Back in 1966, Toni Basil recorded her debut single, “I’m 28,” in which she expresses horror at the onset of maturity: “I don’t want to finish up alone in a rocking chair.” She meant it. Now 70, the former go-go dancer is still on the go. The week after our interview, she’s scheduled to fly to New York for the closing of Bette Midler’s recent Broadway engagement. She’s got a hold on the following week to shoot a TV commercial. Street dance competitions around the globe regularly invite her to judge young hopefuls.
“I don’t like to fly,” she admits. “Flying is the worst part of it.” She racks up frequent flyer miles nevertheless. They come in handy for upgrades.
Pinning Basil down for an interview is a cakewalk compared to summarizing her career. She’s been nominated for multiple Emmy, Grammy, and MTV awards. Her IMDb.com entry lists more than 100 credits, ranging from the 1964 Frankie-and-Annette romp Pajama Party and 1979’s The Rose to a forthcoming Devo documentary. In 2008, Hip Hop International – host of the World Hip Hop Dance Championship – anointed her a Living Legend of Hip Hop.
And then there’s “Mickey.” Basil’s signature hit shot to No. 1 on the U.S. charts in 1982, thanks to its innovative cheerleading video and the unforgettable chant she amended to the original song (written by glam-rock vets Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn). Today, “Mickey” is enshrined in both The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Museum of Modern Art, where that iconic video – produced, directed, choreographed, edited, and performed by Basil – resides in the permanent collection.
Follow-up chart success eluded Basil, yet her other accomplishments prove almost too numerous to distill into a simple retrospective. For mere mortals, standing in for Ann-Margret during the filming of Viva Las Vegas, dancing onscreen with Monkees heartthrob Davy Jones in Head, or supporting Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall would be a lifetime achievement. Toni Basil has done all three … and a hell of a lot more.
Music Editor Kurt B. Reighley explodes the notion that she’s just a one-hit wonder and proves that “Toni Basil Is Cooler Than You. (Really.)” Read the full cover story in DINOSAUR No. 1 to find out just how much.