The View from Japan
Torii gate



Pink Lady page 2

Pink Lady performing 76.8.25Masuda has been quoted as saying, shortly after Pink Lady broke up, that, from the beginning, "I was very aware that we were a product." Indeed, Nemoto recalls, "at the very beginning, the production team told us, 'You two are the material.' They didn't ask us for our opinions very often. They made our characters for us."

Did this bother them? "We just figured we would be more successful with the power of the company helping us," explains Masuda. "I was only 18 then, and didn't really know anything, and the company took care of everything for me, so it was really helpful. I didn't feel particularly constrained." However, she goes on, it was discouraging to watch Pink Lady's handlers change--flashier clothes, nightly drinking in Ginza--as they became rich off Pink Lady's success. "I wished they could have stayed the same as they were at the start," she says wistfully. "But of course it was new to everyone, to be making so much money. I didn't think I changed, but perhaps I did."

Nemoto often says that Pink Lady were "characters"; when I asked her if she thought of Mii-chan and Nemoto Mitsuyo as separate people, she thought for a second. "That's a good question!" she exclaimed, with a warm laugh. "Well, of course we're the same person, but when Pink Lady was together and we were really maintaining our characters, we received energy from the audience. Pink Lady's characters were somewhat machinelike, like the Bionic Woman, and we were able to double our energy (from the crowd's enthusiasm)."

Masuda's take on this question was somewhat different. "When I was in Pink Lady, I didn't try to separate Kei-chan and Masuda Keiko, but it seemed to be the only way to cope. They were nearly the same person, and I could say I was Kei-chan of Pink Lady, but if I didn't have Masuda Keiko nearby, I'd go crazy!" Under the pressure of constant performances and the high expectations of their fans, she continues, "it became terrifying to appear on stage. Masuda Keiko would say, 'I want to get out of here!', but I'd take the mike, and as soon as I'd put my right foot on the stage, and hear the cheering, I'd become Kei-chan, and I'd feel like, 'If I have to die, I want to die here on stage'. It's really a different state of mind."

Pink Lady's incredible success--which included nine straight number one singles--brought with it the two-edged sword of fame: it's great to be loved by millions, but it becomes a pain in the neck when you're out on a date. "You just have to get used to it!" smiles Nemoto. "Of course I wanted people to leave me alone when I went out to a movie or a restaurant, like if I was with my boyfriend. A few times I tried dressing up like a boy, in jeans and a letter jacket and a cap. It was winter, so I put a scarf over my face, or wore a face mask, as if I had a cold. Then I went out to a movie like that. But on an elevator, where everyone was really crowded together, I'd hear someone say, 'Hey! That's Mii-chan!' They'd notice me even then. It was probably kind of stupid for me to even try to disguise myself. Once I looked at it that way, I thought, 'Oh, well!' There wasn't much I could do about the lack of privacy." Nowadays, she still attracts some attention in public, but she says, "most people now have better manners. If I go out to eat, people usually wait until I'm about done eating before they come over and say, 'Can I have your autograph?'"

In 1978, at the height of their popularity, Pink Lady turned down an invitation to appear on NHK's New Year's Eve extravaganza Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Song Contest) in favor of their own televised charity concert for blind children at Shinjuku Koma Theater. Turning down a cherished invitation to Kohaku is nearly unthinkable in Japan, and, perhaps inevitably, Kohaku stomped Pink Lady in the TV ratings. I asked them why they--or rather, their management--did it.

"I don't know," Masuda answers honestly. "One day we visited a school for the blind in (Tokyo's) Katsushika Ward. We promised them, 'we'll do a concert for you.' Somehow it ended up being on the same day as Kohaku Uta Gassen."

Nemoto has her suspicions about this "coincidence." "When we told our production company what we had promised," she recalls, "they said, 'be sure to do a concert for them as soon as you can.' Our motives were innocent, but I suppose that when our producers talked among themselves, they decided to find a way to make the idea profitable. Most likely, unknown to us, they met with people at NTV and discussed making a show that would be more interesting than Kohaku. So when they told us, 'The concert you promised the blind children is set for December 31,' we were really happy. But when the press found out, they asked us things like, 'Why did you reject Kohaku?'. We had nothing against appearing on Kohaku, we didn't reject it, or want to make a program to compete with it, we simply wanted to do a concert for the kids. But because of the way our producers had handled it, it became something sad. We'd kept our promise, and made the kids happy, so we were OK. But in my heart I feel kind of sad about what the press made of it."Pink Lady performing 77.12.5

After that, somehow the magic started to fade, their singles stopped reaching number one. At the same time, though, they started to make a bigger impression overseas, particularly to the US. In 1979 they did several TV specials, and in 1980 appeared with comedian Jeff Altman in Pink Lady and Jeff. The series only lasted six episodes, which for Americans carries the connotation that it flopped. Not so, says Nemoto, noting that the show's ratings reached 20%. "We originally contracted to do six episodes," she explains. "After the second one was broadcast, and the show proved to be doing well in the ratings, they asked us to increase the contract to ten episodes. But my partner Kei didn't want to do any more than six episodes; she wanted to return to Japan. So we said no to the ten-episode contract."

Back in Japan, it became clear that the party was fast coming to an end, and they went out with a bang at their final concert, held at Korakuen Stadium on March 31, 1981. Since then, both have appeared on various TV dramas and variety shows, and a few movies. Nemoto is currently appearing in the children's show Robocon, and performs heavy metal versions of cartoon themesongs with her band Animetal Lady. The band's producer, Tsukuda Junzo, is also her husband. Masuda, who remains single, recently appeared in the movie Manabiza, about high school students who get in trouble with the law. She released a series of solo records in the 1980s, starting with the 1981 hit "Suzume", but hasn't released a record since 1990, when she began concentrating on acting. She hopes to hit the recording studio again before long.

On balance, in spite of the punishing schedule and all, both seem to look back on their Pink Lady days as an enjoyable, worthwhile experience. As Masuda says, "I learned many things from the experience, like how to get along with other people. And that humans can do anything if they really want to! Even if they only get one hour of sleep a night. If we have dreams, we can do anything."

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Copyright 2003 This page last updated November 1, 2002 . E-mail Tim