The news Friday was that six members of the “cast” in “The Super Bowl Shuffle” were suing over disposition of the proceeds from the recording and video was cause to recall the rest of the story back in 1985.
Indeed, this is not the first time that “The Super Bowl Shuffle” has been involved in a taffy-pull over where the money from the project was actually going, with the Bears players as the good guys.
Richard Dent, Steve Fuller, Willie Gault, Jim McMahon, Mike Richardson and Otis Wilson are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court against Julia Meyer, widow of “Shuffle” creator Richard Meyer, and Renaissance Marketing Corp. The claim is that the corporation did not give properly to needy families, according to Forbes.com.
The real story goes back almost 30 years and is one in which the Bears players were about doing the right thing, particularly Jim McMahon and Walter Payton along with agents Steve Zucker for McMahon and Bud Holmes for Payton. I uncovered much of the full tale while working on “The Rise and Self-Destruction of the Greatest Football Team in History” about the ’85 Bears, talking to the people who were in the room during negotiations that involved the Illinois Attorney General.
After the bomb blast of the initial “Shuffle” recording, plans were set for the video. But Payton and McMahon refused to do the original shoot of the video, to be done at Park West up on Armitage Ave. They weren’t being obstructionist; they were just distrustful about where the considerable money from the original recording, which sold an estimated double-platinum two million copies, was going from a project that had been presented to the players as something for charity in the form of Chicago Community Trust.
Holmes and Zucker pushed the matter, which eventually reached the offices of Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan. Some members of his staff favored shutting “The Shuffle” down before it ever went public. I spoke to those who were party to the negotiations, in the room at the time, and it was a story with a touch of intrigue.
A key was that all involved were convinced that without McMahon and Payton, the project was incomplete. They were two of the main faces of the Bears, and besides, Payton was a former “Soul Train” dancer. When a compromise was finally reached, McMahon and Payton did their routines separately, against a blue background, and were dropped into the video electronically. McMahon, true to form, audibled away from Meyer's prepared script and did his own.
Shaun Gayle told me that he didn’t see the $400 that was supposed to be paid to the “extras.” But they weren’t in it for the money anyway.
“No money for us but it doesn't matter,” Dent told CSNChicago.com. “I still have a gold record and a platinum video. A bunch of guys doing something don't normally do, wearing tight pants – I was thinking, ‘Heck, we're going to win it anyway, so why not?'"