6. LIFE ON THE FLIPSIDE
Twenty-three years after its single episode’s single airing, I think about Life on the Flipside almost every day. There’s no sane reason for this to be happening but, at some point, regularly, I flash back to my parents’ basement during the dark summer of 1988, watching NBC burn off this DOA pilot.
I hate that and I hate it.
Flipside, as the show was originally titled, was announced by Don Johnson’s production company as a sitcom vehicle for Ringo Starr, who was then the opposite-of-hot off his commercial campaign for Sun Country Wine Coolers.
The finished version, Life on the Flipside, seems very much created by and for individuals would declare Ringo to be their favorite Beatle.
Only Ringo’s not in it. Which, for sure, was for the best.
Now I love Ringo. Not only is he a Beatle, he’s The Funny Beatle, and he crafted one of the funniest, most godlike come-backs I’ve ever heard: when someone said, “How do you respond to people who claim you’re not a very good drummer,” Ringo replied, “I tell them I was the drummer in the Beatles.”
However, declaring Ringo to be your favorite Beatle is not unlike declaring Shemp to be your favorite Stooge.
It simply strains credulity, making one question the sincerity of the statement from even among the most likable and admirable of committed Stoogephiles, while also confirming, permanently, a desperation to be cute among the most construction-boot-to-the-bicuspids-inviting Stooge-fan fakers.
(Beatles-ranking-wise, the correct answer, of course, is that Ringo is the second best, with George and Paul tied for first.)
Life on the Flipside focuses on middle-aged rock star Tripper Day—yes, read it and puke—who doubles as a single dad when not selling out hockey arenas.
The anti-Ringo stepping in for Ringo here is British cipher Trevor Eve. Who? I don’t know either.
Tripper’s kids’ name are exactly as clever an endearing as his own: vaguely Italian teen Sonny Day (Frank Whalley), blonde pubescent Better Bea Day (Traci Lind) and wee lil’ Shea Day (Jarret Lennon), named for his pop’s stadium show after which was conceived. Haw haw.
Support color comes in the behemoth form of roadie/guru Mr. Smith, played by Dennis Burkley, a staple of 70s and 80s TV sitcoms anytime a fat biker type was needed. Mr. Burkley boasts his own transcendent rocksploitation history, as well: he stars as psycho bassist-turned-rapist “Pig” in David F. Friedman’s trash classic Bummer!
But that was Bummer and this is Life on the Flipside.
Intended as the decadent cherry alight atop this bowel-cake is Michael Des Barres as evil, weasely manager/promoter Elliot Weedle.
I said it in 1988, and before, and I’ll say it now, and again: Why on fucking fuck do I know who Michael Des Barres is?
How has this glossy glop of negative matter functioned as a rock star for forty years while neither rocking nor being a star?
Why did his ex-wife become his wife in the first place? I’m talking about Pamela Des Barres, a backstage groupie who’s famous for doing to countless rock superstars every night what Rod Stewart was rumored to have done that one time that led to quite the stomach-pumping and all manner of nasty talk that only went away once the myth morphed into Bon Jovi.
I know Michael Des Barres was in a failed band called Detective. I know he sang lead in the fake punk band Scum of the Earth on WKRP in Cincinnati (one credit I can heartily get behind). I know he took over for Robert Palmer in 1986 when the Power Station went on tour.
And I am properly disgusted with myself for knowing these things.
But I ask you: WHY do I—or you, or anybody—know who Michael Des Barres is.
Well … we do. And he was in Life on the Flipside.
I am quite fond of children in general and I never like to point out anyone’s unattractive qualities (let alone a six-year-old), but sunken-eyed, oil-mop-topped moppet Jarret Lennon (think of the first Chris Partridge, only more … from hunger) did a lot of TV in the late 80s.
Seeing this poor tyke always got me clamping my jaw tight and thinking: “Gosh … if this is what his post-toddler-hood looks like, I shudder to contemplate the puberty that awaits him.”
Life on the Flipside showcases young Mr. Lennon front and center during a tantrum scene where he rips into his old man and punctuates the tirade by running off after yelling: “David Bowie puts on a better live show than you!”
Flabbergasted, our man Tripper Day then seeks council from burly redneck Mr. Jones, explaining, “He said David Bowie puts on a better live show than me!”
Mr. Jones waits a side-splitting comic beat and then drawls, “David Bowie DOES put on a better live show’n you!”
I hate that exchange beyond description. It spooks me. As noted, I think about it daily. I hate it for simply being, and I hate that I’ve for so long had to hate it.
Of further note regarding Life on the Flipside is that another of its producers was Amy Heckerling, director of Clueless and Fast Times of Ridgemont High, and that it was co-scripted by highly hilarious and deranged funnyman Ron Zimmerman, now the 60ish boy-toy of Cher.
Also, Traci Lind aka Better Bea Day, grew up to show off her Better B-cups in a couple of movies and even, in The Road to Wellville, her own Flipside.
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