"That's a Wrap!"Rappin' with Bob Baxter
(First published in Planet Magazine, 18jul1995)
"What's Next, Bob speakin!"
"This is Planet Magazine calling. We're going to do an issue about TV"
"I've heard of them."
"Nah. TVs. [Laughs]
"Always the kidder, eh Bob?"
"Sorry, guy. I open my mouth and stuff just comes out."
So began my conversation with Bob Baxter, self-styled "King
of Public Access." What's Next with Bob Baxter is probably
Arizona's most notorious public access cable show. Though his
shows are now more likely to feature motorcycles and hot rods, it
wasn't long ago that they routinely featured lingerie, tattoos,
and naked women. Sometimes all three together. When you tuned in
to Bob's show, you could be pretty sure you'd see something goofy.
Asked to describe the show, Baxter says, "What you see is what you getI'm me. I don't know if that comes across, but that's actually how I am."
Baxter came to Arizona from New York by way of Houston, and
has been here about ten years. For about half that time he's been
producing his TV show.
"I'd always been wanting to be on television, be in the
movies, kind of...act," he says, "ever sincegee, probably since
I was a kid, since the first time I saw television. I kind of let
life pass me by. I lived a biker lifestyle for so many years, it
just didn't fit in." The idea to do his own show came to Bob the
same way it has to many other cable show producers. "One day I
was scanning the channels and I saw this show, and it mentioned
to call this number if you're interested, I did, and buh-buh-buh-
booom, the rest is history."
"History" may be stretching it, but Baxter does rank as
something of an underground Phoenix celebrity, and is constantly
recognized in public. Sometimes for fun he'll pretend he's not
Bob Baxter; sometimes he'll claim to have used a body double
during his body piercing show, when he had one of his nipples
pierced. "You can see the wind go out of their sails," he says.
"'Cos to some peopleI don't mean to sound braggadociousbut to
some people, I'm kinda their hero, like." Usually he'll open his
shirt to show them that they've been nailedand so has his
nipple. "I'm a kidder, guy! I'm a kidder!" he says. It's one of
his favorite lines.
The response to What's Next with Bob Baxter has been
much stronger than that typically garnered by public access
shows, most of which are lucky to get even a handful of phone
calls or postcards. Baxter receives calls in response to every
show, especially those that are more "risque," as he terms it. He
claims his first lingerie fashion show, which aired several
times, generated 300-400 phone calls.
However, Baxter's "risque" shows are "fewer and fewer now,"
he says, "because of the new `no nudity' law that's in effect
since August of '94." Dimension Cable (now Cox Cable), mainly in
response to What's Next and a growing number of shows
promoting "family nudism," requested that the city change their
operating contract to allow them to refuse to broadcast shows
containing nudity. The city approved their request and the ban on
nudity took effect thirty days later.
Baxter didn't hear about the decision until well into the
thirty days, but before the ban went into effect he had just
enough time to shoot and broadcasttwicehis final hurrah: a
startlingly graphic show shot live at the Miss Nude America
contest in Southern California. If you happened to witness this
episode, you probably still can't believe it was actually
"I had it planned [already]," Baxter says, "but I wasn't
sure in my mind how much I was going to show." The impending ban
decided the question for him. "I had it figured out that I could
get there, shoot the show, edit the show, and air it once or
twice [before the ban]. I figured, I came in with a bang, I'm
going out with a bang." So to speak.
Baxter, a neurosurgeon by day (actually, a landscape
electrician"I'm a kidder, guy! I'm a kidder!"), downplays the
T&A angle. If you want to make him happy, compliment something
other than the pretty girls. "Hell, you can do a show with
T&A and they'll like your show, too," he says.
Besides the T&A, one thing everyone remembers about
What's Next is Baxter's habit of closing every segment
with the tag line "That's a wrap," and pointing the microphone
back towards the camera. That bit of business originated in
Baxter's first show, presumably as a way of indicating where to
cut scenes during editing. His cameraman thought it was funny and
convinced Baxter to leave the line in. "So I just continued doing
it," he says, and it quickly became something of a trademark. "I
guess it is, because a lot of people I see [say], `Hey Bob
that's a wrap!'"
Ever since that first lingerie show (which Baxter says
prompted Insight Cable to shut down their studio for five
months), he has used his own video equipment to tape his show.
Recently he received a donation from Oscar, a local bike shop
owner, to buy some new video equipment. Baxter prefers shooting
on location, and likes being independent of the cable company's
equipment and studios. In fact, it's been rumored that Baxter
isn't even a cable television subscriber. "That was true,"
he admits, somewhat sheepishly. "I just recently got it."
Since the nudity ban, the content of What's Next With Bob
Baxter has leaned heavily on motorcycles, a circumstance that
may be losing Baxter some viewers. Friends of mine, when they
heard I was going to interview Bob Baxter, would say, "Ask him if
he has any shows planned that aren't about motorcyles!"
"That's a fair question, and I have to say I do get asked
[that] often," Baxter admits. "I can appreciate that kind of
remark. I know that bikes aren't for everybody. It's just that
I'm thirty-some years into bikin'I've done it for so long and
it's such a big part of me that every time I turn around and
wanna do something else, there's another event that somebody
would like for me to shoot. And most of the bike events I do are
either fundraisers, or something for charity, benefits of some
sort, you know? So it's hard for me to say no."
Which brings us to the obvious Bob Baxter question: What's
next? Baxter says he has in mind a few different show ideas, such
as a comedy showcase and something he refers to as "a not nude
but lewdshow." ("No hints about that one," he says.)
Asked for a final comment, Baxter supplies, without a
moment's thought, just the closing I was looking for:
"That's a wrap!"
© Deuce of Clubs