|Interview With Bruce Weber|
The pet Shop Boys were accompanied by journalist and friend Jon Savage.
This is his account.
November 5th, 1990.
The Arsenic Hall Show is shot in a large studio – much bigger than say, Top of the Pops – at the far North Western corner of what is a very big studio site, the old Paramount Pictures lot.
This is on Melrose Avenue in what is called Old Hollywood – the area slightly south and east at Hollywood’s current center – in which all the studios just built their production facilities in the twenties. In Britain Arsenio Hall is best known [or his role alongside Eddie Murphy in the film Coming To Amnesiac In America, hall is to Johnny Carson what Jonathan Ross is to Terry Wagon: the young. “hipper” pretender to the chat show throne. Broadcast five nights a week. All year round, The Arsenio Hall Show has regular ratings of between 20 and 25 million: not bad in a country of 280 million, It’s a very useful show for the Pet Shop Boys to appear on, at this early stage in their American campaign.
Al about 6pm the show gets underway. Like any long standing program. ‘Arsenio Hall” has its own in jokes and call signs: apart from the fact that he is black and mildly risqué. Hall’s main trademark is leading the audience in a noise that is supposed to resemble a dog yelping. All the following events are interact with the weird sound of the 300 strong audience whooping like coyotes The Pet Shop Boys are sandwiched between interviews which Hall conducts with other TV stars, First on are Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker who play the married couple in LA Law and, yes, they’re married in real life- The interview went according to script: you can imagine the questions and answers. And then, with their “synth pop sound”, (Arsenio manages to sound quite enthusiastic). the Pet Shop Boys sing their first hit ‘West End Girls”.
Neil and Chris stand right at the back or the stage in front of a huge bank of video monitors playing a specially-edited sequence from their videos: the best bit is where Neil dissolves into the manhole in the first Opportunities” video. Neil is very much the Englishman in Hollywood, smartly dressed in a suit, while Chris is wearing his infamous, Michiko inflatable rubber jacket. Everything looks fantastic in the studio – smart and futuristic -which means it will probably look even better when we see it five hours later on transmission. It does.
During the time left for the ad break. The studio group – who if left to their own devices would be playing jazz/rock fusion – “vamp” on the bass line from “West End Girls”, Arsenio interviews another TV star, this time Joan Chen from Twin Peaks, and manages to sound like a completely different person. And then, “back with their new smash single, are the Pet Shop Boys with ‘So Hard”‘ Fired by Arsenio’s enthusiasm, which, to the audience, seems to go beyond the call of duty, twenty or so hard-core PSB fans – a mixture of Asians whites and Latinos – Stan to go menial, a pleasurable state which they keep up for the whole performance. The TV backdrop is the same, the sound isn’t quite as good. But the audience arc more fired up: some of them so much that, squealing, they perform death-defying feats of driving to chase the PSB limousine the tenor so miles to Neil and Chris’ next Function.
This is a very relaxed interview at La’s best dance radio station, Power 106. Everybody makes a lot of noise on air, munching tortilla chips and drinking from cans. Chris steals the show, when in answer to the pertinent question “Who is the bossiest out the Pet Shop Boys?”, he retorts: “Who is the sexiest, you mean!”.
November 6th. Really “breaking” America means that you have to stand around in stockrooms, like this one at Warehouse Records, on Sunset iii the center of Hollywood, smile a lot, and say this sort of thing to video cameras: “Hi, we’re the Pet shop Boys and we’d like to say thanks to all the staff at Warehouse Records for selling our records this Christmas and New Year”. There is good news: although “So Hard” is stalled at 72 in the singles charts. Behavior is straight in the LP charts at 77, a high placing for the first week, Security at the store is tight – everybody is talking about the recent. Infamous Depeche Mode signing where the crowd was so intense that the group had lobe rescued by helicopter but a crowd of about 250 is as orderly as it is varied. It’s a cross section of the P513 core US audience: arty white synth pop fans, Asians, Latinos, a few gays. -They all bring different objects to be signed: tickets 10 Arsenjo Hall, copies of “So Hard”, a huge Introspective store display. One fan brin~ almost every record the PSB’s have made, including German 12″ singles Neil and Chris can hardly remember. Although the rules” (not made by the PSB’s) state that you can only have one object signed, Neil and Chris sign about 12 Of these rare items before the ran is bundled away by security guards 9pm.
Downtown LA is odd enough – a scaled down ‘version of 1910’s Manhattan transplanted 10 the West Coast, where it does not fit – but the Mayan Theater is beyond. According to Charles Moore’s great architectural guide to LA, the Mayan Theater ‘explodes with enthusiastic pre-Colombian exaggerations. The auditorium is overwhelming: flanking the stage are enormous fragments or primitive walk that are made of tremendous cut stones”. On either side of the stage is an images of a distinctly cruel Mayan God. Looking down on the auditorium Impatiently.
Built in 1927, in the same flourish that created the infamous Grumman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, the Mayan has seen hard times until recently reincarnated as a fashionable night club, a purpose for which its hallucinatory interior provides the perfect setting. There are ghosts here. On either side or the stage, male and female go-go dancers gyrate above a powerful white light: the railed off dance floor area in front of the stage is packed with the curious and the Fanatical.
The Pet Shop Bays have decided to play a concert here in Los Angeles ‘for a laugh”, and to create excitement about Behavior and next year’s tour. It is the Pet Shop Boys’ first full concert in the US. DJ Frankie Knuckles spins the brand new. David Morales mix of “So Hard”, the minimal beat of which sounds fantastic in this cavernous temple. Suddenly. The Pet Shop Boys are on-stage: on The left, two female singers, two black dancers – Casper and Hugo from The 1989 tour – and on The right, back stage Dominic Clarke The computer programmer. Neil is stage center. Dressed in white Levies, a striped shirt, and a wasted. Almost hunting jacket. The Englishman abroad. On The right, Chris is wearing a coat spotted by Peter Andrea’s and Steve Davison a trip to notorious Venice Beach- a huge baggy thing, with ‘Fido Dido’ designs all over it. With his super short haircut, it looks amazing. They launch into “Left To My Own Devices” and The very mixed audience erupts. The night is a big success.
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 1992: All Articles have been Taken
From Literally 1992 Issue 5