copyright Bill Widener 2000

Public Access: the debate

Dear editor and readers of ACE Weekly,

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted in the 5th Annual ACE [Real] Best of Lexington 2001 Readers' Poll for my show OFF THE AIR - voted Best Public Access Show. I started the program four years ago and what a strange and wonderful trip it's been thus far.

This past year the show has featured such local events as Mecca Dance Studio's Decembrist Uprising, the perfomance art of Matthew Weddington, The Lexington Action Arts Collective's Events 001, 002 and their Fourth of July Parade March, films by local filmmakers Ben Allen, Tony Smith, Mark Shoenrock, Matt Florez and Billy Mullen, local bands like The Hair Police, The Trophy Wives, The Black Bananas, the Swells, Spacecraft and more. It's contributing artists like these who make the show worth watching. I mainly just do the editing and put the stuff on.

There is no way to know who's watching because public access doesn't keep ratings. So, winning the poll is validation that people are watching. Still, a common question is when is the show on? Answer: just look in the ACE List under Film.

This month is OFF THE AIR's Halloween Film Fest featuring films by local filmmakers. Upcoming shows will include a behind the scenes look at the making of Zombie Planet and the return of roving art critic Al from the Super Electric Toilet Brush Show. So, stay tuned and thanks again for voting.


Jon Noel Shelton

Creator/Editor/ Executive Producer


To the Editor:

Those Ace readers who voted for "Off the Air" as the best public access show in Ace's Best of Lexington poll must have missed the compelling programs that Advocates for Animals airs every week. The Humane Farming Association's Pig Picture may not contain the titillating dialogue of Sex and the City, nor perhaps does John Robbins' Diet for a New America have the high entertainment value of The Man Show, but we certainly think the programs we schedule are more valuable than "Off the Air."

Films like Farm Sanctuary's Egg-ribusiness show footage that people will probably never see on the networks. Unlike the meat and dairy industries, organizations like Farm Sanctuary can't afford to advertise on national television. How many times have you seen a commercial touting the health benefits of drinking soy milk, compared to the frequency with which we have been bombarded with the dairy industry's "Got Milk?" ads?

We invite viewers to watch a new type of reality show: programs the meat, egg and dairy industries hope the public never sees.


Tara Rodriguez


Regarding "Bright Lights, Big City," [Horse's Mouth, Sep 27] "home" and "place" have profound meaning, as you so eloquently demonstrated in your editorial. I left Lexington in 1980 upon graduation, and I very quickly realized what Joni Mitchell meant in the lyrics of her song "Big Yellow Taxi": "don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got till it's gone."

It took me 16 years to get back home to Lexington, and now I awaken every day grateful to live in central Kentucky.

Greg Davis

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Days up and down they come/Like rain on a conga drum/Forget most, remember some/But don't turn none away./Everything is not enough/And nothin' is too much to bear/Where you been is good and gone/All you keep's the getting' there

We all got holes to fill/Them holes are all that's real/Some fall on you like a storm/Sometimes you dig your own/But choice is yours to make/And time is yours to take/ .To live is to fly/Low and high/ So shake the dust off of your wings/And the sleep out of your eyes.

-Townes Van Zandt

What's "normal?"

How soon is too soon?

How long before it's permissible to laugh again?

What role is there for art and entertainment and humor when the entire country's plunged into a national depression?

How do you balance what could be perceived as trivial, tasteless, or disrespectful against every community's need to return to some sense of normalcy?

When I talk to my New York friends now (as I do every few days), I'm amazed at their resilience. The infrastructure of their city is probably six months from returning to anything approaching "normal," but they seem to have resumed some sense of routine and going about their business.

That's at Ground Zero.
The surprisingly funny
Jim Lauderdale and friends

On another level, on a national level, they are as consumed as everyone else by the central questions of the aftermath, which is, what's next?

We all are.

In the absence of any real news to report on this front, much of the news media seems consumed by mindless speculation, fevered and unenlightened punditry, and self-righteous pontification.

On the other side of the business - the entertainment side - everyone is suddenly annointed with a newfound sanctimony and sensitivity.

When the world turns upside down, it takes everybody a while to get their bearings.

The week of September 11 here, we became fairly quickly re-consumed by our own everyday catastrophes. We had a couple car wrecks to contend with (no one was hurt), and a fire at the home of our Art Director (again, no one was hurt).

Of course, everyone RACED to tell him how lucky he was - lucky that he and his family are all right; lucky that he was home; lucky that the damage wasn't worse, and so on. (Here's my unsolicited advice: never tell anybody who's been through something cataclysmic that they're lucky it wasn't worse.)

As everyone races to assist with the relief effort - and as laudable as that is - one of my friends (who ranks high in state government), asked me over dinner: "do you think people realize that there are children who go to bed hungry in this town, every night?"

On the one hand, we're all obviously raw around the edges after what happened in New York. Perspective is still a hard thing to come by. Who knew it was a commodity that could dry up, just like anything else?

Here, I know many of us have found comfort and solace in the things we always have music, movies, books, and the company of the people we love.

The Lucinda Williams show at the Opera House. Norman and Nancy Blake last Monday at the Kentucky. Ghost World at the movies on Sunday Sitting on the patio with Jim Lauderdale last night and catching up on what Hal Crowther and Lee Smith are up to in North Carolina these days the Algonquin Out Loud reading at Joseph Beth. The Townes Van Zandt tribute CD, Poet, which I got for my birthday and can't stop listening to a Thomas Merton book (heretofore missing from my collection) - another birthday gift - one I'll save for the weekend.

Emotional refuge is nothing to be dismissed these days.

This week, our good friend, author Ed McClanahan, has contributed the cover story.

I don't think I'd be insulting Ed to call it a "light" piece about how he met the REAL Gidget, many decades ago.

Some of our readers will be too young to even remember Gidget, but the iconography from that era persists today, and the cultural ramifications are still abundant.


She was a chick ahead of her time.

Hopefully, you'll enjoy getting to know her through Ed's eyes.