“Moulin Rouge Meets Vegas!” An Oral History of George Michael’s 1992 “Too Funky” Video
As we continue to assess the Fall 2016 season, we’re left wondering: Where’s the fun in fashion these days?
And nowhere was that fun more in evidence than in George Michael’s 1992 “Too Funky” video. “It was the height of fashion,” says performer Joey Arias, of the moment in which it was shot. “Everybody wanted to be those supermodels vogueing the runway!”
Looking for a good time, we decided to put together an oral history of “Too Funky,” which more than holds its own against the MTV- and fashion-friendly "Freedom 90" with its cast of supermodels Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Tatjana Patitz.
ARIAS: Mugler’s characters were superhuman. No one’s just mediocre, it’s all about superhumans: the thinnest and the tallest and the most extreme and the most beautiful. But [it is also about] adoring the human form, not making fun of women or males. Mugler loves the form and he loves to push how far it can go.
He wanted me to be the couturier, the Edith Head character. I was the one bossing people around. When we first met, he had me in a pantsuit with a low-waisted belt, and then we were talking and he just said: “You know what, I don’t think so, we’re going to put you in a long tight skirt instead.” [I wore] a pleated chiffon skirt almost to my ankles, almost, maybe like three-quarters past my knees, with a pearl corset and then a tight black knit sweater with the jewelry, some kind of necklace wrapped around and some fetish shoes from London.
DANILO: Julie, who is an amazing woman, [was] hitting it, doing splits on the runway. I think she was 60 or 65 when she was doing that.
NEWMAR: The rest of the production was hysteria, lots of smoking and raw nerves. On the second night real trouble arose. They had gone over the $1 million budget, and I remember holding the producer in my arms, he was weeping from nervous helplessness, exhaustion. That’s when George Michael took over.
Thierry asked me to play the role of femme fatale: sexy and irresistible to any man. I used to do all Thierry’s shows. [His woman was] powerful, determined, extremely feminine, [a] sexy soldier. For the video, he asked to accentuate that even more. [My outfit was] outrageously hot and my hair was horsehair . . . so hot! Doing a show with Thierry is working with one master; doing a video with Thierry and George is working with double pressure, as you work with two masters with strong personalities and visions. It was one of the most impactful bookings I’ve ever done. People still remember me in that video, with my name written, like Linda, Nadja, and Tyra. It’s a reference, it had a massive impact, even on my life. I’d love to shoot another one.
DANILO: One of the things I’ve had the pleasure of creating and building and doing structurally is [Linda’s] feather headdress. I went to the maison de plume there in Paris where the family—they did Louis’s, they go so far back. They go into early 1700s, that family. They have extinct feathers in their drawers. This is Paris, where they really take the art serious. I picked all those ostrich plumes that we created into that [headdress]. It’s that kind of detail that goes into everything: working, sketching, drawing, fabricating—all the components.
That said, it was an amazing event. Those were the days. We were a family. We were the Muglers and we’d done so much together and to have an opportunity to work in a medium that was contemporary and fresh and fun and push the envelope on many levels—all of that supermodel glamour . . . it was a fashion show on steroids. Moulin Rouge meets Vegas meets this level of chic sophistication.