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10 Musician Cameos on 1980s TV Shows

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Entertainers always seem to be looking to expand their repertoires: actors want to sing, singers want to act, TV stars long to make it on the big screen, and, of course, what everyone really wants to do is direct. Here are a handful of musical hitmakers of the 1980s who took a shot at the small screen (with varying degrees of success).

1. BOY GEORGE // THE A-TEAM

In an episode of The A-Team that originally aired in February 1986, Face decided there were big bucks to be made as a concert promoter, so he hired country singer Cowboy George to play at a seedy Arizona watering hole called The Floor ‘Em. Imagine his surprise when some wires got crossed along the way and Boy George arrived instead! Boy has been promised $1.2 million to play at the Arizona Forum, and he’s none too thrilled to find out that instead he’s contractually obligated to perform for an audience of rowdy pipeline workers at a redneck bar. Before he can flounce out in a huff, however, he pitches in to help Murdock and the rest of the Team halt an armored car robbery. Once the bullets finally stop flying, George hurls a satisfied “So there!” over his shoulder at the foiled thieves before taking the stage and performing a trio of hits for the surprisingly receptive audience.

2. PHIL COLLINS // MIAMI VICE

Miami Vice is the mother lode when it comes to trendy and/or quirky guest star appearances on a TV series. It was the place to be seen (and perhaps reignite a sagging career) thanks to both its Nielsen ratings and its ultra-hip demographic. After lending his “In the Air Tonight” to the show’s pilot, Phil Collins guest starred as Phil Mayhew (a.k.a. “Phil the Shill”), a crooked TV game show host who got cocky after bilking money out of the Miami party scene’s nouveau riche and tangled with some much-more-serious-minded cocaine dealers. Genesis fans will notice that the surnames of the supporting characters in this episode (Stewart, Bruford, Banks, and Hackett) were the names of past members of the band.

3. ANDY GIBB // PUNKY BREWSTER

Andy Gibb (the younger brother of Bee Gees Barry, Robin, and Maurice) was just 19 years old when he had his first number one single (“I Just Want to Be Your Everything”) in 1977; by the time he was 21, he had sold 15 million records worldwide. But four years after he first topped the charts, Gibb was dropped from his record label due to his worsening cocaine habit. He turned to acting instead, first on Broadway (he starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and then television (he co-hosted Solid Gold for two seasons); ultimately, he was fired from both gigs due to excessive absences. His last hurrah before checking into the Betty Ford Clinic was a guest appearance as a piano teacher on a 1985 episode of Punky Brewster.

4. FRANK ZAPPA // MIAMI VICE

Avant-garde artist Frank Zappa was known more as the frontman for The Mothers of Invention than he was as an actor, although he did make a cameo appearance in the 1968 Monkees film Head, in which he commented on Davy Jones’s “Daddy’s Song” dance number. He stepped in front of the camera again in 1986 in the Miami Vice episode entitled “Payback,” in which he portrayed Mario Fuente, a high-volume drug dealer who only conducted business on a yacht anchored in international waters.

5. ADAM ANT // THE EQUALIZER

Even though Johnny Depp has gone on record as saying that Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richard was the inspiration for his Pirates of the Caribbean Captain Jack character, fans of the short-lived New Romantic movement can’t help but note a more than passing resemblance to Adam Ant, formerly of Adam and the Ants. After his fortunes on the record charts started fading, Ant made a move toward acting and first dipped his toe in the water on a 1985 episode of The Equalizer entitled “The Lockbox.” He played a high-end pimp who was involved in what is now commonly referred to as “human trafficking”—his base of operations was a “lockbox,” an invitation-only brothel catering to very wealthy clients.

6. TED NUGENT // MIAMI VICE

Ted Nugent made his acting debut in “Definitely Miami,” a 1986 episode of Miami Vice. As con man Charlie Basset, he used his beautiful wife to lure folks looking to make a drug buy into a secluded quarry. Charlie would then kill the prospective customer, steal his buy money, and bury him and his car with a pile of sand (and presumably a steam shovel) conveniently left nearby.

7. MOON UNIT ZAPPA // CHIPS

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In 1982, Frank Zappa set the local San Fernando Valley teen jargon to music and had his then 14-year-old daughter Moon Unit contribute her best “Valspeak” to the verses. “Valley Girl” was Zappa’s only single ever to hit the Top 40 in the U.S. The song was meant to be a parody, but instead it launched a nationwide Valley Girl fad, with adolescent girls in suburban malls everywhere gagging themselves with a spoon. Moon Unit capitalized on her sudden fame by appearing on an episode of CHiPs as a hitchhiker who confounded middle-aged male drivers with her bizarre vernacular before stealing their wallets. Two years later she guested on “The Last Drive-In” episode of The Facts of Life as Mean Girl Sondra, who is itching to clean up the concession stand with Blair’s perm.

8. SHEENA EASTON // MIAMI VICE

Yet another Miami Vice entry, only this time the singer hung around for a whopping five episodes. Scottish songbird Sheena Easton guest starred in season four’s “Like a Hurricane” as Caitlin Davies, a singer who requires Sonny’s protection while she testifies against her manager in a payola trial. The two detested one another at first, but faster than you could say “whirlwind romance” they ended up getting married by the end of the episode. Easton was actually a last-minute substitute; Lorraine Bracco was originally cast as Caitlin, but was forced to withdraw from the role due to the flu.

9. THE B-52S // GUIDING LIGHT

New Wave music and daytime soap operas would seem to go together as well as meatloaf and maple syrup. Nevertheless, none other than the quirky combo from Athens, Georgia made a memorable guest appearance on Guiding Light in 1982. During the early 1980s, the venerable daytime drama had a story arc that featured scenes at Wired for Sound, the happening disco in Springfield. So the show recruited a series of musical guests, including Neil Sedaka, Ashford & Simpson, Bertie “Key Largo” Higgins, and The B-52s. The producers requested that the band play “Private Idaho” and the previously unreleased “Throw That Beat in the Garbage Can” and also gave the members a few lines of dialogue to exchange with the regular cast.

10. LAURA BRANIGAN // CHIPS

Laura Branigan released her signature single “Gloria” in 1982 and it remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for an amazing (and record-breaking) 36 weeks. In early 1983 she appeared on an episode of CHiPs as the lead singer of a girl band called the Cadillac Foxes, who are being swindled by an unscrupulous concert promoter. (Their big hit? “Gloria,” of course.) Why Ponch and Bobby are called upon to protect them is a bit of a mystery, since their job is mainly writing traffic tickets, but who’s to say they can’t do a little detective work on the side?

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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