Video Killed The Radio Star

...and decimated American Culture.

I must sound like the oldest fuddieduddiest person on the planet... I'm only 43. But I think it's true.

The Elders say things like "When I was a kid, we did such and such"... and we giggle, but when the Elders talk, they're talking 40-60 years ago.

For me, it's been what, 20 years?

I remember sitting up late to watch the premiere of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Video. A few years later, when I broke up with my husband and moved into my own apartment at 24, I got cable TV and became addicted to MTV. It kept me company those late nights in that ratty ass studio apartment on a block infested with crackheads and drunks. I would literally run down the block at night on my way home from work... that block scared the shit out of me, and I grew up in Harlem. But the rent was like $325 which was about what I could afford. Eleven months later I moved back into my mother's building, and breathed a sigh of relief.

But those few months I lived up on 147 (which is now completely unrecognizable) I kept MTV on all the time, and my favorite was Head Banger's Ball with Adam Curry.

The lover I had at the time... 11 years older than me and thought himself a quite worldly gentleman, would come over and watch with me... and it inspired him to get a job there as a salesperson. And then he looked out for me and got me a job there with the strict instruction that I was never to let on we were seeing each other. Which was fine by me... I ended up falling in love with Jersey Boy who was more my age anyhow.


When I got there it was like no other job I'd had before or since. To say all we did after work was drink (and do drugs and sometimes each other) was an understatement. The parties were outrageous. We had a box at Madison Square Garden, the sales team did, and for lesser, ordinary events the support staff (which was me and some other chicks) would get to go... and the box always had food and alcohol. I tell you there's nothing like free alcohol. Even the boringest Circus is fun with free alcohol.

And the Christmas parties were insane. They used to rent out the old Ritz on 57th street (or something similar) and there'd be entertainment and dj's and booze. One Christmas party I did 8 shots of tequila and 8 margaritas, and had a good old duttywine with Dr. Dre, a VJ who went on to become a radio DJ. My life could have been a lot different if I hadn't been grabbed by someone to retrieve JerseyBoy, who I'd started to date openly (and secretly dumped the Old Man for). He had also done 8 tequila shots, but since he wasn't dancing when he stood up he passed out.

At another party, Tom Freston's secretary got into a drunken fistfight with another Senior Executive's (maybe even Sumner Redstone, but I was drunk and can't recall--but I do know it was a company biggie cuz we all buzzed about it for days) secretary right in the coat-check line. Too much fun.

When they pre-taped the MTV New Year's Eve Video Countdown, they did it with real alcohol in real time, so by "midnight" we were all soused and jumping around to the Red Hot Chili Peppers--live--or whoever was hot that year.

At first, all MTV played was videos, and mainly rock and roll videos, which has always been about sex and drugs. (And for what it's worth, the racism displayed by not showing "black" videos on the network at the time, completely reflected the culture of the workplace.) The lifestyle that the rock and rollers lived spilled over into the culture behind the scenes, and we were all partying like rockstars. But most people outside of my job weren't living like that at all.

Back then, and for a few years after I left MTV, I never missed watching the VMA's. After awhile though, I lost interest in MTV, particularly after they started putting on all these "reality" shows and playing less music. And so I haven't watched the VMA's in years.

But I did tonight... and I was struck by how much the culture of the rock star has taken over every day life, particularly for young people who grew up watching MTV. In that world everyone dresses like vixen or a video hoe, and the guys are all Kid Rock or Lil Wayne and the world is one long party only slightly punctuated by actually having a job or a life or a kid. Or maybe not.

It's a little sad, actually. Cuz I remember back before all that... and it wasn't that long ago. When people weren't living their life like they're on "Real World" or "The Hills" or in a Pussycat Dolls Video.

Now I'm still young enough to thoroughly enjoy sex, drugs, and rock and roll... and give me half a chance and I'll throw on something skintight and show my rock moves (and now with my new depression-induced diet I intend to milk it somehow while I got it) but damn. 24 hours a day? It's not good for the skin, for one thing...


RoadGrl said…
I just miss the videos... I have to dig thru YouTube to find some of them...

i didnt know it was on
but i dont look at mtv eiother
BigBear said…
Lil" Wayne is a disaster, a hedonist, with talent, a nihilist, in so much psychic pain...and who was the chick with the ratty pink hair?? It wasn't Avril was it? sometimes I'm glad I'm an old lady and don't have to be into this shit.
Bonnie said…
Have you noticed that all the MTV New Wavie styles are coming back. I saw a men's fashion spread in the NY Times with the guys all in those amazing Hairdos (remember Flock of Seagulls?)

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