THE BOOTLEG FILES: "WHIRLY GIRL" Image

BOOTLEG FILES 142: “Whirly Girl” (1983 music video starring Oxo in their sole hit song).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR DISAPPEARANCE: No call for it.

CHANCES OF SEEING A DVD RELEASE: Not at all.

I have a confession to make: I am a YouTube addict. Yes, I love that damn site and its endless collection of rare, absurd and hypnotic videos. Whether it is a classic film or TV clip or some nutty home movie, I find YouTube truly entertaining.

For bootleg videos, YouTube is the mother lode. Most of the stuff presented there is clearly violating copyright laws about public presentation, but for the most part the copyright owners are not complaining. And in the case of true bootleg rarities and oddities, the lack of cease-and-desist orders allows for marvelous discoveries.

Case in point: the 1983 music video for “Whirly Girl” from the New Wave group Oxo. I know, you are probably thinking: Who? What?

First, some background on Oxo: that was a New Wave group founded by Cuban-born singer Ish Ledesma following the break-up of his group Foxy and his less-than-stellar attempt at a solo career. Switching his focus from his career-establishing disco to the up-and-coming New Wave scene, Ledesma filled out Oxo with the single-named guitarist Orlando, bass player Frank Garcia, and drummer Freddy Alwag. Somehow, these guys were signed by Geffen Records.

To establish a gimmick, the four Oxo guys wore shirts of different colors that would enable people to tell them apart. This gimmick would be used years later by The Wiggles, although that Australian kiddie pop group wore long sleeve shirts while Oxo wore sleeveless muscle shirts – not a great idea, actually, since none of the Oxo boys had any muscles to display.

Oxo hit the music scene with a self-titled 1983 release. Most of the music was as forgettable as the titles of their tracks: “Dance All Night,” “Wanna Be Your Love,” “Back in Town,” “I’ll Take You Back,” “Love I Need Her” and “Runnin’ Low.” That last song was oddly prophetic – within a year of the release, the album was a mainstay in the cut-out bins and Oxo disbanded.

But one song stood out, for no reason except that it was so damn silly: the first track of the album, “Whirly Girl.” Celebrating a free-spirited slut, the song opens with the stanza: “Let me tell you ’bout the girl I know / She’s been to Paris, France / And she can really dance / Like a spinning top, she’s got no stop / She picks you up and then / She lets you drop / Listen!”

Are you listening? Apparently, this girl is “really hip and she can go go go / Like a straight shooter, she’s got her downs / Won’t hesitate to put you on the ground / She’s been with the Rolling Stones /
On their tours / And in their homes” – obviously, any girl who gets f****d by Keith Richards is worth knowing, yes?

Okay, so it is empty-headed nonsense in regard to the lyrics. But the catchy music had an infectious and deliriously repetitious beat that was difficult to exorcise from the mind once it took root. “Whirly Girl” charted and stayed on the air for about four months in 1983.

But what role the music video of “Whirly Girl” had in its success is hard to say. Honestly, it is among the dumbest music videos ever made.

Set in a carnival fairground, the video has the Oxo boys on a stage in front of a motley audience. Ish Ledesma, wearing a bumblebee-motif jacket and straw hat and using a bamboo cane (a la Charlie Chaplin), calls the audience to the stage to witness the opening of a large box. The box comes apart to reveal a woman in a tight blouse, teeny mini-skirt, and red gloves on her hands plus a red ribbon around her neck. Ledesma unwinds a purple ribbon around her waist and the Whirly Girl goes ape s**t on the stage, kicking the drums with her stiletto heels while kicking Ledesma in his backside.

The Whirly Girl then jumps from the stage and begins molesting and bothering every man in sight. No gonad-bearing biped is safe from her: a pair of juggling clowns have their balls knocked from mid-air, a unicyclist falls from his perch into Oxo’s arms, and a balloon salesman with a red clown’s nose goes melancholy when she refuses to feed his depravity (he lets his balloons soar free while he starts doing turns about the fairground). The only man who seems unaware of her is a weirdo in an oversized suit who twirls a biscuit above a mutt’s head, making the poor canine get up on its hind legs and dance in circles while the elusive treat dangles just out of its jaws’ grasp.

Eventually the Whirly Girl blasts off into space (via animation that looks as if it was created on a DOS software platform). She returns to the fairground and finds three large boxes on the stage marked with O’s and X’s (spelling Oxo, of course). These large boxes abruptly rise on shapely legs and start dancing around. The Whirly Girl then makes the cartoon images of the carnival freak show posters come to life – a rubber man stretches his cheeks grotesquely while the resident fat lady chuckles in obese glee. Oxo gets its act together by getting the Whirly Girl back in her box and sealing it, at which point they collapse.

To be frank, this description actually makes “Whirly Girl” sound tame and fairly sane (at least by music video standards). My advice: check it out on YouTube and see for yourself. The video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIMsNZhv_Z4.

Oxo actually attempted another music video, for a song called “In the Stars.” It found them as astronauts in outer space, but never found an audience. The song did not chart and the video barely played in those early MTV days.

“Whirly Girl,” however, turned up on MTV and the other music video shows of that era (I saw it on HBO, which used to have its own music video selection show). After the song ran its course and Oxo disbanded, the video disappeared. The song itself has turned up in a few 80s compilation CDs and has been discussed on Net sites devoted to bad music; the video appears to have been shown again on VH1 recently as part of an 80s nostalgia kick, which is where the YouTube bootleg comes from.

Believe me, once you view “Whirly Girl” and hear the song, you’ll be humming the chorus too long:

“Whirly whirly whirly whirly girl
Whirly girl, whirly girl
Whirly whirly whirly whirly girl
Whirly girl, whirly girl.”

Or if you have self-control, maybe you won’t. Which makes you a better person that I can ever be!

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material is not widely appreciated by the entertainment industry, and on occasion law enforcement personnel help boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and sell bootleg videos, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. The purchase and ownership of bootleg videos, however, is perfectly legal and we think that’s just peachy! This column was brought to you by Phil Hall, a contributing editor at Film Threat and the man who knows where to get the good stuff…on video, that is.

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