May 5, 2014

Ocho Rios: Tracking Down a Jamaican Bodybuilder

Sometime during the 1990s, I was walking through the living room, and I caught the end of a music video.  It was about a frizzy-haired musician in a 1970s suit trying to sell his new song.

As he acts it out, we see him in drag, in a blond wig and a muumuu,  in a lush tropical setting, singing to a drag queen chorus:

Musician:  I met a Negro in something something (four syllables).
The drag queen chorus squeals as a massive bodybuilder walks by, thrusts out his bulge, and flexes his bicep.
Musician: I met a Negro....
Jamaican-accented bodybuilder:  I'm a Negro...

The bodybuilder then takes the drag musician rowing, where he sings:
Something something...I'll make you mine.
He lowers his swimsuit, and her eyes widen, shocked at his enormous penis.

That's all I remember: no title, no names of performers, not even the full video.  But it kept getting stuck in my head, inappropriate term and all.

I would be at the supermarket, or on the bus, and suddenly catch myself singing I met a Negro in something something.  I got quite a few stares!

Recently I decided to use my internet sleuthing skills to track down the music video, and the Jamaican-accented bodybuilder.  All I had was: 1990s, frizzy hair, Jamaica, drag, and the term "Negro."

Dozens of keywords searches on Google and Bing turned up nothing.

Wait -- this musician was obviously gay and from the 1970s.

"Gay composer" and "1970s"eventually  led me to Paul Jabara (1948-1992), who composed such disco hits as "It's Raining Men" for the Weather Girls, my favorite song of all time, and "Last Dance" for Donna Summer (which won the Academy Award for  Best Song in 1978).

There was a song called "Ocho Rios" in his discography.  No lyrics online.  But the right number of syllables, and Ocho Rios is the name of a town in Jamaica!  Could it be the source of my elusive music video?

Digging deeper, I found an article about a "pop operetta" De La Noche: The True Story," which Jabarra tried to get produced in 1985.  It was about a "lady of the evening" who finds true love with a 7'2", 300 lb  Jamaican bodybuilder!  Their union results in female octuplets, who are stolen and sold on the black market.  She searches for 21 years, and finally finds them, performing as a musical group, the De La Noche Sisters.

Sounds silly; no wonder Jabara couldn't get the funding to make a stage musical.

"Ocho Rios" is a track on the album, also released as a single.  It didn't get much airtime, as the term "Negro" was deemed offensively racist.  So Jabara produced a music video about his troubles, and got it played on MTV.  A least once.

I finally found a synopsis: turns out that there were no drag queens, just bizarrely over-made up women. The lady in the muumuu was Pat Ast, formerly a member of Andy Warhol's Factory.  And "The Negro" was voiced by Paul Jabara himself, feigning a basso-profundo Jamaican accent.

But who modeled the Jamaican bodybuilder?

More searching revealed that in 1973, Paul Jabara wrote and produced a musical, Rachel Lily Rosenbloom (And Don't You Ever Forget It), which folded after only a few performances.  Perhaps it was an early version of De La Noche: there was a song entitled "Oh, Ocho Rios," and a cast member named "That Negro."

Played by Andre de Shields, who would become a renowned stage actor, with credits including Hair, The Full Monte, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Ain't Misbehavin'.  

Obviously not the same person as the Jamaican bodybuilder, whose identity remains a mystery.

But at least it's not an ear worm anymore.

You can see the music video on youtube.

See also: Subtext Songs of the 1980s.

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