Pennsylvania Polka  
      

Reviews by readers of TheWVSR

Lucas, from the Pit of Sloth

Not too many people are aware of this, but I am considered to be a connoisseur of Public Access, and Community Television. I spent four long years in high school working at my local station as an intern, and as a producer. In that time I have seen some really horrid examples of ineptitude, and poor ideas that could not die. Fortunately The Pennsylvania Polka is the latter of the two. 

This show contained one full hour of geriatrics attempting to dance to the music of Tony's Polka Band, from Albany New York. The music that the band was dispensing was of fairly high quality, considering that not one member of the band was old enough to have a single pubic hair. They looked younger then the girls at exploitedteens.com.

For some reason that I cannot fathom though, these children from upstate NY had British accents. I believe that they are part of a sinister plot to exact revenge upon the United States for trying to make tea in Boston Harbor. 

As I said before, the point of this show is to show that people dance to this music. I believe that it is important to define the word "dance", for I believe in one that is quite different then that of the participants in this absurdity. My definition of dancing is not "Walking in a circle while lightly embracing your partner, somewhat in time with whatever music is playing in your head". It has always been my impression that dancing required "steps". 

This lead me to be more embarrassed then when my mother walked in to my room while I was masturbating and the computer had accidentally issued me some free gay-porn pics. But that's a whole different story all together. Suppose a black man had seen this (I'm not sure if they're allowed out of Philadelphia, but I'm working on supposition and theory at this point). All arguments that white people can't dance would have gone out the window faster then a baby in the hands of a British nanny. 

At least when my buddy Comicboy saw a video of some rednecks line dancing he was impressed by the coordination of these people. He even sent out words of praise to this one girl who we all swore had a third leg. I did the physics and that was the only possible solution to that issue. 

All in all it was a fairly well produced show. The camera work was top notch, the director and switcher made sure that there was a good flow from shot to shot and the audio was CD quality (or at least it might have been if I wasn't sent a VHS copy). The whole problem I have with this program can be expressed in a phrase that my friend and mentor, John, used to use when he would record bands with as little talent as a Backstreet Boy: "Try as you might, you can't polish a turd."

Marc Parker aka Azmacourt

Holy fuck, what can I say?! How can I even begin to explain what this public television show has done to me? I’m reminded of that scene in American Beauty, where Ricky Fitz watches the video of the plastic bag caught in the wind and starts weeping shamelessly. “Sometimes there’s just so much beauty in the world. . . .”

Pennsylvania Polka, at times, approaches sublimity. The accordions and the sweat and the geriatrics all align just so, and I begin saying things to myself like: “The world is my oyster.” And then the music stops and someone wheels a crippled man-child onto the dance floor. I’ve watched this tape, like, five times now. In states ranging from near-sobriety to Vicodin-induced apathy to cheap beer invincibility, this never failed to make me laugh aloud. I viewed Pennsylvania Polka with a number of people, and their reactions ranged from annoyance at the intimacy of the format (my roommate likened it to finding a neighbor’s homemade porno tape) to enthusiasm which rivaled my own (the girl who sold me the pills loved it). What follows are the notes I took during these repeated viewings, most of which relate to the show’s general format.

The First Part -- After the last seconds of the Lawrence Welk show, some Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons (minor league baseball) teasers, and Mrs. T’s Pierogies (a frozen dumpling) commercials, we get the bouncy opening credits. Dottie Stanky and Bill Flynn co-host. The dialogue seems to be impromptu, yet they still flub lines with breakneck regularity.

A Few Polka Songs -- There are always three or four old lady couples. Dead old guys, I suppose. Is this the WWII generation? Or is that going back too far? The two most popular styles of dance consist of a spirited blend of ballroom dancing and jogging in place, and this thing where the man puts his right arm behind the woman and sort of parades her around. But like Dottie says: “There are so many styles.” Some people just can’t dance, and I’m sure arthritis compounds this. My assumption, though, is that the leading the woman around thing is done to rest from all the jogging in place, as it only looks as rigorous as, say, mall-walking.

Pause for the Cause -- Bill and Dottie interview this week’s band, John Stevens and Double Shot. Of note here are two things: (1) “Johnnie” Stevens is a young guy, all of twenty-five, who represents the new generation of polka enthusiasts. There is some story about John as a kid going on Bill’s radio show, but I got lost. None of these people are great orators. A quote from John Stevens, on the future: “Well, ah, this year marks seven years for the Double Shot band. And, uh, y’know, th-there’s no, there’s no need to, uh, how could I say, there’s no stopping it. I mean, you know. We’re here for the people.” The other thing is that (2) the drummer of Double Shot is Jason Flynn, son of Pennsylvania Polka’s host. Fuckin’ trust-fund brat! Actually, Jason seems like a sweet young man, who has sadly not yet learned from his father the fine art of covering male pattern baldness with a dead rodent. P.S. On my nth viewing, I noticed at this point that John Steven isn’t wearing a wedding band. That’s right, ladies. Imagine a heavier version of Will Ferrell doing an impersonation of Jim J. Bullock, and I think you’ll have an accurate mental picture. Don’t forget the collarless shirt!

More Polka Songs -- Random bits of hilarity. One old seadog-looking fellow is bumped into by someone, so he proceeds to stare them down and start barking before the camera changes. The music gets more familiar.

Meet and Greet -- Now everyone stops and forms a semi-circle as Dottie and Bill interview two regular audience members. This is the point where the young man is wheeled from the sidelines and allowed to participate in the general cheering. (He does cheer quite a bit, too, with two enthusiastic pumps of his arm into the air [from the elbow down exclusively, of course, as his upper arm appears to be strapped down].) The interview itself is painful to watch, not so much because the woman suffers from Alzheimer’s-like stage-fright, but because Dottie grills her when she answers a question poorly. Dottie asks how long her and her dancing partner have known one another, and the poor old woman replies that they are co-sponsors of the same polka club. “I asked how long you’ve known one another,” Dottie says. “Come on. Stories!” As if there is some dirty past there. The old man steps forward and sets things straight. Five years. End of questions. Let’s polka.

Even More Polka Songs (And One Waltz) -- Don’t forget that this show is an hour long. Sure, audience members hang out on the side often, but there are some real polka lovers who are on the dance floor every song. Christ, I passed out twice while watching it. And John Stevens barely rests between songs, ladies and gentlemen. Unlike those idle cats of yesteryear, he pauses just long enough to stammer that this is from such-and-such recording, then he’s off again. It’s like he gets that girth moving and his arm pumping that accordion, and he can barely contain the momentum. Songs in Polish, songs about birthday parties. At one point there is supposed to be some audience participation, but Stevens rushes through the instructions too quickly and at the last second before the song starts, so that he is the only one cheering along with the trumpets when the part comes. Near the very end, a tiny, white wisp of a man makes a slow crossing of the stage. No camera cuts from him walking. For seconds he moves like molasses and signifies the end. A young girl in a chair on the sideline puts her head in her mother’s lap.

PLAY LOUD

Eugene Sims aka Max DeMeaner, The Pride Of Greensboro Radio 

I had planned to screen this in front of my friends who enjoy more than a few adult beverages. But due to some back stabbing with a soap opera twist, this didn't happen. 

I still tried to get a few friends to watch it but, things just didn't materialize. So, I decided it was best for me to view the tape for myself. 

The show opens up with some catchy polka music. Bill Flynn and Dottie Stanky are our hosts for the program. 

Dottie Stanky? 'Nuff said. 

I've always had a certain talent for spotting hair pieces from a mile away. And I can spot bad ones from two miles away. Bill Flynn's rug... you can spot it three miles away. I swear, it looks like a brown raccoon skin hat. 

The musical guests for this particular show are The EFO. The Eddie Forman Orchestra. They hail from Hadley, Massachusetts. 

As soon as they start playing their instruments.... accordion, bass guitar, trumpet, clarinet, and drums.... the floor crowds up with dancing and hopping old folk. For some reason, the entire crowd moves in a counter-clockwise motion. It reminded me of a slow moving, gray hurricane made up of bad polyester suits and eyeglasses. 

Even the casual viewer will notice that there is a lot of girl with girl dancing. Being the pervert that I am, I was getting ready for some hot and mature, lesbian action. Then my common sense kicked in and I realized that given the average age of the studio dancers, a lot of men had probably dropped out of the herd due to death. 

The Eddie Forman Orchestra kicked into their third number. A song called "Pepino, The Italian Mouse". Maybe, I'm crazy but, I found this tune quite infectious. I'm humming it right now as I'm typing this. I would love to play it on my radio show. You can hear that very song at their website www.eddieforman.com 

The EFO are a very tight outfit. Some of the singing lacks a little tone at times but, overall, they are damn good. The pauses between songs seem a little long. The floor clears fast. I don't know if that's for the medical staff to spot collapsed dancers or what. But, then The EFO cranks it back up and the floor is rushed by old folks once again. They're dancing, hopping, and bumping into each other to the polka beat. 

Bill and Dottie take a little break to talk to a regular 'Pennsylvania Polka' dancer and Carol Forman. The man said his name and all I got was "Tony mumblemumble". But, he says most people just call him "Tony I.G.A". Maybe, he's an independent grocery store owner. But he looks like a mob guy. 

Carol Forman is Eddie Forman's wife. She has a group of female polka dancers that travel the country as well. 

Does this mean there's a competition? 

Then Tony I.G.A. and Carol hit the dance floor. They are flanked on all sides by the rest of the 'Pennsylvania Polka' dancers. All clapping and watching the pair hopping around and kicking their heels. 

I notice someone in the crowd of onlookers. I hope Jeff can use the photo I attached. There's this younger man who seems to be strapped in an upright wheelchair. Either he likes getting out to enjoy some swinging polka music or, he's really into Hannibal Lecter. God bless him. 

Overall, I thought the show was entertaining. And quite frankly, I would probably be a regular viewer. There are a few laughs here and there but, nothing compared to the sights Jeff has witnessed before. 

I'm thinking about contacting Eddie Forman about getting a free CD to play on my show. I liked them that much. I want to share them with the small group of loyal listeners that I have every Friday night. 

And if we have another Peaches Music & Video reunion in Scranton..... I seriously want to check out this show in person.


MsDeniseWight

Oh, the horror...

I just finished watching all of the Pennsylvania Polka tape that I could stand. The commercials at the beginning were as bad as, or worse than, the actual show. I had forgotten how hammy and cheaply produced smaller town television is, especially public television. 

Well, the first warning sign was the fact that the female half of the hosting team for the PA Polka show was named Dotty Stanky! I kid you not,
gentle readers...and this woman has not put her head in an oven yet?? To make the fun even more poignant, the week's featured band was called "The
Buffalo Touch." Jesus wept. 

So, I think I sat through about ten minutes of watching senior citizens shuffling around the dance floor in a vaguely circular pattern before I started to get nervous...really nervous. I started to concentrate on the band...I don't think any of them moved, except to play their instruments. Usually when you see musicians jamming, the guys at least shuffle their feet, or nod their heads in rhythm to the music, but the Buffalo Touch was like a fucking exhibit at Madame Tussaud's. 

THEN it hit me, I realized where my nervousness and agitation originated. The whole thing reminded me of my hometown's HUGE Dixieland Jazz Jubilee that happens each year. I don't know if any of you are from Sacramento, CA, have ever been here, or heard of the Jubilee, but it is truly horrible. 

Here is a simple sketch- 

The ungodly wailing of clarinets, old people everywhere: wearing little visors and t-shirts with glittery American flags on them, parking motor homes in every spare parking space, riding canopied golf carts around the venues...Arrggghhhhh!!!!! Pennsylvania Polka reminded me of the scene here every year about this time, and I am still afraid. 

Jeff, thank you for sending me that tape, it will forever remind me to stay away from events where there may be someone filming me hauling my sorry ass around a dance floor. Old people dancing is kind of like old people fucking in my opinion.....Sure, we all know it must happen, but we DON'T WANT TO WATCH IT!!!

MsDeniseWight
correspondent,
Sacramento CA

                                    
                
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