Havin' A Ball With Marie Osmond
by Kathy Fennessy
October 14, 2011
No, not that kind of ball! If the Osmonds could go wig-out metal, their only sister, Marie, could surely go Dada, right? Well, she could and she did.
I've known about the 1993 soundtrack to Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces ("A Secret History of the Twentieth Century") for awhile now, but I didn't actually listen to the 27-track set until a few days ago, thanks to the keen archivists at UbuWeb. According to Richard Metzger (Dangerous Minds), "A twentieth anniversary edition [of the book] was published by Harvard Press in 2009."
Some of the tracks are great, some merely interesting, but all have some bearing on Marcus's mapping out of the connections between Situationist International, Surrealism, Dada, R&B, punk, post-punk, and other styles and movements.
A few tracks are grating, especially Gil J. Wolman's "Mégapneumies, 24 Mars 1963 (Face 1)" and the Mekons' "The Building," but the biggest revelation is Marie Osmond's recitation of a nonsense-word poem from 1916. (In Lipstick Traces, Marcus describes her as "an over-publicized exponent of traditional values.")
My friend, Bill, did some UbuWeb exploring, and came across the following:
Taken from a Ripley's Believe It Or Not segment on sound poetry from the mid-'80s. According to producer Jed Rasula, "Marie Osmond became co-host with Jack Palance [replacing his daughter, Holly]. In the format of the show, little topic clusters (like 'weird language') were introduced by one of the hosts. In this case, the frame was Cabaret Voltaire. Marie was required to read Hugo Ball's sound poem 'Karawane' and a few script lines. Much to everybody's astonishment, when they started filming, she abruptly looked away from the cue cards directly into the camera and recited, by memory, 'Karawane.' It blew everybody away, and I think they only needed that one take."
I had no idea Marie was capable of this kind of weirdness. Like many longtime celebrities, she's made some stupid career moves and experienced her share of crap times (postpartum depression, a son's suicide, etc.), but she just went up a notch in my estimation. I realize she's since moved on to more middle-American endeavors like quilt-making and doll-designing.
Hugo Ball's better known pop moment arrived when the Talking Heads transformed his poem "Gadji beri bimba" into "I Zimbra" on 1979's Fear of Music, for which he received a writing credit.