I Had the Halftime of My Life

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably well aware that the Super Bowl is happening this weekend. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, this is the one sporting event that you can’t ignore. You may not know who is playing (the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Denver Broncos) or where the game is being played (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ) but there is no escaping the media blitz that accompanies the big game.

As a football fan I am of course looking forward to the actual game, especially since my pal Peyton Manning is playing this year. Seeing him get the chance to win a long overdue second ring softens the blow that my Bills are not in the Super Bowl, nor will they be in a Super Bowl for the foreseeable future.  There are always the commercials to look forward to (you can watch a lot of this year’s ads here), though overall I think they have not been as fun recently as they used to be. And even in years when I wasn’t too excited for either of the teams in the game, I almost always look forward to the halftime show.

This year the halftime show will feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; I’m extremely curious to see how they are going to meld their two different styles together. I have no doubt that they will figure something out that works though of course the real question of the night will be if we get another “wardrobe malfunction” courtesy of RHCP bassist Flea. All of the Peppers have a history of wearing nothing but a well-placed sock during a performance, but Flea seems to me to be the most likely candidate to try and do it during the Super Bowl. That would be ill-advised, as the weather is supposed to be pretty darn chilly on Sunday night for those kinds of shenanigans. Shrinkage and all. Though I do think that they might be able to fit Bruno Mars entire body in a sock – that is one tiny man.

The Super Bowl halftime shows have something of a checkered past. Some were great, some were terrible and some were controversial. Few of them, however, were all that memorable. Thinking back, though I’ve watched the Super Bowl pretty consistently for nearly 30 years, I realized that I only recalled a handful of performances. I have vague recollections of some other years – I know, for instance, that both The Who and Paul McCartney did the halftime show, but I’d be hard pressed to give you more detail than that. When I think Super Bowl halftime shows, I think of the following performances:

Super Bowl XX – Up With People (1986)

This is actually the first Super Bowl that I remember. For some inexplicable reason, I was a big fan of William “Refrigerator” Perry and I was all excited to watch the Chicago Bears play in the big game. I have vivid memories of it snowing that day and sitting at our coffee table with a mug full of hot chocolate. I may have only been nine years old and I may have had no other point of reference, but even I knew this halftime show was crap. See, kids, back in the early days of the Super Bowl halftime shows, they weren’t the music superstar laden events that they are today. They weren’t seen as an attempt to lure in non-football fans, so instead viewers were subjected to a lot of marching bands and drill teams. It.Was.Awful. Up With People did the halftime show a whopping four times. There was even an Elivs impersonator one year. It was a dark time for America.

 

Super Bowl XXVII– Michael Jackson (1993)

 

I realize that I skipped over what should have been a memorable halftime show for me in 1991 when New Kids on the Block performed, but I honestly have no recollection of this happening. I chalk it up to the trauma of what happened in the game, when the words “wide right” became permanently ingrained into the subconscious of all of Buffalo. I wasn’t even an official fan of the Bills at the time, but I was rooting for them and inexplicably even wagered a week’s worth of lunches with someone at school. I guess I had a soft spot in my heart for Buffalo even way back then. In retrospect, this game was a warning of what my Bills’ future would hold.

Anyway, I remember watching this game over at my best friend Shana’s house with a bunch of our friends; as a group, we weren’t really that interested in the game, but I remember everyone watching Michael Jackson and debating what we thought about him. This was right before the first of his child molestation charges would surface and then things with him would get really weird (and they were already pretty weird). He was still pretty popular, but not as dominant as he once was. This was the first halftime show that was basically just a concert (no Disney characters dancing around) and it brought in high ratings. This was a bit of a turning point; from here on in, major acts were consistently recruited to perform.

Super Bowl XXXV – Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears (2001)

 

This halftime show was an interesting meld of the old and the new and is actually one of the performances that I enjoyed the most, perhaps because it had a high probability of being terrible. A show comprised of Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears is not necessarily a combination that I would have come up with on my own – remember this was the pre-American Idol Steven Tyler, so there was a little more rock and roll associated with Aerosmith. The “Bad Boys of Boston” were no strangers to collaboration – see their duet with Run D-M-C – but this was something different. I just remember this performance being a lot of fun.

Super Bowl XXXVI – U2 (2002)

 

This was potentially the saddest of the bunch, as this was the first Super Bowl after September 11th. U2 actually did a great job with a nice tribute to those who died without getting too depressing. They stuck the perfect tone and it was really a beautiful performance.

Super Bowl XXXVII – Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake (2004)*

 

Be honest – does anyone even remember that P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock were even a part of this halftime show? Of course not. All anyone remembers is the fateful “wardrobe malfunction” heard round the world. I was watching this Super Bowl with friends in Massachusetts, where I’m sure I was annoying everyone there by not rooting for the Patriots and for cheering for a safety so that I would hit with my Super Bowl square. I actually saw the wardrobe malfunction as it happened – I was the only person really paying attention to the halftime show and I remember whipping my head around to see if anyone else saw what I saw or if I had just imagined that I just saw Janet Jackson’s breast.

This was the halftime show that would result in almost a decade of old white guys being selected to be performers, who were deemed to be less of a potential risk (sound logic since so many of them could barely move). This was also the halftime show that soured me a bit on Justin Timberlake; I never really respected how he hung Janet Jackson out to dry and forced her to take all the heat for what happened. I thought that showed cowardice and while I’ve come back around on JT, it hasn’t left the back of my mind that when the chips were down, he ran away.

*Oddly, this was the only full performance that I couldn’t find on YouTube – though of course there were plenty of videos featuring the offending incident.

Super Bowl XLIII – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)

 

I’ll admit that this performance is probably only memorable to me because I love Springsteen, but I thought he and the E Street band put on one hell of an entertaining show. It was high energy (unsurprising given their penchant for 3+ hour concerts) and though I may have been the only person rocking out at the bar, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Springsteen even livened things up a bit by sliding right into the camera, giving the world a (fully clothed) crotch shot.

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Super Bowl XLVI– Madonna (2012)

 

This was the first post-Janet Jackson halftime show that had the real potential for something interesting or racy to happen. Nothing all that ordinary happened – save for a few scantily clad men – but this performance is what convinced me that I had to fulfill my dream of going to see Madonna live sooner rather than later. She still had it, but she was slowing down a step and I wanted to see her before it would be disappointing. I’m thankful that I saw her that summer, based on what I saw at the Grammys this year. I know that she was injured, but she sounded terrible.

 

Super Bowl VLVII – Beyoncé (2013)

 

I am usually one of the only women at the bar where we watch the Super Bowl every year (minus the staff) so it is no surprise that I was the only person who was really excited to see Beyoncé take the stage and for the rumored Destiny’s Child reunion. I thought Beyoncé killed it and it may or may not have encouraged some slightly intoxicated men at the bar to try and do the “Single Ladies” dance.

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The past is the past; while these are the halftime shows that are most memorable to me, what about the future? If I was in charge of booking the talent, the following acts would be on my wish list:

  • Journey – My love for this band is well established, but I think that they would do a great job. Their new lead singer loves to run around the stage and would be exciting to watch. Plus you are hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t secretly like Journey. A performance of “Don’t Stop Believin” would bring the house down.
  • Kanye West – I know, I know – people hate this guy. He is a little delusional and insufferable. But having seen him perform live and experiencing the crazy genius that is Kanye, I would love to see what he would do with such a performance on such a large scale. It would be bat shit crazy and totally over the top – and I’m sure that half of the country would despise every minute of it. But it would be guaranteed to be memorable, regardless. The Internet might explode.
  • Foo Fighters – Probably my favorite band, I think that they would give us a rocking crowd pleasing performance. The real challenge would be convincing them to take the gig; the Super Bowl may be too corporate for their liking and they don’t really need the bump.

Who would you like to see perform at the Super Bowl? Who have been your favorite halftime performances? Sound off in the comments below – and enjoy the game Sunday!

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Yesterday as I was coming home from work I met two of my neighbors for the first time. We all just happened to be entering the building at the same time and they stopped to introduce themselves. I actually had a vague idea as to who they were, as I saw them when they moved in; I remember this because it was pretty clear that they were college students and I did a silent prayer that they wouldn’t be too noisy. I’m officially old. We had the following exchange:

Guy: What apartment do you live in?

I point to my apartment (it’s a small building).

Guy (face lights up): OH! You are the one that owns the awesome cat! He’s always in the window so we stop to say hello.

So there you have it – my cat is some kind of celebrity and apparently knows more people in the building than I do. And now I have some insight into what he does all day when I’m gone – lounge in the windows and look for attention. That actually sounds about right.

This encounter got me thinking about neighbors and the people that I have lived amongst over the years. I have a pretty laissez faire attitude toward my neighbors; I’ll always smile or nod my head, but I leave them to their own business unless they engage me in conversation. I generally let them dictate the nature of the relationship and if they want to chat about the weather or sports, I’m more than willing to do so (though I’m also happy to let them do their own thing). While I know most of the people living in my building on sight, I don’t really know any of their names or what they do. So in my head, they are known as “attractive guy who drives a BMW” and “attractive woman who unfortunately lives with the attractive guy with the BMW.” There are children that live in the building, but I don’t think that I’ve ever actually seen their parents so for all I know there is some sort Neverland up on the third floor.

My previous neighborhood had a completely different vibe: it was residential and I was one of only a few rentals on the block. Those people were way too attentive to what was going on in my life; shortly after I moved in I ran out to my car in the rain and suddenly one of the neighbors was knocking on my car window and handing me an umbrella. It was a nice gesture, but made me very aware that people were paying attention. I generally interpreted it as people watching out for the woman living alone (it was an OK neighborhood, but sketchy neighborhood adjacent), which I appreciated, but it still weirded me out a little. They knew who was coming to visit me and were very perplexed by my relationship status (I was actually a little unclear on that too at the time). I guess there just wasn’t much else going on around our little street in Albany. I was the entertainment (other than our neighbor who drove home drunk and smashed into half the cars on the street – THAT was some excitement!).

This of course got me thinking about the great (and not so great) neighbors in pop culture. Sitcoms particularly are a haven for the wacky neighbor that pops in long enough to get a big laugh and recede into the background of the story, though there are the occasional neighbors that are main characters. Some of these people would be awesome to live near, but others would be super annoying – fine in 22 minute increments once a week, but no good as a part of daily life. Helpful or a hindrance, these are the pop culture neighbors that stick out in my mind:

Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)

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Kramer is of course one of the key characters on Seinfeld, but while I love the character I am not sure how much I would love living across the hall from him. He clearly had some boundary issues and his exploits brought people angrily knocking on his door on more than one occasion. I don’t know that I need that kind of chaos in my life. Still, for all his faults he also brings a lot of excitement and adventure to the table and he always seems willing to go out and do stuff (something that is sadly lacking in my life right now). He’s also loyal and pretty funny – plus he has occasional run-ins with celebrities.

Verdict – Despite some reservations, I’d like him as my neighbor. It would never be boring

 

Ned Flanders (The Simpsons)

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Poor Ned has the patience of a saint, living next to Homer and his clan. While I can’t imagine that I would be any bother, it’s good to know that he’s a pretty tolerant guy on the off chance that I yelled too loudly at the TV during Yankee games. He’s way more religious than I would normally prefer, but he generally doesn’t seem too annoying about it; if I let him live his life, he’d probably let me live mine (while praying for my soul). I could trust him to take care of my cat, a major bonus, and his kids are well behaved.

Verdict – Definitely desirable neighbor material.

 

Wilson (Home Improvement)

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We don’t know much about Wilson – heck, we’ve never even seen his face. There were hints that he had lived a very interesting life, but his main purpose was to give sage advice to members of the Taylor family through the picket fence. He is a bit of a mystery, which could go either way, but I could use some counsel now and again. Plus he always seemed to be raking or doing other maintenance, so at least the curb value of my home wouldn’t deteriorate with him next door.

Verdict – A wise neighbor choice.

 

Newman (Seinfeld)

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Newman was always trying to ruin Jerry’s life, which doesn’t speak well to his character. He was a sneaky guy and the checkered history of postal workers may make him a ticking time bomb. While I kind of think that having a nemesis would be fun, I don’t know that I’d want one who was living so close to me and who could gather a lot of Intel on me easily. Plus I wouldn’t want him messing with my packages from Amazon being delivered.

Verdict – Too risky

 

Dr. Drew Baird (30 Rock)

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Umm…..look at him. If I get to see this face on a regular basis, I’m sold. I don’t care that he is a moron.

Verdict– How quickly can this happen?

 

Steve Urkel (Family Matters)

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Nope – way too annoying. That voice alone is reason enough to veto and I can’t tolerate a lifetime of “Did I do that?”

Verdict – Hell no

Who are your favorite/least favorite pop culture neighbors? Sound off in the comments below.

The End of Mötley Crüe

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I was quietly minding my own business when I saw the news on Twitter: the band Mötley Crüe was retiring after one last tour. Unlike other bands who have been going out on “one last tour” for the last twenty years or who wait a few years after “retirement” to do a reunion tour, Mötley Crüe took the unusual step of making it legal with an official “cessation of touring agreement.” After a 72 date farewell tour, Mötley Crüe will no longer be a band after 30 years in rock and roll.

Now one could argue that this isn’t that big of a deal; the band hasn’t really been relevant in years as the heyday of hair metal has long since passed. While they still have a devoted fan base and would occasionally tour, all of the band members have been doing their own thing for quite a while. Nikki Sixx hosts a radio program, Vince Neil has ventured into the restaurant/tequila business, Tommy Lee has tried his hand at the reality show/sex tape game and Mick Mars does whatever it is that Mick Mars does (can you believe that dude is 63??). Many of them have periodically severed ties with the band, only to later return. So this clearly isn’t a band that is breaking up in their prime or a decision that came out of nowhere. Looking at the big picture, it’s kind of refreshing that the band realizes that they are at the natural end of their collaboration.

However, this news still made me sad. I may not be a rabid fan of Mötley Crüe, but I have always considered myself a fan. I have a soft spot for all bands from the hair metal genre, as this was the music that dominated my early years. If Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were the soundtrack to my high school years, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Warrant, Skid Row and the bands of that ilk dominated my tween years. They were played at every middle school dance I attended and were blaring at every party. I used to marvel at way girls in my class would tease and blow their hair out like the girls featured in the music videos for these bands; I was far too lazy for that kind of commitment to styling, which is probably why I fully embraced the low level of effort for grunge. Hair metal bands provided the anthems for early crushes; getting to slow dance with the boy you liked to a power ballad was the ultimate accomplishment.

Mötley Crüe was always my favorite of the bunch; I don’t know what it was that set them apart from the rest but I pretty much wore out my copy of Dr. Feelgood back in the day (a cassette tape, obviously). I was too young and sheltered to put much thought in what “Dr. Feelgood” referred to or to consider the questionable depiction of women in their songs and videos. All I knew was that these were super catchy songs and they were exposing me to a lifestyle that I didn’t necessarily aspire to but that was definitely interesting to watch. Of all the bands in their genre, Mötley Crüe had the reputation of being the wildest and hardest partiers of the lot. I never thought any of them were particularly cute, but they were endlessly fascinating. Apparently my fixation with bad boys is longstanding.

As I grew older, my musical tastes expanded and (somewhat) improved but there was always a little room for some Crüe in my life. They frequently popped up on the workout mixes that I’ve made over the years; I defy you to listen to “Kickstart My Heart” and not get energized. They remained a guilty pleasure and were usually a safe option to play in on the jukebox in most bars. I’m sure “Girls, Girls, Girls” will continue to play in strip clubs in perpetuity. I am one of the people who actually downloaded their last studio album, Saints of Los Angeles. So while it makes sense for them to call is a career for the band, part of me will be a little sad that they no longer exist. Even if they weren’t a part of my everyday life, it’s still kind of a bummer when a group you grew up with disbands (even when it is as amicable as this appears).

Mötley Crüe’s farewell tour will be rolling into my area this summer and I totally expect to be in attendance. I saw them perform about five years ago at the same venue and it was a very fun show – just as over the top and ridiculous as I would have expected and some of the best people watching that I’ve ever seen. Seriously – it was worth the price of admission just to watch people in the crowd relive their glory years. For this final tour they will be hitting the road with Alice Cooper, who I have always secretly wanted to see, so that only sweetens the pot. Mötley Crüe may not be the best musicians or the most complex of songwriters, but they almost always guarantee a good time.

So as the Crüe rocks off into the sunset, it seems only fitting to send them off with one of my favorite tunes. They are taking their own advice and just going away:

 

If you want to check out the band one last time, check out their tour dates.