He sang like Michael Jackson, he danced like Michael Jackson, he even looked like Michael Jackson, but was that really Michael Jackson providing a voice on the Sept. 19 season premiere of Fox’s The Simpsons?
”I can’t talk about it on the record,” Simpsons creator Matt Groening says in a classic non-denial denial. ”We do have guest voices, but (some) don’t want their names used.”
The Gloved One isn’t the only celeb whose vocal cords have costarred with Homer and Marge in recent months. In fact, these days doing a voice on The Simpsons is a hotter Hollywood status symbol than courtside seats at a Lakers game. Last year’s guest voicers included Dustin Hoffman (who used the nom de voix Sam Etic in the show’s credits) as Lisa Simpson’s substitute teacher; Danny DeVito as Homer’s long-lost half brother; Ringo Starr as himself; Tracey Ullman as a deranged dominatrix dog trainer; and Saturday Night Live alum Jon Lovitz as Marge’s prom date (in a flashback episode). Lots more special guest voices are scheduled for the new fall season, including:
The rock band Aerosmith, who will sing ”Walk This Way” at Moe’s Bar, Homer’s hangout.
Jackie Mason, who’ll play Krusty the Clown’s estranged rabbi father in a send-up of The Jazz Singer.
Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Roger Clemens, and Ozzie Smith, who will play themselves in a baseball special in which Homer’s boss signs up major leaguers to play on the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s team.
Sting, who’ll play himself (he ”opened for Krusty in ‘69”) in an episode in which Bart attracts national attention when he gets stuck in a water well.
How are stars picked for the coveted guest spots? Some volunteer; others are wooed. ”I went on Larry King’s radio show,” Groening recalls, ”and he mentioned that he wanted to do a voice because he’s a real fan of the show.” Several months later, King narrated a selection from the Bible, which comforted Homer when he mistakenly believed he was going to die after he ate a plate of fugu. Other celebrities — Cheers’ Kelsey Grammer, for one, who provided the voice for Sideshow Bob — were approached by Groening because of their inimitable vocal personalities.
Nabbing a star as huge as Jackson, though, was something of a coup, even for a show as hot as The Simpsons. For those who missed it: Homer found himself in an insane asylum after his boss had him committed for wearing a pink shirt to work. His cellmate was a crazy white dude who couldn’t stop singing and dancing — he thought he was Michael Jackson.
You can catch Jackson’s next TV gig on Nov. 7, when his video, Black or White, will premiere simultaneously on MTV, Fox, and Black Entertainment Television. Among the stars appearing in the video is — you guessed it — Bart Simpson. Meanwhile, rumors are flying that The Simpsons’ next superstar guest voice will be none other than the Material Girl herself, Madonna.
”Completely fictitious,” Groening demurs. ”Completely made up.”