By Elizabeth Keenan
Every hero has a nemesis. In the world of 1980s cartoons, He-Man battled Skeletor, GI Joe combated Cobra Commander, and Optimus Prime routed Megatron. And Jem and the Holograms faced rival band the Misfits every week.
The Misfits, led by Pizzazz, weren’t just mischievous, though one of their songs was “Makin’ Mischief.” In fact, they were sometimes downright evil—in the first episode, the Misfits nearly run Jem and the Holograms off a cliff, showing no remorse. As the series went on, one of the Misfits, Stormer, showed a more sensitive side. Not so with Pizzazz: she was revealed as a petulant, spoiled rich girl Phyllis Gabor, whose father showered her with money—but not love, leaving her constantly craving attention and power.
Patricia Albrecht, the speaking voice of Pizzazz, tells MTV Geek what it was like to play a truly, outrageously evil character in the show.
Geek: What was it like playing the baddest of bad characters on Jem?
Patricia Albrecht: I call it, “the Alexis Carrington of cartoons.” It was very fun. What a great way to spew expletives—that were never recorded. What a great way to be the antithesis of who I usually am in real life. It was very fun. It was very wild. Great way to be angry and petulant spoiled and act out all the sides of a human being that are not politically correct.
Geek: What are some of your favorite moments from the series?
Albrecht: The whole experience was just fun. We got to come in and read through the script. What was really fun was to see the storyboards laid out as we are rehearsing the script and seeing just the pieces of pictures and then reading the lines and having Wally Burr, our director, explain a little more about what was going on, and then bringing that to life. And we got to record for the most part ensemble. That adds so much to the energy of the episode. If you work together, it has a great theatrical sense. For the most part we did record from top to bottom, which was nice too.
On films we have this set, which we have to use today. This way you have to build. It was very nice to do, more like an old-fashioned radio play.
Geek: I heard from Samantha that you used to swear quite a lot during the recording sessions.
Albrecht: Yes! I’m known for having truck-driver like language. My mouth would just—you know, Pizzazz, she just overtook me. I could make people blush, the things that would come out of me. And, I’m a small person. I was a little blond, ingénue looking person, who’s now quite a bit older than that. Now I look like the mother on the Brady Bunch—like Florence Henderson in the later years.
I would swear up a storm if I missed a line. I would just keep going. I wouldn’t stop because the line stopped. They’d have to punch me out, and then back in. I never thought about it. I never thought that what I was doing was really.
I live in the South now, and I’m from the North. To me it’s not a big deal, but in the South? They’re very cautious about language. And I’m just, “Eff this and eff that,” just casually. I had to put myself on diets frequently, and say I have to pay a quarter every time I say a swear word. And then I have to put that money toward the political party I least support. That really hurts then.
Geek: What’s your favorite thing that Pizzazz did along the way?
Albrecht: I’m not sure I have a favorite one. I really like the one where they show up in Alaska. There are so many of them. Whenever I had the chance to scream it was really fun. When people found out what my real name was, and how incensed I would be if they called me Phyllis Gabor, then I would just become furious. It was great to get that background information, which wasn’t in the beginning. As we progressed, and they went deeper into the story lines, we see the reason why she’s so obnoxious and so spoiled. And the great thing without that darkness, the light of Jem doesn’t shine as brightly. So that’s my saving grace. I get a profound spiritual reason for being a bitch. To make someone else look good.
Geek: How did you land the voice of Pizzazz?
Albrecht: Through my agent, when I was living in Los Angeles. It was this big cattle call at a studio in the Valley. And I went in and there was just a huge line of people. I thought, “Oh, boy.” By the time they got to me, it had been two, three or maybe even four hours. It was unusually long for an audition. By the time they got to me, I was so hungry. I was way past hungry. I was way past tired. Now I’m just a raving bitch. I think I was supposed to read for another character, probably something sweet and cute. But I read for Pizzazz, and I just spewed venom. I was just furious.
What I later found out was that my speaking voice matched Ellen Bernfield’s singing voice. And they had already recorded the music. So, really they needed to match the singers with the speaking voices. That’s not to say we weren’t good in our own right. But that was just a consideration I hadn’t known about at the time.
Geek: What do you think makes Jem so lasting?
Albrecht: It was Katherine Hepburn who said she always chose a film because a story was good. The bottom line is that Jem and the Holograms episodes are morality plays. They are timeless. It’s the classic hero’s journey. There’s someone you root for, people are trying to screw her up, and she comes out on top.
Who knew that Christy Marx would come up with such great stories to share? I’ve not met Christy, but what an amazing thing. She also touched into, for lack of a better word, the divine feminine. And there wasn’t anything like that at the time. And I’m not sure there is now. There wasn’t anything for that age group that wasn’t My Little Pony or Smurfs or Snorks. This was real people, similar to GI Joe, or something like that. It was more based in reality.
And it had all that fun glam. All that pink. It’s had such an influence on our culture, even today. I mean, Lady Gaga? There’s Jem personified. Or maybe a little Pizzazz, too. She can go both ways.
On October 11, Jem and the Hologram and The Mistfits fans have a chance to relive all the glory of ’80s cartoon rock-stardom with Shout! Factory’s DVD release of the series. Check out a Misfits music video below!