Scott Lewis & Gary Winter tell us about their zany indie punk NYC/DC public access TV show

By on July 28, 2017

Here at Night Flight HQ we’re always wracking our brains — or is it racking? — to try to come up with cool programming you may not have seen before, and today we’re very proud to offer up vintage episodes of The Scott & Gary Show,” which aired on public-access TV on the east coast from 1983 to ’89 and now you can watch episodes over on Night Flight Plus!

“The Scott & Gary Show” featured live performances by great punk rock and indie bands, live audience dance parties with “Hullaballoo”-style dancers, and occasional cornball comedy skits.

The show is notable for having early appearances by iconic artists and bands like R. Stevie Moore, Jad Fair’s Half Japanese, Butthole Surfers (on their first “trip” to NYC) and the Beastie Boys (who appear with drummer Kate Schellenbach, later of Luscious Jackson).

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Created and hosted by Scott Lewis and Gary Winter, this low-budget cable-TV variety show was filmed in New York City from 1983 to 1986 and then — at the invitation of cable access producer Jeff Krulik, the director of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Ernest Borgnine on the Bus and so many more great films — the show was produced at Kulik’s studio in the Washington DC metro area, from ’86 until the very last episode, which aired in ’89.

The full list of the shows we’re offering on Night Flight Plus includes: Ben Vaughn Combo (December 1983); Beastie Boys (January 1984); Half Japanese (February 1984); R. Stevie Moore (April 1984); Raunch Hands (April 1984); Curtiss A (May 1984); Butthole Surfers (October 1984); The Johnsons (January 1985); No King (February 1985); Woofing Cookies (March 1985); Shockabilly (March 1985); Alter Boys (December 1985); The Clintons (December 1985); The Rhomboids (March 1986); The Beatnik Flies (February 1987); Das Yahoos (February 1987); The Beatoes (April 1989); and, Ben Vaughn & Aldo Jones (April 1989).

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Scott Lewis and Gary Winter on the set of “The Scott & Gary Show” (1983-1989)

We asked Scott, Gary and Jeff to tell us a little bit about their show, which continues down below.

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GARY: New York’s East Village was quite the bohemia in the ’80s. The attitude was very DIY. Music, performance, theater, etc., intermingled readily. Most nights it seemed like every other bar had a band performing.

I mention all this to give a sense of the tone of New York at the time. It was relatively easy and inexpensive to try out new ideas.

SCOTT: It was sometime in 1983 or ‘84 that I turned to Gary and said, “They can’t be serious about this crap!” We were watching the Grammy Awards. In the past I would love to watch it just to make rude comments about the winners, losers and the general ineptitude.

I felt doomed to hearing Elton John for the rest of my life (percentages are looking better each day).

The others in the room were used to my ranting about how out of touch these shows were. I would start to sound like an old-timer going on about shows I remembered seeing as a young’in. Hip bands, groovy sets and the guests and audience did not look like they were molded from plastic.

I could not understand why the world of TV music shows was so boring when there was so much happening.

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GARY: Scott and I felt that what was missing in television was the energy of a live performance, that sense of play, of mistakes, improv, and delight that breathes life into a performance and makes each performance a unique event.

We thought the energy of a show was more important than a scripted, slick video, which was what we were seeing on MTV.

It was antiseptic and boring. That was one reason we wanted to have the bands perform “live” (while we didn’t broadcast live, once the tape started rolling we kept it rolling for 30, then later 60 minutes straight without stopping. No breaks. So the format was the same as a live event).

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SCOTT: I said, “I would love to see a show that captured the spirit of TV in the 1960’s with today’s new music.” Great, bad, fantastic, lame, weird. Anything but the same old. Gary looked at me and said “Scott, have you heard about Public Access?”

Gary segues here to tell Night Flight how he first got involved in Public Access:

GARY: There was a small studio on 23rd and Lex called Metro Access that produced most of the access shows in NY at the time, so I went down there and picked a time slot to volunteer. I worked camera, lights, sound, and directed.

Metro Access was shaped like a butterfly. There was a studio in each wing, and in between was a room from which you directed your show.

In other words, I was often working in the same room with another director at my back. The Butthole Surfers could have been performing while a gospel choir sang in the other studio (which actually happened). So it was tight quarters, but made for some amusing juxtapositions.

Many of the shows were awful, some just thinly-disguised plugs for producers outside interests, like a psychic call-in show. Sid Bernstein (yep, the Sid Bernstein who booked The Beatles to their first American gig), had a show where he presented bands he was representing.

Before each show he would come over, pinch me on the cheek, and say, “How you doing bubbala?” John Wallowitch took calls and played requests on a piano.

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GARY: One of my more interesting and weirder gigs was directing a show called Creating Coincidences. CC was the brainchild of Stefan Eins, who ran a gallery in the South Bronx called Fashion Moda, which featured graffiti and street artists. Eins would enter the studio and play with junk for thirty minutes. I hadn’t a clue what he was trying to do, so I just had the cameraman follow him around the studio.

One time he pulled out a can of spray paint and began to make his own graffiti art. The guy who ran the studio charged in and blasted us both. “Spray paint will destroy the cameras you idiots!” he yelled. “Do you want to buy us new color cameras?!”

Scott was an aficionado of independent/experimental music. So we decided we should produce our own show.

I had the technical end covered and Scott knew the music end, and “The Scott & Gary Show” was born.

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SCOTT: That is how it started. We made a pact: Gary would find out about getting on Public Access TV and hone his technical skills. I trusted him; he had taken some TV production classes in college and had been on “Wonderama” when he was six. We would use our joint knowledge gained from years of straining our eyes watching television.

I wanted to create the kind of program that I would want to watch. The only show I ever rushed home to see was Zacherle that very cool ghoul’s afternoon program. Images of Ernie Kovacs have stayed with me. Real men like Officer Joe Bolton, Captain Jack McCarthy hosting afternoon kids showing old serials.

I always had a fondness for Commander Cody (or Rocket Man, depending on how pointy his helmet was) because, hey, who wouldn’t want to look like that! Soupy Sales. I used to have a Soupy Sales bow tie! Paul Revere and the Raiders looked and sounded great.

And those go-go girls on “Shinding” and “Hullabaloo.” Phew. “Playboy After Dark.” What was that all about?

Whatever it was I wanted to be part of it. I loved programs where you felt you were entering a private party. There was a whole other side of what was going on off camera or behind the scenes. That made it fun.

You didn’t always understand what was going on but everyone on the show looked like they were getting a kick out of it. People looked real and were enjoying themselves. Those were our goals. On a very, very limited budget.

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GARY: We staffed the show with technicians who aspired to work in the business, people who were enthusiastic and knew their craft. We especially prided ourselves on paying attention to sound quality, which, considering the outdated equipment in the studio, was quite an accomplishment.

SCOTT: Picking the bands was my job. I had spent years collecting records and becoming very opinionated about music. The artists had to meet my criteria: fun, raw, twisted, different, intense and independent. I didn’t even have to like them. If I felt they were deserving of exposure they were considered.

And everyone had to play live. Lip-synching is evil, fakery. Gary understood this, he too was a purist.

We worked hard to make sure that our guests were pleased with how they sounded. We prided ourselves on getting great sound.

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GARY: I directed “The Scott & Gary Show,” so my perspective was a little different than Scott’s. As the show’s host, Scott introduced the bands and interviewed them.

While his interviewing style was irreverent, Scott was also incredibly informative, and I think the band’s appreciated that. He was keenly aware of the band’s music and influences, and had a great appreciation of their status in the music world.

I think this was very important to the success of the show in that the bands and viewers could tell we were much more than wide-eyed fans. All in all, because we were unscripted, I never knew what to expect, and that kept me on my toes. The constant element of surprise made directing a real joy.

Normally a director would be able to talk to his camera people and call shots. But once the show started it was virtually impossible for the camera people to hear me on the battered headphones, so I gave them directions before the show started.

One camera stayed in a wide shot to capture everything, while the other camera roamed around the studio getting close- ups, medium shots and audience reaction shots.

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SCOTT: While doing the show I was working for a PBS Station. Most employees there knew I was doing the show. Many of them told me they saw me while flipping channels.

GARY: Each show was unique in its own way, but some stood out.

SCOTT: Some of my favorite memories: Slow-dancing on The Clintons episode. It was like closing night at a Honky Tonk via way of Park Ave South!

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GARY: The Beastie Boys! What can I say? None of us had any idea the Beastie Boys would turn out to become The Beastie Boys.

We picked up Adam Yauch at his family’s brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. I remember seeing rolls of 8 or 16 MM film lying around. Adam was a really sweet, soft-spoken guy. Up to that point I had heard their song “Cooky Puss,” but other than that I didn’t know much about them. They were ridiculously focused for their age (Adam Horowitz was still in high school!).

Right after their first song (I think it was “White Shadow”), Mike Diamond, their lead singer, starts waving his hands around, pointing at something. Then he says, “I need monitor. I can’t hear myself.” Scott looked towards the glass window of the control booth (of which I was behind), and said the man needs more monitor. I asked our sound man if that was possible, and he said the studio didn’t have a monitor.

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GARY: I was sweating bullets, thinking the band was going to walk off the set. I asked the sound guy what we could do, and he said, “Nothing.”

I sent the stage manager outside to tell Scott we were monitor-less. Scott told Mike he’d have to continue without a monitor, and that he doesn’t need to hear himself sing anyway.

Luckily, Mike said “Fuck it!” and went into the next song. Ah, the joys of live TV!

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Kate Schellenbach was their drummer. She was low-key and super cool. Watch her do a double-take when Scott says “win a date with Kate” during the interview.

The Beasties had a pretty good sense of humor. Most bands did, but you never know.

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SCOTT: Just seeing the great Jad Fair and Half Japanese coming into studio was another sign that we were onto to something.

GARY: The Half Japanese Show was magical to me. I had never heard of Jad Fair, but after hearing his band perform I had a better understanding of why musicians and fans admire him so much.

The band’s music was like nothing I had ever heard. Playful, highly original, weird, filled with energy and B-movie optimism. He seemed to be influenced by everyone and no one. And Jad was super nice.

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SCOTT: The Butthole Surfers dropped acid right before taping and then unleashing two sets of thundering drums that could be heard and felt all along 23rd Street.

GARY: When I got to the studio I saw a muscle-y guy perched like a hawk on one of those double fire hydrants. He was wearing a white T-shirt and had a red bandana tied around his head. “You with the Butthole Surfers?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said (he was the bass player, and that’s about all I heard him say for the rest of the day).

I was already getting nervous. Then the rest of the BS’s arrived. Gibby brought his dog, Mark Farner. He asked if the dog could be in the studio while they performed. I told him the dog stays in the director’s area with me. Mark Farner turned out to be the best behaved member of the band.

Then one of the BS’s asked if we minded if they dropped acid before the show. I said, sure, just be back in five minutes because we’re on the clock here. To their credit, they came back on time.

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GARY: This is the only show where I thought the band was going to wreck the studio and Scott. Paul Leary was really scary. When he performed his eyes would roll back into his head: a white-eyed, purple-haired guitarist crashing about the small studio.

During the interview he kept jumping around and playing with the sound equipment, treating us to feedback while Scott interviewed the band.

During their performance Gibby undressed and changed into a silk kimono; luckily I didn’t capture him changing on camera. At some point I thought I might have to hold Gibby’s dog as collateral if they wrecked the place.

Teresa and King, the twin drummers, were awesome. I loved that the band had twins pounding on two sets of drums. After the show, the studio and Scott were still intact and I returned Mark Farner to his kimonoed owner.

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SCOTT: I probably should have taken them up on their offer to go with them and take the video tape up to MTV the next day. I was just not sure I would ever make it back safe and sound!

I’ll never forget the day after the episode with The Butthole Surfers aired. I was walking through the halls and offices. Co-workers mocked me: “That was the worse thing I ever saw,” “Why can’t you get some good bands on?,” “That was horrible,” “Nice show, (snicker, snicker).”

Others gave me the thumbs down — but somehow they always offered to volunteer because we had “those cure looking punk rock girls” — but I was overjoyed with that kind of negativity because I knew we were on to something.

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Jeff Krulik

GARY: Early on, we attracted the attention of MD/DC filmmaker Jeff Krulik (Heavy Metal Parking Lot; Led Zeppelin Played Here).

He sent us a super nice note commending our work, and invited us to come down to the public access studio he managed in Prince George’s county.

After being thrown out of our NY studio after ten shows, and after taping the next four shows at a small sound studio, we hauled ourselves and our skeleton crew down to Maryland

The sound studio in New York wasn’t really equipped to tape a television show, so we had to haul in a lot of portable equipment, and so when Jeff invited us down we were really excited by his enthusiasm, and the fact that we’d be taping in a fully-equipped studio larger than any we had been in, and that we’d have the opportunity to work with some cool bands from the DC/Philly/South Jersey area.

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JEFF: When Scott and Gary lost their studios in NY, I offered up my public access studio in the DC area, and on three different occasions, we shot two bands each (DC area and Ben Vaughn from Philly). This was in the mid-to-late ’80s.

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GARY: Jeff’s studio was four times the size of the one we had used in NY, the crowds were four times larger, and we decided to make the show one-hour long.

When we taped at the Metrovision studio in Maryland, we had three cameras and better equipment. We even had one of those ladders on wheels so a cameraperson could climb it and get overhead shots. Very sophisticated stuff, let me tell you.

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GARY: The bands were pretty psychedelic and there was lots more room for people to dance. We taped the show with Don Fleming’s band (the Velvet Monkeys) in our underwear (see, we lost our luggage on the way down), and from the control booth, while Scott was interviewing Don, I saw Scott playfully tap him with a plastic toy hammer.

Don took a swipe at Scott and got him into a headlock. Then the band piled on and Scott yelled for help. I thought they were play fighting but it turns out they were really going at it! So I rushed out in my underwear to assist Scott.

The fight was over soon and, like the pros we were, the show went on, despite our WWE-sized bruises. Apparently, during the fight some person flipped the live-on air switch, so a good portion of Maryland public access users got to witness a bunch of guys in their underwear wrestling with the Velvet Monkeys. Another first in public access history.

[Night Flight Note: We hope to be able to offer up the Velvet Monkeys episode soon!]

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SCOTT: Other favorite memories: the black tie taping of the No King Show and the subsequent after party — I wish we had videotaped that! The 3D-episode with the Beatoes. Well, it was not really 3D, but we had 3D glasses and made believe it was being shot in 3D. And a local Maryland newspaper believed it and reported it as a real 3D broadcast!

Getting an audience drunk so that they could not leave. See, we were running behind schedule and I was worried no one would stick around. Hey, what is bottle of Scotch doing just sitting here? And did we really stop the tapes rolling when the Beastie Boys were rapping between takes?

But there regrets for the episodes we never got to do – and there were a bunch. Like failing to get Jonathan Richman on our show. He was very interested and sent us a great postcard, but his lawyer was not as groovy.

And we were so excited to do an episode with the all-girl 60’s style garage band The Man-eaters. See, I really wanted to do that old Batman TV thing with us climbing up the side of the building and we thought they would be perfect foils for us!

There were many more – I would hear a record and think, wow that would be neat to have them on TV, and the creative juices would start to flow.

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GARY: On one of those Maryland tapings, Kim Kane (of the punk-psychedelic garage band the Slickee Boys), presented Scott with the keys to the city. It was a very touching moment.

SCOTT: Did it always succeed? Sometimes I was not quite sure! Did any show come off without problems? No. Was I disappointed with some of guests? Yep –maybe a couple. Did some of the comedy routines drag on? Yeah, but that never stopped “Saturday Night Live”! Did we get ripped off? Sure. Ridiculed. Put down…Insulted. More than I like to remember.

But did we also get praised, respected, acknowledged by those who counted? Did I meet some great people? Was I proud of the results? Did I feel pride in what I did? Oh… yeah!

Bottom line, we tried our best. We had fun. Two pals creating a TV show.

Would I do it again? Yep! I never thought our last episode would be our last episode. Still don’t. And the sincere and awesome attention the show has gotten over the years, well it just makes me blush a little. And smile.

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GARY: On our final show, featuring Ben Vaughn and Aldo Jones, we decided to break more ground and interview Ben and Aldo in the men’s bathroom. You’ll simply have to see it. It was one of our final moments on air; true to form, we went out in style.

SCOTT: We keep checking our old tapes! The episode of the 1980s TV show “Kate and Allie,” where one of them is stuck in an elevator at school.

What’s interesting about that you may ask? Well, the elevator was plastered with “Scott & Gary Show” flyers that we used to leave around lower Manhattan, so somebody working on that show knew their stuff!

Lots of great memories and getting to meet some talented and appreciative artists, many of whom became good friends.

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JEFF: I was always a believer.  I thought they deserved to be recognized for what they did (this was pre-Youtube of course) so I put together a tribute compilation that played film festivals and got their work out there again on the film fest circuit, starting at the New York Underground Film Festival in 2000. It then went on and played the Maryland Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival and I’m sure others I’m forgetting.

And then we made VHS tapes that were sold and distributed and rented (again, pre-Youtube, pre-DVD even).

The bottom line was their work was being seen again and that was cool, and now people like Eric Bresler with of Cinedelphia and PhilaMOCA (in Philadelphia) has become a huge patron.

These days Scott is also a fine artist and Gary is a playwright in NYC.

Watch episodes of “The Scott & Gary Show” over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.