I just finished reading Glenn ‘O Brien’s ‘How to Be a Man.’ A book with a name like that should infuriate me, but it’s all far lighter and more of a general philosophy than the instructional title indicates. Any arbiter of style offering themselves up as a counsel of cool dressing is usually a sureshot source of bellendery — just think about that wave of websites post ‘Street Etiquette’ or ‘Style Salvage’ run by sartorial tipsters who were in print tees the week before, offering a lightweight imitation of both cited sites’ success by telling you how to wear a suit. Half those dudes do smart very, very badly, and while it’s easy to slum it and look like some kind of secret millionaire, your attempts to do dandyism will inadvertently reveal your bank balance. ‘O Brien however is just very, very well dressed and — looking at old ‘TV Party’ episodes — always has been sharp.
‘TV Party’ is — quite rightly — held up as a pivotal moment in youth TV. Wherever I go, talk of web TV seems to lead to talk of O’ Brien and Chris Stein’s organised chaos. That public access lawlessness offered a fuzzy, wobbly insight into an aspirational world, but it was also pioneering in broadcasting the cool guy (and girl) existence of a cartel aloof characters enjoying varying amounts of fame, but a constant credibility. The angry callers, the weed smoke in the studio, SAMO and Fab 5 Freddy scuffling, live performances that ranged from classic performances to artful tap drip repetition, plus some stoned attempts at situationism might not have been seen by many beyond the transmission range, but as its legend spread by VHS, DVD and flash video, ‘TV Party’ became the thing that many still want to be. Alas, deliberate attempts at that lo-fi feel, plus a lack of O’ Brien style central figure just feels regressive. You can’t recreate a happy accident without looking awkward — like one of those crooked guys who walks in front of cars to get insurance loot.
I always imagined that working life at the Factory would be awesome like ‘TV Party,’ until I read Bob Colacello’s ‘Holy Terror’ and realised that working for Warhol probably wasn’t as much of a laugh as I’d been led to believe.
‘TV Party’s legacy now sits in the web video that’s at your control. Boiler Room’s london broadcasts represent a good use of that televisual democracy. Intolerable hours of USTREAM with some self-centred individual looking bemused and saying “Can you hear me?” to a discordant feedback blast or YouTube videos of guys in their bedrooms talking about the colours of their latest footwear “pickup” are a DIY television evolution that sacrifices the party spirit for solitude. Not everybody gets an invite you see, as those constant queries O’ Brien fielded about getting into the Mudd Club proved. All they could do is wish. Today’s breed of amateur broadcasters prefer to treat their audience as part of the proceedings. Are the new breed of web celebs and “influencers” creating that same sense of envy as Glenn created between 1978 and 1982? I have no idea. The insistence on inciting those viewing to become participants too opened up the velvet rope to anybody who wants to join in.
‘TV Party’s demise coincides with the dawn of ‘The Tube’ on British TV in 1982 which led to a post-acid series of ‘yoof’ classics like Def II’s ‘Dance Energy’ that ran from 1990 to 1993, going from cathode ray party to a strange broad daylight club setting, and a place well worth breaking the Huaraches out for, plus Channel 4’s ‘The Word’ which ran from 1990 to 1995, bringing back that shambolic feel and occasional dazed expressions. Alas, after ‘Passengers’ on Channel 4, compiled some frequently smart documentaries for low attention spans, British youth TV seemed to fizzle in an alcopop addled laddishness and ladette-centric realm of shows that made ‘The Word’ look rather considered by comparison. Reality TV could also be seen as a byproduct of public access egocentricity. Latterly, ‘No Hats, No Trainers’ brought Alchemist and Just Blaze to a weekend afternoon with greater success than Channel 4’s abysmal ‘Whatever’ a few years earlier.
Salutes to MVD for uploading ‘TV Party: the Documentary’, the debut episode of ‘TV Party’ from December 18th, 1978, the Halloween 1979 episode and the ‘Sublimely Intolerable Show’ episode with a technically hindered opening. Watch, be inspired by the attitude (some of it is genuinely intolerable) and endeavour to create something completely different.
This part of a 1992 ‘Dance Energy’ special is a YouTube bonus. Six minutes in, there’s some rare footage of the 1992 ‘1st Annual Rapper’s Boxing Championships’, as covered in ‘The Source.’ You can see Willie D take down Melle Mel, Freddie Foxxx beat down a shook-looking Spook from True Colors (I checked Discogs and they had an album, but I never heard it. Maybe this was an ill-fated attempt at publicity). What I never knew was that Poet of PHD aka. Blaq Poet fought at the event against some bloke called Big B and won. Unkut had the magazine scan up a few years back, but this footage is gold. There’s a lot of tough talk these days, but if the ‘2nd Annual Rapper’s Boxing Championships’ took place as a 20th anniversary sequel, I guarantee the majority would pussy out like Tim Dog did or have their weed carrier let off shots for Worldstar to transmit to the ignorance-hungry masses. Simon Woodstock beating Sticky Fingaz was another great moment in hip-hop boxing too.
While I could never pull it off ever, I’m still preoccupied with Phenomenon’s collaboration with luxury good overlords MCM, resulting in these tiger camo garments that have a Dapper Dan does special forces steez about them. Biker jackets, army vests, half trench coats and some strange skinny pants are the second coming of all-over print for the monied and flamboyant. Who wrangled this collaboration? I respect the lunacy of it all. It’s anti-utiliarian, anti-surplus weird that treats those military markings like a monogram. They’re at the Contemporary Fix store now.
Who listens to music journalists any more? Nobody. But there’s always room for good writing on the topic and ‘SUP’ always delivers. In a world where everyone’s gone design-free, Wood Wood are some of the few who bring it on the imagery, innovation and typography. They’re a brilliant bunch of Danish stereotypes in that regard. The ‘SUP’ and Wood Wood t-shirt collection takes some of the best images made for the magazine and commits them to cotton. Jason Nocito and Bea Fremdermann’s work is great, but the Milan Zrnic ‘King of Pop’ image is the best of the bunch.