Saturday, February 05, 2011

What not to wear at a music awards show


I saw recently where Don Kirschner passed away.  Kirschner was a huge record publisher in the '60s Brill Building era and later he became a celebrity, a la the Donald Trump of popular music.  I never met him personally, but I have a story that relates to him. 

In the late '70s my partner and I were writing a pilot for the very flamboyant film producer, Alan Carr.  He had just produced the film adaptation of GREASE.  The pilot was about a girl who booked rock acts for a live music show like THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (which ran on Friday nights in the swinging 70s). One day Allan calls and says for research purposes we should attend the DON KIRSCHNER ROCK AWARDS. This was a bullshit network made-up award show, a predecessor to the AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS or MTV AWARDS, or FRED’S AWARDS if Fred could get someone to televise it. We were to mingle with the stars, get a feel of the world, etc. The tickets were free so what the hell?

It was broadcast live from the Hollywood Palladium at 5 p.m. (8 p.m. in the east). We were given house seats and told to dress black tie. So we had to hit the rental store. When the salesman learned the occasion he said, “You can’t just get black tuxedos. Not for the ROCK AWARDS. Are you nuts? You’ve got to wear something much hipper than that.” Considering we were the two un-hippest guys on the planet that made sense. We wanted to fit in. Didn’t want Peter Frampton thinking we were not happening. So we said, “What do you got?”

The day of the show we picked up our dates at about 3:00. They got one look at our outfits and both almost bust a gut. Like two complete idiots we were wearing matching brown tuxedos with peach colored ruffled shirts. All that was missing was paisley cummerbund.

Obviously, it was too late to do anything about it so off we went to the Palladium. And big surprise, we were the only two people there in brown tuxedos with peach ruffled shirts. Our dates were still laughing. Actually, the sound of snickering seemed to follow us wherever we went. Gone were my fantasies of Olivia Newton-John slipping me her number.

To save face I took off my glasses and tried to pass myself off as Prince.

It’s now 4:45. We’re seated. The stage P.A. calls out, “Chaka Khan? Is Chaka Khan here?” I don’t know why but I raised my hand and said, “Here!” The woman sitting right in front of me whirled around and said, “Hey, Fuckhead! I’m Chaka Khan!” So much for my mingling with the stars. (Chaka pictured right with sort of the warm expression she gave me.)

After suffering through the show (“Oh wow, man. I can’t tell you what an honor it is to receive this, uh…what is this again?”), we got out at about 7:30. Unbelievably, we weren’t invited to any of the post show parties. When Alice Cooper laughs at your outfit, you know you look like an imbecile. So now we had to get dinner. Where do you go on a Tuesday night in Hollywood dressed like the groomsmen of Liberace’s wedding?

Thank God for Kelbos!
Longtime Angelinos know what I’m talking about. Kelbos was a super tacky Polynesian themed restaurant with several L.A. locations. Picture Trader Vic’s for Homer Simpson. They’re gone now but back then there was one right across the street from CBS Television City.

(Side note: CBS Television City is in the heart of the Fairfax district, a decidedly Jewish section of town. The joke is to get to CBS just drive down Fairfax Ave. And the first window that doesn’t have a chicken in it is CBS.)

We walk into Kelbos, two Jerry Vale impersonators and their dates, and the host doesn’t even bat an eye. Shows us to a booth and even offers us complimentary drinks in skulls. We all must’ve laughed for an hour at how stupid we looked. But at least no one saw us.

Then I get home and watch the tape-delayed replay of the show. Chaka Khan wins an award. Jumps up. And there we are, in a lovely two shot, on national television. And it was an extra good idea to sit right next to each other.

I think Allan Carr was embarrassed. And this from a man who wore caftans and cold cream.

A few years ago I came across this on a fashion website:

If you are trying to decide the perfect outfit for your special man to wear on your wedding day, well don’t get stuck on the typical black tuxedo. For 2007, the hottest color is chocolate brown. Elegant brown is the new black! Many of the top designers have a handsome chocolate brown tuxedo for the new year. Check with your wedding planner to find out about specific designers offering brown tuxedos for 2007.

DON'T BELIEVE IT!!! I was a fuckhead so you won't have to be.

16 comments:

Mike McCann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike McCann said...

You are one lucky dude for being so tall. Let's just say Frankie Valli, Bob Costas and I would have extreme difficulty seeing through or over Chaka's afro - which was then in full bloom!

MikeAdamson said...

Still a great story! ;)

tb said...

Was going to ask for a photo, but I'm not so sure we want to see that

Naz said...

I'm so embarassed even all these years later. The men wore brown tux's in 1972 at my wedding. Oh the shame of it.....

Tim W. said...

Booooo! For not including a photo. Although I do understand why you wouldn't have taken one.

Anonymous said...

Always loved Kelbos. Worked at TV City briefly. Went to college with the guy who owned them, can't remember his name, but it wasn't Kellbo.

YEKIMI said...

Sounds like my prom. My mother decided that I wasn't going to spend that much money for a tuxedo to wear only one time so she decided to get me a suit. This being the mid 70s, she decides to get a suit from Sears, Diarrhea Brown in color, with lapels so wide you could land Cessnas on them. Of course, I'm the only one at prom [dateless, of course] wearing a suit that looks like I should be a parking valet at a discount cemetery while every other guy is dressed to the nines in a tux. First and only time I ever wore that suit.

RCP said...

Hilarious - for some reason, Ken, I get the biggest kicks from reading about your adventures that are connected in one way or another with Allan Carr.

Listen - I was a boy who used to wear lavender-colored faux-suede pants to school in 5th grade, as well as a multi-colored poncho circa 1972. I think my mom got them at Montgomery Wards or Sears. Yes - I did grow up to be gay, but clothes had nothing to do with it!

The Writer Currently Known as Rory said...

Just so you know, fuckhead, I'm Rory L. Aronsky.

Just thought I'd throw that out there. ;)

Also thinking about how much funnier "Spartacus" would be: "I'm Chaka Khan!" "No, I'm Chaka Khan!" "I'm Chaka Khan!"

joe said...

1- Kelbo's drinks were pretty good. Not quite as good Don the Beachcomber's or Trader Vic's but pretty good nonetheless.

2- It took some measure of chutzpah to put a BBQ ribs joint right on Fairfax.

3- When I was 12 I was forced to wear such a tuxedo. Some days the tic just won't stop.

Matt Patton said...

Fortunately, but the time mu prom rolled around in 1981, black tuxedos were on the upswing, and that's exactly what I wore. I wasn't anybody's dream date, not at MY size, but I could have looked a lot worse.

And just remember, although you had the worst tuxedos at Don Kirschner's made-up awards show, Alan Carr produced the most ghastly Oscar telecast ever inflicted on the human race. Probably while wearing a caftan and cold cream . . .

Matt Patton said...

Sorry, Don Kirshner. No "c"

Mate Famber said...

Isn't there a line in "Field of Dreams" where the guy tells Kevin Costner when he's looking for James Earl Jones' apartment "the first window without a chicken in it is his place."?


Wonder if that came from the old joke or the old joke came from it.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Alan Carr produced the most ghastly Oscar telecast ever inflicted on the human race. Probably while wearing a caftan and cold cream . . .

There may have been a caftan (I didn't pay attention to those details), but there definitely wasn't cold cream. "Party Animals" by Robert Hoefler covers every single detail you could want to know about that fateful Oscar ceremony, from conception to nasty execution.

The Writer Currently Known as Rory said...

That's not all, though. It goes through all of Alan Carr's life, and the prologue, with Brett Ratner touring Carr's place, thinking about buying it, is especially entertaining.