Rembert Explains the ’80s: Erik Estrada Sings Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ on CHiPs

Erik Estrada on CHiPsWelcome back to our series Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 25-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching the video, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was picked by a reader whose name we lost (sorry, reader): CHiPs‘ Erik Estrada performing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, send snail mail to Rikers or e-mail us at hollywood@grantland.com.

0:00 I’m kind of embarrassed that I’ve never seen an episode of CHiPs (kind of), but I do know the word is a semi-acronym for “California Highway Patrols.” I think. That, and it involves Erik Estrada, actor and star of two rap lyrics from my past:

Jay-Z, “Ignorant Shit”: “Watching Erik Estrada, baggin’ up at the Ramada.”

Loon, “I Need a Girl (Part 2)”: “Sip coladas, dripped in Prada, I’m smooth as Erik Estrada, dipped in dollars.”

Very excited to learn more about Jay and Loon’s Estrada teachings in the upcoming clip.

0:11 I mean, already, he’s looking pretty fresh in his California Highway Patrol outfit:

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(insert Cali Swag District joke)

0:19 This scene is intense. Some dude is about to blow up The Ramada’s Erik Estrada. This isn’t fun.

0:30 Explosion: STOPPED. How? Smooth Erik Estrada blew out the flame. And then made this face:

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Still not fun.

0:31 Oh, hi there, out-of-nowhere drum beat. To what do I owe this surprise visit?

0:32 shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up.

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THIS IS HOW HE CELEBRATES SOLVING CRIMES? Incredible.

0:36 Everybody loves him, so far:

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Please say this performance is taking place in a Huntington Beach Ramada.

0:39 And just like that, he’s grabbed the mic and is singing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang. Was this a one-time thing or did every episode of CHiPs end with him thwarting crime and then going to the Ramada, being smooth, and celebrating with “Celebration”? If so, I’m buying these DVDs yesterday.

0:46 He’s like an angel.

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So smooth. Loon was right. But then again, when has he ever been wrong?

0:51 There is no lip-synching going on in this Ramada. This is 100 percent Erik, just as it should be. I wonder if he had a residency at just the Huntington Beach Ramada, or all Ramadas in California?

0:54 Mid-ESTRADASPIN, we get a good look at the back of his jacket:

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Just look at that diamond-encrusted Prada triangle. Three perfect 60 degree angles. Never isosceles when it comes to Estrada + Ramada. ALWAYS EQUILATERAL. Also: He’s dipped in dollars.

1:01 “There’s a party going on right here.”

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1:03 “A celebration to last throughout the years.”

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1:04 “So bring your good times. And your laughter too.”

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1:08 “We’re gonna celebrate your party with you.”

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Versatility. Passion. Hips.

That’s what you get when you show up at an Erik Estrada in the Ramada Drippin’ Dollars Celebration Party.

1:21 The Estrada has moves for days. In just four seconds, I saw a spin, a hip thrust, a borderline Chicago step, and then this:

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That’s what victory looks like. This is just the story of a guy who works hard during the day, leaves it all out there in these streets, and then unwinds by putting on his flashiest Prada get-up and performing for his Ramada friends. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s Estrada.

1:29 Wow. Just when you thought Estrada was all about the up-tempo partying, he smooths it out with “it’s tiiiime, to come to-ge-thuuuuh.” And just like that, AUTOMATIC REWIND on the part of the listener. It’s like ’86 Vandross meets ’92 Vandross. Just fantastic.

1:34 “It’s up to you,”

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“WHAT’S. YOUR. PLEASURE.”

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When The Estrada Hand is on The Estrada Hip, you know it’s all business. Shocking to know that only two minutes ago I didn’t know that to be true.

1:34 Oh man, Estrada’s about to step it out on these fools.

1:35 “EVERY”

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“ONE”

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“AROUND”

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“THE WORLD”

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“COME ON”

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You see that blur? That’s what we in the business call “de-di-ca-tion.” You can’t always capture dedication in a photo. It’s like the Smoke Monster from Lost, I think. It’s on another level. This blur: another level.

1:41 Estrada’s feeling pretty good right now, post step-it-out-on-these-fools. His crotch area is swiveling for the crowd like a Lazy Susan.

1:42 Look at all these Susans:

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Susans are having a great time watching the Estrada. It’s why they keep coming back to the Ramada. Also having a great time: Bette Midler in the back left. “Radisson no more,” says Bette.

1:48 I wonder if, in the Huntington Beach area, he’s more known for his heroic police accomplishments or his electric stage presence. Do people know that he’s both, or is this like a Bruce Wayne–Batman situation? So many questions.

1:58 And just like that, Erik is on one knee, serenading some lucky Susan:

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I wonder what face he’s mak—

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Perfection. Also, just look at that head of hair. Immaculate. He looks like an Osmond. Is he an Osmond?

2:12 The way he sings “we’re gonna have a good time tonight” is … interesting. It’s not bad — please don’t think that I’m saying that — but he just further proves in that lyric that it’s actually him singing. Like, there’s no confusion. Zero.

2:17 Oh, and he just started loud-whispering some lyrics. Did he go to Juilliard?

2:27 This is what we call a PARTY:

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2:41 Whoa. Perhaps I assumed Estrada was the type of guy to stick to the script when it came to the notes he sang, but he just took “AND HAVE A GOOD TIME” up an octave and nailed it. And did it while in motion. Is he the president of Juilliard?

3:27 BRIEF SAX SOLO

2:57 Important:

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One of these Susans is getting chosen tonight by The Estrada. One has to assume the penthouse suite (second floor) is entirely his. My money is on the blonde(s).

3:14 GRAND ESTRADA FINALE:

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GET IT.

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GOT IT.

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ESTRADA.

3:16 Exhausted. Thrilled. A Champion.

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What a legend.

3:19 Everyone’s losing their minds in the crowd. Great Ramada performance, or GREATEST Ramada performance?

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Celebration.

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3:25 Well, not everyone …

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Must be the owner of a Howard Johnson up the road. OR MAYBE THAT’S ACTUALLY HOWARD JOHNSON?

3:45 Estrada leaves the stage, walks through the crowd like the Moses figure that he is, and makes his way to the party table.

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He’s definitely about to buy a round of shots for the table. That’s just the kind of guy The Estrada is, I think.

3:54 “Well, here it comes. The winner of the Battle of the Bands … “

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Wait, what? I guess this isn’t his nightly post-crime-solving gig. IT’S MOST DEFINITELY STILL A RAMADA, THOUGH.

Note: If he doesn’t win, I’m buying five CHiPs DVD sets out of Estradidarity. (Definition: When you do something as an act of solidarity with Erik Estrada. Obviously. And if you didn’t know that, how about opening up a newspaper every now and then?)

3:56 *Drumroll*

4:01 “The winner is SNOW PEEK”

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MY FACIAL THOUGHTS EXACTLY.

4:19 I can’t believe she won.

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I can’t believe Estrada lost.

4:20 Well, not so fast … Estrada just winked at her. And then this:

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Maybe he’s going to win in the end, after all. Shout-out to the Ramada penthouse.

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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