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30 Years Later, 30 Reasons We Still Love VH1

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    Photo: Courtesy of VH1.

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    It starts off like a Cinderella story: Once upon a time, in 1985, MTV got a nerdy stepsister called VH1. That stood for Video Hits One, and it was a channel aimed at the same lame-o middle-aged demographic that listened to adult-contemporary radio. And yet, despite all the Sting and Billy Joel videos, there was something about this fledgling network — something to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it could be kinda cool.

    As the years went by, VH1 grew hipper and edgier, and in 1996, it debuted the irreverent game-changer Pop Up Video. The following year brought Behind the Music, and suddenly, this Cinderella story went all Frankenstein. In the decade that followed, VH1 produced a ton of original programming — some of it smart and centered on music (Legends, Hip Hop Honors), and much of it wacked-out, arguably tasteless reality fare starring has-beens and wannabes.

    Nowadays, VH1 has found a happy medium between music and reality, and in honor of the network's 30th anniversary, we're counting the 30 reasons we'll love and watch it forever, come hell or more Flavor Flav.

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    It kicked off with class.

    On January 1, 1985, VH1 officially launched with Marvin Gaye's performance of the national anthem from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. At this performance in February '83, Gaye was wrestling with addiction and other demons, and by April '84, he'd be dead — fatally shot by his father. Built on little more than voice and drum machine, his "Star-Spangled Banner" touches on all of his personal turmoil, as well as the troubled state of the nation. It's spare, strangely funky, and insanely moving — a fine intro to the channel that would bring us Celebreality.

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    For some reason, Don Imus was a VJ.

    In 1985, Imus was a popular radio personality, so putting him on camera and letting him ramble grumpily about music and movies must have seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. According to Internet lore, he once referred to soul seductress Sade as a "grape," on account of the shape of her head, though evidence of this is hard to come by. (It was so much easier to be a turd in the pre-YouTube days.)

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    It introduced us to Rosie.

    Before she was all buddy-buddy with Madonna or adversarial with Barbara Walters, Rosie O’Donnell was a young comedian tapped to introduce videos and host Stand-up Spotlight, a then-novel showcase for fellow comics. Rosie was a natural, and in 1988, if you were on the fence about shelling out for Elton John tickets, she'd seal the deal.

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    Elvira's Halloween show predicted a billion listicles.

    In 1991, schlock-horror goddess Elvira hosted a countdown of the 21 greatest Halloween videos of all time. Sound familiar? That's because every pop-culture website has done its own version of that scary-vid list. How many thought to put INXS' "Devil Inside" at No. 2, though? Props to the Mistress of the Dark.

  6. Photo: Courtesy of VH1.

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