Earlier this week Uncle Pete brought to my attention an odd, Broome County phenomenon that I have absolutely no doubt that THE DARK VAULT OF PUBLIC DOMAIN brought about.
WSKG is our local PBS.
To WSKG’s credit, every blue moon it produces some of the only genuine, locally produced, local-origination, locally focused programming that isn’t airing on public access and has some kind of a budget (however small it might be, it’s far greater than ours!). They air free-to-air on UHF analog signal 46 in Broome County, and on Time-Warner Cable channel 7 in Binghamton, as well as over-the-air digital channel 42. So, they’re the ONLY local station that is a network affiliate (PBS) with locally-themed productions (like their rather excellent documentary on the late B. C. and Wizard of Id creator, Johnny Hart).
For local fans of cult movies, it warms the heart that a local broadcaster with clout still attempts to do some local television beyond the bloody news (WSKG does not have a local newscast).
Please join me for a moment as I step into the wayback machine for some Broome County television history before I conclude this letter of welcome to WSKG’s new program, "AT THE DRIVE-IN," and its host, Gregory Keeler.
Up until 2007, the Binghamton/"Greater Binghamton Area"/Broome County had never, ever had a movie host until THE DARK VAULT OF PUBLIC DOMAIN ‘s Uncle Pete agreed to collaborate on the project. Our interests are very similar. We live in the same part of the "Greater Binghamton Area," and we have always had a profound appreciation for that little slice of American folk art: the movie show host. Over the years it was a reoccurring topic in our endless discussions on classic movies and television.
For our fans outside of Broome County, allow me to paint a picture of our rather unique pocket of New York state.
Broome County falls in the geographic shadows of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA, Syracuse and Ithaca, New York, and up until the early nineties: the Tri-State television market (New Jersey-New York-Connecticut). While residents of Broome County never had a movie host to call their own, many locals between 30-50 share memories of imported hosts such as Baron Daemon, Dr. E. Nick Witty & Epal, Lou "The Creep" Steele, Uncle Ted & Nephew Ned/Uncle Ted & Mordecai, Ranger Dave from Elmira, Zacherley, and the eighties era of national heroes such as Louisianna’s own Morgus, "Grandpa" Al Lewis, Elvira, Commander U. S. A, Gilbert Gottfried, Rhonda Shear, and Caroline Schlitt.
For a small region tucked into the armpit of New York’s rustbelt, deep within its southern tier, lingering above Pennsylvania’s northeastern hinterlands: we certainly had our fair share of cult movie hosts, but none of our own.
So, Uncle Pete made his movie hosting debut over a year ago. He had a built-in audience thanks to his nearly 30 years of radio work, and there is a demographic in Binghamton that still fondly remembers the horror/movie hosts we were lucky enough to have grown up with. Finally having a local host we could call our own made it that much better.
We may be several decades behind the rest of the nation, culturally, but Broome County catches up now and again.
Our local viewership has slowly grown as the show marches into its second year of existence. With almost no local advertising (just a simple newspaper article) and without the program being listed on the cable guide until a few months ago, we have managed to carve out a niche and we sincerely appreciate all of the fan-email, blog traffic, and weekly devotees that tune in for our merry brand of low rent madness. Neither I, nor Uncle Pete make a buck off of this labor of love. We do it because it’s in our blood. It’s that simple. So, knowing some of you – out there in T. V. Land – dig our show, well, that’s icing on the cake!
Muchas Gracias, companeros.
Until recently were the only locally produced, original entertainment program devoted to cult movies that was airing in the area. Despite being on public access, our program was the only one airing on local television that showed horror movies, kung fu movies, and other grindhouse and drive-in flicks on a weekly basis. For over thirty years, there wasn’t a single station in Broome County airing such content: just the stations from outside the area that we picked up via cable, satellite, and analog antennae.
So, for the last year, every Saturday night from 10pm until midnight, THE DARK VAULT OF PUBLIC DOMAIN not only lit a torch by presenting the area’s first local movie host, but it appears to have inspired some people in our local television industry!
- That, mi amigos , is nothing short of awesome.
Now, let’s step out of the wayback machine and flash forward to the present:
Broome County now has TWO –
– cult movie programs on the air! I have no doubt in my mind that the folks over at WSKG saw THE DARK VAULT OF PUBLIC DOMAIN and realized that they could produce a no-budget, entertaining, local cult movie program.
Broome County is a rustbelt; a creatively stunted area that has slowly sunk into the homogenized abyss where local culture and local flavor give way to the same old "same old" that everyone in every neighborhood across the nation has. Since the late eighties, our area has never had the resources nor public outlet to recapture the local flavor it once had back in the days of "Officer" Bill.
ALL of our local stations are basically glorified national "carrier" stations, with almost no local news and very few local programs. An outsider would be hard pressed to differentiate our television market (150-something, I believe) from countless others. Our local radio stations – save Binghamton University’s WHRW – are all owned by Citadel Communications or Clear Channel. The two or three "local" commercial stations we have are simply carbon copies of the corporate ones, so their existence is simply a sham, in my opinion. Ultimately they offer nothing that wasn’t already available from the homogenized big boys and possess very little local color.
So, WHRW and the local cable access channel are pretty much all we have for genuine local flavor, and 90% of the public access channel is simply teletext telling viewers the time and weather and what church is having a pirogi dinner or what VFW is having a chicken b. b. q.
But hey – we now have TWO cult movie programs!
The host of AT THE DRIVE-IN is an old hand at WSKG named Gregory Keeler. He has narrated some of their locally produced documentaries, does voice overs for WSKG’s radio and television stations, and is the local newsreader for WSKG’s broadcasts of "Morning Edition." His work doesn’t stop there, either: he also hosts a lot of on-air pledge drives and he’s also been involved in local theater for some time.
Gregory Keeler, AT THE DRIVE-IN. Image: WSKG.
I haven’t seen, "At The Drive-in," but I gather that it debuted recently. I am currently away from the United States, conducting DARK VAULT research for our second and third seasons, so I regret that I am unable to enjoy this new addition to Binghamton’s once empty cult movie landscape.
According to WSKG, the program airs Saturday nights from 8pm until 10pm. I think this actually very cool for fans with cable because they can switch from Channel 7 over to channel 4 at 10pm for
- 4 HOURS OF CULT MOVIE MADNESS EVERY SATURDAY!
I’m not sure if this is an "October-Only" thing for WSKG, but I think it’s cool for residents in our stomping grounds of Broome County, and I warmly welcome AT THE DRIVE-IN to our neighborhood.
The Dark Vault of Public Domain
The Cult Movie Program That Welcomes Its Neighbors