to mention the show.

Thank you, Jeff for the field trip.

To quote Jeff Altman (speaking to the girls after the "In the Navy" number), "I didn't know that your honorable ancestors had Boogie Fever".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

PS: I also want to thank my friend Richard who gave a Pink Lady and Jeff DVD that brought back all these memories. - Pink Lady - Pink Lady. And Jeff
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