Cable TV & radio - Do homeless people host shows where you live?

Tom Boland (
Sat, 5 Jun 1999 23:09:03 -0700 (PDT)

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Do homeless people host or appear on Cable TV or radio shows
where you live?  If so, please tell us about the shows.

See below for a related article on Community Access TV:

"[San Francisco CityVision TV's] Dangerous George was known
for his in-your-face approach, interviewing people from
the streets to shed light on poverty, homelessness and
other civic issues." -- from article below
FWD  San Francisco Examiner  - June 3, 1999


     Cable access TV is the definition of "eclectic"

     Julianne Tolleson of The Examiner Staff

So you wanna be on television. But you have no experience,
no money and your talent is a bit on the raw side? No
problem. All you need is a dream - and a few training
sessions at CityVisions, Channel 53 in San Francisco.

CityVisions is a community access station. Translation:
TV air-time is free and available to fame-seeking San
Franciscans looking for more than their 15 minutes.

Satire, religion, saving the trees . . . whatever the
agenda, there's room for it on CityVisions. What makes
cable access different from other TV? Well, its
accessibility. People - not just professional
broadcasters or entertainers - of all orientations are
represented and given creative expression on cable
access. Where else will you find  "The Polish Variety
Hour,"   "American Atheist Viewpoint,"   "Satsang With
Gangaji"  and  "Inspirational Moments With Winifred?"

There's a common do-it-yourself, no-rules chaos -
similar to the impulse behind punk rock and performance
art - from  "Queen Bee TV,"  one woman's video diary shot
on a cam corder, to the  "New Vegas Lounge,"  an
elaborately produced, multi-cast comedy show.

Of the 157 shows broadcast each month, local programming
manager Barrett Giorgis classifies at least one-third as
vanity TV - conceived by people who  "just want to be on

After all, aspiring hosts simply need to call CityVisions
and sign up for the weekly, monthlong workshops, which
cover lighting, camera, directing and other studio jobs,
with an emphasis on safety and proper use of equipment.
Each Friday-evening class is three hours long. Once these
are completed, hosts-to-be are required to work on a
couple of shows, in various positions, before launching
their own.

When ready to produce their chef-d'oeuvre, hosts can put
new skills in action (or submit a home video). Upon
completion, they fill out a simple form, and the new show
is in line to be aired at the station's earliest
convenience. (The waiting list goes quickly.) The only
rule is, you need to be (or be sponsored by) a San
Francisco resident. Shows run weekly, bimonthly, monthly
and as onetime specials, with the latter being the
quickest to squeeze into the programming schedule.

Need some inspiration? Let's take a look at some of your

One of the longest-running shows on CityVisions is
 "Labor on the Job,"  hosted and produced by Steve
Zeltzer, whose mission is to arm Bay Area employees with
legal knowledge of workers' rights. Topics include
discrimination, harassment and workers' compensation.
This show airs the second and fourth Thursdays of each
month from 8 to 9 p.m.

Until he died in the early 1990s,  "Dangerous George"  had
the longest-running program, inspiring an annual award
of the same name for dedicated producers who capture the
"spirit of cable access."  Dangerous George was known
for his in-your-face approach, interviewing people from
the streets to shed light on poverty, homelessness and
other civic issues.

Community access coordinator Brian Scott would like to
see more such socially conscious shows. He cites such
current favorites as  "Out & Beyond,"  a variety show
focusing on gay rights (produced by Chris Caldera, airing
Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.),  "Good News News,"  which
features positive news in the community (produced by
Gregory Richardson, airing Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.), and
 "Viva La Vida,"  a Latino variety / news show (produced
by Edward Rodriguez, airing the second Wednesday of each
month from 8 to 9 p.m.).

One show you'd never see on network TV is  "Street Wise,"
whose guests include sex and fetish shop employees,
strippers, porn stars and prostitutes. Its mission is to
help viewers enhance their sex lives and knowledge of the
sex industry. (Produced by Margo St. James and Carol
Queen, the show airs on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.)

"Queen Bee TV,"  widely considered the cream of the crop,
is on every Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. Hostess Rebecca Danis
resembles a toy-obsessed version of horror-hostess
Elvira, in her busty bee costume inspired by Wonder Woman.

The show opens with a close-up of glittery, handwritten
titles accompanied by the sounds of thrash metal. A
dizzying camera pans the hundreds of dolls and toys that
populate Danis' one-bedroom apartment.

Tall, lanky and tattooed, Dannis' show runs a gamut of
topics - from recycling hints to movie reviews, tips on
doll shopping and relationship advice, plus  "Bathtub
Theater"  - adaptations of literary classics (Faulkner,
Steinbeck, Hemingway) and historic events cast with
dolls and puppets. One recent episode re-imagined the
Clinton-Lewinsky trysts, with a brown-bag puppet
representing Clinton and a bejeweled rag doll as Monica.
Danis does it all herself - writing, directing and voices.

Her sharp wit and insights into mass culture have helped
Danis build a vast cult following. Jeff Ballard, producer
and star of  "New Vegas Lounge,"  cites  "Queen Bee TV"
as one of his favorite access shows. Of course, there are
those viewers who are simply interested in her striking
appearance, but her smarts are not wasted on all fans. And
the show is not always upbeat. Danis aims for the  "real"
and sometimes shares personal information about her
struggles with diabetes, depression and

Asked about her inspiration and aspirations, Queen Bee
confesses that it is a great release to share her (many)
opinions on a weekly basis, and that her dream is to
someday have a show on MTV to bring in some cash and gain
more recognition for her work.  "That would be perfect,"
she sighed.

Daytime techie Ballard portrays host  "Jimmy DeNunzio"
on  "New Vegas Lounge."  Bedecked in a leopard sequined
jacket - lovingly half-unzipped to showcase his gold
chains - he's perfected the role down to a trademark
facial tick (involving the repeated tightening of his
lips).  "New Vegas Lounge"  is garish, funny and totally
"old Vegas."  Ballard created the show to pay tribute to
the Rat-Pack retro Vegas, which he prefers to the "New
Vegas."  (In his world, the old Sands Hotel has it all over
the baroque new Bellagio.) His wife, Marcella Ballard,
who plays bubbly co-host  "Candace Plethwig," has
crafted some of NVL's set and is constantly on the hunt for
loungy threads that out-sparkle those of previous shows.
Most members of the cast find their inspiration in the fun
of it:  "Johnny Angel" is a banker by day and a lounge
singer on  "New Vegas Lounge"  by night. He explains the
attraction:  "I used to gamble, but I lost my shirt. I used
to drink, but I lost my mind. I can't chase women anymore,
because that's too dangerous. That leaves me with this."

The show includes comedic skits and infomercials,
including one about  "YADs,"  or Young Adult Diapers,
suggesting that today's young adults are so busy, they
need a time-saving solution when nature calls. And
there's the ad for a limited-edition  "Latrell Sprewell
Choker," featuring the basketball player's face as
centerpiece of a multi-strand pearl necklace. Every show
has a theme (March was Telly Sevalas month), and heaps of
lame, glitter and boas.

Some people argue that cable access, with its low budget
and inexperienced producers, lacks in quality, but most
will agree on one thing it does have: variety.

Scott said, "I think access is the greatest TV around,
because it's such a diverse thing. One minute you've got a
yoga show, the next you've got "Nada,' " a quirky
phone-in show hosted by quadriplegic performance artist
Jim Coulson, who (quite cheerfully) sits in his
wheelchair and fields calls from viewers, most of whom
insult him.  "It's the most eclectic television you can

Can access help you launch a career? Well, satirist Will
Durst and his wife, comedian Debi Durst, had one of the
original shows on CityVisions:  "Phil and Linda's Dog's
Show Starring Will and Debi As Ed and Kathy With Flem On
It."  ("Flem" is a dog.) The premise was simple:  "They
set up a table and discussed issues with each other and
with guests," says Giorgis.  "It was very funny and
clever."  Now one of San Francisco's best-known
comedians, Durst has gone on to do, among other things,
his own political humor show on KQED called  "The Durst

Hey, it could happen to you.

For CityVisions public access information, call
(415) 252-6325.

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

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