>Happy Birthday Pete Parisi (an update)

by jvaragona


When I took up the cause to get Pete Parisi a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame, I intended to do what I set out to do. Some said it wouldn’t be possible considering Parisi doesn’t have much of a following or an influence outside of the St. Louis area. When Thomas Crone, a former professor of mine at Webster University, brought this up on the 52nd City blog, I responded with this:

Yes, I realize this is a stretch, but as I have mentioned in various other forums, the idea of a star for P.E.P. was brought up a while back by Jeff Daniel of the Post. I’ll put up that article by tomorrow in the links section of my WWM site. He also stated that some other honor could be bestowed upon Pete, such as an exhibit through the MO Historical Society. I think a petition drive is necessary to show the recognition and influence of the man.

Since I posted some vids on YouTube that I obtained while working on my documentary about Parisi, I have gotten quite a response from people from St. Louis, formerly from St. Louis, or those that have simply stumbled upon the mad genius of Pete. His national influence may not be there, but by comparing him to other known names like Michael Moore, Tom Green, and the Jerry Springer show, you cannot argue with him being ahead of his time. People across St. Louis and beyond watched this spectacle which later became a mainstream style and sense of humor.

So even if this doesn’t work, it reminds people about a common ground they all shared on Friday and Saturday nights for 15 years in our area. And maybe we could push our efforts towards a P.E.P. statue, complete with cigar.

Jeff Daniel made some important points in his piece. He compares the mix of humorous and frightening elements of WWM to that of David Lynch, the director of Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, and TV’s Twin Peaks. He says that unfortunately, as Parisi drifted into the afterlife in January of 2002, he was drifting into irrelevance.

As for the afterlife, may St. Louie Pete and St. Peter have a good conversation at the pearly gates. As for irrelevance, we owe it to Parisi to eliminate that possibility.

“The appreciation I get from people is the only pay I’ve ever received for this show,” the king of cable access once said. That appreciation should continue even if Parisi cannot.

Is it too much to suggest that the Missouri Historical Society acquire the entire “World Wide Magazine” catalog? Under president Robert Archibald, the Forest Park-based institution espouses a philosophy that history be more than just the famous names and important events of our recorded

I agree wholeheartedly with most of what Mr. Daniel wrote in his article. He goes on to say that WWM was reality television before reality television. Parisi was giving his own version of our history, what was current at the time, such as the episode entirely revolving around the Pope’s visit to St. Louis in January of 1999, or revisiting our past; I remember one of the first episodes of WWM I saw was with Pete driving around in his cab and he pointed out where the old Sportsmans Park once stood at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Dodier Street on the north side of the city.

People that were national figures or were on their way to becoming just that appeared on WWM, such as Jerry Mathers of Leave it to Beaver fame, Rudy Ray More AKA Dolemite, and then Governor of Missouri John Ashcroft, who went on to be U.S. Attorney General. That also includes Fred Willard, famous for various television roles and appearances in Christopher Guest’s films, such as Best in Show, who in 1990 hosted a program called “Access America”, which profiled the country’s more notable public access programs. Needless to say, a WWM clip made it onto the show, which lead to Willard visiting St. Louis and appearing on WWM. Parisi received a television for his show making it on there, eventhough it didn’t win best in show (heh heh). The TV became a prized posession of Pete’s.

Back when Pete was program director at KADI-FM 96.3 in St. Louis in 1979, Elvis Costello came to the Kiel Opera House to perform. Billboard magazine credits Parisi with informing the Costello camp that KSHE, the station sponsoring the concert, had just started playing Elvis shortly before the concert date, while their station had been playing him faithfully during his career. To this, Costello shot back at the concert by dedicating his newer single “Radio, Radio” to the promoting station, K-SHE 95. I’m sure they were pleased with lines like “And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools; tryin’ to anaesthetise the way that you feel.” This helped add fuel to an ongoing fued between the two stations and gave credence to the lyrics of that powerful song.

So I stand by Parisi definitely having a local impact, and at least a minimal national one. Take a look at the comments of folks that have signed the petition to get him a star. Too bad Nielsen doesn’t track public access viewers. Pete may not have had a great impact outside of our area, but I think what he did preceded a lot of what became popular after him, yet he was considered so alternative. He deserves enormous respect for that. I will send a letter to the nominations committee of the St. Louis Walk of Fame, but I will still leave up the petition to drum up more support.

One more note…if the show is to be preserved, the master tapes must be acquired from Parisi’s then girlfriend Linda Vaughan. She has posession of them, and since I have heard nothing to the contrary, I can only assume they are collecting dust and degrading instead of being transferred to a digital format. Maybe the MO Historical Society or someone with clout could pony up to her.

If you enjoyed World Wide Magazine, Pete announcing at the SBAC wrestling matches before his show, or his time at KADI, make sure he doesn’t drift into irrelevance. Trade videos with others, post them on YouTube, contact the MO Historical Society, or whatever you see fit. P.E.P. deserves that.

So Happy 60th Birthday Peter Elias Parisi, from one of your 50,000 hoosiers.