In The 90s, People Had Sex On Public Access TV
Life before the internet was a lot wilder than you remember.
Before the internet gave every human being on Earth a platform to air their opinions and expose their private lives to the world, people didn’t have many outlets with which to reach an audience. Sure, you could write letters to the local paper or call into a talk show, but if you wanted to be famous your options were pretty limited.
That all changed in the late 60s, when several cities launched pilot programs to stake out a place on the dial for the rank and file. In 1972, the FCC made it a legal requirement for any cable provider in the top 100 US television markets to set aside a channel for the people to use. This came to be known as “public access,” a channel where anybody could have a show as long as they showed up to the studio and followed a few simple rules.
Those rules, though, were significantly more lenient than the major networks had to deal with. Because public access channels weren’t broadcast over the airwaves and didn’t have advertisers to placate, their content ranged from mind-numbingly dull to completely insane.
While the daytime hours were often filled with genial programming like town meetings and crafting shows, late-night hours on public access brought a panoply of explicit material. New York had “Midnight Blue,” hosted by Screw Magazine publisher Al Goldstein, where porn stars and strippers did interviews in the nude. Austin aired “Infosex,” featuring gay men showing safe sex procedures in anatomical detail.
Surprisingly, some of the nastiest material to ever hit public access came from the sleepy town of Seattle. Cablevision’s Channel 29 drew a number of unfettered maniacs who set out to push the limits of decency every night to a potential audience of 100,000 viewers. Channel 29 made a point of not reviewing shows before they aired?—?all you had to do was drop off a videotape and show proof of ID.
The first Seattle public access show to push the envelope was “Political Playhouse,” which was ostensibly a talk show about the issues of the day with one twist: panelists and hosts regularly dropped their drawers and conducted discussions completely naked.
Shannon Kringen, who went by the name “The Goddess Kring,” was a mainstay on the channel from 1996 to 2011. Kringen’s trippy, stream-of-consciousness show typically featured her nude, painted body writhing in front of psychedelic lights while reciting poetry.
The Goddess was fairly mild compared to her on-air compatriots “The Mike Hunt Get Your Friend Laid Show” was hosted by Mike Aivaz, a bong-hitting leftist who interspersed rants and interviews with clips of uncensored hardcore porn of all stripes?—?straight, gay, whatever.
TJ Willamson was the mastermind behind “Fulfilling Your Fantasies,” which aired hardcore porn as well as featuring nude guests. Both shows scandalized accidental viewers but built an audience of late-night perverts.
Williamson’s TV career hit a bump in 1997, when a police officer recognized his face on the screen and realized that he was an unregistered sex offender. The cops raided the studio when “Fulfilling Your Fantasies” was live, arresting the host on the air. He somehow managed to deal with this situation and resume his smut programming without incident.
The cable company wasn’t jazzed about either of these shows, and pulled them from the air in 1998. Aivaz and Williamson turned to the ACLU, who represented both men in court as they sued for due process. Legal battles kept both shows off the air until 2000, when a settlement was reached. Williamson celebrated by having sex with his girlfriend live on the air during his first show back. Eventually, he moved away from the explicit to host “Adventure TV,” G-rated travelogues.
Mike Hunt never backed down, though, taking to the airwaves each week with pot, pizza and pornography.
In 2006, the Seattle Community Access Network board officially revised their definition of obscenity, putting the late-night porn peddlers out of business. Aivaz briefly continued his show by replacing any on-screen penises and vaginas with clips of SCAN executive director Ann Suter’s face, but eventually decided to hang it up.
For more on Seattle’s bizarre and explicit public access scene, the documentary “Channeling Yourself” is a must-watch. It interviews many of the names in this article. If you’re in town, Scarecrow Video has a shelf of DVDs of classic Seattle public access to rent. Just make sure the kids aren’t in the room.