Valley Girl (1983)

Valley Girl should be a joke.

It should be a cheap cash in on the novelty song that Frank Zappa had recorded with his daughter Moon Unit. Recorded when she was just 14 and appearing on his album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, it’s his only top 40 hit despite a career in music.

It’s not typical Zappa, staying mainly in conventional 4/4 time (until the end) and being mainly all about the conversations Moon Unit had overheard at the mall, but meant to be a deliberate attack on typical Valley Girls.In fact, Zappa saw the San Fernando Valley as “a most depressing place.”

While he was distressed that this song would make hi a novelty act, Zappa did try to see if a film could be made. He’d later try to stop production of the film through a lawsuit, claiming that it infringed on his trademark.

Regardless, no one got the point of the song. It wasn’t cool to be a Valley Girl. Try telling that to everyone else.

Speaking of music, the songs in this movie ended up costing $250,000 over the film’s $350,000 budget. As a result, some of the clearances — like “Who Can It Be Now?” by Men at Work, which was replaced by Josie Cotton’s “Systematic Way” — changed the songs and ended up canceling the original Epic Records soundtrack. Some copies did get out and there’s also a bootleg with the title Valley Girls that are both collectors’ items. There was a six-song mini-LP that Roadshow Records — a one-off Atlantic imprint — put out and that was all fans got until 1994 and 1995, when Rhino released two CDs of the movie’s songs.

The songs are what drive this music, as it’s powered by KROQ, taking that station’s playlist to the entire county with standouts like Cotton’s “Johnny Are You Queer?,” Bonnie Hayes’ “Girls Like Me,” The Plimsouls’ “A Million Miles Away,” The Payolas’ “Eyes of a Stranger” and, of course, Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” which appears twice in the movie. Director Martha Coolidge heard it on the ROQ and felt that it was the song for her story, but since the station didn’t announce songs, she was forced to call them and sing it to have it be identified. Cotton, the Plimsouls and the Psychedelic Furs all show up in the actual movie, too.

The actual story is a mix of Romeo and Juliet with an allusion to The Graduate at the end, as the Valley side — Sherman Oaks Galleria being their Mecca (and the home of CommandoChopping Mall and many, many other films) — is represented by Julie (Deborah Foreman, whose credits endear her to horror fans everywhere with April Fool’s Day and Waxwork on her resume) and Hollywood being personified by Randy (California Kinski Nicolas Cage). Their relationship begins as just looks at a beach — hints of Grease, huh? — but progresses to show the difference between classes that has only grown since 1983.

There’s also a subplot between Suzi (Michelle Meyrink, the female nerd Judy in Revenge of the Nerds) and her stepmother Beth (Lee Purcell, Necromancy) vying for the same boy. A more conventional relationship exists between Julie and her parents (Coleen Camp, who has been in everything from the Police Academy series to Wicked StepmotherSliver, Apocalypse Now and The Swinging Cheerleaders along with Frederic Forrest, who was also several Coppola films, including One from the Heart), who despite owning a health food business really want their daughter to experience life.

Joyce Hayser is also in this and she’s made quite the career of showing up in teh pop culture moments of my life. She’s the girl in the Dan Hartman video for “I Can Dream About You” (which comes from the soundtrack for Streets of Fire), she’s in the strange as hell Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive and if you were 13 in 1985, you’d know her as Teri/Terry from the cable juggernaut Just One of the Guys.

Oh! Valley Girl has even more! E.G. Daily — who would also appear in the aforementioned Streets of Fire, a movie that I cannot implore you enough to watch — is here. Most folks know her as Dottie from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, but she was also in Better Off Dead, provided the voice for Babe the Pig and Tommy Pickles on Rugrats, was in the video for Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks” and was Sex-Head in Rob Zombie’s 31. She also dated Jon-Eric Hexum before his untimely death and was married to Rick Salomon. Yes, the same guy in the Paris Hilton sex tape, who was also married to Pam Anderson and Shannen Doherty. Hollywood is crazy.

The club scenes in this movie were shot at a place that was once called Filthy McNasty’s and The Central. Today, you would know it as The Viper Room. Seeing the Sunset Strip in this movie made me dream of one day being there, surrounded by all this energy and rock and roll. I mean, just look at the marquees — Kitten Natividad is dancing!

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