40 Famous Actors Who Guest-Starred In Classic 1980s Music Videos - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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40 Famous Actors Who Guest-Starred In Classic 1980s Music Videos

How many of these do you remember?
Back in the 1980s, when the music video was in, arguably, it's most creative phase, and securing valuable air-time on MTV could make all the difference for the pop-stars of the day, many artists produced some staggeringly elaborate and groundbreaking promos for their songs (like The Wild Boys by Duran Duran or Thriller by Michael Jackson, as just two examples). Other acts occasionally took a different approach and secured the services of their famous friends/fans for a cameo by a well-known Hollywood actor.

We've rounded-up 40 of these guest appearances in classic 1980s music videos, mostly all by famous actors but a couple of which feature the Hollywood star pre-fame (and so probably cheap!). And all 40 music videos are ones where the movie star came on set and was part of the production. Meaning that although Neutron Dance by The Pointer Sisters features Eddie Murphy, his appearance is taken from clips edited in from Beverly Hills Cop. Promos like that which just feature movie clips, and there were a lot of them in the 80s, are not listed below.

How many of these music videos do you remember watching on MTV?
1 & 2. Robin Williams & Bill Irwin in Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
Released in 1988, Don't Worry Be Happy was the first acappella song to reach number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. No doubt helped by its use in the Tom Cruise film Cocktail and its comedic music video which starred Bobby McFerrin, the legendary Robin Williams, and CSI/Sesema Street's Bill Irwin.
3. Chevy Chase in You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon
The classic 1986 music video from Paul Simon's Graceland album had a rocky start. Simon had been to a party with then-wife Peggy Harper. French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, who was attending the same party, mistakenly referred to Paul as "Al" and to Peggy as "Betty", inspiring Simon to write a song. When the original music video was complete, which was solely a performance of the song Simon gave during the monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live in the perspective of a video monitor, Simon didn't like it and wanted something which reflected that mix-up faux pas. SNL producer Lorne Michaels came up with the concept, wherein Chevy Chase lip-synced Simon's vocals, with gestures punctuating the lyrics as Simon lip-synced to the backing vocals and brought in various instruments to play when they respectively appear in the song. The 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) Chase moving in unison with the 5 ft 3 in (160 cm) Simon also provides an amusing contrast.

Chevy Chase also appears in our next music video (but we won't count him twice)...
4. Danny Devito, 5. John Candy, 6. Irene Cara, 7. Melissa Gilbert, 8. Jeffrey Tambor, 9. George Wendt, 10. Al Franken, 11. Peter Falk, 12. Teri Garr, and Chevy Chase in Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.
Ray Parker Jr certainly produced one heck of a radio friendly pop hit (which we looked at in detail here) to accompany the film Ghostbusters, which in itself was the big film of the Summer of 1984, so did the Ghostbusters video need so many celebrity cameo appearances? Probably not, but man did it make it memorable. Featuring the 10 actors listed above, everyone from Norm from Cheers! to Columbo himself, plus musicians like Carly Simon & Ollie E. Brown (who we won't count in our list as they're not really actors), there was even room for the Ghostbusters themselves in specially recorded sequences...
13. Harold Ramis, 14. Bill Murray, 15. Dan Ackroyd, and 16. Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr
Perhaps it was because the music video for the song was directed by Ivan Reitman, the same director as the Ghostbusters film, it was easier to persuade so many famous people to take part? Whatever the reason, with all that talent involved, it's probably no surprise that the Ghostbusters music video was number one on MTV for ages.

We're speeding through the celebs so let's slow things down with some individual appearances...
17. Courtney Cox in Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen
Nearly a whole decade before friends, Courtney Cox got to 'live the dream' and dance on stage with Bruce Springsteen in the Brian De Palma directed video for the 1984 single Dancing in the Dark, shot during an actual live concert at the Saint Paul Civic Center in Minnesota.

Fun fact for you, although De Palma had told Springsteen in advance that it was she whom he was supposed to select, Springsteen thought she was just a pre-selected fan attending and did not know until afterward that Cox was a professional actress, brought in from New York City, who had already played in As the World Turns. Despite this Cox has stated that she was one of many that Springsteen could have selected and that she was secretly hoping to not be picked. Perhaps she had some forsight that her dancing in the video would later inspire Alfonso Ribeiro in developing "The Carlton" for his character in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
18. Danny Aiello in Papa Don't Preach by Madonna
Another huge MTV hit, which went on to win the Best Female Video award at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, Papa Don't Preach saw one of Madonna's earliest re-inventions as a tomboy in "trouble deep," hoping her papa will support her and her unplanned pregnancy (spoiler, he did). The man playing Madonna's Papa was Godfather Part II, Do The Right Thing and Hudson Hawk star Danny Aiello.
19. Rodney Dangerfield in Tell Her About It by Billy Joel
The music video for Billy Joel's hit 1983 single turns the clock back 20 years with Joel singing the song as if he were on The Ed Sullivan Show. At the end of the song, comedian and Caddyshack star Rodney Dangerfield is there preparing to go on stage under the false impression that he is next and thanks Joel for warming up the crowd, but "Patriska the Dancing Bear" is instead called to the stage, much to Dangerfield's disbelief.
20. John Goodman in Wild Wild Life by The Talking Heads
Winning "Best Group Video" at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1987, Wild Wild Life was taken from the Talking Heads film True Stories, with some additional content, and includes band member Jerry Harrison parodying Billy Idol, Kid Creole, Ralph Macchio's character Karate Kid, and Prince. Actor John Goodman, prior to his fame in the sitcom Roseanne, appeared in both the film and MTV versions of the video which saw him lip sync to the song.
21. LeVar Burton in Word Up by Cameo
A year before first starring as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, although already well-known for portraying Kunta Kinte in the 1977 ABC miniseries Roots and as host of the PBS Kids educational television series Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton cameod for Cameo, as a police detective trying to arrest the band, in the music video for their huge 1986 hit single Word Up!
22. Wesley Snipes in Bad by Michael Jackson
No stranger to making extended music videos, the 18 minute short film for Bad premiered in a TV special, Michael Jackson: The Magic Returns, on CBS during prime time on August 31st 1987. It's nuts to think that this music video was directed by Martin Scorsese (Martin Scorsese!), and slightly less nuts that Wesley Snipes got one of his first breaks in the industry playing the wonderfully named Mini Max, the leader of Jackson's old group of friends.

The video for Bad was inspired in part by the film West Side Story, and it's not the only one...
23. Patrick Swayze in Rosanna by Toto
Released as a single in 1982, Rosanna by Toto, the opening track from their album Toto IV, went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year at the 1983 ceremony. The West Side Story-inspired video was directed by Steve Barron (who also directed Billie Jean for Michael Jackson and Money For Nothing by Dire Straits) and set in a stylized urban streetscape, with Patrick Swayze portraying the rival gang leader. As for "Rosanna" herself...
24. Cynthia Rhodes in Rosanna by Toto
Rosanna was represented by a dancer whose bright red dress contrasts with the gray surroundings of the video set, and was played by Cynthia Rhodes. It was her appearance in this music video which led to her being cast opposite John Travolta in Staying Alive the following year.
25. Ian McKellen in Heart by Pet Shop Boys
Directed by Jack Bond, director of the Pet Shop Boys' 1987 film It Couldn't Happen Here, the music video for Heart is based on the 1922 film Nosferatu. The video opens with Neil Tennant and his bride being driven to a castle (Mokrice Castle) with Chris Lowe as his chauffeur. As he goes to bed with his bride, the vampire, played by Ian McKellen, spies them. Later, he seduces the bride and bites her. As you do.
26. Rob Lowe in Turn to You by The Go-Go's
The 1984 music video for The Go-Go's featured a starring role for a then-up-and-coming young actor Rob Lowe. The following year Lowe would have another stab at a music video (and, again, we won't count him twice)...
27. Emilio Estevez, 28. Andrew McCarthy, 29. Judd Nelson, 30. Ally Sheedy, 31. Demi Moore, 32. Mare Winningham, and Rob Lowe in St Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) by John Parr
The music video for this 1985 track features all seven of the main cast of the film St. Elmo's Fire looking sadly through the foggy windows of a run-down and fire-damaged version of the St. Elmo's Bar set from the movie. Although that's not the best use of all its cast, as in further specially recorded scenes, the ending of the video shows Parr singing to each individual cast member from the film before he disappears into the night. Rob Lowe seems to be really enjoying his serenade, doesn't he?
33 & 34. Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal in Sweet Freedom by Michael McDonald
The 1986 buddy-cop comedy Running Scared didn't exactly set cinemas on fire, but the soundtrack for the film by Michael McDonald, gave him his last Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, helped along by securing the movie's two stars for cameos in the music video.
35. Leonard Nimoy in Going Down To Liverpool by The Bangles
Going Down to Liverpool was originally written and recorded by Katrina and the Waves, although the track is best remembered for a cover done by the Bangles, helped along when the music video entered rotation on MTV in mid-October 1984.

The music video itself was directed by Tamar Simon Hoffs, the mother of Bangles member Susanna Hoffs, and she pulled in a favour from her friend Leonard Nimoy to play the chauffer for the band, who appears to be unimpressed by the group (at one point he turns off the car radio, stopping the song). How rude!
36. John Hurt in Take It Away by Paul McCartney
Already a big star thanks to I, Claudius, Alien and The Elephant Man, the future War Doctor John Hurt appeared in the music video for the 1982 Paul McCartney single Take It Away. Hurt played the "important impresario" who, in the words of the song, had a message for the band.
37. Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, and 38. Michael Douglas in When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going by Billy Ocean
Billy Ocean's theme to the hit 1985 movie The Jewel of the Nile, When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going, included a music video featuring the film's three stars perform as Ocean's back-up singers; Kathleeen Turner, Danny DeVito and Michale Douglas. We haven't counted Devito again, as he was also in the Ghostbusters music video, but he does pretend to perform the saxophone solo here to great effect.
Michael J Fox in Stick Around by Julian Lennon
In 1986 Michael J Fox was briefly just about the biggest movie star on the planet, so securing his services for a cameo in your new single, as well as being the son of a Beatle, would surely give you a huge hit, right?

Er, notsomuch. Julian Lennon's Stick Around reached 86 in the UK chart, performing slightly better in the US and hitting the dizzy heights of number 32 in the Billboard Hot 100 where the comical video got a lot more airplay on MTV.

What about Michael J Fox's Back To The Future co-star though?...
40. Christopher Lloyd in The Power of Love by Huey Lewis & The News
One final movie star for you. Recorded especially for Back To The Future (we looked at how that came about here), with a version of this 1985 hit played by Michael J Fox in-character as Marty McFly during the film (although Fox's guitar was actually dubbed), the music video for The Power Of Love shows the band performing in a nightclub (Uncle Charlie's, a frequent stop for the band in their early career) with Christopher Lloyd Back To The Future character Dr. Emmett Brown showing up in his DeLorean, apparently after time-traveling.

Great Scott!

There you go! 40 famous actors who guest-starred in classic music videos from the 1980s. How many of these do you remember watching on MTV? And did you know all the guest-stars in them? Perhaps you can name some more? Let us know in the comments below...

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