by G. Jack Urso
The now-defunct Record World, along with Billboard and Cashbox, was considered among the Holy Trinity of U.S. music trade magazines. Its run from 1946 through 1982 covered the height of the Post-War, Post-Modern popular music scene. In this article, the magazine focuses on the music-end of Hot Hero Sandwich with some rare quotes by Felix Pappalardi about the show and plans for the Hot Hero Band which, unfortunately, never came to pass.
The complete article is provided below.
‘Hero Sandwich’ Offers Varied Menu
By Joseph Ianello, Record World, Nov. 24, 1979
“Hot Hero Sandwich” is an hour-long potpourri of interviews with “Hot Heroes” of today. The first show included Bruce Jenner, Olivia Newton-John, Erik Estrada, and Donna Pescow; sketches performed by the “Hot Hero Sandwich” repertory company, a group of seven performers in their late teens and early twenties; animated sequences depicting the dreams of adolescents as told to Dr. Lee Salk; and music sequences done by a new group called “Hot Hero” with special guest stars like Sister Sledge, Joe Jackson, Little River Band, Eddie Money, the Persuasions, Rex Smith, and Stephen Stills.
“For years we had been going to the network saying we'd like to do a series that was something different from the typical Saturday morning programming, but we could never get them to agree to it,” said Carole, who won an Emmy in 1974 for co-producing the Mario Thomas special ”Free To Be . . . You And Me.” The typical Saturday morning programming that Carole and Bruce abhor along with so many others is the continual parade of anti-social and violent cartoon characters who are glorified for their foolish behavior and senseless actions.
The Harts had just finished “Sooner Or Later,” a March 25 movie musical made for television, about a teenage girl's emergence into womanhood, when NBC totally reversed their previous stance and offered them an opportunity to come up with something of their own. “We came up with an idea of building mixed-media entertainment around a kind of emotional core of interviews with a series of interesting people,” Carole reflected. The show has developed into a fast-paced, high-energy program that entertains while encouraging viewers to confront personal feelings, ideas and values conflicts while offering possible resolutions. None of the humanistic interviews, sketches, animations, or musical interludes are longer than three minutes, but all are in some way related to a central theme that ties together each show. And central to the success of these themes is the humor and music which are used to maintain interest while underscoring important points.
“The kind of humor you find on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ irreverent and hard-hitting, is the kind of humor young people relate to,” Bruce commented. “We thought that if our humor was any less than that, if we didn't have them laughing at the funny parts and boogieing at the music parts, then they wouldn't sit around for the talk parts.”
“One of the most important ingredients in the linkage of one concept to another within the total thematic framework of the show is the music, those little transitional pieces are quite instrumental in keeping the whole thing together,” Bruce added. Recognizing from the beginning how important music would be to the show, the Harts set out to find a music director who had an extensive background ranging from pop to rock to classical. Felix Pappalardi, producer for the Youngbloods, Cream, Hot Tuna, and Mountain, fit the bill and the circumstances surrounding his hiring are as unique as the job he fills, as Carole recounts: “We were breakfasting with a friend who's a psychic just about the time we were looking for a music director and she said, ‘Carole, see the name Felix behind your head’. Bruce and our film editor simultaneously said Pappalardi. We called him in Nantucket and he was working for us the next night.”
The pop-rock guests perform songs from their catalogues that fit the themes of the show rather than promote their latest record. On the first show, Sister Sledge sang “We Are Family” to tie in with the idea of friendship which was dealt with in the last act of the program. In a future program, Joe Jackson will do is “Radio,” a song about a young man being frustrated and wanting to get back at the people who held him down. “That's a thing that lots of young people feel so even though it’s a great pop tune, it’s expressing a fairly universal emotion,” Bruce stated.
According to Pappalardi, all the music is prerecorded because the show uses a neon set which creates a loud hum when amplifiers are turned on. While the superstar guests appear mainly to elaborate on themes, the show's “Hero Band” writes some of the music and performs almost all of the interludes, transitions, bumpers, and its own songs. The band is comprised of Robert Brissette, lead vocalist and bass; Mark Cunningham, lead and rhythm guitar; Richard Annunziato, lead vocalist and guitars; and Michael Ratti, drums. “We're not using the band specifically to break them,” said Bruce. “We were looking for a good young music act whose material would fit thematically while serving as audience identification models.”
Even though Bruce readily admits that “Hot Hero” was custom made for the show, he also recognizes that the series could act as a springboard to propel the group into national hit-maker status. The Harts’ recent success with “Sooner Or Later” and the subsequent emergence of Rex Smith from a co-starring role in that show to teen idol with his top 10 single "You Take My Breath Away,” makes the idea that much more feasible. “These guys are bad-assed players," said Pappalardi. “Bruce, Carole and I have definitely talked about cast, theme or band albums for the future and I can't wait to do a ‘Hot Hero’ record but there are no plans at the moment.”
The broad age appeal of the program and its concern with the real life experiences of today's heroes who at one time were going through the same problems as the viewers, should make it a hit. Yet there are those who claim that the fast pace and brief segments encourage hyperactivity and shorten the attention span of the audience while only superficially treating serious problems. Bruce addressed himself to this criticism stating, “We spend a lot of time trying to make things relate to one another so the viewers' attention carries over from scene one to scene 35.” Pappalardi, who calls young people his favorite in the world, adds, “Kids don't get talked to enough at home so it’s nice when they see people that perhaps they emulate all of the sudden saying things like, ‘hey, it was hard for Bruce Jenner on his first kiss.’ It's really like that for other people too!”
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