(Content may be offensive to some members of The Community)
Back when they started wiring all our homes for cable TV, there were suddenly so many more channels to watch. My friends, for the most part, were infatuated with all-day music videos on MTV or uncut R-rated slasher and bikini movies, but for me it was the oddball low-budget programs on the public access channel that turned my crank, especially when that surly old man named Leonard Rodney Ford was on.
He hosted a program called Community Forum, which was
probably the most violent public affairs show ever. The show's title seemed
innocuous enough, but the host was a lunatic. He was a thin, frail-looking man
probably in his seventies. He had greased hair, a pencil-thin mustache, a
leathery, wrinkled face, and he always wore what appeared to be a circa 1935
tuxedo, complete with a bow tie. Almost like the stereotypical movie villain.
He began each show standing at a
One show that sticks out in mind was when an environmental activist named Michael M. Shepherd was on. As they argued over the merits of clean air and water legislation, Shepherd's first mistake was calling the host by his first name.
Another show had feminist Deb Zworkin, who was on to talk about sexism and the plight of women in the workplace.
"A woman's workplace is the kitchen and the bedroom," Mr. Ford told her, in no uncertain terms.
BAM! He hauled off and cracked her across the jaw.
When Asian-American rights activist Steven Wu called Mr. Ford "an example of the typical Caucasian-American racist", the host eloquently responded, "Listen here, slant-eyes, I slaughtered gooks like you in the Korean War and I'll do the same to you right now if you don't watch it!"
When gay activist Bruce McKenzie showed up, the host wore an asbestos suit and gas mask because "You probably have AIDS." The interview lasted a whole ten minutes when the guest, smirking, said "Oh, you're such a homophobe, Lenny-poo." Mr. Ford wasn't going to stand for that kind of disrespect.
I would have friends over to watch this thing and we'd be drinking beer and doubling over with laughter. "You call me Mister Ford" became a running gag among us as we'd mimic his voice. The girlfriend of one of my buddies, however, couldn't stand it when I had Mr. Ford on when they were over. She'd sigh loudly and say, "Could you, like, change the channel," not as a request, but as a demand.
I'd say, "No, I like this guy. He's cool."
"No he's NOT. He's not cool and he's not funny. This show makes me very uncomfortable."
I don't ever remember seeing a guest lasting an entire show, except for the AARP representative who called for more government benefits for seniors. That was one guy Mr. Ford agreed with. Otherwise, if guests didn't leave on their own in anger or in tears, they were usually punched, kicked, shoved into cameras, hit with a cane, you name it. If somebody dripped blood on the studio floor after being beaten and forcefully ejected, Mr. Ford would point to it and yell to a custodian, "Clean this up!"