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But It Was a Banner Year for Folly and Nuttiness

December 31, 1989|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Just when pop music seemed to be growing flabby and totally predictable, rock's wacky assortment of brawling Young Turks and eccentric '60s survivors combined to provide fans with another year of outrageous events and nutty behavior.

Who's to say who pulled off the strangest stunt:

Was it KLOS-FM's Mark & Brian, who celebrated Elvis' birthday by flying to Memphis, where the deejays did their morning show from Graceland? (They were thrown out when a security guard became suspicious and spotted a hidden transmitter in their umbrellas.)

Was it the pop duo Was (Not Was), which according to Hits magazine hired doubles to play them at a concert gig in Minneapolis while they were in Toronto finishing a film score?

Or was it Guns N' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who was arrested this fall for urinating in the galley of an airplane on a flight from Indianapolis to Phoenix after he found all the restrooms occupied?

Perhaps the oddest couples of all were rock stars and their corporate sponsors. After saying in March that it stood "completely" behind its $5-million Madonna ad extravaganza, Pepsi-Cola announced on April 4 that it had dropped plans to run any more Madonna ads, following complaints and boycott threats by religious groups. Meanwhile, the Who's Pete Townshend, a self-confessed recovering alcoholic, played a summer tour sponsored by Miller and Budweiser breweries.

On the other hand, Tom Waits sued Frito-Lay, claiming the firm used a Waits sound-alike in a Doritos radio ad campaign. Bette Midler won $400,000 in damages from the ad agency that used an ex-Midler back-up singer to mimic her voice in a Mercury Sable commercial. And most wondrous of all: MTV, which had refused to air Neil Young's "This Note's for You" video, claiming it contained too many product plugs, proceeded to give the banned video its Video of the Year award this fall.

Any way you look at it, 1989 was a banner year for pop follies. To celebrate the music world's clown princes, our yearly roundup of dubious achievements, inglorious moments and show-biz misadventures:

SLIM JIMS OF THE YEAR: According to the Washington Post, several flabby members of Bon Jovi, namely bassist Alec Such and drummer Tico Torres, underwent painful liposuction treatment after image-conscious bandleader Jon Bon Jovi reportedly told his group-mates to either shape up or ship out.

PROMOTION OF THE YEAR: The 2 Live Crew, a Florida-based rap group known for their sexually explicit lyrics, signed an endorsement deal to tout Homeboy condoms for the Boston-based Custom Condom firm, which in return included Homeboy condoms in the group's albums and tapes.

ROCK MANAGER OF THE YEAR: San Francisco Giants manager Roger Craig received a host of congratulatory telegrams after his team's playoff victory, including one from the Grateful Dead: "I didn't know anything about them," Craig said. "I thought they were a funeral home."

NUPTIALS OF THE YEAR: When pop performer Mojo Nixon married his longtime girlfriend this summer, the couple tied the knot at a San Diego go-cart track. They exchanged vows through bullhorns and took the traditional "wedding lap" in go-carts after being showered by balloons reading "I Married a Big Foot."

LAWSUIT OF THE YEAR: Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr won a permanent injunction last month from a federal judge blocking the release of a 1987 solo album, claiming he and other musicians recorded it while drunk. (Starr recently underwent detox treatment for alcoholism.)

GOLDEN GLOVES OF THE YEAR: To Motley Crue's Vince Neil, who punched Guns N' Roses' Izzy Stradlin backstage at the MTV Awards this fall, prompting Izzy to respond: "Fortunately Vince is a powder puff and can't do much damage."

SEANCE OF THE YEAR: The seventh L.A. Guitar Show featured a first-ever Rock Seance, with the intention of contacting such dead pop legends as Elvis, Duane Allman, John Lennon and Buddy Holly. No tables shook, though two spectators claimed they felt Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix speaking through them.

IKE TURNER ARREST OF THE YEAR: Ike Turner, whose long string of drug busts began in 1970, was arrested again last May by West Hollywood police for possession of rock cocaine. The bust came shortly after Turner appeared on Arsenio Hall's TV show, claiming most of his arrests had been caused by police mistaking baking soda for cocaine. (Hall responded: "Ike, what are you doing snorting baking soda?")

MICHAEL JACKSON DISGUISE OF THE YEAR: To the Gloved One himself, who was asked to leave a jewelry store in Simi Valley last spring when employees became suspicious of a customer wearing a wig with a phony mustache and false teeth. When a security guard took him outside the store, the pop star peeled off his mustache and said: "I'm in disguise. I'm Michael Jackson."

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