Sunday, August 16, 2015

What NOT to wear at a music award show

A couple of weeks ago I told the story of how cool I looked in the GQ profile (thanks to borrowing someone else's clothes).  Here's what happens when I was left to my own devices. 

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.

16 comments:

Sal Longo said...

No picture!?

John said...

You should have just Googled images of what everyone wore to the previous year's Don Kirshner Rock Awards and worn what they did.

Oh, wait a second....

Bill Avena said...

Seems every Quinn Martin show from the 70s had crooks plotting crimes in an LA tiki bar, with stock footage of Goldstar Recording Studios outside to show us we were in Sin City.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Admittedly, I'm not exactly familiar with Don Kirshner, however, I notice on my variety or musical shows from the 70s, his name frequently pops up as some kind of consultant, or even produced in association with.

gottacook said...

Didn't Paul Shaffer impersonate Don Kirshner on Saturday Night Live at least once? But I don't think I ever saw the actual Kirshner on TV.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

For some reasons the pictures aren't showing up for me. Just blank frames.

wg

Jay Walker said...

Ken you mentioned Fred's awards, do you remember the short lived radio trade magazine called FRED MAGAZINE? Radio and Records it wasn't but at least it had full color glossy covers..

Charles H. Bryan said...

I did a quick search but couldn't find video of Don Kirshner himself. However, I do remember him from his late night music shows and trust me, Paul Shaffer's impersonation is pretty spot on. So if you can find Paul pretending to be Kirshner, just go with that. There are some musician segments on youtube. There's also one with Lettermen doing stand up form 1977.

There is a Don Kirshner website, apparently with future plans for DVD releases of the old shows. I can't say that's the most exciting news I've had today. I'm pretty sure the most exciting news today was at the supermarket, where Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi was on sale. Way ahead of Kirshner DVDs.

"First window without a chicken in it was CBS." God, that's a great line.

purplepenquin said...

Could someone explain the "First window without a chicken in it..." line to all us goys living in flyover land?

MikeK.Pa. said...

Were those the same tuxes later used by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels?

Cap'n Bob said...

Jewish delis always have a chicken in the window, supposedly.

Tar Baby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gottacook said...

I think the idea was a joke in the first place - that Jewish homes would have a cooked chicken cooling on the windowsill, rather than an apple pie. (Personally I don't cook whole chickens except when making chicken soup - I usually do a big stockpot with two or three chickens at once, just before Passover every year, and save half of the result in quart containers in the freezer for future use as "penicillin.")

Jake Mabe said...

And now for something you'll really like...

No, seriously, I found through a friend a 1960 KPFK discussion (audio only, sadly, but better than not at all) on TV comedy hosted by George Fenneman, moderated by Steve Allen, and featuring Groucho Marx, Carl Reiner, Robert Young and a few appearances by longtime LA TV critic Cecil Smith. I really think a lot of you (you as well, Ken) would find this fascinating if you've not heard it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjUUOyS2j3Q

Some of it is downright prophetic. I love when Groucho gets serious. I've only seen brief flashes of that on some of the Cavett interviews and in parts of his books.
This is not my YouTube Channel, nor am I gaining anything other than sheer pleasure by listening and wanting to share it to some who might just love this gem.

Mike said...

The outfitters had a long-standing accumulator bet. After renting out Ken's suit, the salesman went on holiday for months.

Brian Stanley said...

"Hey, fuckhead. I'm Chaka Khan"
I cannot stop laughing, Ken. Tears in my eyes.