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ON LOCATION : Another Musical Clinton, by George! : Music: The man whose career points to the genesis of music videos is honored in star-studded production premiering today on BET, MTV.

August 23, 1993|CHRIS WILLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

How did toxin-avoider Bill Clinton and professed inhaler Dr. Dre ever end up in the same room together?

How is it that post-prep Hillary Clinton has ended up chatting with two female dancers whose costumes include yellow vinyl hot pants and halter tops with the nipple lids of baby bottles strategically attached to the garish cups?

And, most puzzling of all, why is Ice Cube smiling?

Visitors stepping into the sound stage at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, where a star-studded music video is being shot, have good reason to wonder what's wrong with this republic-endangering picture. News reports have been mentioning all morning that Hillary will, indeed, be in L.A. this day, though they've neglected to point out that the first lady will be schmoozing with the lewd likes of go-go gals on her rounds.

Of course, it ain't her, babe, though the Bill-and-Hill look-alikes are good enough ringers to garner a lot of triple-takes around the set. But "the real Clinton," as he's called in the song flowing through the sound system, is in the house--George Clinton, that is, the veteran R&B maestro whose new single, "Paint the White House Black," is the funky soundtrack for the day's work.

Everyone is here to tape the song's video (premiering today on BET and MTV cable).

"Cool," says the man who would be President, taking direction. "Totally great." He's just been informed that his next duty is to mime a few scales on the presidential instrument, out of which a pot-like haze will waft, while Bill C.'s wifely look-alike boogies with abandon near his literally smokin' sax.

The actual commander-in-chief on this set is Reginald Hudlin, renowned primarily as director of the feature films "House Party" and "Boomerang." Huddling with him is his producer, Warrington Hudlin, the other half of filmdom's famous Hudlin Brothers.

These two haven't stepped away from planning and producing major movies to do a short-form music video since they did a promotional clip for a song from "House Party" some years back.

But the lure of working with a longtime musical hero didn't require much second thought for the Hudlins--nor did it for the many rap, rock and R&B stars showing up to do cameos in the video.

Everyone on the set seems to have a fairly reverent attitude toward Clinton, whose own attitude as the dean of outrageous, cosmic soul has always been so irreverent that worshipfulness doesn't seem completely appropriate.

In any case, there's no disputing that Clinton's decades of records with his groups Parliament and Funkadelic--especially those released in the '70s--are easily among the most influential in contemporary black music.

And, as it turns out, on contemporary black filmmakers.

*

"One thing about George Clinton is that his performances are always extraordinarily visual," says Warrington Hudlin. "And in many ways he predated music videos, which are simply just now catching up with this man's musical imagination. With his stage shows, like the Mothership Connection tour, if videos had existed back then, he'd have been a different kind of artist. So I think it's fitting that now we bring all our resources to make this a great video, because he's a man whose career and performances have suggested the genesis of music videos."

"Absolutely," chimes in Reginald Hudlin. "I know when I was a kid, I went into movies because I saw Ken Russell's 'Tommy' and I said, 'This is awesome.' And I didn't see any reason why P-Funk--who had not only a concept album but dozens of conceptual albums--shouldn't get the same treatment that the Who's music was getting. And for me, this is the first step toward doing those kinds of things, taking the P-Funk cosmology and really giving it the full multimedia treatment it deserves."

Influential as he's been, Clinton's record sales have in recent years been in need of a boost. If he doesn't have a hit this time, it won't be for lack of celebrity support. Prince has signed Clinton to his Paisley Park label. The single and video feature appearances by Yo-Yo, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis and Flea, Public Enemy's Chuck D. and Flavor Flav, Kam, Ice Cube, Digital Underground's Humpty Hump and others. Some rappers on hand are returning a very tangible favor, since Clinton's records surpassed James Brown's some time ago as the most sampled riffs in hip-hop.

"One of the frustrating things for me is that there's no 'critics' favorites' when it comes to black artists," says Reginald Hudlin. "Black music divisions are usually kind of cash cows which often support the rest of the record company. But if there's anyone who deserves that 100% level of support, it's him. When you think of the pantheon, there's James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, George Clinton and Prince--the big five in terms of American music. He's influenced so many generations of people.

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