CLIPPINGS- PAGE 5
THE NEWS JOURNAL (Wilmington, Delaware), March 11, 1980
Now everyone has a new threesome to gossip about! Remember Tony Orlando and Dawn? Remember all the questions people used to ask about the personal relationship between the two girls and the guy? Well, now they will be asking my the same question about Pink Lady and Jeff, a new threesome which bowed in as an NBC special on March 1 and becomes a series on Friday. The threesome is made up of two Japanese women (Mie and Kei) and a young American comic (Jeff). The word is that Mie and Kei can barely speak English and only know what Jeff tells them. Look out!
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES (Los Angeles, California), March 14, 1980
'Pink Lady' Without The Fizz
While it's a pleasure to welcome variety television back to the weekly network wars, "Pink Lady" --- an hour long excursion featuring the popular Japanese disco duo with comedian Jeff Altman (airing at 9 p.m. on Friday) --- will never be confused with the torch that leads the way.
The basic problem is that the singing duo, attractive and capable performers in their own milieu, simply don't possess the necessary presence and versatility to anchor this kind of program. While Altman frenetically tries to keep things moving with his monologues and impressions, the stars of the show more or less fade into the background like spectators. Either the title is out of sync, or the focus is. In either case, it doesn't work.
Further diminishing the cause is the fact the sketch material seldom rises above shopworn and ordinary, wasting the talents of guest stars Sid Caesar and Larry Hagman in the process. Donny Osmond and singer Teddy Pendergast are also on hand, to modest effect. The show's final sketch tribute to New York does provide a good moment here and there. Otherwise, things are pretty dull. Sid and Marty Krofft produced.
THE ANNISTON STAR (Anniston, Alabama), March 15, 1980
Japan's Pink Lady Is Biggest Recording Act
Two graceful, attractive, modest Japanese girls make up Pink Lady, the phenomenally successful recording act sharing the spotlight with comedian Jeff Altman in NBC-TV's new variety series, "PInk Lady and Jeff", seen Fridays (8 to 8 p.m.). The Asian beauties, Mie and Kei (pronounced Me and Kay) have experienced a meteoric rise in the recording world since their August 1976 hit record, "Pepper Keibu" (Sergeant Pepper).
In Japan which has a huge music market, the girls are superstars. They've had 14 consecutive top singles, among other honors, including the Japan Popular Song Award. They also made a movie --- a science fiction western adventure story --- for the Japanese market and have even recorded, for American consumption, their version of "A Kiss in the Dark".
Last summer, 140,000 fans attended two outdoor concerts given by Pink Lady at Tokyo's Korakeun Stadium. Christmas of 1978 was marked by five sold out concerts at Tokyo's 16,000 seat Budokan Hall. And their concert for UNICEF's Year of the Child benefit not quite a year ago brought 200,000 fans to Osaka, making no it the largest event of its kind ever staged in Japan.
The girls, both 21 years old, attended the same junior high and high schools in Dhizuoka City, Japan. Both studied at the Yamaha School of Music and began their careers by auditioning for a Japanese TV program called "Star Is Born".
Since coming to the United States in January, Mie and Kei have been studying English six hours a day to enable them to do musical numbers and comedy sketches in the language. For a brief presentation tape they filmed last fall, the two performed in English, but they had learned the words phonetically.
Mie and Kei's sparkling co-star, the rising young comedian Jeff Altman can't help the girls at all --- he speaks only five or six words of Japanese.
"Their English is definitely better than my Japanese," Jeff says.
ASBURY PARK PRESS (Asbury Park, New Jersey), March 25, 1980
Pink Lady Brings Variety Show To TV
By Yardena Arar
NBC-TV, seeking new and different ways to boost itself out of the ratings cellar has come up with something not so new but definitely different. The not-so-so new aspect of “Pink Lady and Jeff” is that it's a variety series.
Now, there have been no huge variety successes lately. In fact, some very big stars have found the format rather inhospitable, ask Mary Tyler Moore. But, this is where the different part comes in. No stars are risking their reputations on “Pink Lady and Jeff”, at least no American stars. The series airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on channels 3 & 4.
The “Pink Lady” of the title actually is two Japanese ladies. They go by their first names only - Mie and Kei (pronounced “Me” and “Kay”) - and they are huge celebrities in Japan. They are primarily singers who have sold millions of records there, not to mention sausages and noodles and other products they hawk in commercials. Their live performances with cute and energetic dance routines attracts enormous crowds, and they are also immensely popular TV personalities.
Their first American venture, an album released last summer amid heavy promotion, didn't sell very well here. But this obviously didn't matter much to NBC’s president, Fred Silverman, who saw the act on tape. “He called us about seven months ago and said, ‘Do you know who Pink Lady is?’” Recalled Sid Krofft, who is co-producing the show with his brother, Marty. “He said, ‘I’m going to try and negotiate a deal because I want to do a television show with them,’ He didn't say what, how. That was the only clue he gave us.”
Silverman does have an eye for a pretty lady. He gave TV “Charlie’s Angels” and various Susan Anton specials. But what he may not have known when he made the phone call - and what the Kroffts quickly found out - was that Pink Lady’s English is almost non-existent. You might think that would be an obstacle to having them as hosts for a show. But, it didn’t faze the Kroffts, who turned two kids named Donnie and Marie Osmond into accomplished variety show stars.
The Kroffts did think they ought to supplant Mie and Kei with someone having a working command of English. So, they hired Jeff Altman, a Los Angeles comic who has had only limited TV exposure, but who reportedly wowed affiliates with his takeoff of Richard Nixon at a disco. But Krofft says Mie and Kei do more than sing, dance, smile and show their legs. “I would say it's about 25 percent music and 75 percent comedy, and they’re involved in at least 60 percent of the comedy.
“They studied at Berlitz in Japan for six months. We have an interpreter, we have a coach for them, we have a comedy director. We don’t have cue cards. They memorized everything. And I have never worked with stars that are so nice. They work so hard.”
You sort of wonder what it’s in it for Mie and Kei, who already have all the money they can use from their homeland achievements. At age 20 and 21, they describe themselves as traditional Japanese women who will drop their careers the minute one of them gets married. To ward off any homesickness during the production of the show, they asked - and got - the Kroffts to pay for them to return home for several visits.
“As I understand it, it's been their ultimate dream, to be stars here the way they are at home,” said Krofft. The two women - who look very much like college students in their street clothes - nod agreement. And as far as the hard work goes, they say American TV is relaxed compared to what they do at home. “Jeff really makes them feel at home,” explained the interpreter. “Also, in japan, they do three shows a day.”
THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR (Minneapolis, Minnesota), March 21, 1980
“Pink Lady and Jeff” (8 p.m., channel 11) represents half of Fred Silverman’s attempt to revive television’s Seminole heritage of musical variety shows. The other side of the effort, Tuesday night’s “The Big Show” has nothing going for it. “Pink Lady and Jeff” at least has consistency on it’s side, as the hosts named in the title appear every week.
This, however, is also the show’s chief liability. Mie and Kei, the Japanese duet who constitute Pink Lady, have no mastered English (in fact, they seem to have scarcely confronted it) and they look ill at ease singing. Perhaps that's because they don’t understand the lyrics. Or maybe it's just that an Asian group performing slam-bang entertainment strikes an American as unusual.
Comedian Jeff Altman has no such excuse. Neither do the show’s writers. All could use an out. New jobs too, since “Pink Lady and Jeff” finished 66th of 69 shows last week.
THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR (Minneapolis, Minnesota), March 21, 1980
Rub a Dub: Pink Lady and Jeff Set Sail In A Tub
By Jon Bream
HOLLYWOOD - Sid Caesar was sitting in a hot tub. Most people consider it a relaxing experience, but Caesar was getting restless.
This was no ordinary backyard California hot tub. This one was situated beneath the shining lights in Studio 6. And Larry Hagman, star of television’s “Dallas” and soul singer Teddy Pendergrass were sharing the tub with Caesar.
“Shall I give you a little cheesecake,” Caesar mugged to the dozen or so photographers assembled to record the occasion. he then stretched his body, clad in a bright, striped, two piece bathing suit across the rim of the tub and smiled.
“I heard you had pretty toes,” Hagman joked. “But I didn’t believe it.”
Yet, before Caesar could assume another pose, the real cheesecake arrived. Enter Pink Lady, two leggy, mobile Japanese women wearing scanty bikinis. They eased their way into the tub with Caesar, Hagman and Pendergrass. The photographers went to work. Flash. Click, Flash. And Caesar decided to go to work. He began splashing water.
“Hey, don’t get the girls’ hair wet,” shouted Jeff Altman, a dapper young man in a black tuxedo. “Please, Sid, please.”
Now it was Altman’s turn to enter this whirling pool of California bliss. And he nonchalantly stepped into the hot tub, tuxedo and all.
That is the way every episode of “Pink Lady and Jeff”, a new NBC variety show airing at 8 p.m. Fridays on WTCN-TV (channel 11) ends. Yep, that's right: Altman in his tuxedo, Pink Lady in their bikinis and their guests (in bathing suits), all frolicking in a hot tub.
It’s an odd ending to a rather offbeat show. Sure, producers Sid and Marty Krofft have brought television one unconventional but successful variety show - “Donnie and Marie”. But no one heard of the teaming the hottest musical act in japan, who don’t even have command of the English language, with a rising young comedian from Syracuse, New York to host a variety show.
After all, variety shows aren't exactly on the rebound (Remember Mary Tyler Moore’s attempt?). But then, NBC isnt exactly winning the ratings war. Network President Fred Silverman, who had Altman under contract and had seen how successful Pink Lady’s TV show was in Japan, was willing to gamble.
HOMESICK FOR JAPAN
“Jeff looks like a Japanese man,” said Keiko ‘Kei’ (pronounced Kay) Masuda, half of Pink Lady. “He tells us jokes. We would be reading the script over in a corner and he comes over and makes us happy. We like Jeff.”
Actually, Kei and her 21-year old partner, Mitsuyo ‘Mie’ (pronounced Me) Nemoto like everything about their new TV series, except for the hot tub sequences. “It’s not traditionally Japanese,” Kei said. “The men and women would be separate.”
Off-camera and on the tube, Mie and Kei come across as stereotypical Japanese women. They are well mannered, gentle, graceful, and they smile a lot. Mie seems the more outgoing on camera, but Kei clearly dominated the lunch conversation at a steakhouse on one of their recent days off.
To Mie and Kei, this five week television show is little more than something to share with their families and boyfriends (for whom they are very homesick) when they return to Shizuoka City, japan. They say they are not doing the show for the money or the possibility of gaining a regular series.
That seems like a change in philosophy for the musical that has been merchandized into one of Japan’s hottest commodities since Sony entered the audio field. There are more than 350 Pink Lady products on the Japanese market. The women promote everything from underwear to insecticide. And Pink Lady reportedly has sold more than $100 million worth of records (eight albums and nine singles, all but one of which reached number 1 in Japan and grossed more than $20 million from concerts.
Mie and Kei said they don't really have much say in their careers. They have enough Japanese and U.S. Managers, including Paul Drew who used to program the powerful RKO-AM radio chain, o make decisions for them. In fact, they don't really understand much of what's going on around them.
Their English is limited. Mie and Kei generally understand questions but respond to them in Japanese through the interpreter. And they have problems whenever the show’s script is changed. Sometimes, they don't know whether the audience is laughing at the lines or at them. The young women certainly had no idea what was going on when they teamed up with Sid Caesar for a skit in which his double-talking samurai meets the geisha girls.
Learning to sing songs withEnglish lyrics presents another problem for Pink Lady. Kei learns the words by rote, Mie learns them phonetically. Some of Pink Lady’s Japanese hits have been in English, but most of them were sung in Japanese. The duo recorded a U.S. Album last year, a mixture of disco and bubblegum pop, sort of The Archies meet ABBA.
Pink Lady’s single, “Kiss in the Dark” reached the Top 40 on the U.S. Pop charts las fall, but the rather soulless album had little commercial impact. Mie and Kei have recorded a second album for the States, but no release date has been set. If the United States hasn’t yet caught on to Pink Lady, Mie and Kei are quickly catching on to American habits. They have grown quite fond of Winchell’s doughnuts, M & M’s and cheesecake. In fact, they order cheesecake at the same time they choose their entrees at a restaurant.
“The girls and I worked on this presentation tape in December and there was an immediate chemistry there,” Jeff Altman recalled. “That’s what makes this show——the uniqueness of the chemistry. It’s not an American host bringing out stars.
“We have two Japanese girls who are international stars. They make it easier to do more things. They bring the feminine element to the show for male guests. I have the protective relationship with the girls. It’s almost brotherly. Like if Donny Osmond comes out, I can get jealous.”
Mie and Kei are the basis of everything on the show, explained Altman who does impersonations of Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson and others on the program. “I’m not Dan the host. I’m just a comedian.”
Altman, 28 hopes that “Pink Lady and Jeff” will be his big break. Despite his magnanimity, he admits that he, not Pink Lady, is the real star—-or at least that the show is the ideal star vehicle for him.
“I didn’t realize it until I got involved with the show,” he said between gulps of an unsatisfactory sandwich in his dressing room. “But I can do anything I want to on this show….I can do magic, mime, even play drums.
Altman would really rather be playing drums than starring in a TV show. He has always played drums. In fact, he says, the greatest day in his life was when Buddy Rich came to Johns Hopkins University as part of Altman’s presentation to his American history class on the history o percussive instruments.
But Altman realized he wasn't going to make it as a drummer of become the doctor or lawyer he had expected. So he fell back on the card tricks he had learned from his father, one of the top sleight of hand artists in the country. Altman moved to Los Angeles in 1975 and hung out at the Magic Castle, a private club. During the day, he worked as a waiter and car salesman and at night performed card ticks and impressions for free.
While working at the Comedy Store, Lyman was discovered by a TV producer. He became a regular on the “Bill Cosby Show” in 1976 and later a guest on a variety of other TV shows. But all he wants to do now is make “Pink Lady and Jeff” a success.
“A variety show shouldn't be comedy built around singing or singing built around comedy. You have to separate them and do them well,” said Altman between complaints to his wardrobe attendant about the ill-fitting tuxedo shirt. “Well, a lot of the comedy on this show is mine. And if the show is known for being good, that’s it. That’s all that matters.”
It’s time again for Altman to step into the hot tub with Pink Lady and the guests. He looks in the mirror and smoothes his hair one more time.
“I'm getting used to this by now,” he said, approaching the hot tub. “The only problem is there is so much chlorine in there."
LOS ANGELES TIMES (Los Angeles, California), March 23, 1980
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States bombed Hiroshima. On March 1, 1980, NBC bombed the American TV public with “Pink Lady and Jeff”. Who is Jeff Altman? More appropriately, who cares? At least Johnny Carson will have lots to say in his monologues.
——Steve Nakamura, Culver City
Jeff Altman is a very funny guy with a refreshing sense of humor. It is a shame he was teamed with an act like Pink Lady on NBC. Perhaps these girls are hot in Japan but here they come across as mediocre. Jeff deserves better.
——Hattie Tottenham, Buena Park
What in the name of Silverman is NBC trying to do? “Pink Lady and Jeff” was atrocious programming, worthless tripe in a format that rivals the worst of the ‘60’s variety shows. It was an embarrassment to watch. So this is television?
——Stephen P. Williams, Alhambra
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (Philadelphia, PA), April 6, 1980
Editor: My congratulations to whoever brainstormed NBC’s new variety show, “Pink Lady and Jeff”. Just what American TV needed——a hot dog surrounded by two sweet and pungent shrimp. This show makes “Danny and Marie” look like a XXX burlesque show. Take it off!
——Scott L. Whitman, Philadelphia
STATESMAN JOURNAL(Salem, Oregon), September 2, 1980
Pink Lady Will Break Up
TOKYO (AP) - Pink Lady, a fast-stepping, short-skirted singing duo whose tunes have dominated the top of Japan’s pop charts for the past few years, announced yesterday that they will break up next spring to pursue individual singing and acting careers.
Keiko Masuda no Mitsuyo Nemoto, known to their fans as Kei and Mie produced records which sold 5 million copies since debuting in 1976. But they have seen their popularity fade and their record sales go down this year in Japan, where record producers put a premium on turning up rest, young faces.
Mie said she wants to continue singing after the breakup. Kei said she wants to branch off into acting and other entertainment.