ALTMANESE TO ENGLISH
The casual observer, hearing any of Jeff Altman's comments about Pink Lady & Jeff might be misled into thinking he was actually successful, or even somewhat talented. We fans of Pink Lady, know otherwise, of course. As much as he tries to blame Mie and Kei for the failure of PL&J, anyone watching the videos of this show can plainly see that it was Altman who made the show even worse than the lame sketches and C-list guest stars.
Altman's penchant for revising history to enhance his own image has, unfortunately, hurt America's image of Pink Lady as much as the TV series itself did. His distorted perceptions of reality are almost like another language--"Altmanese", as it were. Since the Altmanese-to-English dictionary isn't widely available (there's hardly a demand for it), you may not understand what Jeff is really saying in the few interviews he's landed (on the coattails of Pink Lady, of course). So, as a public service to people outside Japan who haven't seen the many talents of Mie and Kei, here are translations of just a few of Jeff Altman‚s comments. (These are from the October 2001 issue of Pulp magazine, and just begged to be translated for the masses.)
ALTMANESE: Mie was cute. I would have enjoyed hitting the hay with Mie.
ENGLISH: I was so desperate to get laid, that I was hot for any girl who so much as gave me the time of day.
ALTMANESE: But Kei really missed Mister Boyfriend.
ENGLISH: Kei never did give me the time of day.
ALTMANESE: I remember one (Kei) was introspective to some degree, kind of quiet and a little bit whiny.
ENGLISH: Because she wouldn't give me the time of day, I'm going to continue trashing her, all these years later. Sort of like in high school, when you call a girl a slut because she won't go out with you. I've never quite matured since then....
ALTMANESE: Here I was, one of these "Hot New Young Comics".
ENGLISH: You know how Michael Jackson proclaimed himself "The King Of Pop" for no reason and with no proof? That's kind of like what I did, only I beat him to the punch by almost a decade.
ALTMANESE: I was popular over there at NBC. I had a deal with them, as did David Letterman.
ENGLISH: Maybe if I compare myself to somebody who was actually successful and/or funny, people will buy it.
ALTMANESE: Letterman was my friend at the time.
ENGLISH: Yes, I'm so desperate, that I've resorted to name-dropping.
ALTMANESE: We could make each other laugh, and we had very similar careers up to the point when he started his show and I finished mine.
ENGLISH: I sucked--he didn't.
ALTMANESE: As the totem pole gets higher and higher up, you'll find that network people know less and less about comedy.
ENGLISH: That's how I got hired to do a TV series in the first place, you see.
ALTMANESE: TV was making a transition from old formats, what had always worked, to new formats like what Letterman had going on. I give Dave credit for revolutionizing TV comedy.
ENGLISH: Dave, if you're reading this...PLEASE, PLEASE have me on your show! I'll work for scale...hell, I'll work for free! Just give me a break! (sobbing)
ALTMANESE: There was this kind of work ethic that had been laid down to kind of make the girls feel at home.
ENGLISH: They told us to act like decent human beings. This was very difficult for me, so of course I resented it.
ALTMANESE: Here they were, thousands of miles away from home, and they were trying to talk in a different language. They weren't big stars anymore. People didn't know who they were. All of this was opposed to what they had enjoyed in Japan.
ENGLISH: I was so freaking jealous of them, I wanted to rip their hair out by the roots.
ALTMANESE: So the whole staff had kind of a reverential attitude of mercy, which made it impossible for us to have a successful show.
ENGLISH: The only so-called 'humor' I knew how to do was being nasty to other people. You see, deep down, I have so little self-esteem, that I have to put others down in order to elevate myself.
ALTMANESE: But supposing we had played the show with a Letterman-esque view, sort of ribbing the girls, you know, "Why don't you girls speak English? What's the deal here? Do you two even know where you are? Do you need a medic?" That would have been a different show, and I don't know how that would have played.
ENGLISH: Actually, I don't recall Letterman ever doing something like this to any of his guests, but what the hell...it's a great excuse to drop his name again....
ALTMANESE: Ultimately my manager should have at least felt the kind of momentum surrounding me at the time and possibly waited for something better, like Letterman did.
ENGLISH: ...and again. My "momentum" was such, that my name was listed AFTER that of a singing duo who couldn't even speak English, and who were virtually unknown in the USA.
ALTMANESE: Dave knew from the time that he stepped on California soil what he wanted to do.
ENGLISH: Ah, another chance to mention Letterman's name!
ALTMANESE: He held out for that and it paid off. I didn't have that cemented core of an idea of what I wanted to do.
ENGLISH: I was about as funny as a terminal illness.
ALTMANESE: I am one of those people who is recognizable to a handful of fans, but in a very limited way.
ENGLISH: I'm an utter failure.
ALTMANESE: Nothing like Dave or Jay or my contemporaries who have done well.
ENGLISH: Wow, I even managed to slip Jay Leno's name into THAT comment!
ALTMANESE: "Let's see, girls make 100 million dollars in Japan. RCA owns girls. RCA owns NBC. RCA wants to break girls in the USA. RCA takes girls to [then president of NBC] Fred Silverman and suggests that he put them on the air in some context and he finds that context."
ENGLISH: This is the paranoid conspiracy theory I devised, to explain my failure. I just hope nobody stops to think that the girls had already had a Top 40 hit before any of these secret meetings took place....
ALTMANESE: I don't know how much TV the girls had done before.
ENGLISH: They'd done about 50 times more TV than I'll ever dream of doing in my lifetime, plus they starred in a movie. But if I admitted that, I wouldn't be able to maintain this condescending attitude toward them....
ALTMANESE: I do know that I was difficult to work with in some instances when I thought things should be a certain way. And I was always outvoted.
ENGLISH: My ideas sucked.
ALTMANESE: The show did wind up using some of my material from my act, my characters, and such. And I felt comfortable with that, because I knew this stuff was funny, because it had worked in stand-up.
ENGLISH: These were the parts of the show that sucked the most, because I can do impressions and develop funny characters about as effectively as Hugh Hefner can claim he's still a virgin.
ALTMANESE: If those two girls had been two Americans, say like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are today, I wonder if the show would have worked.
ENGLISH: If those two girls had had any control over their careers whatsoever, I know they would have demanded a co-host who actually had some discernible talent.
ALTMANESE: Or whether I was just a loopy-ass looking host .
ENGLISH: Oops! Freudian slip!
ALTMANESE: ...the Olsen Twins, who are apparently this huge money-making machine.
ENGLISH: I'm so out of touch with reality, I didn't even realize that Mary-Kate and Ashley have been famous almost as long as they've been alive. Now that I'm aware of this, I'm jealous as hell of them, too...so I'll dehumanize them by calling them a "machine". Do you think this bit part will give me the success I've been hoping for since time immemorial? DO YOU? Oh, God, WHY doesn't Dave invite me on his show?