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Gong With the Wind: A Review of Chuck Barris’ True Influence
Most Rev. Antonio Hernández


Long ago– just a tad less than a generation ago– there was a television giant who deeply moved me, and my very large group of friends. We affectionately called him "Chucky", before that name became associated with an ugly, hideous, murdering doll. This "tee-wee" (as he liked to say it) idol, our idol, was Chuck Barris.

Hosting his greatest oeuvre, "The Gong Show", we saw this Chuck Barris for the first time. He was a short, fuzzy, tourettic, chuckling sort of Jewish Pied Piper. He was like a muppet, but he was not only a real man– he was the Creator. At first, he was self-conscious and nervous. Later he would become a manic whirlwind, the entire "Gong Show" in one package. Chuck Barris was my generation’s adult Howdy Doody.

"The Gong Show" was not merely a cult classic television program. It was a paradigm shift in entertainment; no one could have dared to do anything like it, not even Ernie Kovacs, because no one could have thought of it but Chuck Barris himself.

I will not lay out a description of the show; it would be fruitless if you never watched it, and it needs no explanation if you did watch it. Suffice it to say that many stars got their first national exposure on "The Gong Show": Mare Winningham, Pee Wee Herman, Kevin Spacey just to name a tiny few. It raised hackles precisely because no one could match it, and no one else had thought of it first.
Chuck Barris even had Mexican singers and musicians– and these guys were good! No one would have had the cojones to do such a thing. For those who watched the show religiously, who can forget the Unknown Comic, Lazario, the Popsicle Twins, and Gene! Gene, the Dancing Machine!?
The fact is that Mr. Barris is and always was a genius. The networks, who make the CIA look better than the Scouts, always managed to take a dump on Chucky. When "The Gong Show" lost its appeal and was cancelled, Chucky was thrown out with the bathwater. He had created "The Dating Game", "The Newlywed Game", "The Gong Show", and countless other innovations. Note that never did he put the possessive "Chuck Barris’ " on any of his creations.

In fact, Chucky suffered deeply. Every critique, every poison pen scribble, every nasty name, wounded him. He was called "the king of schlock"; he was accused of rotting kids’ minds, and was blamed for everything that was wrong with television. That was not enough: soon he was blamed for the downfall of television. As if there could ever be such a thing! It was like picking a heroic French Undergrounder to blame for all the WWII mistakes.

Today is no different. What annoys the hell out of me, and continues to hurt Chucky, is that snotty Gen-X dorks, who never saw "The Gong Show", are continuing to call Chucky names. These numb-nuts, who have no sense of television history, who drool over reality shows and slapstick sitcoms-- ideas pioneered by Chucky-- are showing him to the pillory all over again.

When his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, was first published in the 1980s, none of us fans ever really knew about it. Nor had we any idea that he had written an all-time best seller prior to that. I for one don’t give a damn if Chucky assassinated for the CIA. If he did, we should be honoring him as a war hero– if he didn’t, then he wrote that autobiography because it suits his crazy, creative sense of humor. Either way, he’s trying to make a point, and I am SO glad to see him back in action again.

Normally my columns and articles end with tremendous witticisms, deep thoughts, or a penetrating literary adieu. Not in this case. In this case, I have only this to say: Welcome home, Chucky. We missed you.

© Most Rev. Antonio Hernández
2003

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is now showing at a movie theatre near you
April 4th:


Click on Pic to discover more
Check out the the Chuck Barris debut album
"Confessions of A Dangerous Singer" on April 8th
Find out more at www.domo.com

Chuck Barris Debut Album from Domo Records New Release
Confessions of A Dangerous Singer Chuck Barris 73017-2 CD
Street Date:April 8th, 2003
Chuck Barris has been successful in everything he's done in his career because we live by the motto "If it isn't fun I don't do it". After many years of producing television shows, movies and writing several best selling books, he has now embarked on a music career releasing his debut CD "Confessions of a Dangerous Singer".

He has gathered his old friends from the game show bands and covered many of the best standards of our era as well as songs he penned including Pacific Palisades which was a smash hit for Freddy Cannon in 1963.
Confessions of A Dangerous Mind Soundtrack 2003 Domo | 73016-2 CD

Review this CD and send it to us at Hackwriters.com - Ed

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