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Mysteries from the Morgue: Why was an MTV logo painted on a house in Adams?

ADAMS — When an MTV logo was painted across the front of the Wellspeak's home in August 1988, it wasn't part of some elaborate prank.

The graffiti-style logo, in various shades of green and yellow, was painted by MTV production crews as they "invaded" the East Road home as part of the promotional give-away, "MTV at Your House."

Months earlier, MTV aired promotional advertisements telling viewers how to enter: "Just send in a postcard and one lucky winner, drawn at random, will have the fabulous pleasure of hosting a day's worth of MTV tapings — right in your very own humble abode. Just imagine, the final round of 'Remote Control' taped live in your very own bed!"

And that's just what Deanna Wellspeak did. She filled out and mailed 40 postcards — all with her older sister's name on them. (The contest required the entrant to be 18 or older. Deanna was 15 years old at the time, while her siblings Dawn and Raymond were 21.) When the winning name was drawn for some 102,000 postcard entries, luck would have it that Dawn Wellspeak's name was on it.

"It was really exciting," Dawn Wellspeak, a student at North Adams State College (now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) told The Eagle during a 1988 interview prior to the tapings. "It didn't hit me until I saw it on television: Dawn Wellspeak, Adams, Massachusetts."

Her prize package included $5,000 which, she said, would be used to buy a car, a new stereo and a VCR for her sister, as well as a concert by Belinda Carlisle in her backyard.

Filmed over Aug. 23 and 24, the footage, "MTV at Dawn's House," wouldn't air on MTV until a month later, on Sept. 25. (Watch part of it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/JH9e3B7XwWs) The network, with programming still primarily built around music videos, aired most of the footage featuring VJs Kevin Seal and "Downtown" Julie Brown interacting with the Wellspeak family — Dawn, her twin brother Raymond, Deanna and their mother Ruth — during the Top 40 countdown and treated it as if it was being filmed live.

Scenes ranged from Seal consoling a "distraught" Ruth Wellspeak, who tricks him into cleaning her oven, to Brown enjoying ice tea with the family. During a conversation with Brown, Raymond Wellspeak joked that people in Adams didn't start trends, but "follow them." Another segment featured Seal poking fun at Ruth Wellspeak's record collection.

"You've got some real winners here, Like Don Ho's 'Tiny Bubbles,'" Seal said.

Unfazed, the Wellspeak matriarch replied, "That's correct. Don Ho is one of my favorites because I've always wanted to go to Hawaii and certainly, when I'm there, I hope to catch him."

In addition to the VJs filming inside the Wellspeak house, an episode of the game show "Remote Control" was recorded in the family's living room. At the start of the game show, host Ken Ober appeared to crash through one of the home's walls. Unbeknownst to viewers, the wall was fake — constructed specifically for Ober to smash through.

Dawn Wellspeak, along with Rick D'Elia and Dave Szpila, both of Cheshire, competed on the show. Szpila took top honors, winning a CD player, VCR and several other prizes for guessing six of eight videos correctly during the show's final round.

The two-day production shoved most of the family's furniture aside, stacking it in unused rooms, while crews turned the home into an onsite production studio. To accomplish this, the family and production crews were shipped off to the Williams Inn and on-site food was provided by McKinley Restaurant.

When asked, Ruth Wellspeak said she didn't mind all the commotion.

"I think this is great for all ages," she told The Eagle. "It's fast moving. It's a great learning experience. It's great to see everything gel ... They are really good. They tell us about everything they are doing and ask us if it's alright. And they promise they will put everything back the way it was."

But perhaps the biggest excitement of the whole affair was the filming of an episode of "Club MTV," a half-hour show modeled after "American Bandstand." The Wellspeaks were allowed to invite 200 or so "friends" to the event, while MTV bused in 40 dancers from New York City. The Eagle reported the trendy dancers, sporting a lot of exposed flesh and spiky hair, were dressed in clothes that included short skintight skirts and skimpy shirts.

"In truth, they're not stars. They don't get paid much for their MTV efforts. Most are aspiring models and dancers who appear for the exposure and contacts," the article stated.

But the dancers were just window dressing for the main event — Carlisle, fresh off the American leg of her "Good Heavens Tour."

While it wasn't a true concert — Carlisle and two backup singers performed only two songs to a taped musical background — the crowd didn't seem to mind. (You can watch the clip here: https://youtu.be/zkXBoRkNJVY)

"Isn't Adams, Massachusetts funky Belinda?" Brown asked after Carlisle finished her signature song, "Heaven is a Place on Earth."

"It's great," the singer said. A few minutes later, she sang "I Get Weak," at the request of one very excited fan — Dawn Wellspeak.

Jennifer Huberdeau can be reached at jhuberdeau@berkshireeagle.com, at @BE_DigitalJen and 413-496-6228

Features Editor

Jennifer Huberdeau is The Eagle's features editor. Prior to The Eagle, she worked at The North Adams Transcript. She is a 2021 Rabkin Award Winner, 2020 New England First Amendment Institute Fellow and a 2010 BCBS Health Care Fellow.

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