Exiled from San Diego for several years, one of the strongest memories that sustained my affection for this city during my absence centered on the many expressions I’d witnessed on the face of Lady Six during my youth – the magic, excitement, drama, inspiration she had been able to bring into our home along with my conviction of our own personal, unique relationship. She had brought me to Channel 6’s Bozo Show and actually put me on television. She had introduced me to my lifelong friends Zorro and Dracula. She had turned me, at the age of eight, into a prize-winning, truly colorblind artist and I had loved her as surely as she must have longed for my boyish ass.
I was back when the eighties began and through her became acquainted with two film editors at Channel 6, Jay Curtis and Bruce Mueller, who started the irreverent weekly movie show Disasterpiece Theater. Jay and Bruce portrayed Sal U. Lloyd and The Other Guy and augmented the screenings of some pretty pathetic examples of cinema with their own frequently hilarious sketches and cut-ins, taped each week at Lady Six’s studios way up on that Tijuana mountain. I was able to participate by providing the show a weekly supply of giveaway movie passes to whatever happened to be playing at the Ken, Guild, and Fine Arts theaters (“Classy stuff, folks; not the kind of crap you’re watching here tonight…”) Interestingly, one of the members of the band that performed the lovely Disasterpiece Theater theme song every week was none other than Kent Johnson (aka Phil Harmonic and one of this paper’s founders and publishers.)
For its regular broadcast hours, Lady Six had obtained the greatest film packages in town. These were the infant days when VCRs and renting movies for home viewing were still in their baby steps – the choices offered the consumer were either porn or only the biggest-of-the-big major studio pabulum. Jay was always kind enough to give me the essential breakdown of any upcoming broadcast that struck my fancy (the actual film was going to start right after the Bunnyburger commercial; the first segment would last 17 minutes and 20 seconds; the second segment would start after the Sam Hine Pontiac commercial and last 22.5 minutes and so on) so I could end up with a perfect VHS copy of something that might not actually be released on tape for years, if ever.
Let’s talk integrity here. Lady Six wore it in place of underwear. When she bought one particular film package from Columbia, it included the then-recent Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese’s profane and exceedingly violent masterpiece, much admired by Jay and Bruce. They couldn’t bear to allow Columbia’s own TV version to corrupt the unflawed face of Lady Six and requested a brand new, uncut theatrical print, which they were determined to run in prime time (with only three commercial interruptions) the day before Thanksgiving. When they told me of their plan, I alerted several acquaintances from the press. Most thought I was joking; only one seemed to grasp the historic significance at the time (but of course, that’s just Duncan…) yet all awaited the day, if only to confirm the level of crap I’ve been known to be full of. Bless her sweet and sexy heart, Lady Six did it! Taxi Driver appeared on our home screens entirely intact and looking like a million colorful bucks and containing enough audience advisories during the breaks to give viewers who dig censorship a reminder of their own God-given ability to change the frigging channel if they so desired. There were some shocked, even outraged responses soon appearing in the Letters-to-the-Editor pages. One local TV critic blasted my babe in his column, causing me to defend Lady Six’s honor in print and on a radio show. I still have my tape of that historic broadcast, on which I had wisely included the introduction, content warnings, and the first commercial break. Now, over 30 years later, her luster still shines and still makes me kind of moist, if you know what I mean.
It was time to create another precedent, and Channel 6 became the first local commercial station to go 24 hours. So began the XETV-6 All Night Movies, and Lady Six picked me to “star” in the wraparound. It was filmed (!) in fast-motion outside the Guild Theatre, where I ladder-walked across the vacant front marquee, progressively putting up the show’s title, then exiting with the ladder. For the close, I came back in with the ladder, dismantled the display, walked off and turned out the lights. This ran for years; I did it for love when Lady Six thought we should perhaps take our relationship to the next level. Just one more ladder to climb… It may have been ace critic/cineast extraordinaire Beth Accommando’s idea to hose down the sidewalk and pavement on Fifth Avenue that night for the shoot; even if it wasn’t it was a visual marvel and I always loved being around Beth (as well as her “feminist bitch” sister) under any circumstances.
The century eventually turned; I had the fortune of being able to live through the aughts. Lady Six offered a weekly local music show that did double duty as entertainment and, by golly, public service. By the time of the final Fox Rocks Christmas edition, the Channel 6 studios had long been re-established in Kearny Mesa, so I didn’t have to return to the mountain in Mexico when I was tapped to appear on the program. I was taped against a green screen singing my song “The Hose” three times, each as a different character. Optically combined, I became the trio of Jose Sinatra, Santa Claus, and Jesus, and, through the tender affection of Lady Six, was (I hope) able to bring just a bit of the true meaning of American Christmas to receptive hearts throughout this needy town.
Currently Channel 6 provides my favorite morning news show (I even share the same birthday with Marc Bailey!) and presents what is unquestionably San Diego’s finest late-night-until-dawn commercial programming. I’ve long had the habit of going to bed with my television on, the sound of Lady Six always eager to sweeten the silence. Perhaps she affects my dreams; if so, her intentions have generally been loving… well, until recently, to be honest. I think she’s been having a bit of fun with me, for some strange reason. I started noticing it about six months ago when the new jingle promoting the morning news show would damn near give me nightmares. Even thinking about it now is creepy: It’s all about Early… You better get ready, etc., sung in a voice belonging to what must be the mutant result of an unholy liaison between a riot grrrl and a particularly grating cartoon character. Why should I not forgive her? Relationships that have lasted as long as ours do occasionally (I’m told) require a bit of spicing-up, do they not? I shouldn’t complain…she’s dynamite in bed, okay?
I honor Lady Six on this, her very special birthday. I’ve got a good six months on her in terms of age, but I’ll continue to look up to her as the wiser component of our relationship. I would never refuse such gracious guidance nor such wonderful gifts from one who seems so nearly immortal, and always so determined to make me happy. Live on, sweet thing.