Monday, August 13, 2012

Have You Seen Roni Griffith?

First, something that can’t be argued: 80s singer Roni Griffith looked like Virginia Madsen before we knew that Virginia Madsen looked like Virginia Madsen. The proof? The video for her minor hit, “Desire.”

Now, some statements which may be slightly less easy to agree with:

Roni Griffith is not the name of a pop star, even by 80s standards. It’s the name of your mom’s friend. You know — Roni Griffith, who bought a used Cadillac and then told everyone it was brand new, but you’re mom’s other friend Nancy Cardinelli blabbed because she’s married to the owner of the Cadillac dealership and oh my god, can you believe that Roni Griffith?

To me, the video is notable for a few reasons:
  • Backup dancers gyrating in mesh structures that look like expanding condoms.
  • Roni’s trench coat.
  • Roni’s passing resemblance to Melanie Hutsell, which puts Hutsell in on a level with Virginia Madsen that I hadn’t considered before.
  • They keyboard solo.
  • Roni’s fun dance where it looks like an invisible man is dragging one of her arms over to the side.
  • The fact that she’s performing from a podium wreathed by artificial leaves, as if her trench-clad body were the stamen emerging from some wonderfully dated flower.
And it’s strange to me that this perfectly danceable 80s track would be so obscure today when so many other equally danceable (but equally trite) 80s songs should remain in rotation in bars and at Obnoxious Girl parties today. Unfortunately, there’s little information about Roni available online, so I have to go buy the flimsy bio that Wikipedia provides, which, brevity notwithstanding, offers this telling sentence: “On the eve of her first music video and her launch on the new music media outlet MTV, Griffith decided to walk away from everything based on her morals and values as a Christian in the secular music industry.” She later released a collection of contemporary Christian songs. Perhaps the giant mesh condoms drove her that direction?

Theory: In retrospect, the invisible man pulling her arm to the side in the “Desire” video was obviously God.

Also: She once performed on Saturday Night Live with her original band, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, in an 1981 episode hosted by Elliott Gould. I had also never heard of this band.

Also also: She’s American. Is that surprising? I would have bet that she would have been British.


  1. I know you didn't really mean it that way but Kid Creole and the Coconuts--a true highlight of the early '80s (yes, there is such a thing!)--was August Darnell's band. Go hunt out the album "In Praise of Older Women and Other Crimes." And Darnell is still doing it, based on this video.

    Hard to imagine a Christian flaunting it as a Coconut.

    1. Hey George. I don't really know what to make of Kid Creole. I'd never heard him until I put up this post, and I can say that his SNL performance was certainly high-energy. It's not really my thing, exactly. That said, it's kind of surprising to me that this guy has had such a long career and he'd escaped my noticed for so long.

  2. Anonymous6:55 PM

    There is a comment, allegedly by Roni Griffith, on another Bobby "O" blog post that says "....biggest rip-off producer of Artist and Songs that you have ever met. The guy talks about God and his actions are like a demons. He is crazy...I worked with him and know first hand. Changes names and addresses so know one can find him. Yet there is one that sees everything and Bobby will reap what he sows in this life or the next."
    Not sure if it IS her, but I have read similar about Mr Orlando, unfortunately, even though I admire him hugely and consider him a great influence on music and on myself, personally.
    And, second left, is Roni as a Coconut.
    Not sure if Bobby's story in the UK magazine The Face of Roni being a waitress who signed her contract to him on a napkin circa 1980, is just him embellishing, or based in truth.....