ACCESS TO THE PUBLIC
I love Public Access television. And it’s only available on cable so I no longer get to watch it. Luckily for me, back when I had cable I had a tape that I would throw in the VCR in order to record “classic moments” over the years. Even though I believe there is some kind of schedule for programming it was pretty much hit or miss because I would only find stuff when I went surfing past it - and if it was odd enough I'd stop and tape it. I recently watched the tape again and the following are some of my favorite “shows” on public access:
Francine Dancer – Ms. Dancer is of an indeterminate age, although there is a black and white photo of her as a younger and more nubile young woman sporting a pancho over what appears to be a leotard. Her make up and hair indicate that it’s sometime in the late 60s so I’m guessing Francine is in her late 50s. She’s still wearing her blonde fall from the good old days but she’s now pushing about two hundred pounds. Her show takes place on the Public Access set in Eagle Rock, basically two chairs and a coffee table, but in the back there is an easel set up with a painting of, I guess Francine herself. Although she looks kind of like a cartoon Cinderella. Francine’s whole show features her singing along to music and dancing in various outfits like a white dress made of crushed velvet accented with silver jewelry like you’d buy in Albuquerque. Then she moves onto a mini dress, apparently a left over from her golden years. It’s about 4 sizes too small and you see a lot more of Francine than you’d really like, but it’s still better than the harem girl outfit, which is basically a bikini with some gauzy scarves hanging off of it. Francine shouldn’t wear a bikini. She especially shouldn’t roll around on the floor while wearing a bikini. But she does. And she accompanies herself as she sings off key to the music, on various instruments, like the symbol from a drum set, or a badly strung guitar, and sometimes she just shakes her charm bracelet as the fat under her upper arm swings wildly in time to her beat. Francine looks like a very large 6 year old so I can’t help but feel affection for her. Plus, she’s having the time of her life.
And she’s got her own cable access show.
Lately I’ve been seeing Francine on the streets of Hollywood. She’s obviously homeless and she sits in a wheelchair and propels herself around with her feet. I think there’s a good chance that Francine may be mentally ill. And I guess that’s why her show fascinated me so much. How often can you just sit and observe someone who is a little nuts? These are people you don’t normally want to make eye contact with.
Like Billy Ray who tapes his show in his living room with his three computer monitors on the desk that surrounds him. He wears what appears to be a shirt pulled up over his head, but not taken off, so that if flows down his back. He also wears sunglasses. And boxer shorts. And that’s it. He’s hocking the CDs he makes. At least I guess that’s what he’s doing because I think he’s on crack and I can’t really understand what he’s saying. He has a hard time getting the words out. He keeps saying something about Bungo’s CD sales and Klaritymusic.com. He has a really hard time spelling Klarity. The letter 'K' comes out Klay. He gets up and moves out of frame for a minute and then comes back and sits down and starts chair dancing to his “beats”. They sound like noises you’d hear in a submarine. I think Billy Ray is hitting the pipe.
Next up is Mutant Press and their presentation of some weird sci fi cartoon where bald people with red eyes and fins for ears have a human baby as a pet. This precedes the introduction of a band called 500 Feet of Pipe. They’re standing in someone’s basement or garage. It’s paneled. And the guys all have long hair. It looks like 1975 stopped here, in this place. The guys start to play and a smoke machine goes off and it’s a truly horrible noise. Worse than Billy Ray’s music. These guys are all playing power rock, but they’re not playing the same song. With the smoke machine and the paneled walls and the bad 70s hair it looks and sounds like hell.
The Who’s Next TV Show is hosted by a guy named DJ who is the head of the "theater department". He informs viewers that it is a thee-ater of party or disco. DJ sits on a very low couch and there appears to be tie-dye art on the wall above him. He has a couple of awards, one of which is a Black History trophy that he received for this very TV show. Or so he says. It's hard to tell exactly what is on the trophy. He is looking for people who don’t “have any projects going on currently” in hopes that they would want to come and be in a play with him. The current skit that they’re doing is “My CD Player is Broken.” Although he points out that his CD player is currently working. When I first saw this it was at about this point that I realized that DJ was probably stoned – like all the time. As the “show” progressed there was no doubt since the next choppy bits featured him playing the bongos the way that stoned people do. Hearing a rhythm that only he can hear. There are lots of very rough special effects on this show. Yep. DJ’s a stoner.
Next there is a very gay guy naked from the waist up in front of a fake fireplace who tells viewers that he’s going to go get made up in drag. I thought this might be interesting. But it’s not.
Bill Right is a black man in a white suit standing at a podium in front of an American flag thanking voters for making him the first black president of the United States. He particularly wants to thank all his white brothers and sisters for voting for him and giving him a chance to rule the country. He rambles on for a while outlining all of his plans for making American beautiful by chopping down cherry trees and getting counterfitters off the street. This is one crazy dude. But evenso, he is still more articulate than our current president.
The last thing I taped was a show called Enslaved Souls, "your S&M B&D show", as introduced by a Latino man who is shirtless and tattooed with big nipple rings. He tells us that today we’re going to visit Torturella who has an internet TV show that airs every Tuesday. I only got a few minutes into it because Torturella has some guy completely encased in a rubber suit. I mean he’s got on a rubber hood and she’s in the process of duct taping rubber mittens on him. I couldn’t watch it without feeling like I was going to hyperventilate. Torturella looked like she was very good at what she does and she was very concerned about what the camera was recording because this is a lady that doesn’t want to give anything away for free. A fascinating look at a dominatrix and her, what? Customer? Demo volunteer? I’m not sure who the guy was, but he kind of looked like Iggy Pop and she does some really crazy stuff to him. I kept having to run from the room.
This was the most professional production on my tape. Apparently I was more intrigued by the nuts who sit in their homes and videotape themselves rambling insanely and inanely. I really like the productions that are reminiscent of those performances that children do for the neighborhood. Unorganized, improvised, just for fun foolishness. And a glimpse into some really strange and different worlds. There is a lot more public out there than I could ever imagine.