Magazines + Newspapers

TV Time

rock 'n' cole

1st-7th December 1990 – pages 20-21-22


Written by: Robert O’Brian
Photography by: Bill Bernstein

IT IS A HOT DAY IN JERSEY City. Still, Alex Cox – the British director who has shocked, angered, charmed and enlightened filmgoers around the world with Repo Man, Walker and Sid and Nancy – wears a brown knit cap and slacks. Debbie Harry is in a tight-fitting orange cotton dress, her famous blond hair set in a bouffant, and next to her is Mr. Iggy Pop, looking, well, elegant in his black silk tuxedo, red sash and dark shades. Cox is directing Debbie and Iggy in a video of their duet, “Well, Did You Evah!,” the Cole Porter song made famous by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the 1956 film High Society.
“It’s perfect, isn’t it?” says Cox of the inevitable pairing. Amidst the brownstones of Jersey City, Mr. Pop and Ms. Harry generously give of themselves and their party personae, posing and chuckling, trading “sophisticated” quips (“Didja hear they’re dismantling PickFair?”) and compliments (“You’re a brilliant man, Jim”) in a rocking, post-wave rendition of “Well, Did You Evah!” that is both a send-up of and a tribute to the Prohibition-era frivolity and elegance with which Cole Porter is often identified. The circumstances, however, bringing together the bad-boy director and the song duo made in Utopia are neither frivolous nor elegant.
On December 1, World AIDS Day, ABC airs a 90-minute spectacular called Red Hot & Blue, featuring Debbie and Iggy, U2, David Byrne and other artists performing their interpretations of Cole Porter songs. All profits from the screenings of the show and sales of the video and the record (now available on Chrysalis Records) will go to non-government-subsidized AIDS charities around the world. Red Hot & Blue is the brainchild of lawyer-art critic John Carlin and Leigh Blake, a filmmaker based in London.
“We set up this crosscurrent of combinations that nobody had ever seen before,” explains Carlin. “First of all we have contemporary rock and pop artists sing Cole Porter’s songs, which has a beautiful cross-generational appeal. Then we put together some great film directors, fashion designers and visual artists creating an important message about AIDS to help stop the spread of this disease and the bad feelings that people have toward those who are infected by HIV.”
Carrie Fisher, Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg and Kyle MacLachlan are scheduled to host Red Hot & Blue, and visual artists include Susan Coe, Jenny Holzer and Gary Panter. “Night and Day,” the standard immortalized by Frank Sinatra, Billy Holliday and others, is stunningly interpreted by U2 in a video directed by German filmmaker Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas; Wings of Desire). Hollywood wild child Jonathan Demme (Married to the Mob, Something Wild) directs the Neville Brothers’ consummate rendering of “In the Still of the Night,” and David Byrne directs himself performing “Don’t Fence Me In.”
Back in Jersey City, Debbie and Iggy relax in their trailer between shots. “I would like to see people adopt a more tolerant and helpful attitude toward people different from them,” says Iggy. “This program will make a difference by taking a realistic look at what’s going on.”
“I guess what we’re all striving for now,” intones Debbie, “is awareness and information. Education. I don’t think closing down our view of the world – of behavior, mores and attitudes – is the answer. Closing down just can’t be the answer.”

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