Given the elevated and ever-so-serious level of our nation’s political discourse lately, I thought this would be a propitious moment to talk about a good old-fashioned variety show. When it comes to mirth, music, and merriment, it just doesn’t get more exciting than Stairway to Stardom, one of my all-time favorite television programs. The show originated from New York’s bastard stepchild of boroughs, Staten Island, and was broadcast locally on Staten Island cable TV from 1979 until an indeterminate time in the early 1990s. Such was its quiet but significant impact that Stardom very well might someday be regarded by cultural anthropologists as the link between the great modern era of Star Search/American Idol talent competitions and the shit we did in our basements in the 1970s. Well, at least the shit we did in my basement in the 1970s.
By any reasonable measure, S.T.S. was a hit—a big one—running for almost 13 years, longer than: The Carol Burnett Show (11 years); Murphy Brown (10); or Friends (10), to name just a few random super-famous shows that in my personal opinion cannot hold a candle to the monumental achievement that was Stairway to Stardom. I have been crab combing through the archive in order to begin to bring you what I believe to be the very best—the creme de la creme—of the show’s many high points. Think of it as high art or as carefully curated kitsch, but for God’s sake, please think of it!
Before we get to today’s headliner, I would like to share the opening of the show which features dancer Lola Perazzo, who I am proud to say I’ve gotten to be Facebook friends with in the last few years and grew up to be a lovely person. She and I are proof that you can indeed survive growing up as a jazz dancer in the suburbs. Here she is introducing the show back in 1984:
I’m going to begin this occasional feature with one of my favorite pieces: the song stylings of Miss Evie Day! For the full impact of Miss Day’s performance, I recommend repeated viewings—preferably more than twenty. Like any great work of art, the deeper you go the more rich the experience is. A few of my favorite things to appreciate are the scattershot, “maybe-he’ll-play-the-right-note, maybe-he-won’t” piano accompaniment and, of course Miss Day’s vocal instrument itself—throbbing, yearning, urgent, with her patented secret weapon, the slow-as-molassas vibrato that recalls nothing as much as your grandpa’s ancient sedan trying to climb a hill against a strong wind with bald tires. Voices like this simply don’t come around often these days.