So, it’s the 1983 Oscars and some dribbling madcap thought that it was a good idea to get Liza Minnelli, Richard Pryor, Walter Matthau and Dudley Moore to all co-host and, much, much worse, to sing an opening song. From the You Tube comments, quoting one of the song’s writers:
“…They were all scared stiff, but ordinarily if you’re scared, then you put in the time and rehearse. They took the opposite approach. So Liza was forced to carry the number, Walter was singing in his own zone somewhere, Dudley was just trying to walk down these steps without falling, and Richard Pryor, well, I think they told him the next day that he was there.”….”
It’s like watching rubbish-era Liverpool or phoning-it-in Manchester United with Liza Minnelli as the Steven Gerrard/David de Gea, somehow managing to carry the rest of the lousy bums around her on her own back. As Principal Skinner said backstage, while hosting a children’s talent show: “Terrible! Just terrible!”. If you’ve not seen it previously, only watch this while you’re biting on a stick.
My friend likened it to the famous Cher/David Bowie mid-70s medley that always used to get ‘forgotten about’ whenever there was some David Bowie retrospective.
There is some similarity. Cher is the Liza: she’s the professional, the show business trooper who’ll keep powering through until the bitter end. You’d want people like Liza or Cher in your corner when doing anything at all as they’d always have your back.
The difference between the two, though, is that Bowie is still on his game until almost the very end, even though he’s seemingly constantly questioning why his game’s being applied to a cheesy medley of other people’s hits. Bowie’s intrinsic cool never left him. Even when he was unaccountably fart-arsing around on roller skates during his just-can’t-be-bothered period. And a cheesy medley it might be but it’s such a damn mess that it attests to the skill of both Cher and Bowie that they never lose their place and always know what they’re doing. I’ll never get tired of watching the Cher and David Bowie performance: the impermeable power of kitsch. Whereas the 1983 Oscars song will always be a miserable failure.
I’ve got lots of love for all of the guilty parties. Liza is a serious music performer who can play, and sell out, the Royal Albert Hall; Dudley Moore was a gifted musician himself as well as comic actor; Richard Pryor co-wrote one of my favourite films of all time and co-starred in another while Walter Matthau made countless contributions to the betterment of society through film and he knew his music too: making his character in the quite brilliant ‘Hopscotch’ a lover of Mozart. Yet, while Liza Minnelli seems ready and eager to wrestle this song to the ground, Walter, Richard and Dudley look like proto-victims of Cheney/Rumsfeld-style torture and disorientation techniques: they’re confused; they’re lost; they’re frightened; and they want to go home. So would I if I’d been watching this nonsense at the time.