Hello, and welcome (or welcome back) to 80s Baby! After recently releasing a book I’ve been inspired to start writing again about some childhood loves. I won’t be returning to my former three times per week update format, but I will try to get a new essay up at some point each week.
Last night I put on The Lost Boys, the 1987 teen classic featuring fantastical creatures (but enough about Kiefer Sutherland being regarded as a sex symbol) and I was reminded of Bodybuilder Sax Man, otherwise known as Tim Cappello. In addition to his turn as sexy beach bandleader in The Lost Boys, Cappello first became known for appearing in two Tina Turner music videos and for leading his band while wearing only a leather g-string.
What I truly love about Cappello’s appearance in The Lost Boys is that it’s played totally straight–nobody finds it odd that there’s a gigantic, oiled up man wailing away on a sax on the boardwalk of a sleepy beach town.
This inspired me to think about some other ridiculous film and TV characters from my childhood that were played as totally normal. I’m not going to cover people like Artie, The Strongest Man in the World, since he feels very in place in the Pete and Pete universe, rather characters that stand out as weird regardless of their surroundings, like the appearance of a shirtless bulky man feeling odd in a movie populated by vampires.
Magic Johnson playing Pharoh’s servant in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video
I also wanted to stay away from celebrity cameos. By design, celebrity cameos exist to draw attention to the person and evoke the reaction of “Oh look, it’s Brad Pitt on Friends! He is a famous person who I recognize!” or whoever. That said, I saw the video for “Remember the Time” for the first time since 1991 the other day, and I was sort of blown away to discover that Magic Johnson, famous movie theater owner who also briefly played basketball, was in it.
This should be the least weird thing about a music video for a Michael Jackson song but it stood out by how inexplicable it was. Magic isn’t even the only cameo; the video stars Eddie Murphy as Ramses, Iman as the queen, and Tiny Lister as Tiny Lister. None of those cameos strike me as out of place, though: Eddie Murphy played an African prince in Coming to America and is suited for the role of pharaoh, Iman is a beautiful woman playing a beautiful woman, and Tiny Lister cameoed in everything. Magic Johnson didn’t.
Magic Johnson is known for being one of the greatest basketball players of all time, the world’s most famous HIV positive man, and a business executive. It’s possible that Magic Johnson appeared in other television and movie roles, but none readily come to mind. If Magic did pop up in something, you’d expect it to at least be tangentially related to basketball. Not here, though. Magic is just playing a dude and there’s nothing about that dude that suggests there’s anything special about that dude being played by Magic. He’s just there. And it’s 1991, so everybody watching knows who Magic Johnson is. The normality of that character is what makes it stand out as weird.
The Entire Cast of the Movie Roadhouse
A world of superstar bouncers who get sent cross-country to tame wild bars like they’re professional athletes being reassigned is ridiculous even by 1980s action movie standards, and everybody just collectively shrugged and said, “sure, why not?” I’m not trying to sound like a popular podcast here, but how did this movie get made?
The answer of course, is Patrick Swayze. Sure, we buy Patrick Swayze as an elite journeyman bouncer, something that most certainly exists. Sure, we buy Patrick Swayze as a skydiving bank robber. Sure, we buy Patrick Swayze as a ghost.
Throw in the Jeff Healey Band playing in a cage and Swayze literally ripping out a man’s throat and there’s a whole lot of weird in here that leaves people surprisingly chill. Well, the throat ripping thing freaked out Kelly Lynch but not enough for her to not end up with him.
Wait a second. Did Jon Taffer rip off this entire movie to create Bar Rescue? I take back everything I said. Totally normal stuff.
Tofutti Klein, “Overboard”
The final entry in this essay comes courtesy of friend, comedian, writer, and all around lovely person Hattie Hayes.
Goldie Hawn is a rich lady with amnesia who gets kidnapped by sweaty carpenter Kurt Russell. While she’s missing, Hawn’s terrible dandy husband has parties on their yacht with hot supermodel types, including a random girl named Tofutti Klein. She’s the only “rich man surrounds himself with sex objects” character to get a name, and it’s just bizarre, She hangs out on the boat, spits champagne into a bucket.
At one point, drunk rich husband is mumbling “Tofutti…Tofutti, where are you when I need you? Tofutti…Klein-nein-nein!”
And that drunk rich husband is Edward Herrmann, also featured in The Lost Boys! We’ve come full circle.
Thanks for reading!
If you’re new to the site, feel free to take a look around for other essays you may enjoy, or buy the book!