Yes, okay, fine, MTV did not invent spring break. But they did invent MTV Spring Break, an annual TV event that cemented the idea in the public consciousness that spring break is a period of time best spent dancing next to a pool, participating in humiliating contests, and making some margarita-fueled bad decisions on cable TV. And that certainly has to count for something.
This spring will mark the 29th year that MTV has covered the important news event that is spring break, and in those 29 years, there's been a lot of strange stuff to look back on — regrettable fashions, forgotten celebrities, multiple performances by Sisqo. But every so often, something transpired on MTV's beach side stages that made the jump from forgettably silly into memorably bizarre. Sometimes, this televisual tribute to blowing your tuition money on Jell-O shooters crossed a line, and transformed into something fascinatingly hilarious, hilariously terrible, terribly fascinating, or otherwise utterly transfixing.
Yes, I am mostly talking about the time John Stamos presided over a "pizza tug of war" on MTV Spring Break Daytona Beach in 1989. But since that — and many of the other most notably weird MTV Spring Break moments — aren't available on the internets, we've worked hard to collect the 11 most entertaining/head-scratching/emotionally confusing MTV Spring Break clips out there. Watch them all below, and remember: only wear a whipped cream bikini on TV because you want to, not because Jerry Springer pressured you to.
1987: The Beastie Boys Want To Kidnap You?
Listen, the Beastie Boys have lived many, many lives, and their transformation from weird sexist slimeballs into socially conscious dudes who text with the Dalai Lama is part of the reason we all love them.
But long before they became influential feminist rappers, they were part of this MTV Spring Break contest, which took the slimeball factor to Defcon 1 by suggesting that the Beastie Boys would break into your house, menace you in a vaguely sexual manner, and then take you to spring break (in that order). So, the next time you feel down about the pace of our country's social progress, watch this, and think, "At least MTV no longer runs contests that suggest that rock stars will sneak into my room and either murder me or take me to spring break, depending on how they feel on that specific day."
1990: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Wander Off Stage, No One Really Notices
At 2:28 in this clip, you can catch several members of the band walking off-stage, as singer Anthony Kiedis — clad in a fashion-forward ensemble of board shorts, arm warmers, and a leather dominatrix hat — valiantly struggles to keep pretending that the band isn't lipsynching. The camera then pans away from the band for the rest of the clip, and into the audience, as if everything was normal and no one had just witnessed a famous rock band have a hissy fit and stomp off into the spring break abyss.
On a darker note, right after this clip cut away from the band, bass player Flea and drummer Chad Smith picked up and spanked a female audience member and were arrested for it (the two pleaded guilty). On the lighter side, what's up with that red car that everyone is dancing on? What MTV staffer looked at the dance floor here and said, "Looks good, but could use more car?"
1991: Cathy Dennis Performs "Touch Me,"Reminds Everyone Why The Reign Of Cheesy Pop Is About To End
I'd be lying to you if I pretended that I don't listen to this song like nine times a week. But I'd also be lying if I didn't say that the absurdity of this kind of performance — especially the "am I stretching before a barre class?"-style dance moves, or the part when Dennis and her dancers do that thing where you all line up and pretend you're a single person with six arms — is why America embraced Nirvana and grunge almost immediately afterwards.
Nevermind was released in September 1991, mere weeks after this aired, and from then on, no one was legally permitted to wear glitter tops or do coordinated dance moves on TV for the next six years.
1992: Mark Wahlberg's Rap Career < Mark Walhberg's Abs
As I'm sure you all know, Academy Award nominated actor Mark Wahlberg was once Marky Mark, a rapper/model who dedicated his memoir to his penis. Hey, who among us didn't come from humble beginnings? Let they who are without a book they dedicated to their penis cast the first stone!
Anyway, Wahlberg's spring break performance with his backing band, The Funky Bunch, contains a few moments that are the visual equivalent of dedicating a book to your penis, including Wahlberg's
synchronized dance and striptease moves — but I think the most intriguing element here is
the band's back up singers, who seem to be singing "Marky Mark" over and over
again. Should you hire a legion of back up singers to follow you around and sing your name over and over again? Is that the only way to genuinely have a fun spring break experience? Say hi to your spring break for me!
1993: Joey Lawrence, Gilbert Gottfried, And RuPaul Walk Into A Spring Break Beauty Contest...
Okay, RuPaul's hilarious and wildly energetic performance of "Supermodel" here was probably the greatest thing to ever happen on MTV Spring Break. However, the "Beauty and the Beach" beauty contest that followed it — featuring the unforgettable pairing of Gilbert Gottfriend, Joey Lawrence, and some serious white leather slouch boots — is a bit more mystifying. Were the same people interested in watching all three of these celebrities at once in 1993? Those were strange times, man. Strange times indeed.
1993: Radiohead Play Spring Break (And Only Kinda Look Like They Wish They Were Dead)
If you think the band's introspective sound and Thom Yorke's Cobain-lite look were a bad match for spring break programming, you'd be quite right — Yorke was nearly electrocuted
while jumping into the pool after the band played "Anyone Can Play
Guitar" at the MTV Beach House, and the rest of the band are making
faces like they wish they could join him in courting death via live microphone. Anything to get away from all those flailing bikinis!
1996: The Grind Is Always The Grind
The Grind ran from 1992 to 1997, but I genuinely believe that every episode of The Grind exists outside of time and space. They rarely reflect the music, fashion, or cultural trends that turned up between 1992 and 1997, but instead seem to all be transmitted from a planet where everybody wears track pants and booty shorts, and are always game to dance to a 12 minute remix.
1998: Jerry Springer Gets College Kids To Make Each Other Cry
Jerry Springer has lived a complicated life. Did you know he used to be the mayor of Cincinnati? Did you also know that in 1974, when he worked on the Cincinnati City Council, he was embroiled in a sex scandal that became public after he bounced a check to a prostitute? My point is, Springer has lived a rich and full life, and hosting The Jerry Springer Show for the past 24 years has only been one thrilling part of it.
During this clip — filmed in 1998, when Jerry and his show were at peak relevance — Springer hosts a beachside segment called "Roommate Confessions," where one man makes another man weep by confessing to "get jiggy" with his girlfriend (his words, not mine — I have some journalistic intergrity, damn it!).
1999: MTV Investigates How Badly People Will Debase Themselves For Money (Answer: Badly!)
On a show called "I'm Spring Broke" — also hosted by Jerry Springer — contestants explored the depths they would sink to in order to get some money to take one last trip to Senor Frog's. In this clip, Shelly pushes her — and our — emotional and psychological limits by basically tarring and feathering herself on national television for an unknown amount of money. The feathers washed off her body, sure, but did they ever wash off her soul?
1999: Britney Spears Says "Freak On A Leash"
Technically, this is mostly a video of the Goo Goo Dolls performing "Slide." But to me, the real selling point here is the first few seconds on the clip, where Britney says "Korn with 'Freak on a Leash.'" Also in this clip, Goo Goo Dolls uphold the fine tradition of "serious" rock bands gritting their teeth through an MTV Spring Break performance, as it were a pain on par with holding in diarrhea.
Also, did you know "Slide" is a song about a man having conflicted feelings about his girlfriend's abortion? Yeah, I know, what says "spring breaaaaaaak!" more than that? Those guys doing cannonballs into a pool mid-song really hammer that complex emotional message home.
1999: Nu Metal + Violent Wrestling = A Bizarrely Bored Audience
It might be hard to believe now, but there was a time in the late '90s when an aggressive form of metal dubbed "nu metal" topped all the pop charts. It was ecstasy for the genre's fans, and for those who were not fans, it felt like getting a Mountain Dew: Code Red enema every time you turned on MTV.
This clip gets at the heart of that divide, by pairing nu metal stars Fear Factory with some of the era's brightest stars of pro wrestling — and then stocking the audience almost exclusively with bored folks who are more interested in figuring out where their next Bahama Mama is coming from than watching these pro wrestlers literally beat each other's heads in for their entertainment. Even Kid Rock barely seems to care!
2000: Whipped Cream Bikinis Fulfill Your FDA Minimum Requirements For Dairy Consumption
There's no sound in this clip, which ran in 2000, but even without any sound or context, we can agree that watching people pour whipped cream on their pleasure parts is pretty fun. I mean, obviously they're wearing underwear under there because no stray balls pop out, but I still appreciate the effort.
And again, Jerry Springer looks upon the whole thing from the distance, both exhausted and bemused, like an ancient god trying to decide whether to spare us or destroy us with a tidal wave. I don't know which one is the right decision either, Jerry!
2004: Jessica Simpson Is Mentally Elsewhere
Before she became a fashion and questionable beauty product magnate, Jessica Simpson was a singer. And though she didn't really quit music until 2010, this performance seemed to provide hints of exactly how invested she was in her singing. Focus on Simpson's confusing facial expressions, which look like she's having a conversation with an invisible person directly in front of her, abut something totally unrelated to the song she's singing. What are they talking about? How she wants to give up her life of pop stardom in order to run a wig empire? Alas, we'll never know.