Whole Lotta Ham


Running a public access studio was like being the ringmaster of a circus – but with more clowns. Characters of all sorts came and went – preachers, dancers, chiropractors, astronomers, and horror-show enthusiasts.

These were not like the shows you’d watch on other channels. We had a psychic who stared into the camera for thirty minutes – mostly in a trance as his creepy eyes gazed into nothingness. A woman complained that the show was scaring her kids. After I pulled it, he left a nasty voice mail – demanding to know why I stopped his show. I never called him back, figuring if he was such a great psychic why waste time with a telephone?

A woman that hosted a parenting show always brought her kids to the studio. While she prepared for her shoot, the kids ran around tripping on cables and knocking shit over. Guess who played babysitter? This woman was totally oblivious and cared more about coordinating her caterer – a local Italian joint that provided free pasta in exchange for a plug. She also had an apparel store that provided her co-panelists with clothes to wear on camera – but with one caveat – they had to give the clothes back, so rather than pulling her kids down from the lighting grid, she focused on ensuring the ladies didn’t spill spaghetti on their blouses.

Most of the local politicians had talk shows and brought in exciting guests like the head of the goddamn water district or the chair of some who-gives-a-shit board. Staying awake during the tapings was a challenge – even for the hosts.

My personal favorite was the pastor who interviewed puppets. This man wasn’t a ventriloquist, nor did he bother to change his voice when the puppet spoke, he just sort of talked to himself with a sock on his hand. He and a puppet used to pray before the show. During one show he said “Lord help us, the Man in the Kitchen is running the studio.”

I got the studio every other Thursday to shoot my cooking show. Donna’s brother Dan was our dessert specialist. Her mother Shari helped me organize ingredients and her father Lee worked camera. Other friends filled in as crew. I had constant banter with them as I cooked. It felt like a dinner party gone wild and I wanted our viewers to feel welcome – as if they were sitting there with us. I wasn’t a famous chef nor did I own a restaurant. My qualifications to host a show like this were simple – I could cook and talk at the same time. The show was not polished and the Food Network wasn’t exactly banging on my door. We had a good time and made people laugh. That was most important to me.

But it would have been nice to make some money.

NEXT: Damn That Swivel


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