by Raphael Saray
I ’m quickly becoming an old man. I’m taping golf pre-game shows (DVR’s are for the young). I travel to three different drugstores to find the proper flavour of milk of magnesia. As I’ve frittered away my twenties, I hearken back to when I was on the cutting edge of the culture. I was the youngest of four children in a household full of ethnic energy with live in Grandparents hovering over simmering pots of God knows what. I was raised with mature tastes. Rather than me bringing the house down with “family” fare, I was raised up. A little Raffi – but more RUN DMC.
So my babysitters became the lovable mainstream misfits of early nineties MuchMusic (MM). Music videos were not as hyper sexualized as they are today. I guess Madonna was a little raunchy, but even as a youngster I figured out she was more of a parody of entertainment. So Ma was cool with the kids watching MM as she cooked, napped, went to aerobics class etc… Even to this day I don’t really enjoy music. I have a little mp3 player that only has podcasts on it. As my brothers and sister enjoyed the three minute mini movies of Sloan, Organized Rhyme and the Skydiggers – I patiently waited for the VJ’s.
Intros and extros of pointless chatter, but to me – comfortably entertaining. Steve Anthony was my favorite. Zach Morris all grown up.
Steve was the handsome slacker with Aryan features whose job it was to be effortlessly cool. He’d shout things out of the MM “environment”, goof around with cameramen and hang out with bands. There was no message, no kid friendly moral, just time being lovingly murdered. I was a kid, but felt like a full fledged teenager. There was Erica Ehm, the sweet but subtly edgy girl VJ. I believe I knew that eventually I was to fight my brothers for the right to marry her. She was pretty without being slutty, filled with a pleasant feminine mystery only a pre-teen boy could experience. There was also Michael Williams, the more intense musicologist. You had to pay a little more attention when he was on. And of course TDM, Terry David Mulligan would pop up from time to time filling us in on the west coast scene. TDM was like the cool uncle of MM. He was older but felt like he fit in with rest. With his Kirk Douglas chin and old man creases in his forehead, my whole family loved him as the cool geezer.
The bad guy of MM was Lance Chliton (hork, spit!). He gave music news in the “Rapid Fax” segments. He’d alternate with the exotically gorgeous Monica Deol. Lance Chilton, with his stuble, khakis, and monotone voice – we just hated him. I thought we were supposed to hate him. He was the Cobra Commander, Rick Rude, Gary from Gary’s Olde Town Tavern. His reason for existence was to be an early nineties villain.
But he wasn’t supposed to be the heel – he just was. A natural born douche. I knew that Americans had Kurt Loeder for MTV News, a serious journalist who served as the calm in the MTV chaos, but you could tell Lance’s heart wasn’t in it. He was waiting for a “real” news job. You could tell he thought he was better than everyone. Fuck you Lance Chilton!
The Oscars, Super Bowl or Wrestlemania of the MM year was the annual video awards, but my favorite was the Tree Toss. It was highly influenced by Letterman and the Gong show, but I was too young for Chuck Barris and too young to stay up for Dave. It was in mid January when Steve Anthony would get rid of the old Xmas tree. It started out as a goofy time killer and morphed into an event. He would go high above the City TV/CHUM broadcasting building and throw it out a window into a dumpster. It was my earliest memory of ironic wit. It grew every year, from a quaint “we’ll chuck a tree out the widow after CECE Peniston”, to an event with countdown clock, training montages, physics analysis and pyro. The dumpster was replaced by a massive logo’s target and Steve would have fans and celebrities alike clamor to help him. Slowly, Steve faded away…but the tree toss still remains.
Steve became old as Zach became Franklin or Bash. I remember Bradford Howe peaking my interest for a bit. Flipping around I see a new generation of VJ’s who I don’t recognize or care to learn about. Probably to some latchkey 8 year olds they are heroes. I know that they are not for my heroes. I’m an old man.
Raphael Saray is broadcaster and writer based in Flin Flon, Manitoba. His brother has met Ian Ziering who starred as Steve Sanders on the original Beverly Hills 90210.