I didn’t intend to do one of these today, but I ended up with a little more time than I expected to have so here we go! I learned last night from my friend and sometime co-conspirator Rose that Rowdy Roddy Piper has departed this plane of existence. Now, there are very few celebrities I’d eulogize on the blog, but Roddy surely makes the cut.
When I was a kid, I absolutely loved him. I think I was drawn to him because he was so good at mixing humor in with the standard loud-mouthed professional wrestler schtick. And he had bagpipes! (I love me some bagpipes).
What I remember him most fondly for are two cheesy movies: They Live and Hell Comes To Frogtown. Hell Comes to Frogtown is a true B-Movie. They Live, I’m not sure about. It was hard to tell the difference between low-budget and just plain cheesy in those days. Either way, They Live is one of my all-time favorites.
It’s a pretty straightforward sci-fi tale in which aliens have infiltrated the planet and are able to disguise themselves as humans. They’ve taken over the media and use broadcasting and advertising to subjugate humanity via subliminal messages. There’s a resistance, of course. And they’ve developed special sunglasses that allow humans to see through the aliens’ disguises. Hi-jinks ensue.
Early on, it includes one of the most memorably ridiculous fight scenes of all time.
And later, there’s this highly-quotable moment.
They Live is quite simply one of the yummiest pieces of action/comedy produced in the 80’s. The only thing from that era I can think of that remotely compares for pure entertainment value is Big Trouble in Little China. And we have Roddy Piper to thank for it. They Live is one of those movies that really shouldn’t work, but it does. And it works almost entirely because of the casting.
Here’s a clip of him performing at the Viper Room with Public Jones. I’m not sure what that instrument he’s playing is, but it sure is a sweet track.