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VH1 sends music videos to the troops

VH1 sends music videos to the troops — Why Bette Midler was banned and Janet Jackson was okay for the show meant for the soldiers in the Gulf

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No consumption of alcohol. No kissing, no hugging, no hand-holding. No revealing or tight-fitting clothing. No displays of affection to dogs. No religious icons. And absolutely no pictures of pigs.

When the cable music network VH-1 decided to compile a two-hour ”video canteen” of pop songs to be shipped to Saudi Arabia and broadcast to U.S.; troops in the Gulf, it seemed like a good — and simple — idea. Then the Armed Forces Television and Radio Service stepped in with the sternly worded, eight-point list of ”media sensitivities” — bureaucratese for no-nos-that might incur the wrath of Saudi censors.

”They really didn’t think we could pass,” says VH-1 production executive Jackie Sharp. ”Any concert footage was impossible, because there’d be drinking in the audience. And the rule against religious icons — I mean, could you even have Madonna say her name?” Nonetheless, after poring over more than 2,000 videos in their library, Sharp managed to cull 30 current and recent performances that were acceptable. Among the rejects: Phil Collins’ ”Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” (its canine costar was considered unclean and in poor taste) and Bette Midler’s demure ”From a Distance,” which was excluded not for its lyrics (”From a distance, I cannot comprehend/What all this fighting is for”) but for Bette’s impressive cleavage. Those that successfully navigated the maze of restrictions include Janet Jackson’s precision-danced ”Rhythm Nation” (”It’s the perfect women’s video,” says Sharp, ”because they’re all buttoned up to the neck and nobody touches”), David Lee Roth in Van Halen’s ”Jump,” Paul Simon’s ”You Can Call Me Al,” and Bonnie Raitt’s ”Nick of Time.” That left one obvious costuming question: What would Cher, who hosts the special package, wear? ”In the hosting segments, she’s in jeans and a jacket and looking fairly normal,” says Sharp. ”You know, our new rule is, ‘Turtlenecks Are Us.”’

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