by Wenda Watch
Last September we, the American Viewing Audience, celebrated the 11th anniversary of the debut of ground breaking queer sit-com (queer-com?), Will and Grace. This show along with “Queer As Folk,” “The L Word,” and some would argue “Oz“, (I would argue that. I mean some of those shower scenes! Honey!!) in the last ten years have helped bust open the gay mystique on television up to now relegated to Soap re-runs and Paul Lynde in the Center Square. So, one would think that television programming would now offer a much more diverse group of shows. Surely, the days of the over-weight husband married to the too-hot-for-him wife with 2.5 kids and not a gay in site sit-com was gone! The police/doctor/lawyer dramas with racially diverse casts but lacking in gay characters (unless the character has been arrested/stricken with AIDS/being sued for child custody respectively) would have seen their day by now.
Unfortunately, taking a look at the local television landscape this seems to be quite untrue. Yes there is Ellen, Brothers and Sisters and, of course, the ten zillion W&G re-runs available 24 hours a day but it all feels a bit “sanitized for our protection-ish.” I enjoy mainstream stuff as much as the next guy but this programming is like wanting to go hit some gay bars and being taken to eat at Chili’s instead. It just ain’t the same. So I started digging around the internet to see what might be available to us queers with who want something made for, by and with fellow queers without the pressures of advertisers to homogenize everything before its broadcast (ironic term homo-genize huh?). Anyway, after shifting through PILES of porn (you try Googling ‘gay entertainment!), I was lucky enough to come across a pretty exciting site, http://www.tlavideo.com After clicking on the “gay and lesbian” link I was treated to a cornucopia of gay treasures. What is exciting about this site is that it not only offers DVDs to purchase but it also has some really inventive programming that you can download to your computer and watch immediately. One of the shows that I highly recommend is Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett and Sandra Bernhard.
When I was working for QTN (the now defunct gay network in Burbank), I had the pleasure to not only meet Jack and Sandra but our good friend Wenda Watch was actually a co-co-host from San Francisco for the Halloween Episode. Because QTN was privately owned and didn’t rely on sponsors to operate (although after is abruptly shut down and the owner disappeared with all of our last month’s pay maybe it should have), Queer Edge never had to censor itself. It was balls out Queer Entertainment and so much fun to watch. It’s like Conan O’Brien on some really good acid. Luckily I caught up with my old pal Jack E. Jett and was able to ask him a few questions about the show and its latest incarnation on TLAvideo.com
Well Hi Jack E. Jett! Long time no talk! I just love your show!
Can you give me a brief history of the show and how it has now evolved to the Internet?
First of all, thanks for the compliment. I feel like we are both survivors of our own gay Enron scandal. As fucked up as Q Television was on the financial management front, it was one of the most creative groups I have ever been involved with. It was gay TV camp Camp! Due to the lack of any management structure I found myself in a position to run amok, and amok I ran. I had always been fascinated with people who live on the edge or in the gutter; I wanted to provide the folks an outlet to expose their talent. I created The QueerEdge as a way to share guests that you might not find on other chats shows. To ask unusual questions to unique people was like a wet dream to me. I didn’t want to just push the envelope; I wanted to shove it off the table. After the demise of Q Television, I tried to find another home for the shows. I always thought that what I lacked in talent, I more than made up for in my blatant curiosity and willingness to make an ass out of myself. When I took the show to the other gay networks, LOGO said NO-GO and Here! said NOT Here!! The internet seemed to be like the most proper home for a show that the mainstream media found too irreverent. I had produced a DVD for TLA entitled “The Gayest Show on Earth” that did well and Sandra agreed it was a good choice to place The QueerEdge.
And how was working with Sandra? Diva? Darling? Both?
After going through a series of guest host, I found Sandra Bernhard to be the Jewish sister I had been wanting all my life. We have been in talks with other networks about continuing the concept of the show with a broader appeal, which seems a bit odd as I am very broad and she is the ultimate broad. You haven’t lived until you take a network meeting with Sandra Bernhard. She is not one for small network chit chat. Our hope is someday to find a new home.
So the show is now on TLA, which is a pay per view site. They have lots of fun Queer programming there with your being some of the most bizarre, original and fun. Now the shows are a mere $1.99 per rental but just so the readers can get hooked, which of the episodes would you say would be the best for them to rent first to really get the Queer Edge vibe? (When you go to www.tlavideo.com just put “queer edge” [two words] in the search box to find it. . .and no, that is not an out of focus penis coming towards Jack’s open mouth that is his now infamous yellow rubber gloved thumb coming towards you!)
That is a great question. One of the great things about working with Sandra is that you never knew when she was going to go off on a topic and that always kept the show on edge. One of the best mixture of guest, which included the very sexy Barbarella’s, also included Pamela Des Barres, the famous groupie, Keegan Michael Key, from MAD TV, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Tony winning Hairspray actress, and our transgendered newscaster Jackie Enx. Sandra sings an amazing song in this episode and I just remember laughing through the entire show. (This is listed as Episode 2 on the site)
What are you working on now? Is the world’s longest broadcast attempt still cooking? You know Wenda still is available to fill in on that!
I still work as a fill in guest host on Cheaters and shot a pilot entitled “Love Sick”. I am currently working on a new show called I Accuse for Bobby Goldstein Productions. I do a ranting segment, which Wenda, I am sure you will remember, I am very good at. I also have in my possession the Christmas Special that you did and I would love to put that up on TLA at some point. I think it really puts the X in Xmas. I have also been doing some writing for Radar Magazine where I enjoy doing articles of sexual and Christian hypocrisy.
SO Wenda has become terribly concerned that today’s Queer youth do not know their gay history and has revoked everyone’s gay cards out here in New Mexico and is now assigning them homo-work of things they need to read, see, or hear before they get them back. For Jack E. Jett, what would you list as a 1) movie 2) book 3) singer/or song that must be experienced before earning your gay card?
Wow, two really good questions….you should host a TV show! First of all, I think that all young gay men and women should wear as few clothes as possible. Remember, your body is at its best when you are in your 20’s. Show it off, you know you want to and trust me, we want to see it. Have fun and raise all the hell you can and don’t buy into growing older gracefully. Fight it every step of the way. As far as a book, I would suggest any of the Armisted Maupin “Tales of the City” collection. I think they really capture both the fun and the drama of that period. I would hope that the youth never forget the talented brothers and sisters that we have lost due to AIDS. This of course, leads me to suggest the film “Angels in America” as it truly captures the suffering and trauma of that period as well as the tenacity and bravery of some of the most outspoken in our community. As far as a singer goes, I think Patti Smith is the greatest poet/singer/writer of our generation, no matter what your sexual preference might be. Her music is inspiring and carries that message that as long as injustice exist, it is our responsibility to be outspoken, no matter if it is politically correct or not.
Thanks so much Mr. Jett! It is always nice talking to you and please keep me abreast of your doings, you really are one of the brightest sequins in the queer ball gown and we want to see more!
It has been great catching up with you. Keep up the great work and writing. I was really worried that I was going to see your name attached to this Elliot Spitzer scandal, I know what a power whore you can be!
After talking to Jack it got me thinking about a true pioneer in the Queer Entertainment; Mark Kliem. Kliem had his own gay programming on television back when Karen Walker was still on her first liver. The show was Lavender Lounge and it ran on San Francisco leased access for years.
When the show went off the air it too evolved into a Website. It is now a paid membership site (www.lavenderlounge.com) that focuses mostly on pay per view porn but, unlike other PPV porn sites it also offers other forms of entertainment like lots of behind the scene event pics and some other fun videos. Recently Mark launched the first of two free sites that caught my attention. Its www.lavenderloungevideoblog.com. Please be aware this still contains adult content, which I discuss with in a moment, but it also has some of the queer entertainment highlights from his show available to view for free. I spoke to Mark from his San Francisco home and asked him about this new site.
Hi Mark! Thanks for visiting with us. You have been a real pioneer in Queer Entertainment and have been putting it on the air for years. Can you give me a quick history of Lavender Lounge and how it has evolved from TV to Internet?
I got my degree in Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts in 1977. I thought I was going to be an indie movie producer like John Waters, but the years went by and I didn’t have any connections in the industry. By the time I turned 35, I decided I needed to get into my chosen profession in any way I could. It was 1990 and Public Access television was still unknown. I investigated, did some volunteering and started my own show. Initially, I only planned to create a sample reel to get work in indie film, but the show itself caught on and began to have a live of its own.
I produced 60 episodes of the Lavender Lounge TV show from 1991 to 1995. It got entered in a couple gay film festivals, and got aired on satellite nationwide for 6 months in 1994. It was before Ellen came out, before Will and Grace, and before Hollywood embraced gay mainstream films and gay film festivals were still struggling. People were hungry for gay oriented television, but there was no track record for gay programming, and there were little or no opportunities to sell advertising.
I financed the show entirely out of my own pocket while working at a sole-sucking day job as a file clerk. When they finally fired me, I spent a few months trying to sell advertising to keep the show on the air, but with no job, it was a losing proposition. In January 1996, a friend offered me the chance to co-direct a porn movie with him. I had already worked on a few porn sets just to make a few extra dollars, so I already knew what to expect. I finally realized there was no money in amateur TV shows, and there was a potential to make a living shooting porn.
One of the last advertising deals I made with the TV show was to trade commercials for free internet access in 1995. With that, I built a sketchy website to promote the TV show. Without the capability to show video clips on the website, there was much else to put on there. To fill up space, I scanned a few pictures from vintage porn magazines just as a joke.
Through 1996 and 1997, I produced, directed, edited eight porn movies for a company that was in the process of going out of business. It was always a struggle to get paid, and I finally had enough. I used a lead from a friend at Titan Media and got hired as the first full time employee of Naked Sword. I worked there for five and a half years, and helped bring that company up to the powerhouse that it is today.
My experience producing gay television gave my former boss the idea to create a webcast show about gay porn movies and the gay porn industry. The “Tim and Roma Show” is now a major pet project of Naked Sword, but it was initially just Tim and I.
When I left Naked Sword in 2003, I began a new webcast show called “Reel Guys” aimed at reviews of gay porn movies, ala Siskel and Ebert. Again, it was too great a task for one person to produce and finance, but I still love the concept.
Also in 2003, I was hand-picked to develop and launch GayPornBlog.com. I ran that for a year, and just as it started to get popular, I got shut out during a management change. I transferred my blogging skills to my own site, LavenderLoungeBlog.com and make a large percentage of my income just from that.
Now, I know you and I have gone ’round and ’round about this, but I am sure some of my readers would like to know too: Why the porn? I don’t mean overall as I know it has its place and the majority of your site and income comes from porn however, since you have put this new sort of “QueTube” (Queer YouTube) site together, I was thinking it might be just more of your fun clips but after visiting there, nope, there it was lots and lots of porn and amongst that there was some other funny and interesting non porn clips. I bring this up because I always hear Gays demanding to be respected and treated not like sex maniacs but like normal people (which we are btw), but whenever a friend would come to visit me in San Fran and we walked around the Castro it was just porn everywhere in the windows, playing in the bars, etc. And now I would really like my nieces (who are HUGE fag hags in training) to be able to visit your site and see some of the great entertainers you have had featured on Lavender Lounge (Matthew Martin, Ethel Merman, The Kinsy Six, Wenda Watch to name a few) but again, porn everywhere. I have always said “If you want respect you gotta act respectable” and I just don’t see how the average person is ever going to be able to look at gays as fit parents, fit teachers, and just normal people like them when every time the encounter the gay culture it is just riddled with porn. Now, why couldn’t you have, just this once, posted a PG Lavender Lounge page?
There was a time when I thought just like you – porn was icky and I wanted to produce something appropriate for family viewing. I spent five years producing my Public Access TV show and constantly pleaded with people to keep their clothes on when the camera pointed to them. But, no matter how “clean” the show was, it can never be “too safe” for some viewers simply because of the subject matter. It all depends on where you draw the line. To some people, Log Cabin Republicans in suits talking about gay marriage on TV can be just as distasteful as guy who does fisting videos.
Do I worry about being in a “respectable” profession to my family? My parents are dead and the rest of my family knows what I do and don’t care. Most of what I do day to day is mundane, and I don’t participate in any kind of shocking or dangerous activities. I got lucky, but I must put a disclaimer that this business is not for everyone (I’ve got too much competition already!).
At the same time, I am a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and as my little bit of public service, SisterZsaZsa.com was created as my “safe for work viewing” website. I also plan to add more video, photos and text geared at safe sex and politics. I am looking forward to working with other Sisters to shoot little webcasts on topics of their choice for “The Epistle” pages of LavenderLoungeVideoBlog.com.
Here’s a description of my sites:
LavenderLounge.com – mega-site with a VIP Room featuring vintage gay porn from the 1950′s to 1970′s, original photos and videos not seen elsewhere, samples from other studios, and live feed from Chi Chi LaRue’s Live and Raw.
LavenderLoungeBlog.com – news and gossip from the gay porn industry.
LavenderLoungeVideoBlog.com – video version of my blog, plus skit comedy and The Epistle.
MuscleBearCub.com – a free dating site for younger, smaller bears with a VIP membership section.
SisterZsaZsa.com – free photo galleries of The Sisters in action, mostly safe for work.
P.S. One last question: So, Wenda has become terribly concerned that today’s Queer youth do not know their gay history and has revoked everyone’s gay cards out here in New Mexico and is now assigning them homo-work of things they need to read, see, or hear before they get them back. For Mark Kliem what would you list as a 1) movie 2) book 3) singer/or song that must be experienced before earning your gay card?
So, hopefully through my complete boredom with the boob tube’s lack of Queer Entertainment, I have been able to uncover some fun options for those long, dark winter nights stretching out before us all.
Or you could always just call me! I’m a HELLUVA good time!