Video Hangover: El Debarge – “Who’s Johnny”

Twice a week, we dig in the MTV/VH1 archives for videos that we find noteworthy, memorable, or just unbelievably stupid. Is it crap, or is it the greatest video ever made? You decide.

“Who’s Johnny”
El Debarge, 1986

Some things to consider while you?re trying to figure out why Ally Sheedy is wearing an apron…

Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? We do! We do!
You know our thoughts about celebrity cameos and celebrity impersonators, but this is our first encounter with a celebrity cardboard cutout. Frankly, we?re not sure how we feel about this. On one hand, you have to give the director credit for finding a quick and goofy way to involve the star of the movie he was trying to promote. On the other hand, when the star of the movie you?re trying to promote can be replaced by a cardboard cutout, maybe you?ve hitched your wagon to the wrong horse.

It?s Spanish for “the Debarge”
No matter what you think about his wispy moustache, soul-glo afro, and girlish falsetto, El Debarge has a really cool name. It’s like a cross between a Dutch impressionist and a Mexican wrestler. Or it would be, if “El” weren?t actually short for “Eldra.” Fitting, perhaps, but disappointing nonetheless.

Unlike Sammy Hagar, El Debarge managed to stay out of jail
What is it about the legal system that inspires such ridiculous videos? “Who’s Johnny” was one of at least a half-dozen high-profile ’80s videos to take place in a courtroom, and it embraces all the conventions of this mini-genre. We have a hero on trial for some unspecified offense. A crusty old judge, usually with a gavel. A stuck-up prosecutor who hates music. A chorus that gets the jury jumping, leading to an orgy of awkward dancing and/or fighting. And, of course, footage of Ally Sheedy hitting a Camaro with a baseball bat.

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