Talk Talk is a look back at notable, odd and interesting talk show appearances by pop stars. This time: Russian dance duo t.A.T.u. has a seat on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Allow me to whisk you away to a time when two young women kissing on television was a big problem, and the problem wasn’t that they weren’t showing enough boob. These two women were Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova – together “t.A.T.u.”, the brainchild of a Russian businessman who realized that there was money to be made from an attractive pop duo who also happened to enjoy sucking face. Of course, Lena and Yulia weren’t a couple, and weren’t even lesbians, but this didn’t stop them from selling an F-ton of albums on the wings of a sexy, rain-soaked video for the very catchy “All The Things She Said.”
A North American press tour was in order, and the group’s set on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show was marred by controversy when the control room cut away from t.A.T.u.’s trademark smooch during the synth solo. Leave it to Jimmy Kimmel Live, at this point only five weeks old, to seize the opportunity the very next night and not only allow them to perform (and kiss), but be interviewed as well. Apparently the fact that one half of the group spoke almost no English was no deterrent, not when it came to cornering the insomniac perv market.
It doesn’t take long for things to go off the rails, as Kimmel asks “Have you had fun on your trip so far?” and Lena responds with a mere “Yeh.” It’s unclear whether she is annoyed or simply unable to keep up. Jimmy tries to right the ship by asking, “Is there a problem? Did you find the hole I drilled in your dressing room?” t.A.T.u. seems more worn out and confused than anything, and Lena refers to the previous night’s censorship fiasco, briefly confusing Kimmel’s ABC for the offending NBC. Jimmy clears things up: “We’re ABC, we’ll put any crap on.”
As the show rolls the footage of their Tonight Show performance, Yulia asks, then insists, that Kimmel take his jacket off. Maybe in Russia, it’s a faux pas to wear one on the air? Let’s go with that. Kimmel moves on to their clothing, and reveals that they had to wear the “CENSORED” shirts to cover up the attire they wore to the studio that says something to the effect of “Fuck War” in Russian. For anyone who doubts that criticizing the war in Iraq became a trendy PR tactic in the entertainment industry, yes, even t.A.T.u. was doing it.
One of Jimmy Kimmel Live’s attention-grabbing choices in the earlygoing was to feature an intriguing guest sidekick every week. In week five, they’re already scraping the bottom of the intrigue barrel with crooked boxing promoter Don King. He doesn’t have much to offer in the way of witty banter, clumsily shouting “From Russia with love!” at multiple points, and later telling the group, “I want you to be in the red light district.” Vince Vaughn, marooned in the middle of that long couch, tries to counter-balance King’s pro-prostitution position by noting, “I’m just so proud of you guys for bein’ who you are.”
The girls cap off the segment by writing a phrase in Russian on Kimmel’s hand. He asks for the English translation, and Yulia says “No War,” which Lena helpfully corrects to “Fuck War!”, allowing the network censor to dust off their shiny new bleep button. Jimmy quickly throws to commercial, after which t.A.T.u. is onstage and in their more natural element singing “All The Things She Said”, which curiously sounds exactly like the recorded version! Whatever communist lesbian magic they’re employing to sing perfectly even when they pull their microphones away from their mouths, I need me some. And (sigh)… yes, they make out.
Almost ten years later, Jimmy Kimmel Live is still around, having canned many of its original gimmicks like guest co-hosts and the live broadcast to become a solid ratings hit. But t.A.T.u. is not, most likely because all they ever had going for them was a gimmick.