7 Weird-But-True Super Bowl Halftime Performers (That You Wouldn’t Have Missed with a Slingbox)

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The Super Bowl is the biggest event on the American sports calendar. It’s the country’s most-watched TV broadcast of the year, every year. And we at Slingbox — the only product that lets you watch 100 percent of your home TV on a mobile device anywhere in the world — are happy we can enable our customers to catch all of it, even if they have to duck out for a food run in the middle.

The big game has become as much (if not moreso) about the TV broadcast than the game itself, what with the commercials, the pregame analysis and the halftime show, which has evolved into an enormous spectacle showcasing titans of current pop culture. But it wasn’t always so — in years past, the big game has had some halftime performers that raise some eyebrows in retrospect:

Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill

Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis was the second to take place in a cold-weather city. And even though the game unfolded under the climate-controlled roof of the Metrodome, the halftime show took on the theme of “Winter Magic,” tying in with the 1992 Winter Olympics, which would start a month later in France.

The show included wintry musical numbers like “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” giant blow-up snowmen, and gold medal-winning figure skaters Boitano and Hamill welcoming viewers to “Minnesota, where winter is the hottest time of year.”

Carol Channing

Channing, who made a name for herself as a stand-up comedian and Broadway musical star, might not be the type of figure you’d expect to headline a Super Bowl halftime today. But back in 1970 — when NFL championship games’ idea of halftime entertainment hadn’t yet progressed beyond marching bands — she became the first celebrity to appear at one when she performed at Super Bowl IV in New Orleans.

She was such a hit that she returned for Super Bowl VI, which was also in NOLA, and even reprised her performance, at age 93, for a Pepsi ad last year. Maybe there’s still hope for a third go-round?

88 grand pianos

The theme for the halftime show of 1988’s Super Bowl XXII in San Diego was “Something Grand,” and boy was it ever. Literally — 88 baby grand pianos (44 black and 44 white) took the field, arranged in a giant outline of — you guessed it — two huge grand pianos.

The pianoception stunt was accompanied by the Rockettes, Chubby Checker and a giant jukebox. The pianos, which were specially made for the show by Kimball and all bear plaques indicating as such — occasionally pop up on eBay today.

Ella Fitzgerald

Jazz isn’t a musical genre you’d expect to be emphasized at a Super Bowl today, but the cultural landscape was different in 1972. Super Bowl VI took place in New Orleans and the halftime festivities were billed “a Salute to Louis Armstrong,” who had died the previous year.

To honor Armstrong, the game’s organizers centered the halftime show around Fitzgerald, trumpeter Al Hirt, and Channing, who was the first and so far only celebrity to make a return appearance for the halftime spectacle.

George Burns and Mickey Rooney

On February 1, 1887, a man named Harvey Wilcox officially registered the city of Hollywood with the Los Angeles County recorder’s office. Little did he know that this mundane bit of paperwork would one day inspire the halftime show of one of the world’s biggest sporting events. The theme at 1987’s Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena was “Salute to Hollywood’s 100th Anniversary.”

That salute involved appearances from Burns and Rooney, who were 91 and 66 years old at the time, respectively. But the real stars of the show were Disney’s Goofy and Chip ‘n’ Dale in cowboy outfits, along with a phalanx of dancing bipedal horses.

Up With People

Up With People were (actually, still are) a quasi-cultlike troupe of brightly-attired singing youths, created in the ’60s with the intent of providing an alternative to the era’s musical counterculture. UWP “casts” feature hundreds of singers and are required to smile unceasingly throughout the entirety of their performances.

They’re also, as a group, the most frequent Super Bowl halftime performer — they participated in 1971, ’76, ’80, ’82 and ’86. Their fourth appearance, at Super Bowl XVI in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, may have been the most curious — Up With People would probably not be your first choice for a show themed around a “Salute to the 1960s and Motown.”

Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood

In 1995, Disneyland unveiled its “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” ride, and Super Bowl XXIX in Miami seemed like a good venue to promote it. But a commercial wasn’t enough for Disney — they essentially bought the entire halftime show. Actors (who were definitely not Harrison Ford and Karen Allen) playing Indy and Marion appeared to “save” the Lombardi Trophy in a confounding adventure involving Patti Labelle, Tony Bennett, drummers wearing snake costumes, and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King.

After finally reclaiming the trophy, did Professor Jones say that “it belongs in a museum”? No — he declared, quite generously, “I’m giving it to the winner of Super Bowl XXIX!” As far as we know, he did not actually appear at the postgame ceremony.

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