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JOE PYNE (1966-67).

Decades before television talk-show hosts such as Morton Downey, Jr. and Bill O'Reilly were idolized by millions of pinheads across the country, Joe Pyne set a new standard for acerbic, outspoken opinions in the mid-'60s with his popular syndicated Metromedia show out of Los Angeles. It was one of the very first programs to allow unrehearsed kooks, nitwits and fringe-dissenters to rant and argue at length, as the rabidly right-wing Pyne inadvertently exposed the rampant stupidity of the American public -- himself included! Alas, not many people remember the wooded-legged Pyne nowadays, since this proud chain-smoker died from lung cancer in 1970 at the age of 44... This amazing two-hour compilation of his groundbreaking, grating and strangely hypnotic show (simply called JOE PYNE) is a terrific introduction to his warped TV legacy. It begins with Pyne taking rambly, often incoherent "gripes" from the "dock" (lined-up audience members) -- ranging from a middle-aged dame about computer dating, to a freaky vegetarian about animal slaughter -- but most of the disc is broken into four sections: UFO's, Vietnam, Black Power, and the Catholic Church. First up, Pyne interviews dweeby James Moseley, the editor of The Saucer News (a journal of offbeat phenomenon), who discusses the 8-foot-tall "Mothman" of West Virginia and shows a film clip of a "genuine" flying saucer (which looks like it was shot by Ed Wood, Jr.). As Pyne mercilessly grills Moseley, his audience chuckles derisively at this poor schmuck, and a crazy old "Space Lady" in the audience boasts of visiting the planet Clarion (located on the other side of the sun). The next portion is more timely, as a Secretary for the West Coast "War Resister's League" argues that the conflict in Vietnam (still escalating at that time) is a waste, and that Americans never should've entered this civil war. Of course, the red, white and blue-blooded Pyne rudely disagrees (at one point, calling Hiroshima and Nagasaki "the greatest thing that ever happened"), while his hostile audience merely labels the guest a coward, traitor and Commie. It all sounds painfully familiar to today's Iraq lunacy. The most bust-a-gut-hilarious showdown comes when Pyne invites two contrasting Black men to his program: Reverend E. Freeman Yearling, from a John Birch Society off-shoot that promotes "the responsible Negro," and L.C. Wheeler, the director of a militant group called Black Cat Bones. Yes, it's Uncle Tom Vs. Black Panther Dude! Yearling wants to "expose" Black leaders like Martin Luther King as pawns of World Communism, while no-nonsense Wheeler calls him a "colored boy" puppet and nearly wins us over to his streetwise side -- that is, until he begins babbling about the "Jewish conspiracy to enslave the world." That's when I seriously wondered if Pyne ever had one completely rational person on his show or in his audience. This incredible compilation wraps up with John L. Storm, a former Monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church, who left the priesthood. No, he didn't steal, kill or bugger small children -- he simply believed that the Church was too strict about birth control, marriage laws and priests' celibacy. Yet even this guy gets labeled a "cop out" by Pyne's pea-brained audience. As Joe Pyne once proudly declared, "I have no respect for anyone who would come on my show." That was probably an understatement.

© 2005 by Steven Puchalski.