Ms. Retronaut’s recent comment about the ’90s MTV show Lip Service got me thinking about the original lip-synch show, Puttin’ On the Hits. I remember we were all pretty psyched when this show debuted, which seems weird in retrospect given that it’s just average Janes and Joes lip-synching to their favorite songs. But this was the mid-80s, and lip-synching ability was still something to be admired in this country. Milli Vanilli had yet to take that away from us.
A celebrity panel judged each contestant on their lip-synching skills, but also graded them in two other categories: appearance and originality. The latter categories were crucial to the show’s success. Contestants would generally either (a) faithfully recreate the look of their favorite performer, or (b) use props or some other gimmick that tied in with the choice of song. This would yield results that were either (a) very impressive, or (b) incredibly corny. I have a vague memory of some dudes lip-synching in full KISS make-up¹. Unfortunately I was unable to find that clip anywhere online. I did, however, find this clip of a pseudo-Sheila E.:
I love the air-drumming she does throughout the song! (I do apologize for not warning you about host Allen Fawcett’s scary perm-mullet.)
One thing I didn’t know about Puttin’ On the Hits until today: it introduced our nation to Kato Kaelin. Nearly a decade before becoming America’s most beloved houseguest, Kato appeared on POTH, performing the most energetically lip-synched rendition of “Born to Be Wild” in all of human history. The only way he could have given more in service of the song would have involved spontaneous combustion. Thankfully, someone had the foresight to record this performance so we can still enjoy it today. It really must be seen to be believed:
My only criticism would be that he went to the handlebar hair-dryer a shade too early – he should have held it back for the outro jam. This video also stands as proof that Kato had downshifted from coke to pot by the time of the O.J. trial.
¹Most likely the song they used was “Rock and Roll All Nite” or “Detroit Rock City,” although I like to imagine it was “I Stole Your Love.”