October 4, 2003

Marva looking daggers

I went to the Museum of Television and Radio this afternoon to do some research for the book, and got to see a couple of amazing documents: a mid-1968 hourlong TV special called "James Brown: Man to Man" (JB at the Apollo, doing some Vegas-y standards, a very long "Man's World"/"Lost Someone" medley, a brief interlude for footage of him walking around Harlem and Watts, and finally some serious funk) and, even better, an 11/25/1968 episode of "Playboy After Dark."

As many of you probably know, as obsessive as I get about James Brown, I'm really fascinated by Marva Whitney, a singer who performed in his revue from 1967 to 1969 and made two albums and a handful of singles (she later made a few more singles without his involvement in the '70s). This particular show guest-stars the two of them, as well as Clay Tyson (a really lame comedian who was with the revue around that time--from whom, it appears, JB got the line "I may not know karate, but I know ka-razy"), Soupy Sales, Bill Cosby, and Three Dog Night (!!). The format is Hugh Hefner leading his guests around his mansion, which is full of young nubile types lounging around looking sort of stoned and smiling; the musical guests sing, or lip-synch, it's hard to tell sometimes, along with prerecorded backing tracks, and everybody banters in a fairly scripted way.

This particular episode was made a few months after Brown, Whitney and crew went to Vietnam, which Hefner mentions. Now, I know there was some kind of romantic entanglement between the two of them. (From an interview I did with her a few years ago: "Let me say this. James, first and foremost, loved women. Okay? Loved women. And as far as being a one and only? I don't know, okay? As far as me being with him a lot? Yes! ...Yes, we went to dinner, you know, but if I was that much of a girlfriend, I wouldn't have to have left. But he's a man, you know, and I don't think I was that ugly, you know.") In fact, Marva is gorgeous here, and done up to the nines, with a sparkly green sequined dress. She sings "Who Can I Turn To," and rips so hard that you can hear her mic being turned down mid-phrase so she doesn't blow it out (the stoned hippie couple behind her is digging on it); later, she lip-synchs "Your Love Was Good For Me," another of those songs that are way worse than her performance.

But JB is there with this other woman in a purple dress, and spends a lot of time with his arm snaked around her waist, while Marva occasionally glances over and looks daggers at her. Hugh comes over and says to JB, "so I understand you've got yourself a new jet plane--do you fly a lot in it?" Woman in purple purrs "we go all over!," which is the only thing she says on the show. Who is she? What the hell is going on, interpersonal-dynamic-wise?

Marva Whitney, incidentally, appears to have performed at Richard Nixon's inaugural ball. Nixon appears for about three seconds on the episode of Laugh-In I watched at the MT&R, confusedly muttering "sock it to... me?"

Only other real reportable news is that Lisa and I went to see Urinetown on Thursday for her birthday--I think I'd have appreciated it more if I just kind of stumbled into it in the context of, say, the Fringe Festival, but Little Sally is a character actor's dream role, and Spencer Kayden does lovely things with it.

Posted by Douglas at October 4, 2003 11:46 PM
Comments

oh, man, playboy after dark! that was definitely the highlight of my history of broadcasting class in college (yeah, yeah, i know) -- i got to see the episode with chuck woolery's band singing 'naturally stoned.' wasn't that show on pbs? crazy.

(i am still in nocturnal playoff mode, hence the 5.38 am post. soon, i will go to bed, but not before the bagel store around the corner closes, i think.)

Posted by: maura on October 7, 2003 5:38 AM
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