That Time ‘The Love Boat’ Channeled Kiss and Alice Cooper
Sonny Bono appeared a face-painted, snake-carrying rock star who desperately needed a romantic getaway on the March 17, 1979, episode of The Love Boat.
Best known as half of Sonny & Cher, Bono's portrayal of the outlandish "Deacon Dark" includes black-and-white makeup and a wig to hide his true identity. Dark has become famous singing loud rock music with lyrics about sex and destruction, while performing onstage with fire, tarantulas and a snake.
Sounds familiar, right? Deacon Dark was clearly inspired by two of the '70s most outlandish, makeup-wearing rock acts: Kiss were near their commercial peak at the time – the disco-influenced smash hit "I Was Made for Lovin' You" would be released later that spring – and the snake seems like a pretty obvious homage to Alice Cooper.
It wasn't the last time a popular TV show borrowed from Kiss. The Halloween 1982 episode of CHiPs starred Happy Days' Don Most ("Ralph Malph") as Moloch, a satanic rock star clearly modeled on Gene Simmons' demonic character.
Deacon Dark Performs "Smash It" on 'The Love Boat'
Bono doesn't keep his makeup on very long during this Love Boat episode. It turns out his character's real name is Phil Baxter, a mild-mannered musician eager to make a new career for himself that doesn't rely on disguises or gimmicks. His greedy manager is strongly opposed to the plan, of course. But with encouragement from a woman he falls in love with – pretty darn quickly – on the cruise, Baxter bares his soul from behind a piano and begins charting a new course for himself.
The Love Boat ran for nine seasons, concluding on May 24, 1986. Over the years, Bono appeared in different roles on three other episodes of the show. He went on to serve as mayor of Palm Beach, Calif., and then as a U.S. congressman prior to his 1998 death in a ski accident.
You can watch the "Sounds of Silence" episode of The Love Boat on Paramount Plus.
Watch Phil Baxter Perform on 'The Love Boat'