POP OVER PUNK
~ By DR. REBECCA EPSTEIN ~
A few decades ago, while some people were celebrating the brashness of punk, Kim Cooper was waving the flag for the repetitive, G-rated lyrics and upbeat rhythms of bubblegum pop. “Even in the ’60s, DJs were making fun of them,” she says.
Silly lyrics, maybe, but how could performers who got crowds dancing, singing, and smiling not have, er, sweet cred? To honor the fad, Cooper co-edited the book Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth (Feral House, 2001) and began hosting bubblegum-themed events at roller rinks and bowling alleys. This Friday, during what just happens to be International Bubblegum Month, she’ll hold the second Bubblegum Achievement Awards at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.
The awards include the premiere of a documentary inspired by Cooper’s book, which includes vintage commercials and scenes from live concerts. Also on the bill is Bob Baker himself, a local marionette artist and avid record collector, performing various acts to hot rod and ’60s monster albums, “Chopsticks,” and bubblegum hits. Raffle prizes include pre-chewed bubblegum art, which Cooper assures is much more elegant than it sounds. For example, artist Ben Harben will give away a multicolored bubblegum portrait of Lancelot Link, the ’70s TV chimpanzee detective. And in honor of today’s version of bubblegum music, artist Jason Kronenwald will offer a portrait of Britney Spears in pink-flesh-toned gum. “The art is an ironic comment on the disposability of fame,” Cooper says.
Cooper held the first Bubblegum Achievement Awards in 2003 at Hollywood’s Magic Castle. There she met her future bubblegum-mania-spreading partner, the “Bubble Queen.” A Bazooka-endorsed spokeswoman decked out in a wardrobe designed by Partridge Family fanatic Go-Go Giddle Partridge, the Queen will cohost this year’s awards with Canadian musicians Canned Hamm. Another musical treat includes honoree Ron Dante of the Archies performing his 1969 hit “Sugar Sugar.” Other award winners include Steve Barri of Lancelot Link and the Evolution Revolution, and Joey Levine, writer of hits for the Ohio Express including “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy.” Then there’s Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen. “No other DJ [in the ’60s] was willing to play old blues and bubblegum music together,” Cooper enthuses.
So what does a gummy award look like? Winged Victory with a giant pink jawbreaker bubblegum ball, of course.
Bubblegum Achievement Awards. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., downtown L.A. Info: (323) 223-2767. Fri. at 7 p.m. $52; tickets available at the door. Bubblegum-music.com.