PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Oh Boy, NEW TV!!!

For the first time in years, Charleston is getting a new television station. Well, sort of.

WHCP, the technical laughingstock of local broadcasting, is uprooting from Portsmouth Ohio, and moving to Charleston’s West Side, somewhere around the old Duchess Bakery building. While it’s cool that we’re getting a new TV station, I have some concerns.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that WHCP is moving to the West Side. It always seemed sort of alien seeing these funky low-budget commercials for small businesses in other states. While they billed themselves as serving “Huntington, Charleston, and Portsmouth”, it always seemed like Charleston got the short shrift. They should try to become a highly-visible presence and reach out and schmooze the community.

WHCP, in case you never noticed, has been on the air for five or six years, and is an affiliate of both the WB and UPN, which are known as “netlets” or “jokes” in terms of their stature among broadcast networks. The WB is notable for Smallville, and UPN is the home of WWE Smackdown! Aside from the fringe network programming, the hallmark of WHCP has been the sub-cable access quality of most of their local commercials and content.

That may end, with promises of massive upgrades from the new owners (who include Charleston-based legal eagles Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman, among others). At the very least, we may not see too many more commercials that use trademarked characters without any legal permission.

So, with WHCP moving to town, how about we welcome them with some sage advice? You listening, station owners?

First, get a new transmitter, preferably one that allows the transmission of stereo audio and hi-def video. The signal coming from the transmitter you use now looks like UHF coming in on a busted set of rabbit ears. Is that transmitter something you got second-handed from Public Broadcasting? Does that thing run on hamster-wheel power or something? You’re moving to Charleston, don’t forget to upgrade the broadcast quality to at least minimal professional standards.

Next, you want to do a newscast? Fine. I know that’s where the real money is, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that a fourth-place news program is going to be a cash cow. It’ll take years to get folks around here to switch. Your choice of anchor will bring in a lot of blue-haired old lady viewers, but make sure you hire a designated driver to cart him around.

Now, with those issues nailed down, you guys have to make one major change to your upcoming plans. You need to kill the idea of a Ten O’clock newscast. We already have one, and this market has a news glut of biblical proportions. Instead of putting your newscast on at 10 PM, you need to run your WB programming from 7 PM to 9 PM, and do a Nine O’clock newscast. That way, you can do a full hour (if you have the staff), and still go into your UPN programming at 10 PM, like you do now. And I won’t have to stay up past midnight to watch the end of Smackdown!.

To fill up that hour of news, you could do public affairs segments, like we used to get to see before the evil corporate media overlords took over local TV. Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman are going to be part owners of WHCP, so why not put them to work on camera, giving legal advice over the phone once a week.

Let local musicians come on and do a song to plug a festival or show. Do a live remote from a high-school football game. Just don’t do what channel 13 does and try to take ten minutes of local news and stretch it to fill up two-and-a-half hours every day.

Now, on my dream wish list, just in case someone from WHCP is actually reading this: Actively seek out local talent and allow them access to the air, even if it’s just a fringe weekend timeslot. There are lots of filmmakers and creative folks around here, and public access cable is not terribly friendly to Charleston-area peoples.

Oh, and you need to hire an announcer to be the “voice of the station”. Your best bet would be to find somebody with a strong local connection, but a person who hasn’t been on the air in, say, fifteen years or so. Find somebody with a distinctive voice that isn’t your typical booming announcer’s monotone. And pay him a ton of money to be your exclusive talent.

Get in touch, I may be able to…uh…find somebody for you.

My Hasil Story

While we’re on the topic of great Boone county artistes, I thought I might share my Hasil Adkins story, tiny though it may be.

Back in 1989, when I was just starting Radio Free Charleston, one of the hooks that used to get my boss to let me do the show was that I would play local music.

However, at that time, I hadn’t hooked up with any local musicians (that would change later). So to find some local music, I headed down to Elkins Record Shop on Central Avenue (you could actually go to Central Avenue without a bullet-proof vest in those days) and asked if they had any singles by local artists. Yes, these were still back in the days of vinyl, and Elkins was responsible for stocking most of the local Jukeboxes.

The only thing they had that wasn’t off-tune gospel music was a 7″ single by Hasil Adkins called “Big Red Satellite”. I was stunned by the raw quality of the music, and Hasil was the very first local artist that I played on Radio Free Charleston.

Later on, George Rollins hooked me up with more Hasil music to play on the show, but it wasn’t until after Radio Free Charleston ended that I actually got to meet Hasil and see him perform at the Empty Glass.

It was a singular experience. There are a couple of DVDs floating around that try to show Hasil in action, but nothing could possibly capture the energy and pure psycho mojo that poured out of this man. He sat alone behind the drum kit with a guitar, harmonica, and God knows what else, and he made the most astounding noise I’ve ever heard. It was like being in a holy-roller church, a livestock auction, a crackhouse, and a cell with Charlie Manson, all at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to real, pure rock n’ roll than I was that night. “One-man band” does not do justice to Hasil Adkins. He was a one-man force of nature.

I got to meet Hasil and hang out with him briefly. I was later told that I was the only radio person he met that he didn’t take an instant dislike to. So I don’t have any stories about death threats or the brandishing of weapons. I just knew Hasil as a quiet, humble guy who made amazing music.

Hasil is gone now. He passed away in April. You can visit his official site http://www.hasiladkins.com and leave your condolences.

Whether you have a tear in your eye, or breath a sigh of relief, you have to agree that the likes of Hasil Adkins will not walk this Earth again.

One night at the Playhouse

While I’m in a reflective mood, I thought I’d share an image with you all.

One night early in 1990, if I recall correctly, I knocked off work early, and rounded up my buddy John “Sham Voodoo” Estep, because he was going to host a Thursday night acoustic jam at the Playhouse. The Tuesday jam had been a huge success, but we wanted to try something a bit quieter.

The problem was that nobody told us that the Playhouse had already been booked that night.

Morgantown film maker Jacob Young and Michael Lipton had arranged for a performance by the then-unknown “dancin’ outlaw” Jesco White.

It was quite a shock. After getting over the disappointment from the cancelled jam session, Sham and I found ourselves mesmerized by the unique dance styling of the Boone county legend. I had my camera (loaded with pretentious artsy-fartsy black and white film) and snapped the photo you see above.

At the time, I chalked it up as just another night of Charleston Playhouse bizzaromania. I also remember that the stage at the Playhouse was never the same after Jesco had at it with those cast-iron tap shoes.

It was surreal, and one of those things in life that seems like a dream. It was a year or more before the Dancin’ Outlaw documentary was finished, and by that time, we’d all forgotten about it. In fact, this photo sat in my archives until last month, when I found it in while moving stuff around. Then I remembered, I was there the night they filmed Jesco for the documentary.

Another surreal moment was a few years later, when Jesco was the Grand Marshall of the annual Commode Bowl Parade in Dunbar. The parade route goes right by my house, and I took a moment from cooking a Thanksgiving turkey to look up and see Jesco, in full Elvis regalia, riding by my living room window on a fire truck.

I didn’t get any pictures that time.

Darn it.

The Playhouse

The Charleston Playhouse was a magical place. It was only open for about year, but in that year it was a madhouse of art, music, and theater, tucked away in a hidden corner of Kanawha City. It was an oasis of music, food, comedy, and mayhem.

And ther was plenty of drama–not all of it on stage. There were what seemed like a few thousand people who owned a share of the Playhouse, and by the time they shut down, none of them were speaking to each other. It was a case of too many cooks.

However, all the cooks had interesting things going on. The rock and roll faction was responsible for the legendary Tuesday night jam sessions and weekend concerts. The theater crowd put on some of the best shows Charleston has seen–from “True West” to “Side by Side by Sondheim”. The art crowd encouraged creativity by providing paper table cloths and crayons at each table. For its short life, the Playhouse was a nexus for all things cool in Charleston.

I even met Melanie there, at a Stark Raven album launch party.

Where else could you find Sondheim, Sam Shepard, Brian Diller, Clownhole, David Friesen, Duke Robillard, Go Van Gogh, Eraserhead, Danny Boyd’s movies, and drunken Reggae renditions of the “Beverly Hillbillys” theme, all on the same stage?

But the creative schizophrenia was destined to burn out, and the playhouse gang all scattered to the four winds in the early 90s.

So, it’s a little sad to see that the building that once housed the Playhouse has now become the home of a gambling parlor. It was probably inevitable. There never really has been a successful business in that location. Still, it’s a little undignified that the business that moved in is not even an original gambling parlor, they swiped their name from a successful chain of money-suckers. I mean, geez, at least come up with an original name if you’re going to defile the Charleston art community’s holy ground!

Fake News Story

(notAP) New Orleans La.—Radio show host Melanie Morgan, and Move America Forward, a non-profit pro-government propaganda advocacy group held a press conference this afternoon to denounce the media coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“We are not getting the real story!” said Morgan. “The crazy liberal news media is portraying this natural occurrence in an overly negative light. Nobody is focusing on the good news, like all the people who didn’t get killed and all the daring rescues. If you accept the story the way the far-left anti-American reporters are covering it, then you probably think that this hurricane was a bad thing that never should have happened. And that’s just not the case!”.

“Our National Guard is working their hearts out to rebuild things, and nobody’s paying any attention to that, they’re just concentrating on the suffering, the looting, and the devastation. These reporters must hate our National Guard, or they’d only report the good, government-sanctioned, news.” Morgan went on to say, “Hurricane Katrina was an act of God, and all these reporters who are saying bad things about it must really hate God, a lot!”

When asked if she would organize one of her famous information-seeking tours to expose the good news coming out of this hurricane, Morgan replied, “uh…no, we’re really too busy trying to smear Cindy Sheehan right now, but our hearts go out to all those poor people.”

Weird Toy Blogging

A couple of years ago, one of the toy companies decided to release yet another series of action figures based on the Universal Monsters. For some reason, this is one of the most-licensed properties (with the least-impressive sales record) in recent years.

This company touted their very realistic sculpting, and launched their line with a figure of Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

Now, is it just me, or is that Dracula a dead ringer for celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse?

“Looooook into my eyes. You are in my power. BAM!”

Later, Rudy

Art blogging

It’s called “Out the window”.

Later, Rudy

The great (yawn) debate.

I tend to try to stay out of debates that don’t really deserve to even be dignified with a response, but the next time some anti-science advocate starts crowing about “Intelligent Design”, lob this fact at ’em:

Birds, animals that fly, have no sphincters.

That means that they just poop whenver the food moves through them. They can’t hold it. Even if they wanted to, they don’t have the equipment with which to “hold it”.

Their sad little cloacas just can’t do anything besides give a free pass and wave goodbye as the used food makes its way Earthward.

And these are birds. Birds that fly. In the air. Over our heads. With nothing to stop their copious waste from exiting their birdly posteriors.

Now, what was that you were saying about “Intelligent Design”?

Spice Surprise

Not being a person to turn down a freebie, I recently was given the new album by former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

I figured it would be better to accept an album that might not be very good, than to burn bridges with the PR person offering it by turning it down.

I was in for a pleasant surprise. At some point, Ginger Spice learned to sing. “Passion” is a decent little collection of tunes. It’s a mix of well-executed torch-song material and “Kylie”-styled electro-pop. Way better than I imagined it would be.

And well worth a listen. Goes to show, you should never turn down a freebie. You never know what you might get.


Remember when all those guys ran around and did all that stuff?