Those of us of a certain age (okay, in our 30s) remember spending our formative years fantasizing about what was lurking beneath the spandex of those incredibly sexy Solid Gold Dancers. As the most exciting part of Solid Gold, they commanded the airwaves with their weekly pop music countdown from 1979-1988 (though the dancing heyday ended in 1986, when most of the dancers quit the show).
But wait, you say you grew up across yon ocean in England-land? Well, then in that case you probably had the same exciting thoughts about Hot Gossip, the dance troupe that scandalized the average televison viewer and launched the career of Sarah Brightman.
Thanks to the seemingly omnipresent YouTube, you can now relive those Solid Gold and Hot Gossip moments, which have previously been locked tightly in the vaults of your memory.
Okay, the jazzercise work-out tights, flashy clothes, poofy hairdos, and vaguely informative song trivia (provided by legendary Los Angeles DJ Robert Morgan) are pretty dated. And it can be painful trying to watch the dancers attempt moves for even the most un-danceable 80s hits (The Miami Vice Theme, Starship's We Built This City). But my heart is with the Solid Gold Dancers, as it takes a certain kind of skill to keep things fresh and new - and they did it every week of the year (with a two hour end-of-year wrap-up to boot).
Everyone has their favorite dancer, but for me the real allure of the Solid Gold empire was embodied by impressive lead dancer Darcel Wynne. Her flowing straight hair and cat-like ability to slink across the stage made her a stand-out, and her presence is the definition of commanding. Darcel was not a trained dancer, but just happened into the profession by landing a television gig at the tender age of 14 (she lied about her age). Solid Gold was the highlight of her career - though she is also one of the muses in Xanadu - and she unfortunately retired after leaving the show, settling in with Temptations singer Glen Leonard and finding God (always a showbiz career crippler).
There are tons of other Solid Gold clips on YouTube, including the musical acts and the Solid Gold workout video, some of which I have collected here. Oh, and while we're at it, here's the Solid Gold Theme Song. MP3
Update: Don't miss Mark Allen's personal reminisces about the Solid Gold dancers on his blog!
The Solid Gold Dancers became a worldwide sensation, but Hot Gossip were first. Organized by disco choreographer Arlene Philips, the Gossips were featured as a part of DJ Kenny Everett's music-video and comedy TV series in the late 70s. They were not confined to each week's top hits, instead picking from whatever full-length songs and pop artists they felt like highlighting. Their dances were risque, wild, over-the-top, and immediately popular, as you can see in this dance to The Flying Lizards' Money. Quicktime(9mb), YouTube.
Sarah Brightman joined the group at the tender age of 18, and became the breakout star thanks in part to her resemblance to Kate Bush (both in look and dance style). Sarah moved behind the mic with a wonderfully cheesy Euro-disco track (a genre you know we love) that was inspired by the urge to cash in on late 70s Sci-Fi mania. I Lost My Heart To a Starship Trooper not only dropped inaccurate Star Wars references ("Flash Gordon's left me, He's gone to the stars/And evil Darth Vader he's been banished to Mars"), but was immensely danceable and cracked the UK top ten in 1978. See the video Quicktime(15mb) YouTube, or just play the song and make up your own dance. MP3
With stars in her eyes, Brightman immediately left the group (who weren't really involved in the song anyway, other than lending their talents to the video) and formed "Sarah Brightman and the Starship Troopers". The rest of Hot Gossip hooked up with members of the Human League to make an all covers album (mostly Human League and Heaven 17 songs, though they also did a version of the Talking Heads' Houses in Motion). Both projects flopped. Brightman went on to be a musical stage star, marry and divorce Andrew Lloyd Webber, and eventually have a successful recording career (though I would argue that her output today is almost as cheesy as her Hot Gossip years - and not nearly as fun). Still, you can remember those glory days with more Hot Gossip clips, catalogued here.
Oh, and here's a little bonus. While searching "Solid Gold" on YouTube, I also stumbled across this amazing clip Franken & Davis on the show. Yup, that's Air America's Al Franken doing a pretty darn sweet Mick Jagger impression - though I'm sure Rush would say otherwise. Quicktime(11MB) YouTube