by Martin Maenza
A man in his late thirties with wavy brown hair sat on a tall stool in front of a hanging blue screen. He wore red slacks, a white dress shirt with the sleeves cuffed at the elbow, and a red tie with black polka dots. The man focused on the camera in front of him; as he spoke, images projected onto the blue screen for the home viewers to follow along.
“For all you older fans, perk up your ears for this little tidbit,” the man said in an upbeat banter. “Word is that the Flips will be staging a reunion tour that will kick off here in the States starting this Spring. Jack, Jill, and Joe have said they’ll even be bringing the old surfboard, baton, and motorcycle out for this show. So dust off your dancing shoes, and get ready for a blast from the past.”
To the left and off-camera, a younger man with slicked-back blonde hair gestured to the man on camera. Using his hands, the younger man indicated to the announcer to keep it moving.
The man on the stool noticed this out of the corner of his eye and, without skipping a beat, moved on to the next news story.
“Coming out this week in new music releases is the latest disc by rock singer Jim Rook. Entitled Master of the Night, Rook returns to the heavier, guitar-based sound that was prevalent in his earlier albums.
“This is V.J. VeeJay, signing off for the day. But I’ll be back tomorrow to bring you all the latest videos here on Rock Television. Next up is Mona Nockwood.”
The camera light blinked off. On one of the nearby monitors, a commercial queued up to be followed by more music videos.
As the producer started off the set, V.J. VeeJay hopped off the stool and hurried on after him. “Tommy,” he called out. “Tommy! Wait a second!”
The young blonde man turned around. “What is it now, David?” he asked impatiently.
“Victor,” V.J. corrected him. “I go by Victor now. Victor Johnson. V.J. — get it?”
The young producer squinted his eyes. “Yeah, sure, whatever. What do you want?”
V.J. paused for a second, straightened his tie, and said, “That last segment got me thinking again.”
“About my idea. I think I told you this one before.”
The blonde producer began to roll his eyes.
V.J. VeeJay started to speak enthusiastically again. “It’s the idea where we–“
Tommy Lender cut the man off rudely. “I know! I know! This is your idea about doing a program that tells the stories of old artists that have disappeared off the face of the planet. ‘Where’s the Music Now?’ or something like that.”
“Well, actually I was thinking of ‘Behind the–‘” the older man started to say.
“Save it!” the blonde producer snapped. “I don’t want to hear all the gory details again!”
V.J. VeeJay recoiled slightly.
Lender, however, was in a particularly bad mood this morning, no doubt due to the fact that his supermodel girlfriend just dumped him for a Wall Street trader. In either case, Lender felt like taking it out on someone, and Victor Johnson was the nearest target. With both barrels raised, the video jockey sat squarely in the cross-hairs.
“This is Rock Television!” Lender began to shout. “That means music videos! This station was built upon the concept of all music, all the time! The last thing we need is programming, especially some show where you peddle out old fossil acts and have them tell their sob stories about why their careers have bottomed out. No one wants to tune in for that. No one cares about these hippies and their drug addictions or alcohol problems, or about disco has-beens who weren’t taken seriously by the music industry.”
“But–” V.J. started to protest.
“But nothing!” Lender said. “We pay you to intro the videos, read short music news stories, and sometimes do interviews. You aren’t a program director, so stop acting like one! If you don’t like it, you can go back to working for rinky-dink radio stations in the Midwest! Got me?”
The video jockey nodded silently.
“Good!” Tommy Lender began to storm off, and interns scurried from his path. He got maybe twenty-five feet when someone called him over to the phone.
V.J. Veejay waited a few moments before heading toward his dressing room. His path would lead him right past Lender and the phone. Given the average age of employees at the cable channel, the man in his late thirties stood out among the young twenty-somethings. Trying his best anyway to blend in, he carefully walked past the producer who had just chewed him out.
He could not help overhearing a snippet of the phone conversation.
“A game show, eh?” Lender said curiously. “About television shows with comedy and such? I like it. What’s it called? ‘Pass the Remote’? I like it! We’ll rush it into production ASAP!”
V.J. VeeJay bit his tongue as he headed for his dressing room, his fists clenched in rage.