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Rockin' '87: The Good, Bad and Ugly

December 27, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Has rock lost its spunk? Misplaced its sass?

When it came to the wacky moments of 1987, pop music couldn't possibly offer anyone as tacky as Donna (No Excuses) Rice, as statesmanlike as Arizona Gov. Evan (The Earth Is Flat) Meacham, as dull as "Ishtar" or "Amerika," as blundering as ex-Dodger exec Al Campanis, as mascara-drenched as Tammy Faye Bakker, as argumentative as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) or as--ahem--tall as Brigitte Nielsen.

Of course, we did have Michael Jackson. So let's celebrate the pop world's clown princes and dunces in our yearly round-up of dubious achievements, inglorious moments and show-biz follies.

A few classics:

Record executive of the year: Billboard magazine reported that Capitol Records vice president Walter Lee was named in a suit by promotion exec Bill Bartlett, who claimed Lee "abused him" with a three-foot-long cattle prod, poked him repeatedly in the forearm and told him: "You're dog meat. Go back to your stall." (Lee resigned from the label several months later, with Capitol claiming his departure had nothing to do with the incident).

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 24, 1988 Home Edition Calendar Page 81 Calendar Desk 2 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
The Dec. 27, 1987, Pop Eye column published a quote of Virgin Records chief Jeffrey Ayeroff taken from a rock magazine that suggested that he claimed to have developed rock-star Madonna's early singing career. In fact, Madonna recorded her first Warner Bros. Records album prior to Ayeroff's employment by that company.

Telegram of the year: Dennis Connor's Stars and Stripes won the America's Cup earlier this year with a revolutionary new sail named "Dolly" (apparently because it ballooned out when filled with air). After the Cup victory, Dolly Parton telegramed Connor: "Please accept thanks from a girl who, before you guys, used to think the America's Cup was a 44-D."

Record of the year: Seattle Seahawk All-Pro wide receiver Steve Largent, when asked which record he will treasure the most when he retires, replied: "Probably the Beatles' 'White' album.' "

Devoted Catholic of the year: Madonna declined an invitation for an audience with Pope John Paul II when in Italy this summer, saying: "If his Holiness wants to see me, he can come to my show."

Pan of the year: When TV star-turned-pop-artist Bruce Willis was arrested on battery charges after an altercation with police during a wee-hours party at his home earlier this year, neighbors told reporters that Willis frequently annoyed residents by blasting party music by his pool. "Sometimes it's Diana Ross, which is good," a neighbor explained. "And sometimes it's his album, which is bad."

Quote of the year: Bette Midler on black music: "It's so white bread these days. Whitney Houston is very nice, but basically her stuff is about shopping."

Wacko of the year, Part I: Michael Jackson--who sent Liz Taylor a life-size inflatable doll of himself for her birthday this year--also offered the London Hospital Medical College $1 million for the remains of John Merrick, the Elephant Man. (The hospital refused the offer.)

Deadhead of the year: Acquitted "subway vigilante" Bernhard Goetz ducked the press for weeks after his trial, except to ask a New York Post reporter if he would bring him a copy of "In the Dark," the new Grateful Dead album.

Elvis expert of the year: Eager to deflect media interest in the continuing Contragate scandal early this year, then-White House press spokesman Larry Speakes opened his Jan. 8 morning briefing by playing a tape of Elvis' "That's All Right, Mama." Afterwards, Speakes said he had "no new information" about the scandal, but told reporters they could ask him "anything at all about the King."

Detente exponent of the year: Billy Joel, upset that his Moscow audience wasn't making much noise during his Soviet Union concert tour this summer, pointed to one segment of the crowd during his show, complaining, "I've got an oil painting in this corner of the room."

Rock fan of the year: When Detroit Tiger manager Sparky Anderson had his picture taken before a game this summer with the Dead Milkmen (a favorite band of one of his rookie outfielders), Anderson kept referring to the band members as "the Four Milkmen" or "the Dead Freshmen."

Yenta of the year: Rock star Don Henley got credit for introducing Gary Hart to Donna Rice (which didn't work out) and Bob Seger to Annette Sinclair (a match that did--the two were married in November).

Revenge of the year: After being panned by hometown critic Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year, Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar stopped his show the next night and gave out Selvin's home phone number, encouraging fans to "call him up and tell him how you feel." Later told that Selvin had to change his phone number, an unrepentant Hagar said: "Next time I'll give out his address, 'cause it's harder to pack up and move."

Comeback of the year: After years of battling drug problems, Sly Stone returned to play two nights at the Las Palmas Theatre here in November. He was two hours late for the first show and was forced to cancel the second show entirely when he was arrested minutes before he was scheduled to take the stage by investigators from the district attorney's office, who said Stone owed $2,500 in back child support.

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