Sorry Cyndi Lauper fans, this post—and Macy’s 2008 '80s-themed “Pop Candy Arcade” Glamorama—was all about MC Hammer.
Well actually, the blockbuster concert/fashion show/fundraiser for the Children's Cancer Research Fund, now in its seventeenth year, is about kids like Josh Abbott, a brain tumor survivor who started the evening off with a rousingly appropriate “Yo, let’s start this” to a packed crowd at the Orpheum. But by the time the first models took the stage, the checks had been written, first cocktails downed, and the crowd was ready for a show.
And they got it. The crowd rocked along as models sporting Celine, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Just Cavalli, and Tommy Hilfiger did their little turns (or, in some cringe-worthy cases, danced) to Prince, Bell Biv DeVoe, Michael Jackson, and other '80s/mid-90s delights. But the real magic happened after MC Hammer, donning a sleek white track suit, joined by no less than ten pop-and-lockin’ back-up dancers, came out blazing. He killed with “Turn This Motha Out” and “Two Legit Too Quit”—I mean, the man can move.
Looking half his forty-six years, he used every bit of the stage, as well as every watt of energy the enthusiastic crowd put out. And when he left the stage without performing his signature “ U Can’t Touch This,” effectively taking the joy, hopes, and dreams of the audience with him, he came back almost immediately, playfully asking us whether he forgot something before the “Superfreak” sample started and the crowd went totally mental. We loved every second of it—and he loved that we loved it. It was a night to celebrate survivors, and MC proved last night that he too had persevered.
Not that I am comparing what MC Hammer did to surviving cancer, but the thing you have to understand about Stanley Kirk Burrell, who became “Hammer” when he worked as a ball boy for the Oakland A’s and one of the coaches decided he looked like Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, is that he was a normal guy who spent four years in the Navy, started singing in some clubs, and became an overnight sensation when he decided to sample a Rick James song. “U Can’t Touch This” was everywhere. “Stop, Hammer Time,” was a national catchphrase. People wore Hammer Pants, seriously yo, Hammer Pants. And they thought they looked good. The ball boy from O-town, overnight, had more money and fame than he could have imagined. He won three Grammys, released one more mega-hit signal, and then fell off the face of the Earth.
Actually, it might have been better if he just disappeared. But Hammer instead became the butt of the joke—the pants, the eyeglasses, the highly publicized bankruptcy he faced for a staggering $14 million in debt. The man is given credit (by some, and by all means, discuss) as the first hip-hop artist to bring sampling of pop oldies into the mainstream, make it OK for advertisers to tap hip-hop artists as spokespeople, and he was tight with Tupac. But all that was forgotten. He was more fun as a punch line than a pity case.
But Hammer didn’t stop. He found god and became an ordained minister. He got married and has five kids. He’s started a website. Designers like Dior Homme and Louis Vuitton are creating Hammer Pant–esque styles for their Fall/Winter 08–09 lines. And he happily accepted an invitation to perform at a concert benefiting Children's Cancer Research, and, to steal a phrase from a coworker, MC pounded.
Cyndi closed the night with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and the girls did, and they danced. Then we hit the after-party and had a little more.