GONG BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
It’s been 16 years since Outfest asked me to host the first Home Video Gong Show, the R-rated yuckfest where audience members bring video clips from home, we play them unscreened, and celeb judges either give them a score or gong them off the screen. When we started, there was no YouTube, no shows like Tosh.0, so if you wanted to see a clip of a cat making doody in a toilet or a Miss Teen USA contestant sliding down the stairs on her knees, there weren’t a lot of places to go. We filled a need. We scratched and itch.
A lot’s changed since then—Rest in Peace, VHS!—but the thrill of watching bizonkers clips in a roomful of people just as twisted as you are who may or may not be drunk on free martinis never seems to go out of style. And there are always lessons to take away. Here are FIVE THINGS I’ve learned from hosting Outfest’s Home Video Gong Show over the last fifteen years.
1) STARS CASH IN ON THE VHS CRAZE AT THEIR OWN PERIL
Whether it’s Dixie Carter doing an embarrassing yoga move called “The Lion” in the Dixie Carter Unworkout Video or Rue McLanahan up to her eyeballs in unruly pussy in The Cat Care Video Guide, seeing your favorite stars trying to keep their dignity while picking up some cash on the side is heaven with a capital heave. And speaking of kitties that need scratching, if you don’t get at least a semi-chub watching Angela Lansbury pleasure herself in a bubble bath in Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves, then you should see your doctor. Your move, Olympia Dukakis.
2) SOMETIMES THE CAMERA HAS BETTER GAYDAR THAN WE DO
This lesson came courtesy of a clip of the late, great Robert Reed from the 1988 TV movie A Very Brady Christmas. In the opening of the film, Reed and Florence Henderson as Mike and Carol Brady are getting the house ready for the clan to return for the holidays. At approximately 3 minutes in, Reed turns from the kitchen sink, hand perched daintily on hip and ponders aloud, “Where is my checkbook?” Textually, it’s nothing special, but subtextually, it’s like a mini Pride parade. You can’t even believe how gay this moment is. The only way it could have been gayer is if Sam the Butcher were inside him at the time. If only there were such a thing as a retroactive GLAAD Award.
3) IT’S IMPORTANT TO MODEL AFTER YOU PUT ON A MAXI-PAD
I learned this lesson not from Tyra Banks but from a 70’s-era educational film we call Jill. The real title has the word “trainables” in it, I think, but to longtime Gong Show fans, it’s just Jill. Jill is a sweet, adolescent with special needs whose older sister explains menstruation to her and shows her how to use a maxi-pad. The reveal of the bloody pad always gets a scream from the Gong Show crowd but for my money, the best moment is after the pad is successfully installed, when the sister, and later Jill, do a cocky, “Nailed it!” swivel pose in the mirror. Lest you think we’re being un-PC by reveling in all this, I want to point out that Jill is hippest, least stilted one of the bunch. It’s that family who are ripe for ribbing.
4) DEEP DOWN, WE ALL WANT TO BE BEYONCE
I love watching actors’ and civilians’ earnest attempts to become pop sensations, whether it be Judy Landers headlining a Spandex-tastic music video for Chippendales called “Room Service,” Lisa Hartman giving a cameltoe the size of a Florida sinkhole in a TV variety show or my personal favorite, a band called Sal Polichetti and Sonseed rocking out to “Jesus is My Friend” on a 1980’s morning show. The latter clip was submitted by Gong Show devotees Doug Prinzivalli and John Carrozza in 2002 and though it was promptly gonged by Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go’s—who must have something against heartthrobby Christians—it later took on a life of its own when Doug wrote about it on his blog Dougsploitation. (http://dougsploitation.blogspot.com/2009/08/douglas-michael-show-with-guest-sal.html) Within weeks, it had over a million views on YouTube, and was being riffed on on shows like The Soup, Glee and Community. “I was later able to meet Sal, the singer, in New York,” recalls Prinzivalli, “and he told me that because the song’s become such a cult sensation, he’s been invited to perform live at all these different events. That clip has changed so many lives, including mine, and it all began with the Home Video Gong Show.”
Now it can change your life, too, if it hasn’t already. Enjoy.
5) SOME ANUSES ARE OUTTIES
I learned this last lesson from a now infamous entry called “Meat-Ass.” It’s basically 15 seconds from an Al Parker porn movie from the 80’s in which Mr. Parker approaches an anonymous jockstrapped asshole through a cloud of dry ice, waits for it to distend, “jacks it” for a few strokes then goes merrily on his way. It’s the kind of gross Jack-Ass wishes it was and true a Gong Show legend. The funny thing is, it was never intended to be played at the show at all. It happened to be on the same disc as another clip and when the DVD menu appeared on screen with “Meat-Ass” listed, judge Julie Brown insisted that any clip with that title needed to shown, scrutinized and savored. The rest is HVGS history.
Someone in the crowd that night--I have no idea who, but God bless them-- posted the moment on Vimeo so it’s preserved for posterity. Let me stress this clip is NOT SAFE FOR WORK. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s NOT SAFE FOR LIFE because, like many of the videos we play at the Home Video Gong Show, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Who knows what lessons we’ll all learn at the next Home Video Gong Show? (Angela Lansbury Meets Meat-Ass, anyone?) I, for one, can’t wait to find out.
Check out the GALLERY of past Gong Shows BELOW.