Toni Basil in October 2016
Antonia Christina Basilotta
September 22, 1943
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Home town||Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.|
|Awards||American Choreography Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television|
|Website||Toni Basil's Site|
Antonia Christina Basilotta (born September 22, 1943), better known by her stage name Toni Basil, is an American singer, actress, choreographer, dancer, and filmmaker, best known for her multi-million-selling worldwide hit "Mickey" (1981), which reached No. 1 in several countries.
Basil was born Antonia Christina Basilotta in Philadelphia. Her mother, Jacqueline Jessica Anderson, was a vaudevillian acrobatic comedian in her family's act "Billy Wells and The Four Fays". Her father, Louis Basilotta, was an orchestra leader who conducted orchestras at the Chicago Theatre and at the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, among other locations.
While her family was living in Las Vegas where Antonia attended high school, she was one of the sports cheerleaders for the Las Vegas High School Wildcats, and graduated as part of the class of 1961. Already known by the nickname "Toni" by this time, she later incorporated her cheerleading experience into her dance career and her performance of "Mickey" in both performing the selection and choreographing its video. The cheerleader uniform that she wore in the video was a redesigned version of the one she wore in high school.
Basil started dancing professionally in childhood, but her career started when she served as an assistant choreographer to David Winters and as a dancer on Shindig!, a breakthrough music variety show which premiered on the ABC network in 1964. In addition, she was assistant choreographer and a dancer on the 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show (Teen-Age Music International) choreographed by David Winters, which featured fellow dancer and friend Teri Garr. Some of her 1960s film choreography work include Village of the Giants (1965), The Cool Ones (1967), and the Monkees' 1968 film Head in which she is partnered on-screen with Davy Jones during "Daddy's Song".
Basil choreographed, and co-directed with David Byrne, the music video for "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads in 1980. She worked with Talking Heads again to direct and choreograph the video for the song "Crosseyed and Painless". She choreographed David Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour in 1974, his Glass Spider Tour in 1987, and his video for "Time Will Crawl". She has worked with Bette Midler for many years, including her 2008/2009 Las Vegas show The Showgirl Must Go On. She served as the associate director and choreographer of the worldwide Tina Turner Live: 50th Anniversary Concert Tour in 2008/2009. Her expertise as a choreographer led her to be invited to sit as a guest judge on season four and five of Fox Broadcasting Company's So You Think You Can Dance? In addition, she is credited with bringing street dance to prominence as a founding member and manager of The Lockers.
Her film choreography through the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s include American Graffiti (1973), The Rose (1979), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Something to Talk About (1995), That Thing You Do (1996), My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), Legally Blonde (2001), Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003), Charlie Wilson's War (2007), and The House Bunny (2008).
Basil is one of the seven original Lockers, the street dance group considered "the group that changed the face of dance". She is recognized as a seminal influence in bringing street dance to the attention of the American public. A 2012 Dance Magazine article cited Basil as the pioneer in merging ballet with street dance for a piece she choreographed for Saturday Night Live, "Swan Lake", in 1978.
The Lockers opened and toured with Frank Sinatra, including performances at Carnegie Hall. They opened for Funkadelic at Radio City Music Hall and many acts in Las Vegas, and made countless television appearances including the third episode of Saturday Night Live.
Basil choreographed Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at the age of 75. She said she was surprised by Tarantino's detailed knowledge of both 60's dances and her previous work. She also said she personally knew two of the real-life people who are portrayed in the film: Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring, who were both killed in the Tate murders.
Basil's recording career began in 1966 with a single for A&M Records which was the title song from the short film Breakaway, and the B-side was "I'm 28" written by Graham Gouldman who later co-founded 10cc. This film was made by artist Bruce Conner. Basil was asked to sing, solo, the swinging jazz number "Wham Rebop Boom Bam" in the first season of Saturday Night Live for the January 17, 1976, show with Buck Henry as host. Toni sold out solo shows at The Roxy in Los Angeles in June 1976, and sang the song on The Merv Griffin Show. She also guested with The Lockers during the first season of Saturday Night Live and, on later seasons, as a singer and filmmaker, to perform in her urban style Swan Lake. In 1982 she released the single "Mickey", which achieved international success. This song is a cover of "Kitty", a 1979 release by the UK band Racey, which was written by British songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman and produced by Chapman. The original song did not include the famous "Oh Mickey, you're so fine" chant, which Basil added.
"Mickey" was actually recorded in 1980 and the video was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Basil herself for the UK-based label Radialchoice nearly a year before the inception of MTV in 1981. Issued on Chrysalis Records in September 1982 in the US, the song knocked Lionel Richie from No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December. It also topped the chart in Canada where it was issued by Virgin Records. The 45 was quickly certified Gold and in early 1983 reached Platinum status for sales of over 2 million copies in the United States alone. The music video for "Mickey" was one of the most popular early MTV videos. In the video, Basil wore her head cheerleader uniform from Las Vegas High School from which she graduated. During an interview on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of The 80's", Basil said that she still owns the same cheerleader sweater she wore in the video. In 2009, VH1 ranked "Mickey" Number 5 on its list of the 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '80s. In 2017 she sued the makers of South Park over their use of the song in parodying Barack Obama's 2008 election win.
For television, Basil has appeared as an actress and featured singer/dancer in many television shows and specials. She co-directed and choreographed two BBC specials with Alan Walsh and Ken Stephenson called "Toni Basil Tape 1" and "Toni Basil Tape 2".
Basil's recording career consists of only two albums. Her first album, 1982's Word of Mouth, included a second Hot 100 single "Shoppin' from A to Z", as well as three songs by Devo, with the group providing the backing track. The track "Space Girls" was a re-recording of a 1974 Devo demo titled "Space Girl Blues" that was later released on Devo's "Hardcore Devo: Volume One". Devo member Gerald Casale and Basil were in a relationship at the time, and Basil had been an early supporter of the group.
Toni Basil (1983), her eponymous second album, yielded a third and final Hot 100 charting single, "Over My Head", which reached No. 4 on the U.S. Dance chart. Her song "Girls Night Out" appeared on the 1986 movie soundtrack Modern Girls. To date, there have been five Toni Basil best of collections released on CD. In 1999, DJ and producer Jason Nevins's dance remix of "Mickey" was a club hit in Europe and Australia.
Basil contributed vocals for the Devo song "The Only One" in 1987, part of the soundtrack of the flop horror film Slaughterhouse Rock, which Basil also starred in. The song was not released until 2000 on the demo compilation Recombo DNA.
As an actress, Basil started off in the films Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces. Some of her other films are The Last Movie (directed by Dennis Hopper), Greaser's Palace (directed by Robert Downey, Sr.), Mother, Jugs & Speed, Village of the Giants, Rockula (with Thomas Dolby) and Slaughterhouse Rock. On TV, she has appeared in episodes of Laverne And Shirley, Dark Justice, and in Baywatch Nights as a fortune teller.
Film making and music videos
Basil directed short art films including Game of the Week, A Dance Film, Out Trip, and The Ping Pong Match. Predating music videos, these avant garde pieces found a new audience and were exhibited at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, and New York University's Grey Art Gallery. The Los Angeles Times noted Basil's 'deft editing transformed an ordinary ping pong match between Gray & Stockwell (both noted American actors) into an energetic dance routine.
The music video for "Mickey" is considered the first choreographed dance video, and due to its heavy play on MTV, inspired countless music videos of the modern era. The opening stunt, where two cheerleaders jump through the center of a human pyramid, is now illegal in competition.
Aside from directing her own video for "Mickey", she also directed and choreographed the video for Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime", featuring lead singer David Byrne against a white background in a similar style to Basil's "Mickey".
Awards and accolades
Basil's awards include Hip Hop International's Living Legend Award, a Grammy nomination for Long Form Video ("Word Of Mouth") 1983, an Emmy nomination and win for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography / The Smothers Brothers 1988, two MTV Award nominations, American Choreography Awards: four nominations and two wins including Lifetime Achievement Innovator, and The Los Angeles Theater Ovation: Street Dance Award. Exhibitions include the Museum of Modern Art: Videos, and the Santa Monica Museum of Art: Short Films. She has also received platinum and gold discs in the US, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Philippines, and France. Her single "Mickey" was installed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the groundbreaking singles of the 1980s. She was given tribute at The Carnival: Choreographer's Ball, Monsters of Hip-Hop Masters of Movement, and in Portraits of America's Great Choreographers. She was featured in the Museum of Modern Art Calendar of Artists and on the cover of Dance Magazine.
On January 25, 2012, Toni Basil presented The Electric Boogaloos with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th anniversary show of The Carnival: Choreographer's Ball for their role in popularizing dance styles such as popping and electric boogie.
|1964||Viva Las Vegas||Dancer in Red Dress (What'd I Say)||Uncredited|
|Robin and the 7 Hoods||Flapper|
|Pajama Party||Pajama Girl No. 15|
|T.A.M.I. Show||Herself – Go-Go Dancer||Documentary|
|1965||Village of the Giants||Red|
|1968||Head||Daddy's Song Dancer||Uncredited|
|1970||Myra Breckinridge||Cigarette Girl||Uncredited|
|Five Easy Pieces||Terry Grouse|
|1971||The Last Movie||Rose|
|1972||Greaser's Palace||Indian Girl|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Awards Ceremony Guest||Uncredited|
|Mother, Jugs & Speed||Addict|
|1988||Slaughterhouse Rock||Sammy Mitchell|
|Angel III: The Final Chapter||Hillary|
|2019||Once Upon a Time in Hollywood||Dancer||Uncredited|
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Word of Mouth||22||43||45||27||15|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"Breakaway" / "I'm 28"||1966||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||N/A|
|"Mickey"||1982||1||3||1||1||39||69||3||39||2||2||Word of Mouth|
|"Time After Time" / "You Gotta Problem"||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Shoppin' from A to Z"||1983||77||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Over My Head"||81||4||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||Toni Basil|
|"Do You Wanna Dance"||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
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Her picture may be hanging in Cleveland as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's 14 exemplary One Hit Wonders, but don't mention that three-word curse around Toni Basil.
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- BPI – Certified Awards Type "Toni Basil" in search box