I have very little to add to the news of Clarence Clemons passing away. But I did remember that in my YouTube archives, I have an artifact: The Big Man appearing in a 1988 ad for AFS, which was (is?) the foreign exchange student program. Basically, Clarence stands on what appears to be the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade and plays “America the Beautiful.” The ad also has a curious length: 20 seconds, making it longer than a regular spot but slightly longer than a “half ad.” The only explanation I have is that it aired during an episode of Steampipe Alley, a show not bound by the surly bonds of common sense.
While searching through the Vast and Dusty Scratchbomb VHS Archives, looking for something I hope to digitize and post to the site very soon (shh! it’s a secret!), I ran across not one, not two, but three full episodes of Steampipe Alley. They’re like the Dead Sea Scrolls of kids’ show camp!
Once I made this discovery, I did a quick tour of the interwebs and discovered–TO MY HORROR–that there is virtually no online record of Steampipe Alley‘s existence. THIS ENDS HERE!
If you didn’t grow up in the Tri-State Area and/or you aren’t of a certain age, you may have never heard of Steampipe Alley. It aired on WWOR, channel 9. Nowadays, it’s a “My” station whatever the hell that means, but back then, it was an independent station with Superstation aspirations that broadcast out of Seacaucus, NJ.
Once upon a time, every local TV channel had its own self-produced kids’ show with a goofy host, contests, sketches, and cartoons. By the 1980s, almost none of them did. In fact, by that time, there were very few independent stations left at all. Channel 9 was a rare outpost for ultra-local programming (and a budget to match), wedged in between Cosby Show reruns, old movies, and other syndicated fare.
In 1988, for some anachronistic reason, WWOR decided to produce its own kids’ show called Steampipe Alley. Info on the interwebs about the program’s origins (or anything else about it) is spotty at best. Here’s all you really need to know: it was hosted by Mario Cantone.
You may know Mr. Cantone from Sex and the City, or you may have seen him on a Comedy Central Roast or two, or you may have seen him do his standup act. But if you’ve seen him in any form, you know that he’s high energy, to say the least. And he loves campy, old timey references that he’s way too young to namecheck. He’s equal parts Robin Williams, Rip Taylor, and Charles Nelson Reilly.
Did he tone it down a bit when he hosted a kids’ show? I think you know the answer to that question already.
Jay Mariotti is here, ready to light up AOL Fanhouse with his unique brand sarcastic humor and avoiding locker room confrontation. Where’s my desk? Where’s the cafeteria? Do you guys have a Good Humour vending machine?
Um, Jay, I’m afraid you misunderstood. When we offered you a job, it wasn’t at AOL Fanhouse, it was at AOL Fun House!
AOL Fun House? What’s that?
Why, it’s only the most radical, awesomest house of all! And here’s the guy who put the fun in AOL Fun House, J.D. Roth!