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NI´CU R I¦ H �H
0¿0 R l´
tt ~l´w¹|l¬\ |¦ |
[editor's note: Bart Everson
and his partner in crime,
Joe Nickell, wrote, directed,
produced, edited and starred
in the seminal J&B on the ROX
(now ROX) the frst season of
which aired on Bloomington
Community Access Television
(now CATS) for 32 glorious
weeks in 1992-93. If you are lucky
enough to be reading this before
July 3rd - most of you will not
be so fortunate - you should
catch the ROX Season One DVD
Release Party & 20th Anniversary
Celebration at the Comedy Attic
on the 3rd. For those of you
reading this later in the month,
too bad. No, actually, the rest of
you can stll get the new DVD
collection, featuring the entire
frst season, via rox.com.]
We weren't students. Oh,
we'd been to school. But while
er classmates moved
on, and moved away from the
big universit we stayed, and
discovered there was a city here
Bloomington, TÜÜÛ.Everyone in our circle of friends ended up
on the show eventually. Photo credit: Rachel Whang
e had our degrees, but
we didn't use them. We were
supremely unmotivated to
participate in the superfcial
consumer culture we sawall around us. Automobiles, shopping
malls and television? There had to be more to life than this.
We were privileged to enjoy a good education, but too alienated
to reap the economic benefts. Besides which, the job market
sucked, the economy was still in recession, and the experts said our
generation would never own our own homes. Sound familiar?
So we got jobs rather than careers. Easy jobs, or at least jobs that
wer easy to get. Preferably part-time. McJobs, we called them. They
didn't pay well, but we didn't need much, just enough to pay rent
on some cheap fleabag apartment: Food could be acquired from the
dumpsters behind our favorite restaurants. With luck, we'd have
enough cash l�ft over for some recreatonal drugs and art supplies.
d us slackers,
and thaI felt about right. We were not
liVirg up to the expectations of our parents or socie
and we didn't care, We were way more ambitious than that. We
wanted something more iinportant than a big salary or decent health
insurance. It seemed like half the people we knew were musicians,
artsts, actors, flmm
kers; -riters, engaged in one crazy project or
another, to say nothing ofthe mystics and the mental cases and the
drug-dealers. It was like that circle of friends in 1960s Munich as
depicted by Edgar Reitz in LícZucí/ctcímJ/.What, you've never
seen it? You should.
It was 1992. I'd been out of school for a couple years. I was
working part-time as a telemarketer. I was writng a novel. And
some short stories. And some poetry. And drawing illustratons for
the alterative weekly. And rehearsing with a rap rock band. And
making videos. Occasionally I'd collaborate with friends on weird
One of my chief co-conspirators was Joe. We'd lived in the same
dorm in the late 80s, where I'd taped him for a short video titled
"Joe's Turd." He had a high forehead, a ferociously keen intellect,
and a friendly downhome Kentucky manner. A classically trained
percussionist, he'd majored in anthropology, graduated with a 3.97
GPA, and was working as a service bartender at Mark Pi's China
Gate. He'd just started a zine called 1cbmíÍíngLog, named after
the supposed precursor to canine vomit. I introduced him to some
new psychedelic drugs, and he intoduced me to LJrmínJburJnJ.
Perhaps most importantly, he had a VHS-C video camera.
On a warm evening in late May, as we sat on the sidewalk
outside his rental on Cottage Grove, we talked about putting some
videos on local access television. I'd learned the ropes at the local
station, having been assigned community service there after a couple
run-ins with the law. The lure of pumping video into the living
rooms of the general public was too strong to resist. But we needed
a concept. Hmmm. Joe and Bart. J and B. The initials suggested the
famous scotch. Joe had amassed an impressive stockpile of booze,
probably stolen from work. What about a mixed drink cooking
show? In an instant we saw the potential for a repeatable, extendible
format, which could afford endless variation. Most local access
productions were one-off affairs, but we could do a regular show, a
weekly show. Who needed a budget? We were struck by the sheer
audacity of the propositon.
We shot our fist episode on the frst of day of June, in the
basement of Joe's house, featuring three drinks: a Whisky on the
Rocks, a Long Island Iced Tea, and an Amaretto Sour. We talked
about all manner of topics, especially about how little money we
LJuly ¯, the program debuted on television, in the 11 p.m.
Tuesday timeslot that we'd hold for years to come. In our circle of
friends, only one person actually had cable, so we had a party at
his house. We sold tickets to cover the cost of the drins, which we
mixed and served to our audience--just over a dozen people--as the
program aired. A synchronized performance.
Public access television has an "anything goes" reputation, but
we found the limits pretty quickly. As early as our ffth episode, we
attempted to show a photo that depicted the act of coprophagia.
(Look it up if you must. I sure ain't gonna tell you.) We thought it
was strange and interesting that such images could be acquired via
the university's VAX system. This was 1992; the internet was well
established but familiar to few. The image was not allowed to run
any judge would have ruled it obscene. This would become ow first
encounter with censorship--but not our last.
I did all the editing for the show at the station. One day I
arrived an hour early by mistake, and ended up sitting on a bench
on Kirkwood, waiting for the library to open. It was a fortuitous
error, as an old acquaintance rolled up in her car just then. I'd met
Christy years before at a summer job, proofreading at a branch office
of the CBS }Columbia House Record & Tape Club. She was a genuine
townie, having lived in the local area all her life. She'd been playing
softball that moring, and had taken one on the chin, so she looked
like she had bloody goatee. We had brunch together at the Village
Deli, and I was surprised to discover that she was working on a
public access show of her own: The Christy Paxson Show.
Chisty frst appeared on our program in episode #8 that
August, demonstrating an unexpected talent for squirting water
between her teeth on the ceiling of our attic. She became a regular
part of the show. Our friend Mary Frances, who was bunking at
our house between leases, discovered an image of the pope in the
JOE HAD AMASSED AN IMPRESSIVE
STOCKPILE OF BOOZE, PROBABLY
STOLEN FROM WORK. SO WE
THOUGHT, ¨ñhÂÍÂöÛ0ÍÂ ÌÛ
in our bath
tub, so she
of the show.
in our circle
of the show.
our camera operator, Andrew, fell from his bicycle and suffered
a life-changing injury. He'd broken his spine. We visited him in
the hospital and taped episode #10. Slowly, it became less about
two drunken idiots ranting in front of a camera, and more about a
community. And why not? Armed with a small, handheld camcorder,
there was no reason to confine ourselves to a "studio" mentality. Our
JUNE 14TH - 24TH \JÍTHE MUSIC.AL
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Lots of hot air. Politics and culture, too.
Watch our gallery, studio and salon grow.
attic made a poor studio anyhow. We started to get out of the house and
videotape in the streets.
A group of a dozen of us who were interested in promulgating
revolutionary thought and action began meeting to discuss strategy.
We called ourselves the Have Fun Club. Our philosophy might best
have been described as a sort of idealistic hedonism. We wanted people
to wake up, rise up, shake off their chains, and live a little. We were
convinced this could and would happen, that society was ready for this, if
only situations could be arranged that broke the routine, that got people
thinking about the possibilities.
(It was the same idea that had motivated me to run across campus
naked a few years earlier. Getting arrested didn't quite teach me the
To that end we created subversive fyers, with slogans appropriated
from the Situationist International. We posted them around town, and
we plotted. We schemed. We kicked around ideas for some grand stunt
that would galvanize the city. Our dreams of disrupting traffic or staging
a fake nuclear accident at the mall were too complicated to bring to
fruition. We ended up organizing a parade. We biiled it as "a celebration
of freaks, failures, queers, anarcha-feminists, nerds, proponents of choice,
proponents of change, the Cultural Elite, skate punks, ascetics, neo
hippies, drug-crazed frisbee-thowing nudists, and other alien beings." We
called it the Festival of Fools.
In truth, our preparation amounted to little more than printing a fyer
and making a trip to Big Lots for blow-pops and hula hoops. By fortuitous
coincidence, a three-day "anarchist picnic" was in town, reaching its
climax on that same day as our parade, October 4th, 1992. A contingent
of freaks arrived and turned our parade from abject failure into raging
success. Without a permit, we took over Kirkwood Avenue, and marched
from the square to Dunn Meadow, chanting nonsense slogans and waving
incoherent placards. As one protestor bellowed: "We will never again
stand for the same thing twice!"
The revolution was not accomplished, but it was televised. The
Festival of Fools became episode #11. Of course we videotaped it. We
In November there was an election, so we made a show about
that. In December the cold winter weather set in, so we made a show
People would ask, "What's the show about?" We had a hard time
answering. The project seemed to continually expand and evolve and
envelope everything around us. One day we defrosted our freezer, and
that became an episode of television, and we realized anything was
Our production standards were appallingly low, but we were
making a show unlike anything else on J, something that seemed to stop
chanel surfers dead. Though we hardly believed it ourselves, people
were watching. Lots of people. We began to discover just how many when
we ran into trouble with the censors.
We intended to provoke, but we were genuinely surprised each
time we ran into such barriers. It happened again, and again. The most
notable instances came in early 1993, in episodes #22 and 24. Both
involved nudity -male genitalia, real in one case, fake in another.
Despite my arrest record, I still didn't think the naked human body was
so problematic. We were pretty sure these segments were legal, but they
ran afoul of the station's "community standards" clause.
Rather than blacking out the segments, we opted to have the
episodes held back for consideration by the Monroe County Public
Library. In the meantime, we broadcast a looping text message in our
regular time slot, which explained the situation and encouraged viewers
to write to us.
And write they did. Our mailbox was stuffed for the next few
weeks. Suddenly we became aware that we had an audience. Soon there
were stories about
us in the local
we discovered the
of corporate media
coverage, which we
would come to crave
gave our contested
content the thumbs
down. At that point,
we gave up, blacked
out the segments,
and had done with
it. The whole thing
OUR FREEZER AND THAT
seemed too silly to fight, despite the deluge of letters that urged us to do
Ultimately, though, maybe we did win. Our struggles pushed the
library to formalize its policy. Later, they designated the public access
station as a "dedicated constitutional forum." If it's protected by the First
Amendment, it Cqn be shown on the public access channel.
The hoopla and the positive feedback energized us. We began to
produce with a regional and global audience in mind. We developed
distribution networks, so that people outside of Monroe County could see
Meanwhile, we'd been hurtling through a weekly production
schedule for the better part of a year. We all realized we needed a break,
or we'd burn out. We decided to wrap things up with episode #32 and
call it a season. The title of that season fnale says it all: "Mom, Dad,
I'm Getting Married." Strange as it may seem, this really was how I
announced my engagement to my parents.
Our adventures continued in subsequent seasons. Christy and I did
indeed get married, on television of course. Joe and I smoked herb in front
of the Monroe County Courthouse. We put our video online, ten years
before YouTube -the frst television show on the internet. We even got a
chance to interview the last exorcist ordained by the Vatican.
We've dealt with many of the ups and downs of our lives, including
the flooding of New Orleans, the death of friends and family members,
and the birth of children. Though circumstances have scattered our crew
far and wide, through it all, we've tried to stay true to the community we
knew in Bloomington and the spirit of '92.
The Silk Road Institute, Center for the Study of the Middle East
and the Inner Asian and Uralic Natonal Resource Center
at Indiana University
PRESENT THE ¿Û¯À ANNIVERSARY
A Celebrtion of the Dances, Music and the Arts
of the Peoples and Cultures of the Silk Road Region
!U's Willkie Auditorium
iDÛ N. Rose Street
FENDER • LNEY • LINE 6
and many used
• Lessons· Seric· Equipment •
�¬ . ¬
"We hayeways to make you ÆÍh.¨
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