Her picture may be hanging in Cleveland as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s 14 exemplary ”One Hit Wonders,” but don’t mention that three-word curse around Toni Basil. ”People think, ‘Well, she’s not around because she’s not in front of the camera,”’ says the spark-plug singer and choreographer behind ”Mickey,” the catchy Jazzercise staple that, bolstered by its peppy cheerleading video, reached Billboard‘s No. 1 in December 1982. ”You’re not going to be that naive, are you?”
Basil hasn’t exactly been sitting idly with her pom-poms since, she says, her hit ”drove many a parent crazy” 14 years ago. After ”Mickey,” follow-up singles failed to match its success, and Basil saw her career stall as three record labels waged a legal battle over which should steer her future career. ”It wasn’t just me who didn’t earn a living through this huge hit,” she recalls. ”It was everyone around me. I watched everybody try to sue everybody.” So she refocused her attention on choreography (she had been a dancer and choreographer since graduating from Las Vegas Senior High School) by inventing tour steps for David Bowie, Tina Turner, and Bette Midler. ”I have an inspired career other than just singing,” says the single New York native.
So inspired, in fact, that when Tom Hanks was researching the 1964 rock musical The T.A.M.I. Show in preparation for his one-hit-wonder comedy, That Thing You Do!, he caught Basil’s name in the credits and recruited her to oversee the dance numbers for his film. ”Her name rolled by, and I said, ‘I’d be incredibly happy to get them to look like The T.A.M.I. Show. Can we get Toni Basil?”’ Hanks remembers. ”We made a phone call and she was there the next day.” Now in her early 50s, Basil just choreographed an episode of Pearl and will mount Midler’s Experience the Divine concert for HBO next year.
To keep up with the dance moves of today’s twentysomethings — and keep her 20ish body — Basil, who now lives in L. A. with her dog and two cats, remains a tireless club hopper. Lately, she has been dancing in salsa clubs. ”I think salsa is going to cross over to pop like country [did],” claims Basil, who plans to start singing with a salsa band next year.
If her Latin crusade doesn’t pan out, Basil will continue to choreograph by day and dance for fun at night. ”You street-dance in a club, you’re performing,” she says. ”Whether anybody sees me is a whole other thing. But it doesn’t matter, because it fills my void.”
Time Capsule: Nov. 1, 1982
”Mickey” had recently hit the charts and was rising; Jane Fonda’s Workout Book leaped to the top of the nonfiction list; TV viewers counted on 60 Minutes, and moviegoers were drawn to First Blood.