Ah, the ’80s. A decade that couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be when it grew up. It was self-referential, outlandish, and a little ashamed of its roots, disco was roundly derided, despite selling millions of dance tunes. And while video didn’t actually kill the radio star, MTV was playing little short films wrapped around music singles, and lots of people took notice.
Witness Van Halen, the band composed of brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen on guitar and drums respectively, with Michael Anthony playing bass and David Lee Roth as singer/frontman/showman/hair. The band gelled in 1974 and cut an album four years later with financial backing from KISS’s Gene Simmons, according to Biography. And it sold well, but the real success (and, presumably, the real money) came with 1984’s 1984, which included such chart-smashing cuts as “Panama,” “Jump,” and “Hot for Teacher”, the subject of today’s lesson.
Music videos were amazingly effective for selling recordings. Some had practically nothing to do with the song itself, look up Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” from 1982 if you don’t believe us, while some made at least a passing attempt at a narrative. They also provided an excuse for the band to hang out with very attractive people. Like in “Hot for Teacher.”
Roth is credited with co-directing the video, along with Pete Angelus, director on the band’s videos for “Jump” and “Panama,” says Song Facts. The video begins with Waldo, the already awkward new kid in school who’s terrified, and then the teacher walks in, who turns out to be, well, attractive, by most standards.
The woman playing the teacher with dance moves was Lillian Müller, a native of Norway who’d already had a decent MTV gig, says Ultimate Classic Rock, as part of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” six years earlier.
Müller had started as a model in Western Europe, appearing, according to her website, in the pages of French Vogue and modeling in London. That led to yet another bit of pop culture infamy: Müller was named Playboy’s Playmate of the Year in 1976. Her website relates that Lillian went on to become the most featured “Playmate Of The Year” in the magazine’s history, scoring nine covers from 1975-1999.
As for her “Hot for Teacher” performance: A Guitar World article from 2012 quotes Müller this way:
“I was in my early 30s at the time. I was a little old for the role.”
That didn’t seem to stop anyone, Loudwire relates that 1984 has sold something like 20 million copies. And the “official” video on YouTube has amassed north of 17 million views.
The “Hot for Teacher” video also has children standing in as young versions of Van Halen members, reportedly a stroke of dramatic genius from Angelus. Waldo himself had a little help in his characterization: The boy’s voice was supplied by longtime Saturday Night Live veteran Phil Hartman.
There’s some dancing involved, of course, including choreography performed by the band under a disco ball. Musical ability doesn’t necessarily translate onto the dance floor, however; drummer Alex Van Halen couldn’t get the moves down and is pretty much out of step throughout those shots.
Müller went on to score guest roles on American television for several years, including appearances on the original Magnum, P.I. and Fantasy Island, along with a couple of supporting roles in films, before moving into a new career arc. She studied at The Actors Studio in Hollywood before launching her brand as a motivational speaker.
She then returned to Norway for more television work, including that country’s version of Dancing with the Stars. According to her website, she’s published a couple of books, including her autobiography and a volume of advice on personal health for people over the age of 40, all while raising a daughter as a single parent. She claims she’s never consumed alcohol, and has been a staunch vegetarian since her mid-20s, which perhaps led to her “Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50” title in December 2010 from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Seems like she still has a few things she could teach us!
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