July 28, 2016

"When Michael Jackson debuted the moonwalk in 1983 the world was enrapt. The dance goes back farther, to the 1930s..."

"... and pops up again in the 50s, before reappearing via mimes and West Coast poppers in the 70s. Follow the circuitous route of an iconic move."

Mimes!

23 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

The link goes to a fascinating podcast. The video is something they link to, which shows a lot of what they are talking about but is not a substitute for the podcast.

The most amazing thing in the podcast is the news that the moonwalk that Jackson learned (and did so well) was inspired by the Shields and Yarnell TV show. S&& were mimes. It wasn't dancing at all, but something more in the walking-against-the-wind mime tradition.

Bay Area Guy said...

Cultural appropriation!

LL said...

Wow. What wonderful dancing and the music they danced to was so much better.

J. Farmer said...

It's odd that just 5 years before my birth mimes were featured on primetime televisions, yet it seems throughout my entire life pop culture has treated mimes with ridicule and derision.

Carol said...

Nonsense, there was nothing cool until 1980 earliest.

rehajm said...

The robot is what freaked me out as a kid. Apparently credited to them as well...

Tommy Duncan said...

Given the Philadelphia weather forecast, it might have made sense to feature Gene Kelly "Dancing in the Rain".

Great dancers are great athletes with incredible stamina.

Guildofcannonballs said...

So Jackson debuted his moonwalk, not the moonwalk.

I'll debut my moonwalk here, but you will pay me non-descript 50's and 100's first to the tune of 30 million US.

And you will blow Mel Gibson, someplace where that's a legal thing people do.

john said...

He also borrowed a lot from Bob Fosse.

William said...

The ventriloquist who achieved the greatest stardom and fame, Edgar Bergen, did so during the golden age of radio. It's a shame that Shields & Yarnell were born too late for radio. I think mimes are best enjoyed on radio with a musical background.

EDH said...

Micheal Jackson's imprint on the dance move I think also has a lot to do with how many people watched the "Motown 25" special in 1983. I remember thinking after everyone must have been watching the show that night.

Big ratings.
The original broadcast of the two-hour show was watched by 47 million people, according to Nielsen, with 35 percent of the country with a TV set turned on watching Motown 25. The show did especially well in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever is a 1983 television special, produced by Suzanne de Passe for Motown Records, to commemorate Motown's 25th year (Motown was founded in January 1959). The program was taped before a live studio audience at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California on March 25, 1983,[1] and broadcast on NBC on May 16. Among its highlights were Michael Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean", Smokey Robinson's long awaited reunion with The Miracles, a Temptations / Four Tops "battle of the bands", Marvin Gaye's inspired speech about black music history and his memorable performance of "What's Going On", a Jackson 5 reunion, and an abbreviated reunion of Diana Ross & the Supremes, who performed their final #1 hit, "Someday We'll Be Together" from 1969.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

The dancing baker was fantastic, had to watch that segment over twice. Could not believe he was not hooked up to a wire.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Something something cultural appropriation.

'TreHammer said...

I remember seeing a Cher musical special on TV where one of her dancers performed the moonwalk. My memory of the show was that it was broadcast well before MJ performed the moonwalk in 1983.

Bill said...

I'm surprised that "Rubber Legs" Al Norman, seen here in 1930, wasn't among those featured.

Earnest Prole said...

Cab Calloway moonwalked fifty years earlier

Carter Wood said...

A ghostly moonwalk!

Cab Calloway sings St. James Infirmary in the guise of Koko the Clown from the Fleischer Brothers' "Snow White" Betty Boop cartoon.

Bricap said...

I remember being in high school and seeing MJ break out this move for the first time. I believe it was on the Grammy Awards, and during the height of his Thriller album's popularity. None of us ever thought that it had a long history before, of course.

Thanks for posting, and for the trip down memory lane.

Ipso Fatso said...

Did you know that NASA faked The Moonwalk?

Smilin' Jack said...

The link goes to a fascinating podcast. The video is something they link to, which shows a lot of what they are talking about but is not a substitute for the podcast.

Podcasts are for illiterates.

And sure, people did something kinda-sorta like a moonwalk before Jackson, in the way that a lump of coal is kinda-sorta like a diamond.

lemondog said...

JAMES BROWN

Nicolas Brothers

mikee said...

Mimes deserve no notice, ever. Except in this old joke: "If you shoot a mime with a silenced pistol, does anyone care?"

or the longer version with Robin Williams: http://snltranscripts.jt.org/83/83lmime.phtml

John said...

Yeah, Lemondog, Nicholas Brothers. Great dancers.

The Chef Hat scene came from, I think, Helazzpoppin a 1930s black musical. That is only one of any number of great dance scenes.

I've always had a soft spot for Cab Calloway. His daughter, Camay, was my 1st grade teacher in 1952. He came to the school once and performed for us. Some of his stuff, like the wolf and Betty Boop that someone mentioned might not get past the censors today. And for some great Cab Calloway moonwalking, see this video of Calloway praising the joys of reefer It was legal then

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=106uXypTSto

Apparently the video is not. NBC Universal has blocked it and this is the best copy I could find. (Not great)

And Cab Calloway with the Nicholas brothers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8yGGtVKrD8

Finally, for those who say old white guys can't dance here is Bob Hope (As Eddie Foy) and James Cagney (as George M Cohan) having a danceoff and making Michael Jackson look positively low energy. Both were in their mid to late 50s at the time.

That's entertainment!

John Henry