Stargayzing has been just a little too highbrow lately, what with elegies, tributes and serious-minded pieces, so I thought we should have some fun; and really, what could be more fun than a vintage clip of Mary Tyler Moore’s performance of Paul McCartney and Wings’ “With a Little Luck?” The number boasts several outstanding features: a quite unexpected John Philips Sousa-style arrangement; a somewhat disoriented looking chorus that includes Swoosie Kurtz, future Batman star Michael Keaton and David Letterman; and, most notably, an uncanny similarity to Little Edie’s version of You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag from Grey Gardens—all Mary needs is a flag, a scarf tied around the head and a few hundred cans of cat food peppered about the set and her performance would be virtually indistinguishable from the 1975 documentary.
Of course I enjoy watching the venerable Miss Moore apply the same “Mary-isms” to the top-ten Wings hit as she did to any random confrontation with Lou Grant, but what really thrills me is the expression of pain on David Letterman’s face. The comedian and writer was clearly doing this for the money or because he was contractually obligated, because he possesses neither any musical comedy skill nor the total commitment to the enterprise that musical comedy requires to sell a number like this—and it is truly a “number” in the completely-sincere-old-fashioned-let’s-put-on-a-show style that suggests many things. Future king of detached irony David Letterman is not, however, one of those things.
Enjoy this relic from the late-variety show era (I would date it to about 1978 or 1979, as the McCartney song was a hit in the late-winter, 1978). They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Depending on your perspective, this is either a very good or a very bad thing. (Many thanks to Stargayzer Mark Haddad for bringing this eyebrow raiser to my attention).
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