Sunday, February 06, 2005

Electric Youth

I have become slightly addicted to VH1 Classic. I know this isn't probably something I should admit publicly, but I can't help myself. Seeing videos from the great, big, trashy 80s makes me giddy and melancholy simultaneously - some videos trigger such a specific rush of memory, it barely feels like there's been 15 entire years between the end of that peculiar, particular decade and today.

For instance, seeing Samantha Fox's "I Wanna Have Some Fun" takes me immediately back to my high school's journalism darkroom, where I danced to it with ironic full tilt boogie with my fellow art-fag creative overachievers. The song was so unbelievably bad, it had turned itself inside out, and was thrown into the boombox pile of cassette tapes with the Pixies, the Cult and the Voice of the Beehive. I remember going to the mall with my friend Joan to buy the tape - we were laughing hysterically at the Record Town or the Musicland or the Camelot Music where we bought S. Fox's album of the same name.

We were also, probably, very stoned.

This past Thursday night, Debbie Gibson's "Electric Youth" video clammered its way onto my television screen. It was probably the first time it's seen the light of day since 1989, when it - and that decade's teen pop idols - fizzled out of sight for good. This was a song that could never have ironic camp significance - it was just too damned earnest to be anything but mildly funky background music to preteen dance recitials and Christian Youth group outings.

There was one tiny thing of note in the video: a man named Keeth Stewart.

Yes, that's two E's in Keeth.

Keeth Stewart was Debbie Gibson's choreographer and star back up dancer. How in god's name do I know this? Well, he happened to be an alum of the tiny high school I attended in Northeastern Ohio and, during his glory days as DG's main creative dance force, he returned to our high school perhaps too frequently to bask in his minor glory as a 4th tier MTV personality.

Keeth would occasionaly roar into our high school in a floor-length fur coat and Jackie O sunglasses, arms waving wildly, fingers snapping brazenly with the fierce attitude he employed in the choreography of DG's hit videos like "Shake Your Love". He also started something - creatively titled - The Keeth Stewart Talent Showcase, which was our high school's crude version of Star Search. The Showcase was only held once, I guess because Keeth's caché dwindled considerably post-Debbie.

The Showcase was considered criminal in my crowd since a jazz/tap dance duo (possibly choreographed by Keeth himself) won the competition, beating out the school's favorite stoner/underage alcoholic band Mental Floss.


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