Danny Vinik, USA, 2005, 91 min, documentary
From 1978 to 1982 Glenn O’Brien hosted an insane punk rock New York City cable TV show called TV Party. Co-hosted by Chris Stein, from Blondie, and directed by filmmaker Amos Poe, the hour long show took television where it had never gone before: to the edge of civility and “sub-realism” as Glenn would put it. Walter Stedin and his band provided a musical accompaniment to the madness at hand, and many artists and musicians, from Jean-Michael Basquiat to David Byrne to Arto Lindsay were regular guests. It was the cocktail party that could be a political party.
“TV Party is the show that’s a cocktail party but which could also be a political party.” That was the slogan. My idea was that socialism meant going out every night, and that social action started with socializing. I think we were trying to inject a sort of tribal element into things. That’s what happens when you smoke reefers and read Marshall McLuhan. I was also reading a lot of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, not to mention Milton Berle and Henny Youngman. I thought we could do subliminal politics as absurdist comedy. I actually did believe in anarchy, as the peaceful society that comes after “the withering away of the state.” I thought withering away the state sounded like fun, so we made fun of the state every chance we got.
I actually intended to get the TV Party on the ballot and run for mayor of New York. I figured that once people got in a voting booth and saw TV Party there they would definitely vote for us. Some people like Democrat and some people like Republican, but everybody loves TV. We went so far as to actually get petition forms. We just never got any signatures. We were sleeping too late. I remember thinking, “If I’m every going to make any money I’m going to have to start getting up before the bank closes.” TV Party was very popular. We were just too much too soon.
I guess it was punk TV. We were anti-technique, anti-format, anti-establishment, and anti-anti-establishment. We liked to break all the rules of good broadcasting. Sometimes we would sit around and say, “Well, what should we do now?” Sometimes we sat there and did nothing. They say “dead air” is the kiss of death in broadcasting, but we liked it. Sometimes we would sit perfectly still like a tape on pause, but it was live.”