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Word of the week: Vogue

You are probably familiar with “Vogue”, Madonna’s worldwide hit from 1990. If not, here’s the official video from YouTube, which shows the accompanying dance moves. Vogue, as a verb, is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries website as, “Dance to music in such a way as to imitate the characteristic poses struck by a model on a catwalk”. The song was #1 for 4 weeks in the UK and 3 weeks in the US, and the lyrics appear to have entered into the realm of general knowledge. Last autumn two different quiz shows (“Tenable” and “Impossible”) featured questions about the roll-call of Hollywood stars towards the end of the song (beginning at 3:41 on the YouTube link above).

“Tenable”, presented by Warwick Davies (and which I wrote about in September and again in November), used the song for one of its rounds, with the following challenge: list the 10 actors and actresses whose full names appear in the lyrics to “Vogue”. There are five movie stars referenced by a single name in the song (Dietrich, Monroe, Lauren, Katherine, Lana) and there’s a mention of DiMaggio (baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, who was married to Marilyn Monroe; you probably knew that already). None of these names count towards the final list of 10. If you have followed the link to the video you have either heard the names already, or are about to. Either way, all 10 of them appear at the end of this piece and a few of them appear along the way.

Many quiz shows have been mentioned on this Blog, but “Impossible” has not been one of them, until now. It was on during October and November 2017, mid-afternoon on BBC1, presented by Rick Edwards. I was unfamiliar with it and watched several episodes back-to-back on the iPlayer one afternoon with my son, at his request. The show’s name derives from the nature of the answers offered for each question. In the early rounds each question has three possible answers: correct, incorrect or impossible. Here’s an example:

“Which Tom Jones #1 features the line ‘Why can’t this crazy love be mine’?”
A “It’s not unusual” B “Green Green Grass of Home” C “Delilah”.

A is correct, B is incorrect, C is impossible (“Delilah” didn’t get to #1). Contestants who give an impossible answer are out of the show. (There are circumstances where contestants can return to a show after being eliminated in this way, as I discovered on that afternoon in front of the iPlayer, but we don’t have time for that right now.) Three contestants go through to the final round. To do so they each face a solo round, a grid containing 9 items. They have to eliminate 5 impossible answers and then identify the correct answer to a specific question about the remaining 4 options. In the grid containing names from “Vogue” they were left with Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow and Ginger Rogers and had to identify which one “gave good face”. (The answer to that one also appears at the end of this piece.)

The episodes of “Tenable” and “Impossible” that featured “Vogue” were, coincidentally, broadcast on the same day (3 November 2017). I saw them both some weeks later, on different days. They prompted me to show my 11-year-old daughter the video of Madonna in her prime a week or two before Christmas, on a laptop. She hadn’t heard the song, and didn’t know about the dance that accompanied it. Last week we watched it again, through the YouTube channel on our TV. My wife saw it for the first time, so she now has a better idea of what we’re doing, posing around, waving our hands in front of our faces and behind our heads. Unsurprisingly my daughter can replicate the moves more accurately and gracefully than I can. My light-hearted attempts to do so have included sticking a thumb in my eye and accidentally scratching my forehead. It’s harder than it looks. I’ll stick to trivia questions instead, and as promised here are the names of all 10 Hollywood stars mentioned in the song, in the order they appear:

Greta Garbo / Marlon Brando / Jimmy Dean / Grace Kelly / Jean Harlow (as Harlow, Jean) / Gene Kelly / Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers / Rita Hayworth / Bette Davis

It was Rita Hayworth who “gave good face”, and here, for the record, is the whole of that final verse:

“Greta Garbo, and Monroe,
Dietrich and DiMaggio,
Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean,
On the cover of a magazine.
Grace Kelly, Harlow, Jean,
Picture of a beauty queen.
Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire
Ginger Rogers, dance on air.
They had style, they had grace,
Rita Hayworth gave good face.
Lauren, Katherine, Lana too,
Bette Davis, we love you.
Ladies with an attitude,
Fellows that were in the mood,
Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it,
Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it”




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