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|I spent most of my adolescence as an embittered 13-year old, resentful of my parent's overt and overwhelmingly unpopular decision to NOT have cable. As a child that grew up with friends and relatives who seemed to have an infinite number of channels and gadgets that changed those channels, cable quickly became my heroin (the highly addictive drug that everyone who was anyone was doing). And, if I had to, I was willing to sell my pre-pubescent bones to a black-market sex ring in order to get it!
Luckily, all I had to do for a quick fix at the time was to cultivate a few friendships with kids whose homes subscribed to Viacom, and steer clear of my old crowd whose parents, like mine, weren't hip to the cable bug.
The fixes didn't last very long, and at my core, I was desperate to watch cable in the comfort of my own home. I would spend hours researching the different cable packages that were available, compiling a portfolio with clippings from Newsday ads and local mailings. I'd assemble lists of all the channels I could remember, then I'd create a custom package that met my personal needs:
First and foremost on every list was MTV. (At the time, MTV was all that I wanted and I found myself in the abusive and unfulfilling relationships that I had previously cultivated in order to catch a glimpse of their World Premiere Videos such as the two-part Goonies Are Good Enough by Cyndi Lauper). I'd then include ESCapade, predecessor to the Playboy channel (because, as a teenager, I felt I should), The Movie Channel (because my Aunt Clara had it and I must have enjoyed watching Stripes and Mommie Dearest over a hundred times each over the previous summer), and some channels that I knew I'd never watch .
Despite my research and planning, my parent's seemed to float in an uncharacteristic non-committal haze when it came to taking the electronic plunge to, literally, catch up with The Joneses (our neighbors who lived down the block). It seemed me and my tin-foil-covered rabbit ears were destined to catch the latest Eurythmics and Howard Jones videos on the occasional non-cable late-night shows like Friday Night Videos or, the short-lived, ABC ROCKS. In the summer, I'd run home from the town pool, still wet, to catch the daily afternoon video countdown where Karma Chameleon reigned supreme for the entire summer!
Late in 1983, as my longing for cable reached an all-time high (and before I learned to quench that longing with drugs and alcohol), I discovered U68, a music video station, while flipping around the small and outdated relic that was my television set. U68 was located at Channel 68 on the regular old, and often-forgotten, UHF dial and was broadcast from New Jersey with its antenna atop the Empire State Building.
|At first I didn't understand what U68 was. My taste was pretty mainstream: I liked that post New-Romantic British music and I read every issue of BOP magazine to find out the latest on Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. I wished I knew Boy George and my room was plastered with Culture Club posters, pin-ups, and cut-outs.
I remember watching a video, one I'd never seen, possibly Bad Brains' I Against I, in poor quality, through the UHF haze. The snow-globe reception added to my confusing fascination with the videos that they played which left me unable to process the whole experience... until I started seeing Karma Chameleon and Hungry Like The Wolf in not-so-heavy rotation. I must've seen them just enough for them to act as legitimizers, and solidify U68's place in my all-too-longing-to-be-dark Long Island heart forever!
I fell in love with R.E.M's Can't Get There From Here, and the Fables-era Michael Stipe became my fashion icon. I was in awe of Nina Hagen and started listening to Universal Radio more times a day than U68 played it. This was my introduction to Punk and New Wave. The first time I heard You Spin Me Round was on U68. I remember loving the song but hating Pete Burns' retarded kimono and teased mane. They played Love and Pride by King and I remember being on the fence about Paul King's red Doc Martins: Were they cool, or not? (note: The future has proved: colored shoes are usually not cool)
Quickly I became obsessed with U-68 and found myself bowing out of social events to run home after school, pick up a dish of ice cream from my Mom and sit in my room for hours watching Change by Tears for Fears followed by You Talk Too Much by Run DMC. I was so moved by the channel that I wrote to them and received a U68 bumper sticker that hung in my room for years, which leads me to believe that they showed their address at times in between videos, or had some kind of commercial, but I can't remember either. Another hazy memory was that, occasionally, some kind of VJ, or NJ's own Uncle Floyd, would come on between the obviously pre-recorded, and infinitely repeated video mixes.
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