By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Sarah Bennett
By LP Hastings
By Jena Ardell
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
By Joel Beers
Last weekend, Adelphia Cable uncovered the current Amber Room of Orange County politics when it dug up three episodes of Issues and . . . P.S. Rocco, an early-1990s public-access show hosted by Petruccelli Steve Rocco. Rocco, you may recall, is the reclusive Santa Ana resident who made national headlines by winning a seat on the Orange Unified School District's Board of Trustees on Nov. 2 and then not bothering to claim his victory. As reported by the Weekly (see Nick Schou's "The Rocco Horror Picture Show," Nov. 12), little about Rocco is known other than scary anecdotes whispered by his neighbors and what's in his 1992 memoir, ROCCO Behind the Orange Curtain, which alleges a conspiracy between Kodak Film Co., Albertsons Supermarket and SmokeCraft Sausage led to Rocco's 1980 arrest for shoplifting.
Thanks to Adelphia, however, the world can now view another piece of the Rocco puzzle. In the early 1990s, Rocco produced 17 shows through Santa Ana College's television department. Adelphia, which owns the rights to Rocco's shows, decided to re-air episodes three, four and five of Issues and . . . P.S. Rocco "as a public service": once on Nov. 19 and twice on Nov. 20. Any Orange County Adelphia subscriber could tune in—except those located in Orange. Time for another novel, Rocco!
P.S. Rocco's format remains the same for each half-hour segment. It opens with shots of four art pieces—an illustration of a solder slaying the devil, a Spanish Baroque-era woodcut of royal and squire, the rising-sun/despaired-stick-man cover of Behind the Orange Curtain, and a zoo painting. The camera then fades to Rocco behind a desk, wearing Roy Orbison-dark shades and a John Holmes-worthy mustache. He begins each episode by decrying a Santa Ana handbill ordinance that apparently prohibited people from distributing fliers to households. Calling the ban "unconstitutional," Rocco vows that he and unnamed friends "will be watching that" issue at upcoming Santa Ana City Council meetings.
After the five-minute ramble, Rocco gets down to his best Merv Griffith imitation. Of the three guests he interviewed—a Wiccan practitioner, Santa Ana College professor George Wright and the drummer from the 1960s band Spirit—all are personal friends. Questions are of the softball variety, and the topic invariably returns to Rocco, who speaks in a trembling, whiny voice that suggests he just came off a cold.
Anyone expecting to see a modern-day Rupert Pupkin on P.S. Rocco will be disappointed: the Rocco of the 1990s is a poorly dressed, droning, solipsistic bore—in other words, a perfect school-board member. About the only hint of eccentricity occurs before his interview with the Wiccan: he pulls out a garlic belt and a Bible, and then tosses some salt over his right shoulder as he tells the bemused Wiccan, "I brought protection. You watch yourself." But hey, you can already see that sort of religious superstition by attending a Santa Ana Unified board meeting and hearing trustee Rosemarie Avila.
There is one final television hope for those seeking the Rocco of ROCCO, though: according to a Nov. 12 story by the Los Angeles Times, the trustee-elect also shot one episode for a planned series called Political Murder. That one never made the airwaves—Santa Ana College lawyers then and now blocked its screening. Could it be that nefarious SmokeCraft Sausage again?