What, Me Worry?
February 16, 2013 5:11 AM   Subscribe

In 1959 Fred Astaire hired renowned makeup artist John Chambers to work on his television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. The assignment? Turn Fred Astaire into Alfred E. Neuman. The results were predictably strange.

For Astaire fans, here is the Playlist for the entire special.

Those who have seen Argo will already know this, but it was news to me: while Chambers was best known for his work in Hollywood, particularly on Planet of the Apes, he also worked for the CIA and is rumored to have been behind the Bigfoot creature captured on the Patterson film. (previously on MetaFilter.)
posted by usonian (19 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Still funnier than MadTV.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:20 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Okay, yes, strange is the word for that. Uncanny valley is another. I love how the woman tosses all the pretty boys aside, though.
posted by impishoptimist at 5:21 AM on February 16, 2013

I thought this was awesome. The Alfred E. Neumann thing was a total side story for me watching this. That set was amazing and I wish you could still see something this cool on TV now. The dancing was bad-ass. Love how she tosses her scarf and the guy at the bar catches it without even moving.

Brilliant - great post.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:45 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

I wonder how associated the face was with Mad Magazine at this point. Mad started using it in 1955, but it had been part of the cultural landscape for decades.
posted by rikschell at 6:12 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love that he's chewing gun throughout the routine.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:14 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mark Evanier got this ball rolling a couple of weeks ago when he posted that video clip and said people told him it might not have been Astaire at all but, rather, Hermes Pan, and then had several follow-up posts as various people came up with evidence that it was Astaire.
posted by briank at 6:15 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, that was odd.

But, it was worth it just to see Barrie Chase.... My favorite Astaire/Chase video.
posted by HuronBob at 6:31 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wonder how associated the face was with Mad Magazine at this point.

I would bet that it would be entirely associated for 99% of folks. We're talking pre-internet here.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:31 AM on February 16, 2013

It is a testament to Chambers' skill that this is only as incredibly creepy as it is and no more.
posted by Mizu at 6:45 AM on February 16, 2013

From rikschell's Wikipedia link: "His face is rarely seen in profile; he has virtually always been shown in full frontal view, directly from behind, or in silhouette."

Chambers translated Alfred to 3D and had him look "right" from almost any camera angle. Amazing.
posted by klarck at 8:20 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why? In the name of God, why was this done??
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:22 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be worried. Be very worried.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2013

In long shot and in profile it looked a bit like she was dancing with JFK. Which was very weird.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:01 AM on February 16, 2013

I wonder if boa fires were a problem back then.
posted by cmoj at 10:21 AM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Now that's how you film dance. Long takes of long shots where you can see the dancer's feet.
posted by octothorpe at 12:11 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

The highlight of this special is Astaire and Chase dancing to a track by legendary "Word Jazz" artist Ken Nordine.

More about Nordine here, and here's one of my favorite tracks.
posted by mgrichmond at 1:01 PM on February 16, 2013

And then there's the famous pairing of Barrie Chase/Dick Shawn.
posted by mazola at 3:01 PM on February 16, 2013

Wow. That was incredibly weird.

I'm not a terribly knowledgeable Astaire fan, but still, I could tell it was him under the mask and makeup by the way he moved. But the makeup… ugh! (What was up with the continuous gum chewing? Weird.)

And that sequined dress on the female dancer… could one design a less dance-friendly dress? Sheesh.

Ugh. Weird. Do not want.
posted by Lexica at 10:26 PM on February 16, 2013

I noticed the gum chewing as well. In 1959 I think gum chewing in a swanky bar (while dancing, to boot) would have been frowned upon as rather coarse behavior - exactly the manners you'd expect from Alfred E. Neuman. Or it may have just been something he did to give the face a little bit of animation.
posted by usonian at 7:47 AM on February 18, 2013

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