Monday, March 10, 2014

Sly Stone and Richard Pryor on The Mike Douglas Show: Really, Really Real

I love this clip.

It's Sly Stone and Richard Pryor -- easily at the apex of their respective careers at this point --  overwhelming Mike Douglas on his show with pure star wattage and verve and yes, blackness. The premise is that Richard will accompany Sly on drums. (Huh?)  Ultimately, they completely upend the interview with stops and starts of what seems to be their own private conversation that started elsewhere and spilled onto this situation.  Surprisingly, it's not drug induced. What's apparent is that they have a great deal of love and respect for each other.  Even when they're figuring out what's going on with whatever they're going to do ("Richard, are you going to play drums?")  in front of an audience of millions with chunks of blank space idling between them, you can glimpse their genius.  And their friendship.

Who does this? When things go awry on a talk show nowadays, it's (somewhat) scripted.  This wasn't planned or improvised. They were just goofing off.

It's more than wonderful, to watch Sly change clothes onstage behind a folding screen with the help of a female assistant -- onstage! -- and hear not only the audience gasp audibly as he presents himself transformed, but Mike Douglas' reaction as he glances behind the screen. Like a superhero in full regalia, Sly is a shiny gleaming silver glitterbomb, ready for action.  Then and now (remember his blonde mohawk at the 2006 Grammys?) Sly understands performance, the importance of fantasy and the power of a strong visual.

Were performers more brilliant then -- or were they simply more commonplace because they were on television every day?

Someone should release all of the episodes for The Mike Douglas Show. Or maybe I should be grateful that I live in New York City and join The Museum of Radio and Television so I can watch them whenever I want. 

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