Five years ago, the very first post went up in PopCult. The first couple of
weeks were just test messages, little goofy posts, but in early September, The Gazz Online officially announced PopCult, and we’ve been here ever since. I think we may be the longest-running blog here at The Charleston Gazette.
There have been a lot of cool things that have happened to this blog over the last five years, and today we’re going to get all introspective and look back, and update, some of the mre notorious stories from the last half-decade. We’ll look at some controversies, some triumphs, some weirdness, and the occasional trainwreck.
The last five years have seen some cool regular features pop up here in PopCult, like the return of Radio Free Charleston, Sunday Evening Videos, Monday Morning Art and The PopCulteer.
After the jump, you’ll get to see the highlights of this still-unterminated experimental foray into the internets courtesy of The Charleston Gazette and your PopCulteer, Rudy Panucci.
Week One: Making a TV Station Mad
One of the first pieces I wrote in PopCult was a critique of the then-WHCP, a really poorly run inept television station operating out of Portsmouth, Ohio. At the time, they were affiliates of the now-defunct netlet, “The WB.” They also carried programming from another now-deceased mini-network, UPN. I wrote about how this station was on the verge of being sold, and how any new owners would probably move the station to Charleston.
This provoked an angry response from someone claiming to work for the station. His comment on the blog concluded with “also who are you to talk bad about the station while you sit in you recliner in your trailer recieving your monthly check.”
Well, I’m the guy who, five years later, is still writing PopCult for West Virginia’s largest newspaper. While you must be a guy who’s working at a McDonald’s in Portsmouth, since the new owners did move the station to Charleston after the new transmitter was built, and didn’t keep any of the old management team.
I picked on WHCP quite a bit in the early days. Their attempt at entering the local news market was a spectacular failure, largely due to a lack of financial committment by the station. They brought in the legendary and notorious Tom McGee (left) for one last hurrah as an anchor, but with no budget, and broken promises to the on-air staff, the newscast was shut down after a few months. Many feel it was a mercy killing.
One of the last desperate acts by the incompetent Portsmouth crew was to try and broadcast public domain DVDs using a commercial DVD player without a Time Base Corrector.
However, in the years since I wrote those snarky posts, the station has changed their call letters, to WQCW, made the move to Charleston, upgraded their signal, and is now very professionally run. The WB and UPN merged into “The CW” and they’ve been pretty good about carrying the entire network schedule. That’s great news for local TV viewers, but it’s not as much fun for the TV critic in me. They even have HD and stereo signals now.
Monday Morning Art
On the first anniversary of this blog, I started the Monday Morning Art project, where I (try to) post an original piece of artwork, first thing, every Monday. I’d been posting my artwork since the beginning of PopCult, but making it a weekly feature forced me to do it on a regular basis.
Sadly, most of the graphics, video and music from the first 18 months of this blog disappeared when the Gazette switched blogging software, so you’ll just see the text that goes with the artwork in the posts before Spring 2007.
However, there are still lots of images I’m proud of that are still available.
That last piece is one of my favorites because it’s based on a rare photo of me with Melanie Larch, my significant other for these past twenty years, and a woman of talent and beauty….and a deep hatred of being photographed. Sometimes I take for granted how wonderful it is to have a real, stable woman in my life, so I just wanted to make a note of that here and show us the way we should be…together.
Andy Prieboy Week
In May 2006, I devoted an entire week to one of my favorite performers, Andy Prieboy, the second lead singer of the band, Wall of Voodoo, and a solo artist, composer, author, and all-around cool guy. I wrote about one of the greatest albums that nobody ever heard of, “The Sins Of Our Fathers.”
I also wrote about his song, “Psycho Ex,” which you can actually still hear at this link. This song was the basis for his collaborative novel with Merril Markoe, “The Psycho Ex Game.” I have come to appreciate these works in a whole new light over the last few months.
I’m still waiting for his magnum-opus, “White Trash Wins Lotto,” an operetta based on the story of the band, Guns and Roses, but thus far it has only been performed live, far away from here. He has some new music out, but I haven’t had time to obtain it yet.
Blowing Up Stuff
Radio Free Charleston
One of my ulterior motives in agreeing to do PopCult was that I’d hoped to reconnect with my old buddies from the heyday of my old radio program, “Radio Free Charleston.” I never dreamed that I would be able, sixteen years after the show’s demise, to revive it as a web-based video show.
But I did, with considerable help from Brian Young, Frank Panucci and Melanie Larch, and support from the vast Charleston, West Virginia talent pool. Earlier this week we posted our 109th episode. There is no end in sight. The video version of RFC has already outlasted the radio incarnation by more than three years!
If you visit the RFC TV Archives page, you can see every single episode, either on the “videos” page, or right on the profile page.
Here’s three of our notable episodes….
The Play’s The Thing
Early this year, I stirred up a bit of a controversy when I wrote about Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, and his plans, at age 60, to star as Lil’ Abner in a self-financed revival of the play, to be staged by Kanawha Players. Aside from the sheer absurdity of the situation, I had a personal stake. Melanie Larch, my long-time girlfriend, starred as Daisy Mae in the 1986 production, and made it clear that she didn’t want to participate in this “reunion.” You can read the original post here.
My opinions were not exactly welcomed with open arms. Two people connected to this “reunion” tried to use the comments section of this blog to perform character assassination on me and Melanie. One comment had to be deleted, because, at 4,500 words, it was three times as long as the original post, and it was also pretty darned near incomprehensible.Other commentors came to Melanie’s defense, and I thank them for that.
Many eyewitnesses (double-digits) reported to me that the mayor himself, after learning of my article, launched into an F-bomb-laden tirade against me backstage at a benefit concert for Haiti, in front of dozens of kids from The Charleston Children’s Theater.
Mayor Jones was more cordial when we traded emails the following week. He felt that I had some facts wrong, and I let him tell his side.
Now, keep in mind that, in my piece, I suggested that a graceful way out would be for Mayor Jones to step aside and let someone more age-appropriate play the role, but that the mayor should then continue to finance the project, which is to be a fund-raiser for Kanawha Players.
Which is just what Mayor Jones did last week, just days after his 60th birthday (both his birthday, and his stepping down from the role of Abner were deemed front-page news by The Charleston Daily Mail).
Jones spoke exclusively to The Charleston Daily Mail, which has been his favored media outlet for some time. Curiously enough the following sentence, which appeared in the original article, has been scrubbed from the version currently up at the Daily Mail website, “Jones, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Monday, has been mocked by some on the Internet for his decision to play a character 41 years his junior. He said his decision has nothing to do with the criticism.”
I’m not claiming credit. I think it’s good that the mayor came to his senses, and I’m betting he probably would have if I’d never written my original posts in the first place.
My other main beef with the production was that they were billing it as a “reunion,” when most of the original performers from the 1986 cast would not be involved. Even the Daily Mail started referring to it as a “quasi-reunion,” so maybe now KP can just start selling it as a “revival.” There are a lot of really talented people involved with this show, and now it has a chance to stand on its own, and not be a freakshow.
There have been a few changes here in PopCult over the last five years. For one thing, I am no longer opposed to Seafood. I have come to love it, and even eat sushi on occasion. I have abandoned pork, and I’m still boycotting Tudor’s Biscuit World over the great 2009 Legislative gorge-fest.
The PopCulteer began with my coverage of the biscuit fiasco linked to above.
I began this Friday feature to basically force me to write at least one substantial post each week.
Sometimes I cheat, like when I run photo essays, but the ArtWalk photo essays have proven to be quite popular.
The idea of posting a lengthy, archaic, newspaper-column-style post on a Friday morning goes against all conventional wisdom. It’s a bad day to post a regular feature. Collecting a varied amount of topics into one post sort of defeats the purpose of doing a blog. But it works for me, so I plan to keep doing it this way.
I am splitting off “Cool Comic Of The Week,” which will return one of these days.
Of course, posting videos on Sunday night isn’t exactly the norm for a blog either, but the playful anarchy of “Sunday Evening Videos” amuses at least a handful of my readers, and it gives me something to do Sunday mornings.
I’ve made a lot of friends in the course of writing this blog and producing Radio Free Charleston. Bill Gardner, who I really should have known years before, was an early supporter. I met the wonderful artist and writer Sharon Lyn Stackpole at my first blogger meeting. I’ve also met several folks in the blogging community, like Steven Allen Adams, Rick Lee and Bob Coffield. Through RFC I’ve met tons of new musical friends like Casi Null, Mark Scarpelli, Lee Harrah, Johnny Compton, and way too many bands to mention. It’s been a pleasure to meet creative people like Dan Kehde, Scott Elkins, Dustin Wolfe, Eamon Hardiman, Mark Wolfe, Amy Williams, Joe Boylard and Chuck and Connie Hamsher. I also can’t leave out Chelsea Cook, my imaginary daughter, who is hard at work on our big Halloween project. I’ve met so many cool people while doing this blog that I now regret starting this paragraph, because I know I’m leaving out 99% of the people I should mention.
And that’s not even counting the folks with whom I have reconnected. I’ve known them long enough that I know they’ll forgive me for not typing their names here. That, and my fingers are getting tired.
Wrapping It Up
That’s a quick look back at the last five years that the Gazette has let me run wild on their servers. I want to thank Doug Imbrogno for giving me the keys to the car, and Amy Robinson, Bill Lynch and Rosalie Earle for the support over the last few years. Keep this site bookmarked. I ain’t going anywhere.