Trippin' with Toni BasilYou know how sometimes, in old movies, the credits roll as the film opens? Well, I was watching Easy Rider (1969, my friends – it’s officially an old movie now) the other day and as the opening credits went across the screen, I saw a familiar name: Toni Basil.
I can’t honestly say if I knew she was in the movie and had forgotten, or if it came as a bit of a surprise. While I know she is a choreographer of some renown, to me, Toni Basil is, was, and always will be the “Oh, Mickey, you’re so fine” girl.
In case you didn’t know – or like me, you maybe forgot – Toni plays “Mary” in Easy Rider. Near the end of the film, when Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda finally arrive in New Orleans, they visit a brothel where they meet Mary and another girl, Karen (played by Karen Black). The four of them go to the Mardi Gras parade, and then visit a cemetery, where they drop acid. In your Mr. Skin moment, there is a little bit of Toni Basil nudity here. There is also an interestingly filmed representation of the group’s trip.
Easy Rider was probably Toni’s biggest role; prior to that she had a few parts where she was credited – if she was credited at all – in roles such as “Dancer” or “Pajama Girl.” She also had a few small roles following Easy Rider, mainly in classics such as Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood; and Angel III: The Final Chapter. I think it’s safe to say Toni found much more success as a choreographer.
But let’s not forget Toni’s musical career. Her 1982 album Word of Mouth and the smash hit “Mickey” firmly established her as one of the greatest one-hit wonders ever. Something else I didn’t know about Toni Basil until I started researching around: Most of the members of Devo played on the Word of Mouth disk. If you can believe what you read, Toni and Devo bass player Jerry Casale were dating at the time and Toni had been a long-time Devo fan.
One of the songs Toni chose for her album was “Be Stiff,” which was a Devo rarity. The song was initially released on their 1978 EP, Be Stiff. Devo wouldn’t officially release the song again until their 1990 compilation disk Greatest Misses. Toni’s is a fun version, with her pop vocals over Devo’s edgy new wave instrumentation.