Pink Lady & Jeff

Before there was Puffy AmiYumi, there was…
by Lyle Sylvander

Few Japanese pop groups have matched the success of the pop duo Pink Lady.  In 1976, Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda performed
on the TV show Star Tanjo and won the chance to become professional stars.  They were renamed Mie and Kei and collectively
rechristened  Pink Lady.  A string of hits followed: “Pepper Keibu”, “Blame it on the Bubbles”, “Surf Riding Pirates” and “Pink Typhoon” (a
cover of the Village People’s “In the Navy” – “Pink-A-La-Dy”) all filled the Japanese airwaves for two years.  When “Kiss in the Dark”
reached #37 on the Billboard charts in 1979, it seemed that they were ready to become a crossover success in the U.S.  NBC
programming executive Fred Silverman sought to anticipate their popularity by signing them to his network.  Pink Lady had appeared
in a number of televised concert specials and commercials in Japan and Silverman decided they were ready for a prime time variety
show.  Comedian Jeff Altman was hired as co-host and Pink Lady… And Jeff debuted on March 1, 1980.

The result was a resounding disaster – the show went off the air after only six episodes and is now routinely considered by many to be
among the worst shows in television history.  Fred Silverman lost his job after the debacle and Pink Lady returned to Japan, where they
never regained the popularity they once enjoyed.  The series has been released by Rhino as a 3-DVD set and it appeared on the cable
network Trio last summer.   For those of you wondering why anyone would want to see Pink Lady … And Jeff, the answer is simple: it’s so
bad, it’s good.  It appeals to the schadenfreude in all of us: in the entertainment world, the prospect of watching people fail in front of
millions is, to be honest, fun.  Plus Pink Lady is bad in a unique way.  There’s a specific stylistic badness that can only be called Pink
Lady…And Jeff-ism.  While sitting through the DVD, the question perpetually popping into one’s head is “What were they thinking?”

Pink Lady…And Jeff may have the distinction of being the only American variety show hosted by non-English speakers.  Mie and Kie
phonetically read their lines from cue cards, devoid of much emotion.  The spectacularly untalented Jeff Altman (his most impressive
credit was guest host of Solid Gold) bombs with every one of his jokes.  (“I use a stage name.  Someone in show biz already had the
name I was born with: Sex Pistols!”)   Interspersed throughout the show are comic routines, musical numbers featuring Mie and Kie
and interviews with such disparate guests as Hugh Hefner, Jerry Lewis and Alice Cooper.  The opening ten minutes of the first episode,
featuring Mie and Kie singing “Boogie Wonderland” with a chorus of dancers dressed in peacock feathers really sets the low
standard.  Along the way, we are treated to Altman’s bad impersonations of Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Johnny Carson, Florence
Henderson (“Mrs. Brady”) singing “My Old Kentucky Home” and Sid Caesar playing a samurai.

Jeff Altman introduces each episode but doesn’t reveal many interesting anecdotes.  He acknowledges the show’s badness and
seems to shrug the whole thing off as a bad dream.  The show’s baffling concept made little sense to him or anyone else at the time.   It
may never be known why Fred Silverman thought an unknown stand-up comic and a Japanese pop duo would make a good prime time
pair.  The other problem is that, like the Spice Girls, Pink Lady was, from the beginning, a product created and marketed by the music
industry.  Their flashy routines and good looks were more style than substance and they did not have enough musical talent to sustain
their success.  Like all fads, they eventually faded from public view.  In Japan, their real popularity only lasted from 1976-1980.  They do,
however, have a cult following, as evidenced by the presence of this site on the Web:

leave a reply

Page Rank