Berkeley Barb, March 22–28, 1974

TVTV Illuminates The Ji

cure and comfortable, and Hudson helps to break up the hold of the people in the organization, “it got characterized them as, “Well, let’s three major networks is progress.” weird, and the closer you got, the go tape this old guy down by the The electricity at TVTV kept more it began to look evil.” The fire house, and if somebody comes turning off, but finally there was show contains a segment concerning by we’ll show it to them.” enough to heat some coffee over the brutal beating by Maharaj Ji’s Though the subjects were chang- a hot plate. Both Allen and Hud- followers of a reporter who hit ing, the format remained the same son had beards and wore cowboy the guru with a pie, the guru’s as that of commercial TV, and shirts with pearlescent buttons, lea- evasion of questions about the inthe level of innovation was low. ther cowboy boots, and blue jeans, cident, and a statement by a DiThe only way for people to realize I wondered if this had something vine Light Mission security guard the difference between regular to do with their affinity for Wes- that he would kill “on the spot” broadcast TV and new independent tern technology. There was a tall anyone who threatened his leader viode work “is that they literally blue cylinder labeled “nitrous ox- with a shaving cream pie. see the difference with their eyes, ide” leaning against a wall, but Allen and Hudson said that when They didn’t need people coming it was empty. Sitting at a small they put it in perspective, this inin and setting up and giving them kitchen table, they explained TVTV’s cident was only the “violent edge” the same tired rhetoric about the Twenty-four people were useuof the movement, and they found pigs upstairs.” as a crew to gather information most of the guru’s followers to be The Top Value folks see commer-on the Maharaj Ji and his organi- harmless. They also found them cial TV as a monster that will zation, the Divine Light Mission, pretty humorless and unexciting, pass any information through it. Crews of three or four would co- The event was poorly attended, only “The S.L.A. is spewed through the ver whatever aspect of the story 22,000 came to the Astrodome, and happy talk news. People receive they found of interest, and within nothing much happened to mark the the high drama and excitement of a week TVTV knew as much as culmination of human history, the format, but know nothing about anyone about the workings of the One interpretation of the Maharaj the S.L.A. or Randy Hearst.” organization. They then rented a Ji phenomenon, and the one favored TVTV uses a half-inch Sony video large house in Houston, where the by Allen and Hudson, is that the tape recorder, a piece of equip- guru was going to hold the “ most guru and his divine family are ment that was generally thought significant event in the history of playing out the fantasies of their unacceptable for broadcast TV. humanity” at the Astrodome, and white, middle class drop-out'fol-

by Richard Casey

are probably the most adventure- “People notice a stylistic change,” shot 100 hours of tape covering lowing. Bhole Ji, the kid’s older “We could play out our own in- some and professional group work-Allen says, but he doesn’t think the event. Everyone stayed at the brother, is a completely inept muterests in an elite P.B.S. fashion-- ing in independent TV production, they are put off by the quality of house and at night equipment was sician, yet he wears gold spangled anybody who went to college and I talked to Rucker and Hudson Mar- the picture. Reviews inevitably fixed, tape was screened, and de- suits on stage and pretends to sing knows about Rennie Davis and that quez in their low-profile storefront mentioned the low-budget equip- c j s i ons were made about the devel- and conduct an orchestra through in-group shit wants to know about office m San Francisco. A sport- ment, but no one complained about 0 pment of the story. “There were a medley of rock hits. It is inthis guru - but my judgement as ing goods sign, belonging to the the image quality. tremendous logistical problems,” timated that he is the Lord of to whether the show is good or previous inhabitant, still identifies A few years ago there were great, Hudson remembered, “like, ‘Who Music. The premies, as the folnot is whether my mother can the place, and their phone number almost ideological, arguments over took too much dope and left the lowers are called, can project their learn anything about Guru Maharaj is unlisted. “When we lived in what kinds of hardware were bet- keys locked in a car in front of identities as rock stars onto this J 1 - New York, and other places, and ter, but Hudson and Allen now think the Astrodome?’ A car was miss- performer, they can live out the Allen Rucker was talking about the phone number was listed, people that the time has come when such \ ng f or two weeks, and we didn’t fantasy of putting on a show in ™ £ Ume !! tan V See ! 1 on! week ° n ke P 4 com,n 8 over all thetime,” differences are no longer very im- even know what color it was.” the Astrodome, and if they all beKQED and national PBS. on the Hudson explained. “They were good portant. They have seen the equip- The tapes were later transferred lieve that the kid is God, then he latest religious idol, the 16-year people, but we couldn’t get any ment used by the networks come to two inch, the standard broad- is, and they are all his disciples, old Guru Maharaj Ji. The show work done. The office is made way down in cost and size so that case size, and edited to an hour A question that arises is whether was made by Rucker and a group up of several large rooms con- now the difference between what sh0 w. The cost for the whole thing the premies wouldn’t be better off of video pioneers called Top Va- taming comfortable old furniture, is accessible to TVTV and NBC was $33,000, which is incredibly doing something else, lue Television (TVTV). His mo- and one wall is covered with 8 is not that significant, and they j ow f or an hour TV show Most ther, of course, thought the show by 10 glossy photographs of net- when professionally done, is ac- of the money to finance the show Allen said they bent over backwas great because my name was work newscasters ceptable for broadcast TV. “Tech- came from g rant s, and the folks wards to show that the Maharaj 0n .^ Cr *K dltS at T d 'i «.• 1, Allen said that the first four nology is no longer the issue,” at TVTV have to spend half their Ji movement was serious. Though On the one hand, I think we years of independent video work, says Allen, “it’s time for people time hustling money to pay for I thought the show portrayed the were successful, it held their in- in which millions were spent pro-to get off their asses and begin their projects. They hope that some- guru as a jerk, premies who saw erestand was entertammgbuton duced some good experiment! edu- t° use it - whether it’s half- day their work will begin to pay the show apparently thought just he other hand, I don t think they cat.onal developmen s but a lot inch video tape or Super 8.” 0 ff, but that is still in the future, the opposite If you missed the iearned that much. was spent on peopte hanging out Though they aren’t very optimis- Hudson said that his first reac- broadcast, you missed something The peop le at TVTV have all in the woods with porta-paks being ti.c about cable TV and the other tion to the guru was “to laugh really good. You can call up KQED devoted the past several years to hippies. Those who got regular means of distribution now avail- it U p at this fat kid and his Rolls and ask them to show it again, the medium of video tape, and they grant money tended to become se- able, they agree that “anything that Royces.” But after he met the That’s why they exist PAGE 18 BERKELEY BARB, MARCH 22-28, 1974 TVTV