Public Access Lives! (On DVD): One Of 'The Threee Geniuses' Talks The Re-Death Of Psychedelia
Taking LSD over seven times may or may not make you legally insane (if the myth were true, some of us here at West Coast Sound might have just missed the loony bin), but we can assure you, watching the psycho-delic circus known as The Threee Geniuses as many times is likely to drive you nuts, at least temporarily.
The visually demented Los Angeles public access cable TV show -which celebrates the release of a new Best Of DVD, "The Re-Death of Psychedelia," this Sunday with an all-star in-the-flesh musical freak-fest at the Silent Movie Theatre- was seemingly created for the sole purpose of pushing the boundaries of taste, logic and FCC laws. It was conceived, shot, mixed and edited on the spot, in "real-time," so anything could and often did happen. This clip of Kitten Sparkles aka Germs' drummer Don Bolles as "the pyschedelic monster" is one of the creepier examples.
Don Bolles, Francine Dancer, Go-Go Giddle Partridge and Kim Fowley will be performing at the release party in front of a video presentation. Sun., Nov. 15, 8 p.m.; $12, free for Cinefamily members. At the Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave. See Cinefamily's website or the 3 Geniuses site for more info.
(Interview with Dan Kapelovitz, one of the Geniuses responsible for this creature, after the jump.)
We've always been intrigued by the Technicolor chaos that seemed to surround one of the geniuses, Dan Kapelovitz, and his lovely wife Giddle Partridge (a frequent show star). Both have become pals over the years. But we never knew a lot about the 3-G project, and some of the warped imagery just made our head hurt. Was there any semblance of method to the madness and absurdity or was the show truly and simply the deranged experimental free-for-all it appeared when we'd come upon it while channel-surfing at night, drunk and desperate for distraction? Mr. K, who created the show along with fellow geniuses (artists/musicians/weirdos Jon Shere and Tim "Mr. X" Wilson), attempts to shed some light on the mindfuckery.
How and why did this bizarre broadcast come to be?
We started in 1996 and basically continued sporadically until public access was killed off in Los Angeles. We were inspired by Francine Dancer's dancing show and David Nkrumah Unger Liebe Hart's Christian Science puppet show, both also on public access TV. They both later became guests of our show and vice versa. We had no concept of what we were going to do, nor did we even have a name for the show until a second before airtime when the technician needed a name to type into the character generator. We signed up to do two shows in one day, and after the first show, the cable company employees couldn't believe that we still wanted to shoot another. They were completely confused by what we had done.
What was your relationship like with the various cable companies who tramsmitted the show over the years?
Most of them seemed to hate it because they couldn't understand it. We would come in to the studio with no plan whatsoever, and then 30 minutes we had, what we believed anyway, was a masterpiece. I mean, in Hollywood, people pay tens of millions of dollars to make a film that is usually less entertaining and of lower artistic quality than an episode of the Threee Geniuses, which was made for free--unless you count the $10 spent on the U-matic ¾-inch video tape. Sometimes they would purposely try to mess up our shows, writing snide comments with the character generator. We were also banned from the studio for six months once because some guests of our show ended up pepper-spraying each other in the studio. The entire time this was all happening, the cable companies were desperately trying to get rid of public access because they didn't want to pay for it. Public access television was this magical thing that only happened because most cable stations were forced to have it by the cities that gave them their local monopolies. And most of these deals were made in the late '60s and early '70s when cities (and even cable companies) were more into promoting channels of free expression than they are today. And finally, the cable companies won, and there is no public access in Los Angeles anymore.
Tell me about the technical aspects. What kinds of boundaries were you trying to push visually or conceptually?
We would go into the studio and just go crazy on all the buttons, mixing in videos, and cutting the show as quickly as our fingers could move. And we didn't care if the colors exceeded FCC allowances, so that they could theoretically bleed into other channels, or if the show just became a series of glitches or octuple exposures. We would make the cameras do all kinds of crazy things too, so the entire picture seemed to be warping uncontrollably. Then Don Bolles joined our show and did much of the sound. He would run everything through these outdated reel-to-reel tape machines so that the entire show would often descend into infinite echo.
Who were the biggest, favorite stars/characters seen on the show?
Our biggest star was Stangelyne. He was an extremely glamorous transvestite bodybuilder with Tourette's Syndrome. The LA Weekly once described him as a cross between the Terminator and Marilyn Monroe. I even wrote an article about him for Bizarre Magazine, which they loved and they ran, and then months later, accused me of making up the whole thing. That's how mind blowing Stan was. Unfortunately, he was murdered in a bizarre love triangle. We probably should have had the decency to stop doing the show then, just like Led Zeppelin disbanded after John Bonham died. The DVD is very much a tribute to Stan's genius, containing many of his greatest television moments. We had a bunch of other great people on the show. Go-Go Giddle was on one of our very early shows and then when she moved to Hollywood, she became one of the main stars along with Stangelyne. We had Andy Dick on a couple of shows. We've had the late Gidget Gein, the Goddess Bunny, the Bunny Boy, Karen Centerfold, Imaginary Bear, Bear, Zolar X--basically almost all of the most intense people in Hollywood have been on the show at one time or another.
What about Threee Geniuses highlights? Are these represented on the DVD?
We're kind of like Woody Allen, in that a lot of people prefer our early funny shows. But I like the later episodes that were totally mind-bending. I like the moments where the cutting is so rapid that peoples faces are melting into each other and into inanimate objects and you can't even tell what you are seeing, but all you know is that what you are seeing is psychedelically beautiful and are images that have never before been seen on television--or even ever before existed. You really have to watch the shows about 100 times before you see everything, and even then, you probably will have missed a lot. I also like it when the equipment malfunctions in such a perfect way to create these magical moiré patterns or trails. I also like the content of the dialogue on the show. Some of the conversations captured on the show, say, between Giddle and Stan are some of the most unusual conversations ever committed to tape--although at times they can be difficult to decipher with all of the tape echo going on. This DVD is pretty much representative of the psychedelic era of the series, hence the name, "The Re-Death of Psychedelia." Our next DVD might be of the early funny shows, which were more like twisted talk shows.
The soundtracks driving the visuals, it seems, consisted of eerie noise and feedback. Were there often real musical components?
We would have bands on sometimes, but they were often under the misunderstanding that we would have them perform their songs on the show. Instead, it inevitably would turn into a psychedelic free-for-all with everyone grabbing different instruments all run through Don's machinery anyhow. We had Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle and Alex Haacke of Einsturzende Neubauten on different shows. The Centimeters were on the show. The Bibs were the ones who maced each other. Howie Pyro has been on the show. He was amazing on it, and his episodes are represented on the DVD. When Ariel Pink was 19 years old, he stopped me and Jon Shere on the street because he recognized us from the show. He said it was his favorite show and that he would tape it and watch the episodes over and over again. So we let him on the next shows we did, and we even shot some music videos for him, one of which is a bonus track on the DVD.
Any future plans for the show?
We might take the show on the road, since public access is dead in L.A. anyway. We're, of course, doing the show Sunday at the Silent Movie Theater, and we were just part of the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, where we performed at the AT&T Center. And some art galleries have contacted us, so we might do installations and things like that. If the DVD is a success--or if it at least breaks even--we will do other DVDs. We might do one that consists of the best one minute of each of the nearly 200 shows. But just like when we're taping the show, we usually don't know what we are going to do until we are doing it.