Not Ready for Prime time

The Bobby Jack Pack Show lurks in the shadows of cable access, threatening its creator with low-rent success

Cynthia drives every week from Fort Worth, where she works as an apartment locator and as an actress. After one visit to a shoot, which she had heard about from a friend, she was hooked. "There's no other acting experience like it. Every time you come, it's a different type of atmosphere. I think of it as hanging out and having fun, but, oh my God, he's so talented."

It's a reason many people give for working with Bobby. They believe he'll be the next John Waters (Serial Mom, Hairspray, Pink Flamingos)--or, more likely, a modern-day Ed Wood. You get the feeling that either one would be fine with them.

"It's silly, it's absurd, but there's definitely some artistry," says Higgins. "I feel like, when I look back on this, I'll say I was working with geniuses."

Scott Parkin is a professional actor who has been involved in the show since nearly the beginning. "It's cheap laughs, and the timing and pacing is thrown off so far, it's ridiculous," he says.

But Parkin, like the rest, keeps coming back simply because it is so over-the-top. A successful commercial actor--he starred in the Southwestern Bell mobile-telephone commercials as the guy who catches the phone with a baseball mitt--Parkin is one of the show's most recognizable regulars. He also is its self-appointed and unofficial public-relations flack:He regularly sends copies of The Bobby Jack Pack Show to the networks, and hypes the show locally every chance he gets.

Yet Bobby, himself, may be the show's biggest barrier to even moderate fame. He's scared that success would ruin the concept. "Money would corrupt it like it's corrupted every rock band I've seen," he says. "For me, obscurity and cult status is coolness. Overpopularity in the public eye will turn on you."

Parkin and Higgins, who occasionally donate money as well as time to the production, disagree. "I think money should come into the show," says Parkin. "The show would stay the same with money. The only thing that would change is it would be faster."

It's hard to conceive of the show being faster. Editing The Bobby Jack Pack Show is laborious; sometimes it takes as much as a week for Bobby to put together one minute of final footage. It's a slow process to produce video that moves fast.

A breather to the show's rapid-fire approach that blasts viewers along at the speed of light is provided in the form of a regular soap-opera segment, "Shadows and Objects," which is a reference to the grave keeper's speech in Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead. Like the rest of the show, the soap is a nonsensical, illogical romp.

"We don't show any kissing and don't show anybody in bed," says Bobby, who claims each show must pass the "mommy test," which means it should be something he wouldn't be afraid to show to his mom. "But we show as much trauma and total upsetness as we can. It's kind of a soap opera on a teen-age, 'wear my high school ring' level."

Buddy Hickerson, the nationally syndicated cartoonist of the "Quigmans," is a regular in the soap. He plays record executive Buddy Burbank, whom he describes as a "boozing, oily, slimy, drippy pustule of a human; this armpit of an individual who, if he crossed the street, would leave so much oil, there'd be a traffic accident. He's a scam boy and he also has weird powers, a superhuman bizarre ability to detect human vulnerability."

Hickerson says he sticks with the show because he appreciates Bobby's perspective, which is not unlike that of his own rather twisted comic strip. "He seems to revel in the bad, the crude, and the unpolished," says Hickerson of Bobby."And I think some of the best things are the kind of off-beat moments where things drag on, those sloppy things where things don't end clean--kind of scraggly, like life."

"Look at this," says Bobby, excitedly, holding up a yellow-satin two-piece pants and top set. "It's the queen's outfit. I got it for a dollar."

It's Thursday night, and he never found cheerleader outfits for the space girls. Worse, two of the actors that he was planning to shoot haven't shown up. So the space scene will have to wait. Instead, he decides, the 10 people who did come will help make props and costumes.

Everyone stays even though the taping has been turned into a mindless work detail. No one complains about the stifling heat in the warehouse, or the cricket infestation. Everyone grabs a can of beer and gets to work.

A majorette hat, some silver tape, and a cap from a bourbon bottle become the bad queen's headdress. Puffy, silver pipe cleaners twist into a tiara for a space woman, and a plastic plate and the domed top of an Icee are transformed with glue and gold spray paint into a flying saucer. Three people sit on the concrete floor, while the crickets hop around them, and paint color blocks for a backdrop. Others glue glitter on medallions for the good and bad queens' necklaces.

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