Sometimes the YouTube time-machine experience disappoints; the retrieved televisual artifact of one’s childhood isn’t as pleasing or outré as memory promised. But in the case of the infamous New York Rangers “Ooh, la la, Sasson” commercial of 1979 (featuring Phil Esposito, left, and the fabulous Ron Duguay), the experience is even better than what memory promised.
The YouTuber comments that appear below the video are the usual homophobic, subliterate vitriol, but I can only applaud Messrs. Esposito, Duguay, Hedberg, and Maloney for being so brazenly “up” for a swish, Fosse-on-ice number that finds them singing and jazz-handing in designer jeans. That’s precisely what was charming about New York City in the late ’70s, and about the late ’70s in general: that worlds collided under the disco ball, that cultural life wasn’t stifled by the imperatives of corporate caution, that brilliant mistakes like this one could be made.
So here’s to you, Phil Esposito, whose 1972 memoir, Hockey Is My Life, I read in the fourth grade. (Its scandalous [to me then] opening sentence: “I’m a high school drop-out.”) You were even braver off the ice, sir, than on.