Cranky Media Guy, Publisher, Author & Announcer
- 16th Sept 2003
Media Man Australia completes part 3 of an interview
with The Cranky Media Guy!
Describe the connection between
politics and media?
late Frank Zappa is and has been my idol since I was
a kid. He had a great quote that I love. "Politics
is the entertainment division of big business."
I think that pretty much sums it up. At least in America,
it takes LOADS of money to run for national office.
Who's going to give them that kind of money, other
than big business? Therefore, it's incumbent (no pun)
on office-seekers to kiss ass on Big Business. That's
why, at least in my humble opinion, you see all these
huge, record-setting mergers sailing right through
the supposed oversight process. You don't bite the
hand that feeds you, you know? Congress and the White
House are owned, lock, stock and barrel, by industry.
is a lot of money a good thing, for successful political
campaign, in the media?
good for who? Not good for the public, that's for
sure. It's good for the politicians because, as actual
research shows, the guy who spends the most on his
campaign, usually wins. The public SAYS that they
are skeptical about politicians, but the truth is,
most Americans are poorly educated and don't really
understand the issues. They vote for the guy in the
nice suit who looked good on the TV news when he was
standing next to his bleached blonde wife on the podium
in front of the flag banner.
are the most media savvy politicians of all time?
wouldn't say he was the best president of my lifetime
(although, next to George Bush, he looks like Gandhi,
Mother Teresa and Winston Churchill all rolled together),
but Bill Clinton was an amazing politician. He had
the mojo, for sure!
would argue that there's no more divisive issue in
America than abortion. I mean, you just aren't going
to change anyone's mind about that. I remember once,
during Clinton's term in office, that a bunch of
anti-abortion people were invited to the White House,
for some reason. Prior to meeting the President, I
saw some of them on camera, saying that they were
really going to let Clinton have it for his pro-choice
though, when they came out, they were talking about
what a nice man he was and how they understood his
position, etc. I thought, "What is this guy,
a hypnotist?" I really wish I could have been
a fly on the wall that day. How good a schmoozer do
you have to be to pull THAT off?
for the current crop, George Bush couldn't find his
ass without a map and a GPS. He is, however, surrounded
by the most cynical, savvy political machine anyone's
ever seen. You want to know who pulls Bush's strings?
Look into a guy named Karl Rove. He's the one who
makes sure that Bush looks "presidential."
I mean, when Bush was speaking in front of Mt. Rushmore,
these guys positioned the podium so that his head
would be precisely lined up with the heads on the
mountain. They understand
perfectly that the average American gets his or her
news from TV and that pictures are the way to get
your "talking points" across. Ultimately,
it isn't really about "talking," it's about
how the guy LOOKS on camera, even if he says unspeakably
stupid shit like, "Bring it on!" challenging
terrorists to target our troops. He's got a skull
full of cottage cheese, but he looks "presidential"
when he's lined up next to Teddy Roosevelt. Masterful
and disgusting, all at the same time.
some dirt on some of the Californian politicians?
I knew. Other than the stuff about Schwartzenegger
from the old Oui interview, that is. It is entertaining,
in a perverse way, to watch the political party of
"family values" totally ignore the fact
that Arnold bragged about having participated in gang
bangs. Maybe they were Christian gang bangs!
some good qualities about them?
the whole thing really IS Democracy in Action, isn't
it? Some people are laughing about the "chaos"
of the California election. I, on the other hand,
think it's just dandy. Why SHOULDN'T average people
be able to run for office. It isn't like the rich,
privileged assholes who usually hold office have done
such a great job, is it?
current mayor of my home town, New York City, Michael
Bloomberg, is the richest man ever to hold public
office in America, if I'm correct. I was back there
in June and I almost had to laugh when people told
me that they were disillusioned with him because he
didn't seem to "understand the average person."
Uh, he's a fucking BILLIONAIRE, people! What did you
expect?? His life resembles yours only in that he
has to ingest oxygen and eat occasionally. This isn't
a guy who has to cut out renting movies at
Blockbuster so he can eat lunch out once a week. Why
WOULD he understand how the average person lives?
all seriousness, I'd rather see Gary Coleman be the
next governor of California than for Bloomberg to
win another term as New York mayor. Coleman's parents
ripped off his TV money and he's had to work as a
security guard. Already, I think he has more in common
with the average person than Bloomberg-or Schwartzenegger,
for that matter.
do you know when a politician is lying? - you know
- lips are moving....
tempted to say, "When they're a Republican,"
but the Democrats aren't very far behind them in the
"bullshit the public" category.
do you vote for and why?
to a incident with the FBI back in the mid-90's, I
don't get to vote. Long story, but I was basically
entrapped by the Feds. Nothing will make you more
cynical about the government than being set-up by
a private investigator hired by the FBI. Anyone who
tells you that there aren't two levels of justice
in this country has never been represented by a public
many illegal immigrants are there in the United States,
and why are they found of California?
don't know if anyone knows exactly how many illegals
there are in America. As for why they are "fond
of California," well, just take a look at a map.
Mexico, the source of most illegals, is due south
of America and the Tijuana/San Diego border is the
busiest crossing point between two countries in the
worked at a radio station in San Diego back in the
early 90's and I was amazed when I took a ride down
to the border. I-5, the Interstate highway that takes
you there, has four lanes in each direction. The middle
two each way, however, are blocked off with cones.
The reason for that is so that illegals who run onto
the highway won't have to dodge traffic all the way
how you see signs with silhouettes of deer on them
to warn you that animals cross the road? Near the
California-Mexico border, they have similar signs
with silhouettes of a woman, a boy and a girl running
on them. Again, seriously.
a pedestrian bridge over the Interstate near the border
crossing. It's about 30 or 40 feet up and if you stand
on it, you can see over to Mexico and watch people
jump the wall to run into America. It's an
absolutely fascinating sight, watching people risk
arrest to change their lives, hopefully for the better,
right in front of your eyes.
common is payola and cash for comment in the United
more common than people realize. I was in radio for
many years and the use of "independent promoters"
was very common until recently. Ask yourself why a
company like Warner Brothers, part of the largest
media company in the world, would need to use outside
promotion people. I'm certainly not in a position
to make an accusation of illegality, but let's just
say that one possible reason would be to put a layer
of deniability between the company and a person who
might be involved in illegal activities.
do know that, in the 80's, it was common for program
directors to receive "gifts" from record
promoters for adding records to the station's playlist.
Greed being the universal human failing that it is,
it's hard to believe that that sort of thing has totally
% of the typical newspaper is PR?
question, one that I wish more people would ask themselves.
I've read accusations that at least HALF of the average
newspaper on a given day is stuff that originated
with a PR firm. God knows that the TV news business
is infested with PR bullshit.
local Fox station (Portland, Oregon) has a 10 o'clock
news show whose second half-hour should be called
"PR-palooza." There are these nasty little
things called "video news releases" that
come from companies paid to promote stuff, often pharmaceutical
products. They provide the video tape and have the
local news anchor do a voice-over on it and pass it
off as "news." It's bullshit and the local
Fox show is FULL of that crap. I assume other stations
around the country are also passing off promotional
material as "news." It's a friggin' disgrace
but since the average American gets the majority (or
ALL) of his "news" from TV and they're not
about to tell you that they're using pre-packaged
PR material, most people never realize this is happening.
are worldwide newspaper sales declining?
be fair, I can only really speak about the situation
in America. In this country, we do such a piss-poor
job of educating kids that they come out of high school
essentially illiterate. Even if they had the attention
span, how could they read a newspaper all the way
through? All those big words, you know?
does a good hoax involve?
starters, it helps if the hoax involves something
in the real world, about which people have a strong
opinion. One reason the recent "Hunting for Bambi"
thing got so much press coverage was that it touched
on the subject of violence against women. It seemed
to be advocating it, which understandably pissed off
a lot of people.
second point is that a good hoax has to be right on
the edge of believability. Ideally, it should be something
that is unlikely, but not impossible. If I say that
I have developed a way to fly to the moon under my
own power, it isn't going to fool many people, no
matter what "justification" I come up with
for the story.
also helps if the story is self-contained; that is,
that the "facts" of the story can't be disproven
by checking with outside sources. The more you can
control the story, the more it will be taken seriously.
This June I was in New York City, helping promote
a company owned by two friends. I managed
to come up with a hoax that got some ink in some small
papers, plus stories on, not one, but TWO, local TV
news shows. I fooled TWO reporters in the largest
media market in America, where people are supposed
to be cynical. To this day, the TV stations don't
know that I hoaxed them. I'm waiting for
an appropriate moment to reveal what I did (IF I decide
to reveal it at all, that is).
do you make a hoax become real news? example a, b,
really hate to dodge a question, but I think I have
to this one time. I look at the specifics of hoaxing
like a magician looks at his tricks. Ask Penn Gillette
(of Penn and Teller) how he did a certain trick and
you that, if you go to the library, you can find a
lot of books that will tell you EXACTLY how to perform
it. If you are truly motivated, you'll actually GO
to the library and learn. Ultimately, in the world
of magic, there really are no secrets.
I can't tell you to go to the library to learn how
to execute a hoax, because I've never actually seen
a book that reveals how to do it. I can tell you,
however, that being a hoaxer requires a little skill
at improvisational acting. When I'm meeting a reporter
in character, say, I have no idea what questions I
might be asked. I have no choice other to play it
by ear. If I'm good at what I do, however (and I'd
like to believe that I am), I should know my character
and story well enough to be able to answer anything
that may come up.
just reckless enough to trust that, if I throw myself
into the deep end of the pool, I'll manage to stay
afloat. Let's just put it this way: I've done it many
times and I've never been caught. As a possible point
interest, I can also tell you that I've never spent
over $100 on a hoax.
has online media changed the media landscape for the
better and worse?
to the good, it has allowed people like me, who don't
have the money or resources to start a newspaper or
TV station to have a forum to vent which can potentially
reach a lot of people.
down side is that it, like any other form of media,
can be used by assholes to do bad things. What amazes
me is that people often take a lot of things that
are, to me at least, self-evident nonsense, seriously.
I mean, anybody who can sign onto AOL can create a
website. When even "reliable sources" are
wrong as often as they are, why would you believe
ANYTHING that arrives in your email inbox??
correspond, just for laughs, with a guy who has the
same name as I do who lives in Virginia. Not too long
ago, he sent me (and everyone else on his mailing
list) a story about Mel Gibson having been horribly
disfigured when he was young. I felt obligated to
inform Mr. Pagani that the story was bullshit, using
snopes.com as my source. Ultimately, people believe
what they WANT to believe and usually what they want
to believe is something that seems to illustrate a
principle of human behavior, either positive or negative.
have been the highlights of your career?
I'm fooling myself, but I'd like to believe that the
"highlight" of my "career" is
still ahead of me.
far, I've managed to get myself into just about every
major (and most of the minor) newspapers in America,
along with Time, Life and People magazines. I've been
on Oprah, CNN and a lot of other major TV outlets.
I've come up with things that people who have never
heard of me specifically, have heard of.
ex-wife once asked me, "Why does everything you
like involve fooling people?" That's probably
the best personal question I've ever been asked and,
to be honest, I can't say that I have a perfect answer
to it. I've just learned, through personal experience,
that it's entirely possible to simulate reality and
convince people of its truth. Being able to pull that
off makes you question the world you live in, believe
me. Even if I don't know exactly why I do these things,
I know that I feel compelled to do then and I expect
are your mentors?
absolute, Number One idol is the late Frank Zappa.
He was everything I wish I could be more of: incredibly
intelligent, unbelievably talented, insightful. At
the risk of sounding like I'm saying the politically
correct thing, another big idol of mine is my wife.
She's the smartest human I've ever met.
I was a kid, I heard about a guy who did hoaxes named
Alan Abel. Years later, when I was in my late 20's,
I actually got to meet Alan and I became involved
in some of his scenarios. Doing that was how I learned
the basics of hoax-perpetration, if you will.
the early 80's I was privileged to become friends
with Andy Kaufman. I was a fan of his before I met
him and if there was one person in show business I
would have wanted to meet, other than Frank Zappa,
it was Andy. I still quote a few things that Andy
said off-the-cuff to this day.
should mention my Dad, too. I think he's where I first
started to get the idea that the world is not what
people think it is.
adjectives best describe you?
Smart? Original thinker? Funny?
are your current projects?
the ones I can talk about involve wanting to establish
a Museum of the American Novelty Item. I'm also trying
to work out details to turn a "dark ride"
in Pennsylvania into the world's first ride-through
50 years from now, how would you like to be remembered?
would be great if kids looked to me as a source of
inspiration, as someone they would like to be like,
as an original, someone who thumbed his nose at convention.
I'm not counting on this, mind you, but you asked
how I 'd like to be remembered, so there it is.
note: Cranky Media Guys didn't dissapoint. We are
privilaged to have secured this interview with this
unique, interesting, intelligent and media savvy crusader
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