The initial batch of MTV videos had plenty of ridiculous recurring tropes—from diaphanous scarves billowing in the breeze to ridiculously hot women lounging in cars. Eagle-eyed writer Christopher Bickel over at Dangerous Minds, however, found an even more interesting bit of repetition in early ’80s clips: a stoic, Santa-esque middle-aged man. This mystery character actor appeared fleetingly in a disproportionate amount of music videos, including Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” Haircut 100’s “Love Plus One,” Billy Joel’s “Pressure,” Squeeze’s “Black Coffee In Bed,” and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “The French Song.”
Intrigued, Bickel tried to find out who the man was by reaching out to various ’80s notables. Original MTV VJ Mark Goodman couldn’t help, although Haircut 100’s Nick Heyward remembered him right away: “He was the wardrobe guy/actor/extra. Nice chap.” Finally, Bickel figured out that all of the clips were produced by the production company MGMM, which led him to video director David Mallet’s company and the name of the elusive figure: Michael Baldwin.
Turns out, Baldwin was no mere extra. The Brit was a notable costumer designer who had helped shape the look of TV shows, films, ballets, and plays. Along the way, he dressed a cavalcade of stars: Queen’s Freddie Mercury, the Beatles’ Ringo Starr, the Rolling Stones, Peter Sellers, and Vincent Price, to name a few. According to his Actors & Writers London (AWL) page, Baldwin was also a talented illustrator, sketch artist, and writer, who also produced creative work under the pen name Max India. Unfortunately, the AWL page on him also included a series of heartfelt tributes to his life: Baldwin passed away in 2014.
Thankfully, his personal website, which contains a series of fascinating audio clips of him talking about his work, remains up and running. And, of course, he’ll always be remembered for his small but memorable roles in a whole slew of quirky ’80s videos—some of which can be seen below.