Watch This Amazingly Weird Public Access Show

by:   |   Nov 6 2013

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Did you ever come across something on the Web that was so beautiful and freaky that you felt like it’d been created for you? And once you found it, you couldn’t stop obsessively Googling it, to find out every single thing about its creation? That’s how I felt the first time I came across the public-access show “If I Can’t Dance, You Can Keep Your Revolution” (the title’s a slight alteration of a quote from old-school feminist Emma Goldman) This gem of a program was hosted by a gal named Coca Crystal, and aired on public access TV in N.Y.C. from 1977-1995.

Coca Crystal was born Jackie Diamonds (both her names were nothing short of amazing), and on each of her shows, she interviewed and interacted with artists, musicians like Debbie Harry, activists, and political radicals. Crystal grew up as the black sheep daughter of a wealthy Westchester furrier, and dropped out of mainstream culture in the 60’s (thanks, drugs!). She started her show in the late 1970’s—each episode started with her smoking a joint, and continued with her getting crazy high through the rest of the show.

I love that there was at a certain point in N.Y.C. history, you could turn on your TV and see this madness. The show was a venue where radical thinkers came to spread their ideas on politics, art, health, drugs, and activism—and get crazy high during the process. Back then, public access was a relatively new medium, and the possibilities seemed endless. Artists were exploring the medium of TV as a way to spread their trippy creative vision to the masses. Unfortunately, this diamond in the rough went off the air in the mid-90s; was it the fault of Giuliani’s morality crusade, or had Crystal’s brain actually turned into a giant nug of weed by this point? Either way, these videos are an extremely odd trip back to some heady N.Y.C. days—an alternative universe in which artists, drugs, and activism ruled the shady airwaves.

Here’s the show featuring the very “mellow” celebrity guests Debbie Harry and Chris Stein:

And here’s Coca Crystal taking some calls from people who were even higher than she was, if that’s possible:

For a “where are they now” on Coca Crystal, check out this Times piece from 2012. And for more classic show clips, you can see her YouTube channel.

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