Two Davids Walk Into A Bar: History of Cable (Audio Only)

Two Davids Walk Into A Bar: History of Cable “HBO”

Home Box Office (HBO) is an American premium cable and satellite television network that is owned by the namesake unit Home Box Office, Inc., a division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia. The program which featured on the network consists primarily of theatrically released motion pictures and original television shows, along with made-for-cable movies, documentaries and occasional comedy and concert specials.

HBO is the oldest and longest continuously operating pay television service (basic or premium) in the United States. In 1965, Charles Dolan, who had already done pioneering work in the commercial use of cables and had developed Teleguide, a closed-circuit tourist information television system distributed to hotels in the New York metropolitan area—won a franchise to build a cable television system in the Lower Manhattan section of New York City. The new system, which Dolan named “Sterling Information Services” (later to be known as Sterling Manhattan Cable, and eventually becoming the then Time Warner Cable which merged into Charter Communications in 2016), became the first urban underground cable television system in the United States.

Two Davids Walk Into A Bar: History of Cable “Pay-As-You-Look”

Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television (also known as terrestrial television), in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television; or satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted by a communications satellite orbiting the Earth and received by a satellite dish on the roof.

Cable television began in the United States as a commercial business in 1950, although there were small-scale systems by hobbyists in the 1940s.

The early systems simply received weak (broadcast) channels, amplified them, and sent them over unshielded wires to the subscribers, limited to a community or to adjacent communities. The receiving antenna would be higher than any individual subscriber could afford, thus bringing in stronger signals; in hilly or mountainous terrain it would be placed at a high elevation.

At the outset, cable systems only served smaller communities without television stations of their own, and which could not easily receive signals from stations in cities because of distance or hilly terrain. In Canada, however, communities with their own signals were fertile cable markets, as viewers wanted to receive American signals. Rarely, as in the college town of Alfred, New York, U.S. cable systems retransmitted Canadian channels.



Why not shake it up a bit? We started off with a charged debate about Whoopi Goldberg’s conduct on a recent episode of The View where she shouts at Judge Jeanine Pirro insisting she’s not deranged. Next, we move into a review of “Space Seed,” the classic Star Trek episode that introduced Khan. After that. we discuss the second Star Trek feature film release, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, arguably the best movie in the franchise.

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© Frequent Wire, David Lawler copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “SHIP TO SHIP: A Star Trek Podcast” is not affiliated with CBS Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Television, Desilu Television, Gulf + Western, or the estate of Gene Roddenberry. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

“Woke Up With A Monster”

So how long has it been? I think the last time we got together, we were talking about Carrie Fisher, right? BlissVille is back with a new series of episodes sure to knock your socks off! Tonight, I talk to Geno Cuddy, host of Geno in the Evening, Comcast public access channel 15 in Connecticut.

Show Notes:
Geno’s IMDb Page
Comcast Public Access 15
Geno’s YouTube Page

Music intro:
Song: Woke Up With A Monster
Artist: Cheap Trick

Music outro:
Song: The Hellion
Artist: Judas Priest

Recorded March 21, 2017
Aired March 28th, 2017

This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended.

NEW PODCAST: “All Outta Bubble Gum”



“They Live” is a 1988 American satirical science fiction horror film written and directed by John Carpenter. The film stars Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster. It follows a nameless drifter (called “John Nada” in the credits), who discovers the ruling class are in fact aliens concealing their appearance and manipulating people to spend money, breed, and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in mass media.


The first time I saw the movie was on something called the Universal Debut Network; it was a syndicated movie package that Universal Pictures sold to independent networks, I saw it in 1990, it was on Channel 11 here in New York City. The Universal Debut Network was the pre-cursor to all the syndicated series Universal would show, but at first they started with movies like “They Live”, “Prince of Darkness”, “the infamous extended TV version of the movie, “Dune”, where David Lynch took his name off the credits. Apparently Lynch said, “wait a minute, this movie makes sense now, I’m taking my name off the picture!” So after this run of pictures, shows like Hercules and Xena came on the air because they were thinking about putting together a fifth network at the time.

So how do we look on politics, censorship, liberalism, conservative ideology now as opposed to 1988? In Carpenter’s fantasy, these things are just gradual with no tipping point, no rhyme or reason, but I think certain things happened to bring us a “They Live” situation, like 9/11, obviously 9/11 destroyed our country but in a slow, gradual way, like death by a million cuts.

There’s a great line in a sci-fi movie from 1982, “Endangered Species” starring Robert Urich and JoBeth Williams, where Urich says, “If what’s going on around here is organized, you don’t wanna go up against it! The government. The right wing. The left wing. Mercenaries. The mob. It doesn’t make much difference if you get in their way!”

To me, it’s allegory, like all great science fiction. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” – in the 50s, it was allegory for the Cold War and Communism. In the 1978 version, it was about the “Me” Generation and pop-psychology. In the ’93 remake, it was allegory for disaffected youth and generation X.

“Movies At The Colonial”


It was in a rotten part of town; the high-crime, low-rent section of South Philadelphia now known as Lower Moyamensing. The place has cleaned up considerably since (had to be about thirty years) but the old Colonial is no more; demolished in 1989. It looked like a palace in 1910 when it first opened. All glitter, all neon, art-deco lighting piping, beveled curves and thick red carpets, I could imagine the ticket-takers in red uniforms and little pill-box caps opening the double-doors for the next show. You’d probably get a newsreel, cartoon, two short-subjects, and a feature for a nickel. Even had a pipe organ in residence, just off to the side of the screen.

The pictures were the only place you could escape to in those days. No television, no internet, no cable. Even radio would be interrupted with little snippets of reality from time to time. News of the wars, tragedies, epidemics hung on the limited airwaves. So they went to the movies – en masse, flocks of the curious watching projected stories and eating popcorn and Black Cow chocolate caramels. People still dressed up for the movies. Men in suits with ties, and ladies wearing laced walking gloves and snoods.

All that changed by the time I walked through the double doors under the marquee. In big, red blinking lights, the word “COLONIAL” lit up dark Philly skies. South Philadelphia was very dark and flat at night and you could hear crickets. Strange that you could hear crickets in an area almost completely made up of row houses with very few trees.


It was creepy but well worth the rather long walk from my house. It was cheap. Anybody could afford it. I’m dating myself a bit, but I remember the shows were a buck a ticket, and it could be any kind of show – double features, triple features. I saw “Ghostbusters”, “Fright Night” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” on a triple bill for one dollar. I saw “Jaws” and “Jaws 2” for one dollar. So it goes.

This was not a multiplex with stadium seating. The seats sloped up to a point and then there was an enormous (off-limits around the time I was a customer) balcony that stretched to both sides. This could just be nostalgia since I was a young man, but everything looked big to me. I was amazed every single time I went through the double doors.

Time was not kind to the Colonial. It had fallen into disrepair starting in the late sixties. The thick, red carpet had worn down. There were gashes in the walls. The incredible chandelier hanging from the ceiling teetered threateningly, and even in packed houses, people moved away from it when the Dolby soundtrack of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (due to the Lucasfilm theater alignment program) thundered and vibrated all across the room. The chandelier would shake and we would gulp and say silent prayers that the crystalline beast would not collapse and devour us all.

The homeless would sneak in after hours and help themselves to the Colonial’s comforts. There was the unmistakable odor of urine in the aisles. There was no maintenance or janitorial upkeep, so popcorn, candy, and sticky soda would litter the floors. In those later years, the Colonial had a roach and rat problem, but people still came to see the very cheap shows. A triple feature I was not permitted to see consisted of “Porky’s”, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, and “The Last American Virgin”. You might get the occasional trailer for a movie the Colonial was scheduled to show, but there were no commercials, no pleas from Roy Rogers for donations, and nobody telling you to turn off your cell phone and shut up.


In recent years, movies have been turned out to be more of an event. The rising ticket prices and 3D glasses, and the cattle-herding of audiences into and out of the theaters has transformed us into what we suspected we were all along – mindless consumers looking to kill two-plus hours in the dark. As early as the late 70s, Hollywood put all it’s money into the first weekend, and as the quality dropped, the prices for tickets went up dramatically, $15 to $20 (or more) a pop.

Repertory houses were the last thing we had that was close to the roadshow/Roger Corman rollout from many years ago. Movies would roll out in selected territories, do their business and move on, and not all the advertising money was spent in the first week. Very few prints were made (none of this 4,000 screen business), and very rarely did any of those movies lose money.

Sometimes I could hear the ghosts of old, shuffling in and out of the theater. You’d suspect there were well-dressed patrons, the sound of a big band down the street, sailors home on leave making their way into the Colonial to catch the latest James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart. With that news that more than 100 theaters will close by the end of the year because they refuse to make expensive digital improvements to their screens, the Colonial’s demise seemed to be the first warning sign that simply taking in a movie was going to be a thing of the not-so-distant past.

Originally published December 2, 2014.

NEW PODCAST: “On The Odd With Alex Saltz!”


This is my interview with Alex Saltz, actor and mastering engineer, and one of the stars of my movie, “Total Male Fantasy No. 10”. This is probably the first time we’re talking about the movie at least publicly, but we should start with a little background. I met Alex through a mutual friend, Mark Jeacoma, who has been on my show – twice, we talked about found footage, and we talked about Star Wars. We recorded a couple of shows, one was the famous (or infamous) Scientology podcast for “On The Odd” where we had everybody: Mark, Alex, Chris Hasler, Sarah, and me – that was a fun experience, just getting all those heads together and it turned out great.

Official APS Mastering Site
On (The ODD]
Fistful Of Cables

“Not For Publication or The Secret Cinema”


Found footage is literally just that – footage found. You’re walking on the street. You stop at a corner. There’s a garbage can on the corner. You take a peak inside, like you would, and you see a stack of video-tapes or even discs, but they’re not labeled in the conventional sense. These aren’t copies of “Night Patrol” or “Jaws” released by video companies. These aren’t attractive-looking with glossy slipcovers and keep-cases. These are BASF, Maxell, Sony tapes. They look like blanks, until you see the sticker on the side; a handwritten label that reads, “DARCY’S CONFIRMATION AGE SEVEN, ST. JOSEPH’S CHURCH, ASTORIA DECEMBER 15 1996” or something similar. “POP-POP RENOVATES THE GARAGE, JULY 6, 1992” or something else, something mysterious.

Originally aired March 31, 2015.

You can hear Mark Jeacoma’s insanely good podcasts at:

VHS Rewind!

Fistful of Cables

On The Odd

Follow-Up Notes: “Using The Whole Fist”

Fletch on VHS
Remember VHS?


So, “Fletch”, huh? Great movie. I saw the trailer for the movie in a multiplex in Lebanon, Tennessee. It might’ve been either “Ghostbusters” or “Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend”, I’m not sure, but we used to see a lot of movies back in those days. Tickets were two bucks a pop. We never did get around to seeing “Fletch”, though. Had to rent it the next year, after we had moved back to Philadelphia.

We got our first VCR and rented “Fletch” from … I think it was a discount stereo and appliance store in the Oregon Mall. No video stores back then. The selection was so sparse, it was only new releases and then a couple of out-of-nowhere titles like “Shock Treatment” (the 1981 version), or “Helter Skelter”. It seemed they had more titles to buy than rent, and that’s when I started my Warner clamshell collection.

After shopping, I remember we would go to Giuseppe’s, which was a very nice Italian restaurant, dark with little cup candles on the tables and decorated booths with big picture windows. They had great pizza, and you would actually sit down in this lovely restaurant and eat pizza. They had real cherry and vanilla Cokes, and they served non-alcoholic piña coladas, which was probably one of the greatest things in the world. Because of those non-alcoholic piña coladas, I could never get into the real alcoholic drinks – didn’t taste as good to me. I never finished what I ordered, always had leftovers. It’s funny – you’re not as hungry when you’re a kid. You get full really fast.

So “Fletch” connects with me on many levels, mostly attachments to memory. If I go even deeper, I would be able to recover moments in my childhood. People tell me bad memories, unhappy memories are the most potent, but I would disagree. It’s true we’re able to recall unpleasant experiences with (possibly) greater frequency, but happy memories feel stronger when the correct associations are made. If I think of the movie “Fletch”, or any number of movies around that time period, I’ll suddenly taste that Giuseppe’s pizza again, somewhere in the back of my head.

This is the last episode of BlissVille for the season (basically winter). I’ll return in March with new episodes, but for now I just want to say this has been an incredible experience. I’ll continue to post fiction, non-fiction, various ramblings, and photographs (I’ve amassed quite a collection in real photo albums over the years). I’m also working on getting a proper release for a couple of movies I made back at the turn-of-the-century, American Punk and Vortex.