What’s Up America was a newsmagazine show that ran on Showtime from 1978 to 1981, covering “topics such as BB guns; female boxers; urban cowboys; Elvis Presley impersonators; chariot racers in Pocatello, Idaho; and a couple who lived year-round on Liberty Island in New York Harbor,” as well as pay TV premiums like “pornographic film actors, strippers, prostitutes, and a nude beauty pageant.”
One segment, roughly contemporary with The Decline of Western Civilization, profiled the Los Angeles punk scene. There are not-so-familiar faces and voices, like those of Orange County’s Nu-Beams, and slightly more familiar ones, like those of Claude “Kickboy Face” Bessy and Phranc of Catholic Discipline, BÖC lyricist and VOM singer Richard Meltzer, and DJ Rodney Bingenheimer.
Speaking of Rodney, the warm feelings showfolk used to pretend to have for one another are not much in evidence on this broadcast: the Angry Samoans name the former English Disco owner as one of the people they would like to murder, along with Kim Fowley, Phil Spector, and “Rockefeller” (Nelson?), who, as one member points out, is already dead. The report opens with the Samoans at Blackies (the club Black Flag’s then-singer Ron Reyes mentions during the introduction to “Revenge” in Decline), playing their love song “You Stupid Asshole.”
The Suburban Lawns are in there, performing their self-released first single “Gidget Goes to Hell,” then in its second pressing. (I think this dates the show to ‘79-‘80, or else the Lawns would be plugging “Janitor.”) Bassist Vex Billingsgate expresses the wish that a record company will soon relieve the band of its independence. The show saves the Dickies, the first L.A. punk band signed to a major label, for last. Singer Leonard Phillips spells out the Dickies’ ethic, or lack of same:
We’re not really aggravated about a producer taking our live sound and transforming it into a commercially successful product, because we’re capitalists, and if it’s going to help us sell more records, I certainly would make a compromise.
The truncated version of the program embedded below jumps right into the punk segment and the Angry Samoans doing “You Stupid Asshole” in true VHS quality. Check out this clip if you must see the episode’s opening credits.