7:00am PT by Jonathan Bernstein
Lisa Vanderpump's New Wave Past Revealed
If Bravo's deathless Real Housewives franchise is known for one thing, it's music. Great, timeless music. Countess LuAnn de Lesseps' 2010 declamation "Money Can't Buy You Class," Kim Zolciak's 2009 club banger "Tardy For The Party," and, of course, Kim's Atlanta cohort Kandi Burruss, former member of 90s girl group Xscape and a genuine hit-machine, responsible for co-writing, among other songs, Pink's "There You Go" and Destiny's Child's "Bills Bills Bills." But the achievements of Burruss and the other musically-inclined Housewives pale in comparison to the glorious New Wave heritage of Lisa Vanderpump.
These days she's known for performing the same function on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills that Dame Maggie Smith plays on Downton Abbey: a wordly-wise woman of aristocratic bearing who gazes on the panic attacks and downward spirals of the plebians around her with amused disdain. But decades before the 51-year-old Brit became a successful resturateur and lady of means, she appeared in a pop video. Actually, appeared is the wrong word. Dominated may be more appropriate. And pop video doesn't begin to do justice to the feverish, overcooked slice of fantasy director Julien Temple put together to accompany ABC's 1982 hit, "Poison Arrow."
The song marked ABC's transition from an industrial funk group to a full-fledged mainstream pop act. Masterminded by visionary producer Trevor Horn, ABC's debut album, The Lexicon Of Love, had the melodrama, the unabashed romanticism and the swooning orchestral flourishes of a vintage Technicolor movie. "Poison Arrow" was a particularly potent introduction to the vaulting ambition of ABC. It featured a tour-de-force vocal from frontman Martin Fry, veering from intimate to accusatory, a massive call-and-response chorus and a spoken interlude where the singer has his heart crushed by a departing lover.
Such an agonizing song needs an appropriate object of obsession and the then-22 year-old Lisa Vanderpump more than fit the bill. In Julien Temple's video, she's first glimpsed on stage emoting in a Greek tragedy. Smitten bellboy Fry brings a bouquet and his open adoration to her stage door. She has little interest in either. Vanderpump's next encounter with Fry is at a club where, clad in his iconic gold lame suit, he fronts ABC in a performance of "Poison Arrow" guaranteed to make her see her persistent admirer in an exciting new light. Once again, Fry's plan fails. Not only does the huge-haired, full-lipped young Vanderpump rebuff Fry's advances, she raises rejection and humilitaion to supernatural levels. She contemptuously blows her compact in his face, instantly reducinjg him to a few inches of terrified gold lame. Staring up at her gargantuan scarlet lips, he mouths the words, "I thought you loved me but now it seems you don't care." In retort Vanderpump mouths, "I care enough to know I can never love you." (A line delivered on the record by Karen Claytonh, a receptionsit at SARM East, the London studio where "Poison Arrow" was recorded.) Then she traps him under her martini glass and laughs at his distress in much the same way she laughs at Kim Richards and Camille Grammer. In the final stretch of the video, Vanderpump is back on stage, appropriately costumed as a crossbow-toting Greek goddess.
Lisa Vanderpump's association with ABC and Julien Temple would continue with the 1983 minimovie Mantrap, a not- very-well realized attempt to mix live concert footage with a backstage narrative. Though she would subsequently in shows the calibre of Baywatch Nights and Silk Stalkings, she never again set the screen ablaze with the same intensity she displayed in the ABC video.
At least not until her triumphant reinvention as a Real Housewife. Vanderpump's unflappable joie de vivre made her the breakout star of the Beverly Hills show. In recognition, Bravo has soun her off into her own series, premiering Janurary 7, called Vanderpump Rules. But those of us who witnessed her steal every secdond of the "Poison Arrow" video already knew that.
Click on the image below to watch the video: