For Miley Cyrus, her tongue, even more than her twerking, has become her trademark, for better or blech.
Put a camera or a crowd in front of her, such as at the recent KDWB Jingle Ball in Minneapolis, and the former Disney star just can’t keep that lolling licker inside her maw.
She’s not the first to try such shenanigans. The rock-star tongue has been flapping out there for decades. At one point, especially as the iconic logo for the Rolling Stones, it was a symbol of cool, of rebellion, of winkingly subversive sex appeal. For Gene Simmons of Kiss, it was all about pure backstage lust; it might as well have been forked.
Now the rock-star tongue represents youth-driven, social-media culture, everyone desperate to be noticed, to test boundaries, to take selfies that stand out from all those others.
Here are other pop-culture icons famous for their tonguemanship.
Albert Einstein: Snapped on his 72nd birthday, March 14, 1951, this pic of the theoretical physicist was taken by a UPI photographer at the end of a long press day. Like a Miley for fanboys of relativity, Einstein was tired of cameras, tired of hubbub, tired of celebrity. So when asked to smile once more, the German-born icon let it all hang out, proving that, no matter how smart you are, sometimes the wisest response to the madness of the world is to give ’em the tongue.
Mr. Potato Head: There are myriad appendages a tyke can stick into the Hasbro tuber’s craw, but when they want to project rebellion out with the lips, in with the tongue. Of course, you can also stick his foot in his mouth, but that, too, is par for the course when it comes to notorious tongue-waggers.
Flick in “A Christmas Story”: Like Miley, who can’t resist a triple-dog dare to get the kids talking, Ralphie Parker’s pal Flick bowed to peer pressure and slobbered up on a frozen flagpole in the dead of winter. Bad idea, but funny! The hubbub (and fire truck) was immense, the naysayers many, including disapproving teacher Miss Shields. Yet Flick and his tongue became legend. Worth it? You betcha.
Mr. Yuk: Think of this disagreeable green fella, mostly found in sticker form, as the anti-Smiley Face. Created by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Mr. Yuk — with his blech tongue straight out, eyes and brows in ewww formation — lets little kids, and the rest of us, know that a substance is poisonous. He also comes with a number for a poison-control hotline. All you Miley haters out there would probably like to slap Mr. Yuk on her albums. But hey, we know what her response to that would be, don’t we?
Gene Simmons: Ah, yes, the Demon, the lascivious tongue-flapping lech of rock icons Kiss. This is probably the closest cousin to Miley’s tongue, both in disturbing length and sexual connotation. Simmons’ tongue even has its own theme song “Lick It Up,” natch. And if you’ve ever seen the quartet in concert, there’s no denying who the serpentine fifth member is.
The Rolling Stones: Titled “Tongue and Lip Design” by artist John Pasche, the Stones’ iconic logo was created in 1971 and first appeared on the “Sticky Fingers” album. A few years earlier, it was lead singer Mick Jagger who came to the Royal College of Art, where Pasche resided, seeking images for the band. “Face to face with him, the first thing you were aware of was the size of his lips and his mouth,” Pasche said about Jagger in, appropriately enough, Rolling Stone magazine. (One can only imagine what the logo would have looked like if Keith Richards had made the visit.) “Tongue and Lip Design” is arguably the most recognizable band logo of all time, and a perfect distillation of the Stones: all attitude, all sass, all in-your-face come-on.
Michael Jordan: Let the man, and his tongue, go through! When No. 23 from the Chicago Bulls lasered in on total destruction of an opponent, his tongue instinctively wagged, letting everyone know something spectacular was mere seconds away. To the thousands of poor souls MJ left in his wake, the message was clear: You’ve been licked.