God and sex goddess (and Sjef van Oekel).
Disco diva Donna Summer, once seen on Dutch television peeked under her skirts by Sjef van Oekel, struggles in ‘Behind the Music’ between a sexy image and being religious.
“ Here Donna! It’s for you! “. With those immortal words bookkeeper Evert van der Pik gave the phone to Donna Summer, which playbacked (somewhere in 1974) her single “The Hostage” in “Van Oekel’s Discohoek”, a well known and notorious pop program. You should think that such a funny act would not influence the international career of the biggest disco diva the world ever knew. But still the producers of this very serious documentary about the live and work of Donna Summer, could not pass Van Oekel, probably because there is not much imagery available of the days before Donna’s huge moaning success “Love to Love You Baby”. Not the famous telephone scene, but a just as hilarious scene from later Van Oekel’s broadcasts shows a little confused but also entertained Donna Summer, while playbacking her “Lady of the Night”, with Dolf Brouwers (Sjef van Oekel, ed.) crawling over the floor in front of her feet. On first sight to pick up the paperwork which he freely scattered around (perhaps on demand of Wim T. Schippers, producer), but soon we understand that the dirty minded Van Oekel wanted to look under Donna’s short modeled skirt. Donna solves this very handy: she smiles bitchy to the surrounding dirty little men and crosses her legs. All the other actors: Henk Pal, Evert van der Pik and Preacher Bongers (of the youth hostel) are beaten. It’s a remarkable scene from the live of a singer which later would be called “First Lady of Love” after producer Giorgio Moroder let her moan in a dark studio, against her will, the 17 minutes version of “Love to Love You Baby”. Donna’s religious mother would not believe that the voice out of the radio was her daughter’s: the same well raised girl which had learned to sing in church and which was gone to Germany some years before with the New York’s cast of the musical Hair.
With increasing success of sexual explicit disco beats as “I Feel Love” Donna’s difficult struggle began with her conscience, because her Christian background was later on not able to mix with the sexy image. “Love to Love You Baby” was her ode to the orgasm, in perfect timing with the upcoming dance clubs, hot sources of social change, “Behind the Music” states heavily. “Her sultry voice sung the yearning siren’s song” roars the deep voice of the RTL4 (Dutch commercial broadcasts company, ed.) commentator and “She moved from the stage and discovered the artist, the wife and mother in herself”. A translation error, because with artist is meant the painter Donna Summer, which nowadays splashes very nice impressionistic paintings. Suffering the choking image of the sex goddess in the late seventies, she tries to find shelter with pills and spiritualism. After she dared to enter the church as in older days to pray a whole afternoon, she found her belief again and decided to never sing “Love to Love You Baby” again. Once even worse crisis she had to endure, after the New York Magazine stated that Donna had said that all gays were sinners, and that AIDS was upon them as a divine punishment. Wonderful are the scenes of a press conference in which Donna denies those statements and while presenting a juridical sounding communiqué, tears are flowing over her face. This is how you recognize a real star: laughing while you have to perform with a dirty man as Van Oekel because of needed publicity, and crying if huge injustice is done to you after years of being in the spotlights.
Text between the pictures;
Quite undisturbed upcoming disco diva Donna Summer is playbacking “The Hostage” and “Lady of the Night” in “Sjef van Oekel’s Discohoek”, while embraced, distracted and severe distortion of the whole singing part on his well known way by Dolf Brouwers (Sjef van Oekel, ed). More severe is the documentary “Behind the Music” (Sunday, RTL4, 00.05 hrs) about the life of Donna Summer in which this surprising event is mentioned. With the immortal words of Evert van der Pik: “Here Donna! It’s for you!”.
(translation: Lody van Rijssel, text: Jan Vollaard)