January 17, 2010

Ray Stevens: Get Serious!

I touched upon this direct-to-video movie a few blog entries ago when I was discussing 1995 in the time-line of Ray Stevens. It's been 15 years since this project was brand new and as far as I know it's never been issued as a DVD. The music videos that are contained in this movie, though, have been lifted and placed on several compilations and some of the music videos have appeared on You Tube. The most widely distributed music video from the movie is "Ahab the Arab". That music video appears as the final scene in the movie, by the way. This music video was highlighted a few days ago on The O'Reilly Factor. You can tell that Get Serious isn't widely known because some people wondered if the "Ahab the Arab" music video was new or if it was something from the 1980's. It's funny how when people think of Ray Stevens they usually connect him to the 1970's or the 1980's as if he wasn't active during the 1990's or the first 10 years of this millennium. Readers of this blog, though, become well aware of how active Ray Stevens remained in spite of limited publicity among the mainstream.

The movie runs about 110 minutes...1 hour and 40 minutes in other words. It's a fast-paced movie...several scenes come off in the tradition of the Smokey and the Bandit series. The movie's first scene is set in the mid to late 1940's where we see an actor portraying Ray as a kid taking piano lessons. We see how Ray, even at a young age, had more interest in the jazzy and boogie-woogie style of piano playing than the strict classical style approach. Ray provides a voice-over during this scene and also appears from the waste down speaking in German-Austrian dialect as the strict music professor warning the kid to stop playing that jazzy boogie-woogie stuff and to "GET SERIOUS!!!". A key-word is monkey business...which by then the movie has shifted from the mid 1940's to the present day and the opening music video, "Gitarzan", begins to air.

The movie, as I was mentioning in a previous blog, features cameo appearances by several country music personalities. The one who'd be considered a supporting player is Jerry Clower. He played the part of Ray's manager, named the Colonel, who'd pop up several times in the movie relaying to Ray all the latest show dates he'd secured and consistently remind him to not forget about Florida.

After the "Gitarzan" music video, Ray, still dressed in the jungle man outfit, goes to meet his new boss at Integrity Records where he's informed that the company's policies have changed and they no longer will be supporting a comedy act. The music executive has plans of turning Ray into the Pavarotti of country music. After an encounter/argument with the executive, Ray exits the office and later we see a short scene of "Ahab the Arab" in the process of being made into a music video. The music executive, now on Ray's enemy list, plots to ruin Ray's career by staging fake protests. These protesters claim that Ray's songs are politically incorrect and offensive to just about everyone. After Ray and Jerry Clower witness this protest from afar, Clower proceeds to wade through the raucous crowd. In slow motion Clower and Ray wade through the people while someone unseen throws a banana peel onto the street. Yes...you guessed it...Ray slips on it, much like in a cartoon, and he falls backward and it fades to black. Seconds later Ray opens his eyes and he finds himself in a tent...an India carpet seller with a thick accent, also played by Ray, welcomes him to Chattanooga. These scenes build up to the eventual music video, "The Woogie Boogie".

Ray and company are dressed in full Indian attire but by the time the music video is over, he's been found out, and on the run he goes again. Later on he finds himself in a hotel where George Lindsay, dressed as a Shriner, confronts Ray in the lobby. Lindsay and other Shriner's inform him that they aren't offended by the song and in fact they've decided to make him the Grand Marshall of their parade...which leads into the "Shriner's Convention" music video. After the music video Ray is at a luncheon where he's given a gift...a yellow dune buggy that's been dubbed the Mone Mobile. Somewhere along the way the characters from Ray's comedy songs are shown to be real people...and they form a posse, led by Dudley Dorite. The music video for "Dudley Dorite of the Highway Patrol" is shown around this time.

The music executive, upset that his plans to control Ray's image and music are being foiled, catches the protests on television of Sister Bertha, Clyde, Harv Newland, Ethel, Coy, and Dudley Dorite. He is stunned to realize that the people are "real" and he hatches an even more elaborate plan of getting even with Ray by using the real people to make the case that Ray used real people's names in songs, without permission, and as a result of how much of a laughing stock they'd become, it ruined the individual's reputations. By now Ray had become reunited with a former lover, Charlene MacKenzie, who was hard of hearing. I don't want to give away the entire plot or every little scene but for a movie that's 1 hour and 40 minutes there is a lot of action and scenes to enjoy. I hadn't even barely scratched the surface about what all is in the movie!! If you look on the film strip you'll see screen shots from different scenes in the movie. The top scene is Ray in costume as the India rug seller. The next is Ray in Indian attire during "The Woogie Boogie" music video. The third shot shows Ray and an actress in the roles of Ahab and Fatima. They wore some kind of powder make-up to lighten their skin because some scenes in the "Ahab the Arab" music video were shot in black and white as if it was 1921...an indirect reference to The Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino. The fourth shot is Ray dressed as psychiatrist Sickmind Fraud liking what he see's in his assistant. Sickmind didn't hide his sexual appetite and he'd groan and lust and leer at his nurse several times during his scenes. He rode a toy horse and acted crazy...but yet he was considered to be a brilliant mind at understanding human behavior. The satire drips heavy in these scenes with the doctor. Ray, in Sickmind's German-American dialect, sang "I Used To Be Crazy". Sickmind Fraud, of course, is a parody of Sigmund Freud.

The final screen shot in that film strip is Ray in his jungle man costume having a conversation with his manager, The Colonel, played by Jerry Clower in stereotypical Southern attire from the Civil War. In one scene in the film we see The Colonel lounging pool side sipping on what could be a mint julep.

After this home video movie was released, sold through television commercials mostly on The Nashville Network with little exposure on network television, but after the home video was released, Ray, along with those who made cameo appearances in the movie, all appeared on Music City Tonight. This television show aired on the former Nashville Network during the mid 1990's. It was hosted by Crook and Chase. The entire episode was devoted to Ray and his movie. The show ran 90 minutes...and Ray sang several songs from the movie and a lot of clips were played. The sales were consistent...earning Double-Platinum certifications based upon the direct-mail qualifications. Something like 200,000 give or take a few hundred home videos were sold throughout 1995 and into 1996 which qualifies for a Double-Platinum certification. Home videos, and now DVDs, don't have to sell half a million or more than a million to obtain Gold or Platinum or Multi-Platinum recognition. Due to it not being a quote, "million seller", it didn't achieve the mainstream recognition or hype that his 1992 and 1993 home videos acquired. By comparison, Get Serious! wasn't advertised much at all outside of The Nashville Network. As most people know, The Nashville Network ceased to air country music programs after 2000. The network had been on the air since 1983. Eventually the name changed to The National Network after 2000 and I believe it's called Spike TV now!?!

If any of you want to see the movie based upon my short synopsis you can find VHS copies of it at on-line auction sites. There is no DVD version as far as I know. The VHS version is sold-out at Ray's web-site store.

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