Saturday, May 1, 2010

Billy Idol, Charmed Life, "Cradle of Love," and Betsy Lynn George (1990)

Twenty years ago today, on May 1, 1990, Billy Idol released Charmed Life, his fourth solo album. Most recall that album today for one reason and one reason alone: the video for "Cradle of Love," that album's first single. That video featured 18 year old Betsy Lynn George, dancing lasciviously in the apartment of a shy geek. Of course, then, no one knew her real name; she was to everyone simply "the girl from the 'Cradle of Love' video." George played Devon, a young neighbor of the geek in question, who knocks on his door and asks if she might possibly use his cassette player to listen to a song, "Cradle of Love." As the song plays in the geek's apartment, she dances ever more provocatively, and then kisses him. The song ends, and her boyfriend appears at the geek's door to locate her. She leaves, as if nothing happened.

The video was directed by none other than David Fincher, five years before he made waves with Seven. In it, Idol himself is depicted only from the waist up due to a recent motorcycle injury. (You may recall his brief cameo in Oliver Stone's The Doors, shot about this time, in which he is featured as a roadie on crutches.) The video also featured clips from the film, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, which would be released in July of 1990. None of those clips included that film's lead, Andrew Dice Clay, who was then banned from appearing on MTV. Interesting, Spin magazine's original 1990 review of the album (from its July 1990 issue) makes no reference to "Cradle of Love." Perhaps the video did not achieve its notoriety until after press time.

And without further ado, here is the official video to the song:

Two other singles were released from Charmed Life: a cover of The Doors' "L.A. Woman" and "Prodigal Blues," neither of which were particularly successful or remarkable. "Cradle of Love" was also the first track on the official soundtrack to The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (while an apparently uncut video - featuring clips of Clay - appears on the Ford Fairlane DVD).

Born in June of 1971, George appears to have vanished into the pop culture ether since the 1990s. (According to IMDB, her last formal credit is from 1997, and most of her credits were not exactly A-list flicks. See, for example, the racy trailer for this 1996 softcore film, Petticoat Planet, about a world of women visited by a single male extra-terrestrial, in which George appears as the character, Lily). She did, however, appear in an episode of "Twin Peaks," as well as in "Melrose Place," "Baywatch," and "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." Apparently, in 2000, and again in 2002, VH1 investigated her whereabouts in a series of specials entitled "Where Are They Now? Video Vixens" (videos for which I've been unable to locate online). It's unclear whether a new interview of George was done for that series. However, in one online summary of that broadcast, it is noted:
Betsy Lynn George used every sexy contortionist move she knew in Billy Idol's "Cradle of Love". She now teaches young girls her techniques - in gymnastics classes.
A more recent picture of George:

In 2008, Katie Charles of New York Magazine, writing about an upcoming Billy Idol concert, referenced George and her role in popular culture:
Few songs offer as pure a dose of 1990 a "Cradle of Love," and nostalgists won't want to miss Billy Idol. the MTV star who blasted the image of Betsy Lynn George doing a striptease for her yuppie neighbor onto your retinas. August 26 at Hammerstein Ballroom.1
In fact, here is a link to the video of Idol performing "Cradle of Love" at that very concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom. For good measure, here is a link to a video of Billy Idol performing the song on "The Arsenio Hall Show" in 1990.

The blog The Friendly Friends did a similar nostalgic piece on George back in 2007.

Below, purely in the interest of pop culture nostalgia, you'll find a few stills from the video:

1. Katie Charles. "Agenda." New York. Vol 41, Issue 30 (August 25, 2008).


Pete said...

Nice piece. I love his version of The Doors' LA Woman

Ransom said...

Thanks for the kind words. I remember picking up the CD single for his version of "L.A. Woman" sometime in 1990 or 1991, but I have lost it in the intervening years.

Val said...

Betsy is from the small town of Ford City, about 50 miles or so north of Pittsburgh, PA. She was a gymnastic instructor at the YMCA in neighboring town, Kittanning, where I'm from. My sister was in her class. She was a stuck up snob before the video. I heard that after she made the video, she became even worse, stating that she'd never come back home. I haven't seen her around since, so maybe she told the truth. Though, I bet she doesn't return now out of embarrassment of being a "one hit wonder". Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

Wow Val, bitter much. Do you know how many times I've heard people say that about famous people they grew up with? She might be, but you certainly don't do anything for the folks of Ford City or Kittanning either. I bet you would trade in your double-wide for even a quarter-hit wonder.

Steven Satak said...

@Anonymous: wow, snipe from cover much? How do you know what it was like to live with Betsy? Some folks are not all that impressed with show biz success. Others, like you, go to their graves believing in the old saw, "Better a has-been than a never-was". You worship success.

Thanks for the tidbits, Val. Most folks didn't even know her name.

Unknown said...

Im not sure where she is now, but im sure she is still that sexy gemini that ive watched that video 100 times just to see,

Unknown said...

Yes. I don't care about where she came from (in fact, the less I know about her the better). She was the girl from the only video I've never gotten sick of. And when this song came out, I was a high school softmore who came home from school and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting around with friends watching MTV. This is quite simply the best video of the era because of that girl. I, for one, love her.

Steve Kasian said...

Damn, Val... You are a real douche.

For anyone (else) who's interested, you can find a July 2014 interview with Betsy Lynn George here:

Anonymous said...

Well shucks, Val, how did you know Betsy was, as you say, a snob? Did you hang out with her a lot? Or did she, perhaps, fail to acknowledge you in some way to which you took offense? Any possibility she was just shy? Beautiful girls can be shy, too, and Betsy probably defines what the concept Beautiful Girl is. And you, Val, are you a beautiful girl, or more like Piper Laurie in the film, Carrie? Cuz, Val, I have known a lot of ugly girls who say beautiful girls are snobs. Betsy worked/works as a gymnastics teacher and must be successful at it, since, apparently, she has done it for a long time. That don't sound like a snob. Or maybe, just maybe, she is so accomplished, poised, and refined that she puts your hick in the sticks lack of manners to shame? What say? If you had to guess, how long will Betsy be remembered and acclaimed as compared to your injudicious self?

Unknown said...

I went to High school with this Beautiful Girl and never had any problems with Betsy ever. I never got to tell her congratulations on such an amazing video.