Every weekday after school, I used to tune into KDOC to watch Wally George spit right-wing hate from a dingy studio in Anaheim. I must have found it comforting in the same way procedural dramas or reality shows can be comforting. The simplicity of the dramatic formula, the banishment of thoughts and thinking from the action, and the very narrow range of rhetorical and emotional possibilities are all balm for the soul.
Wally’s set was austere and his talismans were few: a gavel, an American flag, a photo of a space shuttle launch with the caption “USA IS #1,” and an outrageous combover. Somehow, I had learned that he was estranged from his daughter, the actress Rebecca De Mornay. He seemed like he was maybe not the most sympathetic resident of Orange County.
George was all assertion, no argument, and he didn’t actually say very much—it was all about how he said it. With his voice always rising in pitch and volume, George punctuated his screams by slapping his desk or banging his gavel. His laconic cries left no doubt about his political views. He was for Reagan, Bush, televised executions, Star Wars, the war on drugs, the war in Iraq; against abortion, health care, gay people, evolutionists, devil worshipers, obscenity, metal, punk, and women. He did think racism was a bad thing, or said so.
Gauging the sincerity of these opinions was never easy because the show was so theatrical. To give you a taste of the level of discourse, here’s a brief exchange about the death penalty with regular Hot Seat guest Rick Scouler:
“First of all, what we have to admit is that the death penalty does not cause a downward trend in murder. Okay? That’s proven. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a jerk.”
“No, Rick—the first thing we have to admit is that you are an idiotic nerd!”
(George also liked the insults “stupid moron,” “freako” and, for women, “bimbo.”)
As with George himself, it’s often hard to tell how committed the audience was to any position. On every show, spectators would chant “SICK! SICK! SICK!” and heckle the guests, but the crowd looks and sounds more like it belongs at a pro wrestling event than a hate rally.
Whatever the level of cynicism in the room, the beliefs were bad enough. As one-time Hot Seat guest Timothy Leary told People in 1984, “George is part of the 1984 George Orwell nightmare.” Here’s Wally advocating the quarantine of people with AIDS and explaining how you can catch AIDS from a sneeze:
There are now hours and hours of Hot Seat episodes and clips on YouTube, but you, citizen, will most likely want to skip right to the GWAR and Mentors episodes. The GWAR interview on Hot Seat remains, for me, their definitive TV appearance. Presidential candidate Sleazy P. Martini earnestly defends a key plank in his platform, a modest proposal to legalize crime.
GWAR promotes America Must Be Destroyed on Hot Seat
The Mentors promote everything awful on Hot Seat
Last year, KDOC marked the tenth anniversary of Wally’s death with this Hot Seat clip show, “Wally George: Remembering the Hot Seat.” The host is SoCal DJ Richard Blade, who as the host of “Richard Blade’s Flashback Lunch” in the early 90s was the first person in history to suffer the pain of 80s nostalgia. The documentary lays bare the theatrical dimension of the show (as for example during the excruciating fake fight with LA DJ Rick “Disco Duck” Dees). There is a clip of Timothy Leary’s appearance at the 29-minute mark.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Shock rock: El Duce of The Mentors and Gwar on The Jerry Springer Show