- Be true to your spool.
Whether it's a stripper in a G-string spanking Santa Claus or a mind-numbing middle-school production of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a chance encounter with the bizarre on Cleveland's public-access cable TV channels is only a matter of time and torture.
Granted, 80 percent of the programming is religious in nature, leading some viewers to think that's all there is. "We have people mistakenly calling all the time, asking to join our televised ministry," says Debbie Isita, coordinator of the Cleveland Community Access Corporation, the group that oversees Cablevision's prospective hams and hosts.
But there's still ample room for the secular stuff: a circus clown who air guitars to Frampton, the Psychic Shopping Club (actually a thirty-minute music video that consists of "psychics" singing and pretending to sell stuff), and a KKK rally overdubbed with Olivia Newton-John's "Let Me Be There."
"We're all about life on the far side of the trailer park," says Mark Ireland, creator and host of The Kirkendahl Voyd, a white-trash talk show set in Ohio City. The Voyd is the show where you're most likely to see a stripper dancing in the back of a U-Haul or an old man drinking beer out of his prosthetic leg. "I don't have the budget or the genetic makeup of Jay Leno, so I decided to put "cheesy' to work for me," explains Ireland. His strategy has produced more than a few angry phone calls to the CCAC.
Ireland is mystified why more people don't have their own shows. "Here's a golden opportunity for any schlep to affordably produce a show, and nobody does."
"We're just a bunch of ex-punks that now wear suits and smoke cigars instead of bongs," says Andy Timithy, editor of The Literary Café Talk Show, a quirky love child of Big Chuck and Little Johnny Carson. Timithy and his partner, Linda Baldizzi, own the Literary, the bar where this intellectual roller derby is taped. From Doppler weather crawls mocking local snow hysteria to Ken Starr superimposed on the groin of a Greek statue, it's loaded with do-it-yourself production values and Monty Python chop-editing clips.
On any given night, the Literary guest list can oscillate between a local cinematographer/nude model, a neighborhood guy in black eyeliner and leather pants, and your basic wildcard Frenchman who wanders into the bar. ("He was under the impression it was a network show or something," confesses Linda.) Host Chad Stanley impresses the Frenchman with some French phrases. The man valiantly tries to disprove the myth that French women don't shave their armpits. His culture under siege, however, he turns his talk to the trashiness of American culture, which earns him some "We saved your country's ass in the war" graphics flashed on the screen.
Speaking of asses, there's plenty being kicked on the rock 'n' wrestling show Masterz of Mayhem, a twisted take on the televised sports entertainment legacy of the '90s. Where else can you catch Destroyer, the only local Kiss tribute wrestling team, and the ever-popular regional dwarf tag-team fights? Not on the History Channel, because Masterz of Mayhem is making history. A recent show featured a heartfelt thirty-minute tribute to the late Owen Hart, the unlucky grappler who hit the turnbuckle from a hundred feet during his big hook-and-crane number. Besides host Psycho Mike, shows have featured such ringside luminaries as Headshrinker Samu, Doink, and Beef Stu Lou.
With four or five advertising spotsfor tattoo parlors and a foot clinicper episode, MOM has gained the kind of local following that could make Neil Zurcher trade in his one-tank trips for atomic body drops. Just stay off the crane.Tim Piai