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It Was 40 Years Ago Today - "Breakaway", starring Quiffy

Back in 1977, I was living in Los Angeles and working the local club circuit with a band of Wisconsin expats which I had assembled under the whimsical and cryptic moniker "Quiffy".  The band had recently recorded Tom Jenkins's title song for the TV series "Breakaway", starring William Shatner.  A few months later, Tom and producer Don Gazzaniga decided that it might be fun to film an episode starring Quiffy.

The format of the show was that Shatner would interview ordinary working people who had unusual and/or dangerous hobbies and intersperse these interviews with footage of them engaged in these exciting "breakaways" from their dull jobs.  Since none of the members of Quiffy had unusual or dangerous hobbies, unless sleeping, drinking and chasing women could be classified as "unusual" or "dangerous", a "hobby" was contrived for each member.  The "hobby" assigned to me was by far the closest to reality, as it was, in fact, chasing women, but inverted so that it appeared that the women were chasing me.

On a warm summer morning, we assembled at Stan Laurel's home in what may have been, appropriately, Laurel Canyon, for the interview with William Shatner.  We had scripted the questions and answers, in order to avoid embarrassment, but Shatner would have none of it, he insisted on spontaneity, we would have to wing it.  So, of course, we came off as stiff and unnatural, while Shatner did a fine job, as would be expected from a professional actor.  For some long forgotten reason, I chose to appear as a sort of homely middle aged matron, ostentatiously bedecked in costume jewelry and too much lipstick, as if I were the frowsy girl singer of the band. My witty answers to Shatner's questions consisted primarily of "yeah", "yes" and "uh huh", as my brain churned helplessly for something clever to say.  Fortunately, the interviews were short, as the show was a mere 28 minutes long.

The vignettes depicting our "hobbies" were slapstick, farcical froth, ala "The Monkees" of a decade earlier.  The whole thing is a bit painful to watch; it's sobering to see us as we looked 40 years ago, fresh faced and youthful, in comparison with the grizzled geezers we've become.

Wait, did I say "40 years ago"?  Could it be possible?  Yes, I'm afraid it's true; this insipid romp was filmed exactly 40 years ago to the month, if memory serves me, which it usually doesn't.

How different these 40 years might have been, had "Breakaway" actually aired and been successful.

One can only conjecture.



Tony Dancy

Gary Falcone

Jim McPhaul

Ron Benedict

Joe Ramirez

Doug West

Stay tuned for more stories and videos and rare recordings of Quiffy, live onstage!

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