Lyrically, the song “Naughty, Naughty” is almost too subtle for the layperson to fully absorb at first listen. Poetic but cryptic phrases like “Kiss me hard, squeeze me tight, gonna love ya alright” often require more clarification, and that’s where the visuals come in. Echoing the themes of the song (primarily naughtiness coupled with bawdiness, heightened by a strong undercurrent of t-t-t-t-teasing), and using powerful imagery to push those themes one step further, the NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY clip is a true cinematic masterpiece of the 1980s.
The plot of this sublime mini-drama is as follows: Rocker John Parr (best known today as the man who assured us that he could feel St. Elmo’s Fire burning within him) stars as an impassioned yet indolent (and mullet-coiffed) car mechanic who longs to be driving the pristine Rolls Royce he is supposed to be repairing. Enter the antagonist, the Kojak-esque owner of the garage who reminds Parr that he is paying him “not to fondle the car, but to fix it” – a brusque but reasonable statement that sends our frustrated protagonist right over the edge.
John tosses Kojak the keys (relinquishing his power yet boldly defying his authority figure), quickly exits the garage, hops into his old Mustang and either collects his date or picks up a friend’s daughter from school, I’m not sure which, but in any case he is now accompanied by a gorgeous and very young woman played by Lisa Rinna, who would later turn up on Days of Our Lives and Melrose Place in the '90s, and various reality television programs in the 2000s.
Our hero then “puts his hand on her stocking” and “lets his fingers do the walking,” romancing his underage lady friend with all the charm of one of those parking lot lotharios who frequent the outer regions of Stop-N-Go late at night, ogling passing females while finishing off an oversized can of Schlitz swathed in a small paper sack. (This type of wooing, when considered alongside the girl’s tender age, tells us that John is both clinging to his fading youth and brazenly dismissing the boundaries of age and propriety.)
Lisa interprets John’s sophomoric pawing as boorish and slaps him across the face (once on each side, just for good measure) to the beat of the song. She then rips the heart-shaped pendant from around her neck and flings it back in his face (in slow motion, yet), a poignant symbol of her rejection of his love.
The scorned protagonist now begins to fantasize in a series of hedonistic tableaux. First, John drives the coveted Rolls Royce to the exotic Downtown Motel where he is thrust onto the bed, partially stripped and more or less molested by a gang of remarkably flat-chested and badly dressed female dancers. (Clearly, his psyche is punishing him for his guilt over the break-up.)
Next we see John nibbled and caressed by the same gang of dancers, only in the car instead of the motel, while mustachioed auto mechanics in coveralls lip-synch the background vocals. Intercut with these scenes are shots of a bare-chested Parr brandishing his American flag-decorated guitar and reminding us every few seconds, in song, that he’s a “naughty, naughty guy.” (A prideful declaration necessary to reclaim his bruised machismo.)
In a twist ending to make Hitchcock proud, it is finally revealed that John’s fantasy sequences with the frumpy dance squad all took place inside his head! Lo and behold, he’s still sitting in the car after the necklace-throwing incident, rubbing his eyes as if emerging from a dream.
Lisa takes one look at her naughty, bawdy man and instantly regrets the hasty brush-off. She offers a slight smile (a gesture of submission), decides she does “wanna be a girl like that,” and re-enters the automobile. The director pays homage to Grease (1978) in the video’s grand finale as John and Lisa’s car takes flight and soars into the distant horizon. The Mustang ascends into the heavens and we know, in our hearts, John and Lisa will find bliss in each other’s arms for the rest of their natural lives and beyond, into the spirit realm.
Though the narrative presents a perfect mingling of urban fantasy and repressed middle-class desires, NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY’s subtext hints at—oh, who am I kidding??? This video doesn’t know the meaning of the word “subtle!”
This is a video that rips the buttons from its shirt, bares its sweaty chest and makes lewd gestures at girls from its car. This is a video that sprays your face with saliva as it shouts, “Yeah, I’m drunk, so what!” This is a video that unashamedly plasters a Hooters sticker across its bumper and boldly dares its girlfriend to object. This is a working man’s video; a proudly American clip festooned with American flags, filled with working class American joes and starring John Parr, a good old boy from … Nottinghamshire, England. God, I love the ’80s.