Duke Fields was just 19 in 1967 when he starred in the Super Bowl I halftime show between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers. A veteran of big shows with the famous Grambling State University Marching Band, he remembers looking in the stands at the Los Angeles Coliseum and wondering how this concert would compare.
“Then I saw the rocket men,” Fields recalls of the halftime show. “Two guys with jetpacks – and my god those things were strong!“
Fields had no idea at the time, but he was carving his name on a halftime artist roster that would one day include music legends as well as questionable acts such as “Elvis Presto” and the infamous “Left Shark”.
By the end of the 20th century, the halftime spectacle had morphed into a multi-million dollar carnival of music, pageantry, and renowned artists. But no matter who performed, the show could get weird.
Super Bowl IV halftime presents a ‘battle’ fiasco
An hour before the 1970 Super Bowl IV between Kansas City and Minnesota in New Orleans, the Weather Bureau issued a tornado warning. Then a hot air balloon carrying a Viking mascot crashed into the stands, causing near panic but no injuries.
Even the pre-game national anthem was a flop. Veteran actor Pat O’Brien’s microphone cut off as he read the lyrics to the accompaniment of trumpeter Doc Severinsen and a marching band.
Then, after two Kansas City-dominated quarterbacks, came a halftime show from a sports reporter who equated to a “Roman circus.”
The Chiefs hot air balloon, which was scheduled to race with the Vikings’ balloon at halftime, never took off. The producers aimed to dazzle with a massive model of a Mississippi River steamboat laden with women in hoop skirts. But this ship did not sail. The pitch was too wet due to a pre-game downpour.
A re-enactment of the Battle of New Orleans with hundreds of participants was also unsuccessful. The fighting hero of the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson’s white stallion, fled when the explosion of cannons created a deafening roar.
“Maybe that’s why the scene ended on an unhistorical turn, with Jean Lafitte’s Yanks and French all lying on the ground in death and the Brits in red coats still shooting fiercely. “the Associated Press wrote.
Rightly so, as a belted opera singer The blues of the rue du bassin during the halftime “circus” at the Sugar Bowl, Al Hirt’s thunderous trumpet drowned her.
“Fortunately,” wrote a newspaper columnist, “they slipped a football game in between all that jazz.”
Fans watch Super Bowl XXIII halftime with 3-D glasses
In the 1980s, the Super Bowl was staple television, but the halftime show was becoming a punchline. Not even the jetpack’s second appearance, at Super Bowl XIX in 1985, could shake the unease.
Recognizing the need to change the narrative, the producers of the 1989 Super Bowl XXIII halftime show created one of the strangest experiences in television history. Coca-Cola was the sole sponsor of a 3D technology show called Nuoptix.
In order for viewers to fully appreciate the stellar performance, the soft drink company distributed 26 million pairs of 3D glasses along with its product. Newspapers even published graphics explaining how to use them. To make sure he had enough 3D glasses for customers, a bar owner in San Francisco bought $ 100 worth of Coke.
“It’s the proudest moment of my life,” said NBC Sports’ Bob Costas ironically as he presented the show in 3D.
‘Bebop Bamboozled’ featured ‘Elvis Presto’ performing magic tricks as 3D graphics paraded behind him and dancers performed to 1950s music amid spinning computer-generated cars and rotating planets. At least one bar patron enjoyed the show: “It’s good because it keeps people glued to the TV instead of getting up for a beer and going to the bathroom.”
But like a Coke left out for too long, 3D viewing has largely fizzled out with the public. One reviewer wrote that it was like “watching a half-time football show in the distorted reflection of an old mirror”.
Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop”, plays at halftime of Super Bowl XXVII
At Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl in 1993, Michael Jackson performed solo, the start of a flurry of prominent acts reserved by the NFL. Ahead of the King of Pop’s performance, fans rushed to the pitch. Then Jackson was silent for almost two minutes as the anticipation grew.
When he finally moved out and performed, Jackson was electrified, setting an example for a new generation of halftime artists. But not everyone was happy. Jackson’s startling crotch performance angered some.
“To the uneducated observer, this would indeed appear to be merely a vulgar display of self-indulgence,” wrote one newspaper reader.
The jetpacks fell by the wayside, but the aerial stunts did not.
As Diana Ross wrapped up her set at Super Bowl XXX in 1996, she cried out, “Here’s my turn!” Then a helicopter descended towards the field. Ross finished the last song – aptly, “Take Me Higher” – and said goodbye as the roaring blades of the helicopter blew his hair into his face.
Janet Jackson’s ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’ at Super Bowl XXXVIII
If the King of Pop’s performance was one of the greatest in Super Bowl history, that of his sister Janet Jackson at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 was the most controversial. MTV produced the star-studded show, infamous for Justin Timberlake ripping off part of Jackson’s top and exposing her chest for a split second as she sang “Rock Your Body.”
An angry reader of a Pennsylvania newspaper suggested that the Federal Communications Commission fine Jackson and Timberlake $ 1 million each for the “wardrobe malfunction.” The FCC fined CBS, the Super Bowl broadcaster, and Jackson was blacklisted by TV and radio stations. But Timberlake, who remained fully dressed during his performance, suffered no penalties.
Eager to play it safe after Jackson’s fiasco, the NFL has booked Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band and The Who for the next five halftime shows. of the Super Bowl.
At Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, however, Springsteen’s show featured a perilous moment, as he slipped crotch first into a TV camera. Her wardrobe, however, remained intact.
‘Left Shark’ steals the show at Super Bowl XLIX
At Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, a shark became a sensation during Katy Perry’s performance of “Teenage Dream” and “California Girls”. While the “right shark” danced proficiently, the “left shark” danced comically and out of sync.
The internet laughed at Left Shark, but Perry’s choreographer threw cold water on the hot topic.
“Sharks were given two main purposes,” said RJ Durell Hollywood journalist. “First, perform Katy’s trademark moves on the Teenage Dream chorus, which they both did perfectly; and second, having fun and bringing these characters to life like a cartoon, giving them a Tweedledee / Tweedledum type character. “
No matter how elaborate (or odd) the halftime show is, Fields and his former Grambling bandmates take special pride in their role in the One-Time American Show.
“When you think about it, we did it before Michael Jackson, before his sister, before Prince,” Fields says. “As long as I am alive, I will always be grateful for making history.”