Great Moments in TV Music History: Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special

Those of a certain age remember back when television options were limited; it was always a treat to see live music pouring out of the TV. At first, there were lots of lip-sync shows such as Where the Action Is, and Shindig and Hullabaloo! seemed like a mixture of live and lip-synced performances.By 1967-1968, there were more opportunities for real live music from artists who were changing the face of music, such as The Smothers Brothers Show and The Dick Cavett Show as well as the various late-night programs.

Special performances are the ones that grabbed you by the lapels and wouldn’t let you go; they are burned forever into the brain.

The Del Rubio Triplets on Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special

I was a fan of Pee-Wee Herman before he began his delightful Saturday morning show Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. And the long list of musical contributors to the show’s theme and incidental music was impressive, including Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), Todd Rundgren, Danny Elfman, The Residents, Van Dyke Parks, and Dweezil Zappa.

The Dinosaur family on Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special

The third season contained only three programs, one of which was the Pee-Wee Christmas Special; it aired December 21, 1988. The program contained all the usual suspects and guests Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Little Richard, Joan Rivers, Magic Johnson, the UCLA men’s choir, Cher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Whoopie Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey. The Dinosaurs had their Chanukah celebration, too (40:45).

There were more guests who sang, including the Del Rubio Triplets (25:00), k.d. lang (28:45), Dinah Shore (34:30), and Charo (37:00).

k.d. lang on Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special

And all of that was just grand, but obviously the greatest part of the show was when Reba the Mail Lady (S. Epatha Merkerson), delivered a huge box apparently intended for the White House (when Ronnie was still prez). And who was in the box?

Why, Grace Jones, of course!

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