Viewers of MTV in its early years will readily recall Toni Basil, who celebrated her 79th birthday on September 22. Bouncing across the screen in her cheerleader outfit as she sang her hit “Mickey,” Basil made an indelible impression. But what many of those viewers may not have known is that as a dancer and choreographer, Toni Basil already had a distinguished career that began in the 1960s and would continue far into the future (she choreographed parts of Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Here are five classic tracks in which Toni Basil had a role.
The Monkees – “Daddy’s Song” By 1968 The Monkees’ weekly TV show had been canceled. But the group had ambitions beyond television, so – working with edgy luminaries like Jack Nicholson and Frank Zappa – they made a bizarre theatrical film, Head. Each of the Monkees had a spotlight number, and this one featuring Davy Jones includes choreographer and dance partner Toni Basil.
Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime” One of the most groundbreaking and iconic music videos of the MTV era is this 1980 clip. David Byrne enlisted Toni Basil to choreograph the video, which uses some of the same “green screen” techniques employed in Basil’s “Mickey” clip.
Dorothy Lamour – “Where Did I Go Wrong” The wacky 1964 motion picture Pajama Party featured some uptempo dance numbers, including this tune. Toni is one of the featured dancers, as is Teri Garr, an actress later to gain wide fame (and an Academy Award nomination) in films including Tootsie and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Elvis Presley – “What’d I Say” The King made a lot of movies, and if we’re honest, we’ll admit that most of them were inconsequential at best. But today 1964’s Viva Las Vegas ranks among the most prized of all Elvis movies. And at least some of the credit goes to Toni Basil, who appears as a featured dancer alongside Elvis and Ann-Margret during a thrilling sequence of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.”
Toni Basil – “Mickey” No discussion of Toni Basil’s work wooed be complete without her widely popular video. The song itself is a cover of a relatively unknown tune, “Kitty,” by British pop group Racey. Basil changed the lyrics, and the signature chant “Hey Mickey, you’re so fine / you’re so fine you blow my mind” is her own addition to the song. And while she embodies youthful energy in the clip, Basil was 37 when she shot the “Mickey” video.