Cranky Media Guy, Publisher, Author & Announcer
- 5th July 2003
For the first time in Greg Tingle's media career,
he gets a repeat guest! (just kidding).
Pagani join's Mr Tingle once again, to give the full
story on his Andy Kaufman interview, wrestling, whistle
blowing, media hoaxes and more.
did the Andy Kaufman gig come about and has there
ever been any trouble form the TV station, regarding
you having the segment available on your website?
wouldn't have the guts to tell this story, even though
it's true, if I didn't have witnesses, because it's
so unbelievable. Back in 1981, I was doing a "public
access" show on local cable TV in Manhattan ("public
access" is a deal where, by law, anyone who wants
to can have a show on a local cable channel). It was
called The Slycraft Hour
(even though it was a half-hour long), after an imaginary
company my friend, Albin Sadar,
and I had come up with.
premise was that we worked for this company and were
assigned to New York City to demonstrate the products
that the company made. (In 1984, we wrote and got
published a book based on the concept, Slycraft's
Catalog of Stuff). We did the show live on
Thursday at 11 PM from a cheesey studio on 23rd St.
in Manhattan. Because we couldn't afford the more
expensive colour studio (the airtime was free, but
you had to pay for the studio), we did the show in
black and white (two cameras).
knew that the worst thing you could do was try to
pretend that the show wasn't low-budget; that just
comes off looking like you're in denial or something.
I thought it would be great if we could get someone
who had an actual "name" in show business
to come on the show because it would be such a great
contrast to the overall cheapness of the show.
was a very big fan of Andy Kaufman's and I thought
that he was the kind of person who might actually
be willing to do a cheap-ass show like ours. (weird
coincidence: I'm watching George
Carlin on HBO
and he just mentioned Andy Kaufman!) I sent Andy a
letter, mailed to the only address I could find for
him, ABC television in
Los Angeles. I mailed it on a Wednesday, the day before
we did the show. Thursday came and we had lined up
a couple of friends of Albin's to be guests on the
show that night. Rick and his girlfriend were supposed
to be a married couple who belonged to a group called
Americans for Moral Decency.
If I recall, we were going to be playing miniature
golf in the studio. Exactly how that was going to
work, I don't know, but that's what we were going
four of us entered the building the studio was in
and took the elevator to the second floor. Rick said
to me, "Did you see who was getting out of the
cab outside? Andy Kaufman."
looked at him. "You think I'm gonna fall for
that?" He said, "What are you talking about?"
"Albin must have told you about the letter I
mailed to him yesterday."
and Albin both denied having talked about my letter.
"Okay," I said, "wait here. I'll go
look." I went back down in the elevator. When
the door opened, standing there were Andy and his
parents. "Andy!" I exclaimed, "what
are you doing here? I just sent you a letter!"
what?" he asked me. As it turned out, Andy had
been walking down Broadway earlier that day and had
run into the guy who did the show immediately before
us, which was a martial arts program. They got to
talking and the guy invited Andy to come down to the
studio and be on his show. Andy told the guy that
he would if he could, but he was on vacation and his
plans were somewhat flexible, so the guy shouldn't
count on him showing up. Naturally, the guy figured
that Andy was just being polite so he went and booked
some Kung-Fu types to be on the show.
it was 10:15 and Andy and his parents show up, expecting
to be on a show at 10:30. The guy isn't quite sure
what to do with him at this point as it throws his
carefully-laid plans out the window. I turned to my
friends and said, "This is a one in a million
opportunity. This will never happen again in my lifetime.
I'm not going to let him leave here without being
on the show with us."
went over to Andy and explained the premise of our
show and who the guests were supposed to be. I told
him that I was a big fan of his and that it would
be fantastic if he came on the show with us. Andy
said, "Can my parents come on, too?" Duh.
Of course they could come on!
threw the "miniature golf" premise out the
window (no big loss) and made up a new concept on
the spot. At 11 PM, 45 minutes after I first spoke
to him, I was doing a live TV show with Andy Kaufman
(and his parents). From there on, we were friends.
Andy was one of the very few people in show business
I cared to meet and, more than 20 years after the
fact, I can still hardly believe how it came about.
do you like and dislike about pro wrestling?
think, at its best, wrestling is as visceral and valid
as any other form of drama. When it's done right (which
is far too infrequently, unfortunately), it can take
a crowd through a whole range of emotions, from laughter
always said that he just wanted to get an honest emotion
out of an audience; well-executed professional wrestling
does exactly that. There was a group a few years back
(Extreme Championship Wrestling) out of Philadelphia.
I used to say that their weekly show was the best
thing on television and I wasn't being ironic or funny.
They drew the most rabid fans I've ever seen. A friend
of mine said that watching ECW was like witnessing
a riot. I thought it was fantastic!
one of the 1500 or so people in their arena was perfectly
aware that wrestling is "pre-arranged",
shall we say and yet the shows were so good that they
could completely suspend their disbelief and get totally
caught up in the story. What could any form of theater
possibly achieve that's better than that?
I HATE about pro wrestling is when they cancel storylines
in the middle, change a character suddenly with no
explanation, do things that completely insult the
intelligence of the audience or in other ways violate
the rules of storytelling. Those kinds of things are
a big part of the reason that so many people look
down on wrestling. God knows it's never going to be
considered anything other than low-brow by most people,
but they don't have to rub it in.
wrestling is good, it's great and when it's bad, it's
painful to watch, even for fans. Right now, the best
wrestling on television (at least here in the States.
I don't really know about overseas) is Lucha Libre
wrestling out of Mexico.
I have a satellite dish so I get to see Mexican wrestling
every weekend. It's interesting to see the differences
between the American audiences (half of who's motivation
to go to the show is to get on camera, it seems) and
the Mexicans who take the characters and the matches
very seriously. It's also interesting to see the cross-section
of society, from rich to poor, young to old, that
Mexican wrestling attracts. It isn't a novelty down
there, it's a legitimate part of their culture.
Mexico, wrestlers are respected (as they should be
for the risks they take and the lengths they go to
entertain). I think that's neat. I even own a couple
of Mexican wrestling masks. Want me to send you a
picture of me wearing one of them? (I'm attaching
the picture to this e-mail)
would you like to interview, but haven't?
I'm a huge Frank Zappa
fan. If I could interview any one person, he'd be
it. Actually, I'd settle for just having him still
alive. I wish Andy was alive too, as I'd love to do
the definitive interview with him. He was an extremely
interesting and complex guy. It's hard to think of
anyone in contemporary show business who can hold
a candle to either of them. One was my idol and the
other was my friend. I wish they were still here;
I think the world was a much more interesting place
when they were around.
you, or where have you, been blackballed?
I don't know if I've ever been formally blackballed,
but I sure suspect there are a couple of people who
would never hire me again. I never intentionally "burned
any bridges," but I know that I left a few radio
stations under something resembling a cloud. I guess
I'm just too weird for their way of doing business.
don't know if you've ever heard of Clear
Channel. They're a big company that now owns over
1200 radio stations (and a bunch of other stuff too),
more than any other company has ever owned in the
history of the world. A former boss of mine is now
a Vice-President with the company. I'm on good terms
with him and he tried to get me hired by one of their
stations a year or so ago. The program director there
took a walk through my website and sent him an e-mail
that said (paraphrasing), "I don't see why we
should hire a guy who is so critical of corporate
radio," referring to things I said on crankymediaguy.com
about modern radio in general and Clear Channel specifically.
Jim passed the comment on to me and said, "Keep
your opinions to yourself."
the last I heard from Clear Channel. I not sure you
could call that a "blackball" exactly, but
I don't think I should wait to get hired by them any
the media become "smarter" towards hoaxes?
your own experience Hell no, they haven't. If anything,
journalistic standards are lower than ever. As I mentioned
earlier, I just came back from New York City where
I managed to get myself on not one, but TWO, local
TV news shows. Want a hint about what I was doing?
a look at http://slycraft.com/PUFF.htm
. By the way, this is the second time I've fooled
one of the two stations in question.
bottom line is if you give them a story that's too
good to ignore, they'll eat it up. I've told the most
outrageous stories and I've always been able to get
past the "journalists" who have interviewed
be fair, I have a lot of experience and I'm good at
pulling this sort of thing off, but still, I really
shouldn't be able to get away with it. It keeps me
on my toes; in a way, it's the ultimate form of improvisation
as I'm working to an "audience" that doesn't
KNOW it's an audience and is supposed to be skeptical.
back in the early 80's, I decided that my birthday
gift to myself was going to be getting in at least
one of the two local newspapers (this was in the Allentown,
PA area). I also decided that I wouldn't spend much
money on the attempt. The story I "sold"
them ended up on the front page of the local section...and
it ran on my birthday! My total cost? Two postage
stamps and the time it took to write two identical
letters to the editors of the papers.
was 20 years ago and I wouldn't say I'm any less able
to get in the press. I have the strange ability to
know instantly when an idea of mine is the kind of
thing that will generate national attention. When
it comes to physical work, I'm pretty lazy, but if
I get a good idea, I'm fanatical about trying to get
it going. I've seen people with all sorts of hobbies
and I certainly wish them happiness, but I don't really
understand what they get out of sticking stamps in
a book or what-not. I'd much rather think up something
absurd and work at getting it in the papers and on
TV and radio so that millions of other people hear
about it. Reality hacking is the best hobby I can
what scale do you consider yourself a "whistle
good question. I don't know that I've "blown
the whistle" on any specific thing, necessarily.
What I'd like to do is to get people to think more
critically about things in general. If they could
develop that skill, they might not NEED whistle blowers;
they could see through bullshit on their own. I'd
really like to see Critical Thinking and Media Literacy
taught in the schools in this country. I think they're
incredibly important to living as a non-stupid person
in today's society.
lot of people think that wrestling fans are "marks".
Then they turn on the Fox
News Channel and unquestioningly believe everything
the Bush administration tells them. As far as I'm
concerned, you can't BE a bigger mark than that. If
you can't intelligently question the things you see,
read and hear, how can you make decisions? How could
I NOT think that it's important to be skeptical about
media when I've done the kinds of things I've done?
you ever received a death threat?
when I was a disc jockey, on more than one occasion,
I got calls from listeners claiming they were about
to plant a bomb at the station building. It's probably
an incredibly stupid thing to do, but because I didn't
take the threats seriously, I told the callers where
they should put the bomb so as to do the most damage.
I told them where the door to the transmitter room
was and that putting the bomb in front of the main
entrance would only damage the lobby and not knock
us off the air!
sort of correspondence have your received from "Selected
I seem to recall getting a letter from someone in
the office of one of the politicians we selected.
Why should I take the word of some paid sycophant
seriously, though? Screw them!
is the criteria to be selected as a "selected
just about any politician can be a "Weasel of
the Week". Without realizing it, they're all
in the running. I think you could take all the sincerity
in Washington, stick it in your navel and still have
room for a finger. The more they have to pander to
corporate interests, the more they move away from
anything resembling PUBLIC interest. Power corrupts
and arrogance makes it even uglier. I wish people
would walk right up to politicians when they encounter
them in public settings and say, "Fuck you for
not listening to the public and making my country
Realistically, though, that kind of behavior, if it
became popular, would probably just make politicians
less accessible. It would be great to see the reactions
of the first few "public servants" who had
to endure it, though. I'd LOVE to see people stop
treating them as celebrities and start treating them
as the hired hands they are.
other important info did you not mention in our last
if you don't mind me "plugging" something,
I would like to mention that I'm available to come
up with publicity and promotional campaigns for individuals
and responsible companies. Decent work in American
radio that pays more than minimum wage has pretty
much dried up and I'm very good at coming up with
ways to get publicity. If someone wants to be in show
biz and they want to make a name for themselves (and
they're not afraid to stir things up), tell 'em to
get in touch with me: email@example.com
thanks again mate. I very much appreciate your no
holds barred approach. If you ever want to interview
an "out there" Aussie, pick me, pick me
: ) You got it, Greg. Let me know when you want to
do it. :)
for getting in touch with me. I'd love to do an interview
with you. Say where and when.
note: One of the most out there, revealing and entertaining
interviews I have done to date.
you haven't done so already, check
out the first interview with Bob from 23rd June 2003.
Media Guy: video and audio page
Kaufman tribute by Greg Tingle