As a kid, the highlight and lowlight of every holiday season for me was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was the highlight because, duh, huge balloons. It was the lowlight because, even to a child, it had some truly cringe-tacular moments.
For some strange reason, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has always (or at least always in my lifetime) simultaneously tried to appeal to both kids and Broadway aficionados. Why did they try to do this? I don’t know, because Times Square is sort of close to Herald Square? Makes as much sense as any other explanation.
They also tried to shoehorn various celebrities into the festivities. Some were established, or at least recognizable. Some were clearly being foisted on the show by some agent hoping to establish a client. (If a singer was “performing” his/her “smash hit single”, it was a virtual guaranteed said single hadn’t even been pressed yet.)
Regardless of their status, said celebrity would probably be inserted into some sort of float or setpiece in which their presence was superfluous at best. And often asked to sing, even if (often especially if) they were not known as a singer. (“Here to perform a medley from Damn Yankees, please welcome Abe Vigoda!”)
This was extremely frustrating to a little kid. When you’d see the opening credits for the Parade and see something you loved teased as coming up soon, naturally you thought that said thing would be presented in a form you loved. If you were told Masters of the Universe would appear, you assumed they would resemble the cartoon you watched every day. You didn’t expect guys in weird, foamy costumes fake-sword fighting on a 15-foot float.
In that spirit, I present this video from the 1989 (first captured and shared with the world by the excellent X-Entertainment.com, which has a plethora of Thanksgiving Parade videos and period commercials as well). It features a float by Marvel Entertainment, full of all your favorite Marvel characters, and of course Melba Moore too, because…huh?
Ms. Moore sings “I Need a Hero,” addressing many of the lyrics to Captain America and Spider-Man (who’s too busy crouching to pay her much attention). She had a few hits in the 1980s. “I Need a Hero” was not one of them. This is something the Parade is notorious for doing, having some random person sing a random song in a random setting, thus assuring that everyone involved looks intensely uncomfortable.
Compared to some performances I’ve seen, Moore is in Laurence Olivier territory. She’s game enough to get caught in web-type-thing and climb through a manhole. But no one else has much room to maneuver, and the Marvel heroes and villains don’t fight so much as they lightly tap each other and shift from one foot to the other. The Hulk in particular looks like he doesn’t know what to do with himself.
By the end of the video, everyone is bopping along to the beat, regardless of affiliation. You can see both Doctor Doom and Luke Cage rockin’ out as the song fades away. Moore has united them all with her R&B song stylings.
Weird? Of course, but no weirder than the Marvel float from 1987, which did not include Moore or any other practitioners of the quiet storm arts. It was just a lot of low-impact aerobics, featuring the exact same float seen above, most of the same heroes, and the soundtrack from Back to the Future.
Captain America is prominently featured, as he saves Wolverine from being shoved by bad guys, zaps Doctor Doom to death, and briefly passes by RoboCop without comment (and before you say RoboCop wasn’t part of the Marvel Universe, he was, smart guy).
Two things that confuse me more than the presence of RoboCop: Why does Dr. Strange look like Frank Zappa, and why is The Hulk a bad guy?