Toni Basil

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Toni Basil
Basil in 2016
Antonia Christina Basilotta

(1943-09-22) September 22, 1943 (age 80)
EducationLas Vegas High School (graduate)
  • Singer
  • dancer
  • actress
  • choreographer
  • film director
Years active1964–present
AwardsAmerican Choreography Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television
Musical career
GenresNew wave[1]

Antonia Christina Basilotta (born September 22, 1943),[2] better known by her stage name Toni Basil, is an American singer, choreographer, dancer, actress, and director. Her song "Mickey" topped the charts in the US, Canada and Australia and hit the top ten in several other countries.

Early life and education[edit]

Basil was born Antonia Christina Basilotta on September 22, 1943, in Philadelphia.[3] Her father led an orchestra, and her mother performed in vaudeville.[4] Basil has Italian ancestry.[5]

She grew up in Las Vegas, where her father moved the family for his work when she was a child.[6] In 1961, Basil graduated from Las Vegas High School, where she was a head cheerleader.[6] Already known by the nickname "Toni", she later incorporated her cheerleading experience into her dance career, including her choreography/performance of "Mickey".[7] The cheerleader uniform that she wore in the video was the one she wore in high school.[8]


Dance career[edit]

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 that premiered on the ABC network in 1964. She was a lead dancer in the 1964 beach party film Pajama Party, and a dancer in the Elvis Presley movie Viva Las Vegas.

Also in 1964, she assisted choreographer Winters for Steve Binder's concert film T.A.M.I. Show.[9][10] T.A.M.I. Show would go on to be deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in 2006 in the National Film Registry.[11] Her 1960s film choreography work includes 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".

In 1968, Princess Grace Kelly's television special Monte Carlo: C'est La Rose premiered.[12] In it she accompanies lead dancer and choreographer Winters; he explained that he brought her and fellow dancer Anita Mann because they were his best students.[13] She is also credited as a choreographer for some episodes of The Carol Burnett Show.[citation needed]

In 1980, Basil choreographed, and co-directed with David Byrne, the music video for "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads. She worked with Talking Heads again to direct and choreograph the video for the song "Crosseyed and Painless", taken from the same album Remain in Light. She choreographed David Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour in 1974, his Glass Spider Tour in 1987, and his video for "Time Will Crawl" (1987). 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!: 50th Anniversary Tour in 2008/2009. Her expertise as a choreographer led her to be invited to sit as a guest judge on seasons 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.[14]

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),[15] 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 to be "the group that changed the face of dance".[third-party source needed] She is recognized as having been 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.[16]

The Lockers opened and toured with Frank Sinatra, including performances at Carnegie Hall.[17] They opened for Funkadelic at Radio City Music Hall and many acts in Las Vegas; they appeared on many television shows including the third episode of Saturday Night Live.

Basil choreographed the TV Land Awards salute to Soul Train in 2005, as well as the TV Land Awards salute to Sid and Marty Krofft in 2009. She choreographed Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at the age of 75, and appeared in an uncredited cameo, wearing her trademark fedora and dancing with Margot Robbie on the Pan Am flight. Basil was surprised by Tarantino's detailed knowledge of both 1960s dances and her previous work, and 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-LaBianca murders.[18]

Music career[edit]

Basil's recording career began in 1966 with a single for A&M Records, which was the title song of the short film Breakaway by artist Bruce Conner. The B-side was "I'm 28"[19] written by Graham Gouldman who later co-founded 10cc. Basil sang, 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. Basil sold out solo shows at The Roxy in Los Angeles in June 1976, and sang the song on The Merv Griffin Show. She and The Lockers appeared on Saturday Night Live during the first season and also in later seasons of the show, as a singer and filmmaker, to perform in her urban style Swan Lake. She was signed to Warner Bros. Records at some point in 1976, but never released any material for the label.[20]

In 1982, her single "Mickey" achieved international success. The song is a cover of "Kitty", a 1979 release by the UK band Racey, written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman and produced by the latter. The original song did not include the "Oh Mickey, you're so fine" chant, which Basil added. The video was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Basil for the UK-based label Radialchoice, before the inception of MTV in July 1981.[21] 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 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.[21] 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 6 on its list of the 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '80s.[22] In 2017, she launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against the makers of South Park over their use of the song in parodying Barack Obama's 2008 election win.[23][24]

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".[25]

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 horror film Slaughterhouse Rock, in which Basil starred. The song was not released until 2000, on the demo compilation Recombo DNA.

Acting career[edit]

Basil began her acting career by appearing in the films Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces. She was in other films including 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 television she appeared in episodes of Laverne & Shirley (playing Mickie), Dark Justice, and in Baywatch Nights as a fortune teller.

Filmmaking and music videos[edit]

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 into an energetic dance routine.[citation needed]

Basil's Word of Mouth video album was nominated for both a Grammy Award and an MTV Video Music Award. Her late 1960s 8 mm and 16 mm films toured the U.S. with the show "Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle" in 2007.[26]

Aside from directing her own video for "Mickey", she directed and choreographed the video for Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime". The video features lead singer David Byrne against a white background in a style similar to "Mickey".

Awards and accolades[edit]

Basil's awards include Hip Hop International's Living Legend Award, a Grammy nomination for Long Form Video ("Word of Mouth") in 1983, an Emmy nomination and win for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography for The Smothers Brothers in 1988,[27] 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 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.[28] She was given a 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, 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.[29]

In 2023, Basil was inducted into the Women Songwriters Hall of Fame.[30]


Year Title Role Notes
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
1966 Breakaway Dancer Short
1968 Head Daddy's Song Dancer Uncredited
1969 Sweet Charity Dancer
Easy Rider Mary
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
Citizen Soldier
1988 Slaughterhouse Rock Sammy Mitchell
Angel III: The Final Chapter Hillary
Glass Spider Choreographer
1990 Rockula Phoebe
Pacific Palisades Désirée
Catchfire Uncredited
Eating Jackie


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
Word of Mouth 22 43 45 27 15
Toni Basil
  • Released: 1983
  • Formats: LP, cassette
  • Label: Chrysalis

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Album details
The Best of Toni Basil: Mickey & Other Love Songs[38]
The Best of Toni Basil[39][40]
  • Released: 1994
  • Formats: CD, cassette
  • Label: Tring International PLC
The Best of Toni Basil: Mickey... And Other Greatest Hits[41]
  • Released: 1994
  • Formats: CD
  • Label: Form Records
Mickey!: The Best of Toni Basil[42][43]
  • Released: 1994
  • Formats: CD, cassette
  • Label: Hallmark Records
The Very Best of Toni Basil[44]
  • Released: 1997
  • Formats: CD
  • Label: Emporio
Oh Mickey!'[45]
  • Released: 2000
  • Formats: CD
  • Label: Snapper Music


Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
US Dance
"Breakaway" 1966
"Mickey" 1982 1 3 1 1 39 69 3 39 2 2 Word of Mouth
"Nobody" 52
"Time After Time" / "You Gotta Problem"
"Shoppin' from A to Z" 1983 77
"Street Beat" 63 Toni Basil
"Over My Head" 81 4
"Suspense" 1984 8
"Do You Wanna Dance"
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Work Category Result
1984 MTV Video Music Awards Over My Head Best Choreography Nominated
1984 Grammy Awards Word of Mouth Best Video Album Nominated

Works cited[edit]

  • Binder, Steve (1964). T.A.M.I. Show (DVD). Shout Factory. Barcode: 8 26664 11742 4.
  • Winters, David (2018). Tough guys do dance. Pensacola, Florida: Indigo River Publishing. ISBN 978-1-948080-27-9.


  1. ^ Huey, Steve. "Toni Basil by Steve Huey". AllMusic.
  2. ^ "Birthdays". The Modesto Bee. The Associated Press. September 22, 2022. p. 2A. Dancer/choreographer/singer Toni Basil is 79.
  3. ^ "Toni Basil Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on June 19, 2022. Retrieved June 19, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ "Toni Basil News & Biography". Toni Basil The Authorized Site. 2012. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
  5. ^ Connell, William J.; Pugliese, Stanislao G. (2017). The Routledge History of Italian Americans. New York: Routledge. p. 430. ISBN 978-1-135-04670-5.
  6. ^ a b Variety Staff (July 21, 2008). "Las Vegas who make the show go on". Variety. Archived from the original on June 19, 2022.
  7. ^ Willman, Chris (September 20, 2013). "Toni Basil at 70: Thirty Years Past Singing, But Still Cutting a Rug". Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013.
  8. ^ Sunday Morning (February 9, 2020). "Dance, dance, dance! Toni Basil has all the right moves". CBS News. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  10. ^ Binder, Steve (1964). T.A.M.I. Show (DVD). Shout Factory. 8 26664 11742 4.
  11. ^ "Librarian of Congress Adds Home Movie, Silent Films and Hollywood Classics to Film Preservation List". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Archived from the original on July 13, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  12. ^ "Princess Grace to offer musical tour of Monaco". Dayton Daily News. Vol. 91. January 20, 1968. p. 3-A.
  13. ^ Winters, David (2018). Tough guys do dance. Pensacola, Florida: Indigo River Publishing. pp. 2196–6071. ISBN 978-1-948080-27-9.
  14. ^ Banes, Sally (1994). Writing Dancing in the Age of Postmodernism. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0819562688.
  15. ^ My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) at IMDb
  16. ^ Sommer, Sally (January 2012). "Balletic Breakin'". Dance Magazine. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  17. ^ "The Lockers History". The Lockers. 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  18. ^ Levine, Debra (August 6, 2019). "Quentin Tarantino's Goddess of Go-Go". The New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  19. ^ "'Breakaway/I'm 28' single". No Mickey Taking Here!. June 18, 2010.
  20. ^ "200 Artists to 3 Labels" (PDF). Billboard. August 28, 1976. p. 18.
  21. ^ a b "Mickey by Toni Basil".
  22. ^ Macnie, Jim (April 1, 2009). "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s: Read the List". VH1. Archived from the original on July 14, 2009. Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  23. ^ Allegretti, Aubrey (September 1, 2017). "'Mickey' singer Toni Basil sues South Park". London, England: Sky News. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  24. ^ Vogt, RJ (February 15, 2018). "Disney, Others Beat 'Mickey' Singer Toni Basil's TM Claims". Retrieved July 23, 2022.
  25. ^ "Choreographer/Director Toni Basil". McDonald / Selznick Associates. 2012. Archived from the original on June 9, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  26. ^ "Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle". NYU Grey Art Gallery. 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
  27. ^ "Primetime Emmy Award Database". 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
  28. ^ Karger, Dave (November 1, 1996). "What Ever Happened To...?". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 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.
  29. ^ Perry, Aliya. "Carnival Celebrates Its 13th Anniversary". TIV Awards.
  30. ^ "3RD Annual Women Songwriters Hall Of Fame Awards Celebrates Icons - Jan Daley Angela Bofill Ann Hampton Callaway". Ein Presswire. April 18, 2023.
  31. ^ "Toni Basil Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  32. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 27. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  33. ^ "RPM – Top Albums/CDs – Volume 37, No. 21, January 22, 1983". Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  34. ^ a b "Toni Basil in New Zealand Charts". Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  35. ^ a b "Official Charts > Toni Basil". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  36. ^ a b "RIAA – Gold & Platinum: Toni Basil". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  37. ^ a b "Music Canada – Gold & Platinum Search: Toni Basil". Music Canada. Retrieved February 16, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  38. ^ The Best Of Toni Basil: Mickey And Other Love Songs (CD back cover). Toni Basil. Razor & Tie. 1994. RE 2057.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  39. ^ The Best Of Toni Basil (CD back cover). Toni Basil. Tring International PLC. 1994. JHD135.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  40. ^ The Best Of Toni Basil (Cassette tape back cover). Toni Basil. Tring International PLC. 1994. MCJHD135.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  41. ^ The Best of Toni Basil: Mickey... And Other Greatest Hits (CD back cover). Toni Basil. Form Records. 1994. JHD135.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  42. ^ Mickey!: The Best of Toni Basil (CD back cover). Toni Basil. Hallmark Records. 1994. 301642.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  43. ^ Mickey!: The Best of Toni Basil (Cassette back cover). Toni Basil. Hallmark Records. 1994. 301644.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  44. ^ The Very Best Of Toni Basil (CD back cover). Toni Basil. Emporio. 1997. EMPRCD 752.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  45. ^ Oh Mickey! (CD back cover). Toni Basil. Snapper Music. 2000. SMD CD 462.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  46. ^ "Toni Basil Chart History: Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  47. ^ "Toni Basil Chart History: Dance Club Songs". Billboard. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  48. ^ "RPM Top 50 Singles - December 25, 1982" (PDF).
  49. ^ "Ultratop Vlaanderen > Zoeken naar: Toni Basil" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  50. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts > Toni Basil – Mickey (single)" (in German). Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  51. ^ "The Irish Charts: All there is to know > Search results for Toni Basil (from". (original source published by Fireball Media). Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  52. ^ " > Toni Basil in Dutch Charts" (in Dutch). Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  53. ^ "Kent Music Report No 453 – 28 February 1983 > Platinum and Gold Singles 1982". (original document published by Kent Music Report). Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  54. ^ BPI – Certified Awards Archived July 10, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Type "Toni Basil" in search box

External links[edit]