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Sunday Stupid: Kojak Sings! Kind of! Well, not really!

November 2, 2014

Telly Savalas, may he rest in peace, was a great talent. From The Dirty Dozen to Kojak he was an actor with tremendous presence, one who, through thespian alchemy, could weave whatever dopey lines were put in front of him into pure gold. By God, he made it cool to be a chrome-dome, to make a Bic a daily part of your scalp regimen — he and Yul Brynner.

But what the hell is going on in this music video?

Some amongst us here in the new millennium might not know that Savalas had a bit of a music career to go along with his memorable screen roles. He had albums and he had concerts and he had TV crooning appearances, and his rich baritone was soothing even if it wasn’t the most melodious of instruments. He even reached the top of the UK charts in 1975. Like William Shatner, he often eschewed melody to delve into spoken word tunes, which is what we have above. But beyond that, there are a few other things going on in this rendition of “If” that make it spectacular.

First, there’s Savalas himself, every inch of him, every stitch of wardrobe. Is that coat made of velvet? Is he wearing a shiny shirt unbuttoned down to his navel, a blouse he pilfered from a Solid Gold dancer? Or is he sporting a Mr. T level of jewelry and nothing else under the coat? And you have to love the cigarette puffed at strategic points — the great prop for actors of old.

And then there’s the woman’s giant head, the object of Savalas’s undying love. She does nothing but stare blankly off into space throughout, and appears to wear a bucketful of Vaseline on her lips, so that they look like huge, monstrous, rain-soaked earthworms. Put it this way: it doesn’t appear that Telly loved her for her brains.

In a way this video is the antithesis of Vince McMahon belting out “Stand Back,” which was all belligerent prancing and dancing and seizure-like flailing of limbs. Mock him you might, but Telly never lost his cool composure, odd setting aside. And lest you think this is the end of the road — it’s not. Like modern comic book covers, there were variants of this tune and Savalas’s goofy rendition. Check out this one, which has a tad of actual singing, a Christmas tree, and a 1970s shirt with a collar so wide it could double as a hang glider:

And here’s what we of later years would call an actual music video, without Savalas doing any singing/mouthing of words. It starts out with him leering at a woman through a window, who we learn — fortunately — is his lover. Then they share a dinner lit by Liberace’s candelabra before closing their evening with some solitaire(!) and lovemaking on the rug:

Savalas died in 1994, a full twenty years ago. But his film and television work lives on. And so does his musical portfolio. We can thank God for the latter.

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