Here Lies Wally George

The story of the father of combat TV as told by female wrestlers, punk rockers and a furniture-throwing pacifist

Here Lies Wally George
Illustration: Bob Aul | Design: Dustin Ames

To properly orient infamous talk-show host Wally George within the history of Orange County, it's best to paraphrase the introduction of a fellow pop-culture icon with a cult following. So, with apologies to The Big Lebowski:

Now this a-here story I'm about to unfold took place back in the early '80s—just about the time of our conflict with Reagan and the invasion of Grenada. Sometimes there's a man—I won't say a hero 'cause, what's a hero? But sometimes, there's a man—and I'm talkin' about Wally George here. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's Wally George in Orange County in the 1980s.

Oh, Wally and his Hot Seat, that weekly flash of Orange County lunacy that brought Reagan's morning in America and the punks who were trying to tear down the Orange Curtain together in a tiny UHF studio in Anaheim. Perfect late-night watching for folks stumbling back from bars or sweaty shows, needing one final cap to their insane evenings. It was great daytime TV whenever George hosted Hot Seat Hotline, a call-in version that was essentially an invitation for smart asses to crank call about his wig—that wig!—and his impotence.

George's set was just a desk, an American flag, framed photos of John Wayne and the Space Shuttle (with the latter bearing the legend, "USA is #1"), and him, resplendent in a suit and tie, the veneer of geniality ready to heap invectives on a parade of liberals, gays, minorities, musicians, wrestlers, pacifists, pinkos and the Poorman. He struggled to contain the madness, banging a gavel on his desk and proclaiming, "Hold it!" every 30 seconds, finger pointing, lips pursed, then yelling, "SICK SICK SICK!" and booting guests outta there to the roar of his adoring crowd of 80 sitting on the KDOC floor.

"WALL-Y! WALL-Y! WALL-Y!" The chant still echoes across the county, even though new episodes of Hot Seat aired only for a decade, kept alive by George in best-of reruns he'd host until the end of his life, playing on an endless loop on YouTube, as ingrained in the Orange County id as Huntington Beach riots and Bob Dornan. He paved the way for outrageous national television hosts to make millions—our Wally.

He died 10 years ago this week. In his honor, friends, former guests and foes give the oral history of Wally George.

  

MEETING MR. AMERICA

Oderus Urungus, lead singer of GWAR: Honestly, of all the talk shows—we've been on everything from Springer to Joan Rivers to Jimmy Fallon—it was our favorite one. That cheesy, little public-access show with that weirdo Wally George, he kicked ass on all those other multimillion-dollar, fuckin' Hollywood-TV creation, constructed human being . . . yuck. Those people really make me sick.

Dexter Holland, lead singer of the Offspring: It was punk. The kids in the audience, or whatever it was, it was cool. Realizing this was all of 30 years ago, that was pretty outrageous TV for back then.

Blase Bonpane, human-rights activist: He was an opportunist who would do anything and be for or against anything that was lucrative. He would be putting on a show and never reflecting what he truly believed. I saw him as a complete phony.

Jim "The Poorman" Trenton, media legend: In real life, he was very, very open-minded. He may have had conservative beliefs, but as a showman, he loved the most crazy people. Just loved it. Even today, it amazes me that he has such a cult following. There's a sort of ferocious fandom to Wally George.

Richard Blade, SiriuxXM DJ: For the people in the audience, it was fun! It was a good escape for a couple of hours. The taping was pretty quick—it wasn't two hours of waiting for some ego-obsessed celebrity to come out. Instead, Wally was there to talk to them. He was down to earth, very human, and bless him for that.

Nikolas Schreck, lead singer of Radio Werewolf: It was like [Wally] was a microcosm of Hollywood taking over politics. In a way, it could seem harmless or like it was just a joke, but when we were actually in the studio, and Wally was presenting me as a scapegoat for all societal ills . . . the audience was whipped into a genuine frenzy. They did not take it as a joke, and it felt very dangerous to be there. It's easy to think that he was a humorous phenomenon, but it was part of the whole. There was a very violent craziness to the '80s that I don't think Americans can remember exactly how it was. I went to a Ronald Reagan rally in 1984, and I sensed that same inherent violence. You know the novel Lord of the Flies? It reminded me of that.

George had been a presence in Southern California media since the 1960s, hosting a radio show on now-defunct KTYM-FM 103.9 (now a Spanish-language oldies station) before producing a television program on KCOP-TV Channel 13 for then-Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty. He got his own KCOP gig before moving over to KDOC in 1983.

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19 comments
artpedroza
artpedroza

Can you believe it Gustavo? Ourfriend Sean Mill worked on this show.

Rabbi_Pedro
Rabbi_Pedro

The greatest TV EVER was when Wally's guest was J. B. Stoner. Stoner complained bitterly about the,"Jews, Niggers and Faggots". I still laugh so hard tears come to my eyes. Also I was also a vicious caller on Hot Seat Hotline!

madmonsterparty
madmonsterparty

Wally George ushered in the angry conservative talk show genre which ultimately led to the Coulters and Limbaughs we now endure. Today angry conservatives are in positions of power shutting down the government and refusing to accept responsibility for having done so. It seems personal accountability is not something angry conservatives believe in.

jose810725
jose810725

I loved wally i was lucky enough to be thrown off his podium 3 times during comments once for calling reagan a nazi. Years later he was cool enough to record a greeting for me on my machine it was great he said on my greeting that i wasn't home because i was out smoking a joint and badmouthing the government it was classic wally! I think it's criminal that kdoc taped over his shows i think it would be great to see those shows in their entirety. Rip wally=jose s. And piss off richard blade you limey fuck!

BillBancroftsStache
BillBancroftsStache

There was no "Hot Seat Hotline".  It was "Hot Seat Highlights," and there were no calls making fun of Wally's wig, etc.  I

Page 1 and it's already wildly inaccurate.  In a word: LUDICROUS!

Pantell Adam
Pantell Adam

I went to a taping of the show with my buddies from high school. I was picked to ask him a question. Rudy Krauss was his guest with the super cosmic visor. I have the footage of the whole episode on DVD. I'm trying to go to Facebook or YouTube but it's the wrong format.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

Sick of all the spanish because we're white and don't speak spanish.

Two words from him (Gus) last week, "Following Up" and still haven't seen the article or cover page about the Christian Hypocrites that he told me was a 'good idea". Because these people seemingly want to make themselves look like they're above everyone else and make them live thier lives by the Christian ways and rules, when this country was not founded on Christianity but I'm an Agnostic as even Jesus (not Haysoos) as he was reportedly supposed to have been himself back in his day. The Earth is millions of years older than +2000 years old.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"My experience with Arellano is that he starts to have communication with you with positive promises, then disappears after the first email exchange, failing to follow up - as if to say he has more important things going on than to deal with readers".

I found his book that was written by him called Ask A Mexican the other day and I was thinking to myself, that's interesting sort of, but alas we all still wish that the old publisher hadn't have been canned in exchange for him because the paper has gotten less thicker than the old version and there isn't much real news in it anymore, I've even seen complaints about it every once in awhile. I don't mean to complain much but after all it's a free publication. And since the Village Voice Media ( a gay publication) picked it up it's got more stories about the fags in it too which detracts from it's quality. I'm not gay so I could really care less about thier lifestyle.

Steve York
Steve York

Wow Richard Blade came off as mean and full of cliches. He can talk down on Wally all he wants but I doubt anyone will be talking about Richard Blade ten years after he's dead. Wally won.

VinceDaniels
VinceDaniels

The word that drove it home that best described George in this article, is Accessibility.  On the show, Wally often said to guests, "you couldn't shine his shoes."    10 years after his death, The Weekly's Gustavo Arellano still can't shine Wally's shoes when it comes to being accessible to the public.  My experience with Arellano is that he starts to have communication with you with positive promises, then disappears after the first email exchange, failing to follow up - as if to say he has more important things going on than to deal with readers.  With Wally, he always showed up.  He always returned a phone call.  Regardless of his on-air persona, that goes a long way in my memory.

gallo_negro
gallo_negro

When I was a kid, I used to watch Pro Wrestling (NWA, WCCW), then the Hot Seat.  It was perfect.

And I am curious to see a list of people who declined comment for this article.  No Rick Dees?

Frank Balcazar
Frank Balcazar

WALLY. WALLY. WALLY WALLY WALLY. WALLY. WALLY WALLYWALLY. WALLY. WALLY WALLY

Rabbi_Pedro
Rabbi_Pedro

@BillBancroftsStache - Hotseat Hotline was on every afternoon at like 3:30 or 4. 5 minute stupid commentary and then 20 minutes of high school kids calling in and making outrageous insults at him. He would hold up dayglow signs calling us Perverts, Nit Wits and my favorite insult, "You SWINE" with the sound of a pig oinking in the background! God life was good in the 80's. 

BillBancroftsStache
BillBancroftsStache

Oh dear.  Apologies, my own toupee wax fumes confused me.  Of course there was a  Hot Seat Hotline w/ calls.  But let us not forget Hot Seat Highlights!

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GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@VinceDaniels Wow, talk about having a hard-on for me. I don't even know who your are...when did you email me?

VinceDaniels
VinceDaniels

@GustavoArellano @VinceDaniels I can't remember, it was two or three years ago.l I'm sure I have a copy in my sent file.  You were once or twice a guest on The Jay Boatman Show, a radio talk show that I owned as executive producer. Jay gave me your info because I wanted you on to debate illegal immigration on my show. I emailed you and you replied by saying yes, you'd come on.    To a producer and host (of which I was both), saying "yes" means something to me.  It means that 1/6 of my show was good to go and I can move on to the other 5 half-hour segments, which I needed to have all figured out by thursday night so that I could send out my E-Blast for Saturday's show.   My next step was to continue the email exchange with you and set up the time for the segment, get your number so my engineer could call you, etc.  But you disappeared, never to be heard from after repeated attempts to get ahold of you.  No rhyme, no reason.   You got right back to me the instant I emailed you the first time on a saturday night.  Then I hung on, waited for you to get through your weekend and emailed you again on monday morning, and monday night, and tuesday morning, etc, you suddenly became disinterested, after you had made a commitment.   At least that was the only way I could take it.   Communication had broken down.  All I could do was assume.  No guest has ever blown me off like that in my 10 years of doing my show.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@VinceDanielsThat's bizarre—I never turn down radio requests. It could be that your subsequent emails were lost in the morass that is our spam system. I am not trying to make excuses; email that I never receive even after I've exchanged email with someone happens WAY too much. If you still want me on, I'm more than happy to appear—but I'm sure at this point, you wouldn't want me on, which is fine.

 
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