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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31, 1987

It’s time to go back in time once more this month in the Tuesday Timeline, and for the last day of January, I admit that I was at a loss as to what to pick for a topic today.  
Not that January 31 was a boring day in history.  January 31 had a lot of significant events.  But to choose one that stood out, and had an interesting story behind it.  That was the tricky part.
Let’s take a look at some of the topics that could have been up for consideration, shall we?

The first interesting fact about January 31 that I found out was that it was on this date in 1930 that a company known as 3M started selling its latest product.  This product was something called Scotch tape.  Certainly, the invention of Scotch tape was revolutionary, and over eighty years later, people still use the product today.  However, there’s only so much that I can say about Scotch tape without having the blog entry sound boring.  Because, let’s face it.  Watching paint dry would be more interesting than a piece on Scotch tape.

I briefly considered doing a piece on someone who was born on January 31.  It was on this date in 1981 that a young man named Justin Timberlake was born.  Starting off as a Disney Mouseketeer, he made his way through boy band *NSync, embarked on a solo career, and now has found his way into the acting world.  It would have been interesting to do, but I already did a similar piece last week, and I like to try and switch it up a bit every now and again.

Just so you know, other celebrities born on January 31 include Kerry Washington, Minnie Driver, Anthony LaPaglia, Jessica Walter, Harry Wayne Casey (better known as KC from KC and the Sunshine Band), Portia de Rossi, and Carol Channing.

I also briefly looked at the other end of the spectrum, choosing someone who passed away on January 31.  A.A. Milne was one possibility, having passed away on this date in 1956, but I already did an entry on Winnie-the-Pooh last week.  So, that idea was out.

Other historical events that took place on this date include the following;

1950 – Harry S. Truman announces plans to start up a program to develop the hydrogen bomb.
1958 – The first successful launch of an American satellite into orbit (Explorer 1)

1961 – Ham the Chimp travels into outer space.
1966 – The Soviet Union launches Luna 9 spacecraft as part of the Luna space program.

1971 – Apollo 14 space mission took place.
1990 – The first McDonald’s opens up in the Soviet Union, in the city of Moscow.

2001 – Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is convicted for his role in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
So, while there was a lot of history that took place on January 31 (including a lot involving the space program, oddly enough), I didn’t feel as though I had enough to formulate a decent blog entry for any of these facts.

So, I decided to try and go a different route.  I decided to look at the date through significant dates in the entertainment industry, hoping that something would stand out as interesting.
And at the last minute, I found what I was looking for.

Today we’re going to go back in time twenty-five years to the date January 31, 1987.
It may not have been the most significant date in the world of television, but January 31, 1987 was the date that “The Facts Of Life” episode ‘A Star Is Torn’ aired for the first time on NBC.

At the time, “The Facts Of Life” was in the middle of its eighth season, and in the midst of weathering some changes.  Earlier in the season, Charlotte Rae had left the series, to be replaced by Cloris Leachman.  With Mrs. Garrett’s departure and the introduction of Beverly Ann to the series, ratings took a bit of a free fall.  But that wasn’t the only reason.  The four main characters of Blair, Jo, Tootie, and Natalie were all getting older, and it became more of a struggle to come up with ideas to keep the four principal leads under the same roof.  I think Season 8 was the one where the girls transformed ‘Edna’s Edibles’ into the funky gift shop ‘Over Our Heads’, and each girl owned a percentage of the business.  I think that’s how the writers kept everyone together that year, if I’m remembering correctly.
Oh, and George Clooney had a role on the show as George, the store’s handyman.  But, January 31, 1987 was also George Clooney’s final appearance on “The Facts Of Life”, for he ended up leaving the series to tour with one of Tootie’s friends.

Earlier in the season, Tootie befriended a young woman who went by the name of ‘Cinnamon’ at an audition for a Broadway musical.  Cinnamon ended up getting the part over Tootie, but just a couple of months later, Cinnamon returned to come for a visit after telling the girls that the Broadway show didn’t work out.  But after it’s discovered that Cinnamon recorded an album and ditched the tour that she was set to embark on, Tootie wonders why she would reject such an opportunity.  It’s later explained that Cinnamon ended up getting a case of cold feet, and wanted to quit performing, much to Tootie’s annoyance.  Cinnamon had made a success of herself but couldn’t handle it, and it annoyed Tootie because she still struggled to make a name of herself.
It seemed as though the friendship between Tootie and Cinnamon would end forever.  But Cinnamon got to thinking about what Tootie had said, and she figured that if Tootie believed in her, then there was a good chance that others would too.  She decided to come on Jo’s radio show in which Tootie had previously invited her to, Tootie apologized to Cinnamon, and Cinnamon ended up singing on the radio show.  Below is a clip of the episode, “A Star Is Torn”, airing on January 31, 1987.

Cinnamon was played by singer Stacey Swain...who you might know better by her stage name, Stacey Q.
And, Stacey Q happens to be the subject for today’s Tuesday Timeline.

It seems hard to believe that Stacey Q is in her fifties now, but she celebrated her 53rd birthday on November 30, 2011.  And this California girl had an upbringing that some would classify as being performance oriented from the start.  Taking dance lessons at an early age, Stacey started training to become a ballerina at the young age of five.  By 1969, Stacey had become the youngest member of the Dance Theater of Orange County.  She was just ten years old.  She spent a total of eleven years studying ballet and flamenco dancing.
By the time the 1970s began, the teenaged Stacey started performing at Disneyland, participating in the annual ‘Fantasy on Parade’ event held each Christmas season.  She performed the role of the Dutch Puppet (which was later used as an alias that she would use for early recording sessions) for three years before graduating from high school in 1976.  Shortly after graduating, Stacey auditioned for a job with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where she performed as a showgirl, and as an elephant rider.

How’s that for an interesting career beginning?  From Disneyland to the circus.  Not too many people can have those jobs on a resume.  Yet, Stacey Q did.  And she wasn’t stopping there.
Stacey had gotten into the recording business sometime in the early 1980s.  Having been introduced to the business by her then-boyfriend at the time, Stacey started recording music in 1981, when she met record producer Jon St. James.  Together, they formed a synthpop band simply known as ‘Q’.  The band had little problem recording the background music for the tracks, but when St. James realized that they needed a vocalist for the song ‘Sushi’, they were initially at a loss.  St. James knew that Stacey had recorded some demos at his recording studio, and asked her to sing the lyrics.  Stacey went ahead and sang the song, even though she always saw herself as more of a dancer than a singer.  However, when the track was recorded, St. James was so impressed at the final product that Stacey ended up being given the role of lead singer.

The band ‘Q’ achieved moderate success and a small following through college radio, but the band had a bit of reshuffling within it.  Two members left, and were replaced.  The band also had to change its name from ‘Q’ to ‘SSQ’, because Quincy Jones reportedly had purchased the ‘Q’ trademark.  The newly formed SSQ released the album ‘Playback’ in 1983, and their first single, ‘Synthicide’, provided some exposure for the band, complete with an accompanying music video. 

But it wasn’t until the mid-1980s when Stacey decided to go it alone on a solo career that her career really kicked off.  Recording her debut album in 1985, Stacey decided to go by the stage name of ‘Stacey Q’, as a reference to the first band she played with.  The album spawned a single, “Shy Girl”, which sold 100,000 copies alone.  Not a great number, when you consider that other female artists at the time like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Sheena Easton had sold much more than that.  However, the sales did get the attention of major record labels, including Atlantic Records.  Atlantic Records signed Stacey Q to a contract in early 1986, and shortly after that, Stacey Q released her biggest hit.

ARTIST:  Stacey Q
SONG: Two Of Hearts
ALBUM: Better Than Heaven
DATE RELEASED: February 4, 1986

“Two Of Hearts” was a song that had actually appeared on Stacey Q’s 1985 self-titled album, and was remixed for “Better Than Heaven”.  Stacey’s SSQ bandmates played back-up on the album.  The first single off the album, “Two Of Hearts” made it to #3 on the Billboard Charts.  Had it not been for the fact that Stacey Q was signed to two different record labels at the time, (which promoted the single at the same time, therefore competing against each other), many believed that it could have been a number one hit.  Looking back on the song now, it sounds a bit dated, but back then, it was considered a modern pop hit, and very cutting edge.  The album also contained the Top 40 hit, “We Connect”, which you heard ‘Cinnamon’ singing in “The Facts Of Life” clip I posted above.

The song “Two Of Hearts” was the song that was the bigger success, and was heard on radio stations all throughout 1986.  The single also provided Stacey Q with multiple talk show appearances, as well as a guest spot on ‘Hollywood Squares’ as a panellist.  And, her two stints on “The Facts Of Life” wasn’t the only television sitcom that she appeared in.  She also guest starred on an episode of “Full House” in May of 1988.  You can watch a clip of her on that show HERE.

(TRIVIA:  The song playing in the background of the record store in that clip is Stacey Q’s “Don’t Make A Fool Of Yourself”, which was a minor hit for her in the spring of 1988.)

After the success of “Better Than Heaven”, Stacey Q embarked on a European Tour, dyed her blonde hair bright red, and released two more albums with Atlantic Records.  1988’s “Hard Machine” and 1989’s “Nights Like This”.  Although Stacey Q had more creative control with her later albums (the song “Another Chance” was practically written by Stacey herself), and were critically praised, they didn’t do so well in sales.  Both “Hard Machine” and “Nights Like This” were virtually ignored on radio, and when Stacey Q’s Greatest Hits album was released in 1995, there were no tracks from either album on that compilation.  She left Atlantic Records in 1990.
Still, Stacey Q is very much active in the recording business.  Although her mainstream success has dried up, she has developed a loyal fanbase and cult following ever since.  In 1997, she converted to Buddhism, and released an album called “Boomerang” that same year.  She also has done voice work for English translations of Japanese anime cartoons, with ‘Stratos 4’ being one of the projects that she worked on.

And in 2010, she released her latest album through Hydra Productions, which had a rather familiar album title.

The album title was “Color Me Cinnamon”, which was the same name as the album that the character of Cinnamon was set to release on “The Facts Of Life” episode that she guest starred in...
...on the 31st day of January, 1987.

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