Okay, listen up, because this is one of the single best things that I have ever posted here on Dangerous Minds. I’ve waited for a good version of this to get uploaded to YouTube since we very first started the blog and now that’s finally happened. There have been over 17,000 items posted here and THIS, as I see it at least, is one of the very, very top best of all those various things…
What am I talking about? It’s called Way USA, a pilot for a punk/comedy travelogue that was done for MTV in 1988 and hosted by the silver-tongued—and absolutely fucking hilarious—Tesco Vee of The Meatmen. It was directed by Peter Lauer (although it’s missing from his IMDB page), then a staffer with MTV’s graphics department who has since gone on to direct dozens upon dozens of major television shows that you have seen, including Strangers with Candy and Arrested Development.
The copy I had was acquired working at the post production house where it was edited. I’m not 100% sure that it even aired on TV. Although Way USA was produced at a time before MTV aimed its content squarely at teenagers, it still seems a little racier than I recall them ever getting back then. (It says at the end that there was one done in Niagara Falls as well, but I have not seen that.)
So, yes, Way USA is a punk/comedy travelogue that begins when Tesco sells his soul to the Devil (in the form of East Village lounge crooner Craig Vandenberg, here billed as “Tony LaVentura, the Adonis from Paramus”) for a good time traveling across America in opulently sleazy style.
First stop, it’s “Charm City—that ‘s Baltimore—and what trip to Baltimore would be complete without making a pilgrimage to the Pope of Trash, John Waters? Naturally Tesco checks that one off his list as well as visiting the notorious red light “Block” district, eating two dozen eggs at a diner with an “all the eggs you can eat” policy, an S&M session with the late plus-sized greeting card model Miss Jean Hill (her segment is a stone classic), visits strip clubs, a crime blotter news reporter, a faith healer/exorcist and does various other things around “the hairdo capital of America,” as Waters so lovingly puts it.
In the late 80s, I’d show my VHS copy of Way USA to anyone and everyone who visited me (people used to do quaint things like that back then). I was really keen on it and thought it was absolutely groundbreaking and hilarious (it’s aged very well). I’ve seen it so many times that as I was watching it just now, I started to realize HOW MANY of Tesco’s lines (or slight variations thereof) I use ALL OF THE TIME. And I’m not talking about a few of them, there must be 100 things he says in this half hour show that I regularly say to this day. For example, last week, sitting across from someone about to tuck into an appallingly unhealthy meal, I deadpanned “If your heart stops, I’ll kick you in the chest.” I got this from the eggs scene, which I haven’t seen since like 1990 probably, yet still quote.
In an alternate universe, Way USA would have made Tesco Vee a huge TV celebrity. Seriously folks, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If more people knew about Way USA twenty-five years ago, if would probably be as revered today as Heavy Metal Parking Lot or the Butthole Surfers’ Entering Texas are.
Two more things: Way USA was shot on Super 8 film, so if it looks a little “soft,” this is actually the way it was supposed to look. This is, in fact, a very clean upload. However, the sort of jarring “commercial breaks” (Kembra Pfahler clad only in red bodypaint singing and swearing, a Roy Rogers spot, Tesco in San Francisco) included here have nothing directly to do with Way USA and I think come from The Devil’s In The Details, a DVD that Tesco Vee sells on his website. It’s pretty clear what’s from the show and what’s not from it, but you’ll see why I mentioned it, it would be confusing if you were seeing it for the first time otherwise. (As for the cable access footage of Kembra—who is a good friend of mine, I must ask her what that’s from!—and a few other things in the added parts, I’ll give the obligatory NSFW warning).