Talk shows in the ’80s and early ’90s were obsessed with sussing out the latest subculture and parading it on display for the entire world to gawk at. Whether goth, punk, club kid or something in between, shows like Phil Donahue, Maury Povitch and Ricki Lake steadily trotted out what they considered “freaks.” Take this clip of a crew of (actually very notable) punk rockers who appeared on “The Morning Show” with Regis and Kathie Lee in 1986. Among them was Raymond “Raybeez” Barbieri, founding member of the Lower East Side punk band Warzone, and Todd Youth, of the band Murphy’s Law (who later played with Danzing). These guys are so cute, but Kathie Lee is terrified.
Every generation has its own version of rebellion — so when club kids came around a decade later, flaunting looks and music that was the diametric opposite of punk, nobody should have been surprised. But talk show pundits ate that up. Just like they did a few years later when Marilyn Manson’s brand of manufactured goth horror came into its own.
Looking back at those kids, and those shows now, they seem delightfully tame. Check out a small collection of some of the best moments of punk rock, parental outrage, club kid mayhem and Manson fanaticism ever captured on the talk show circuit.
Where it all began: punk kids on the “Phil Donahue Show” in 1984, go head to head with audience members and a group called Parents of Punkers. Journalist Charles Young explains that most punk kids are actually not the drug-doing, nuisance-creating ne’er-do-wells they’re often made out to be. Everybody in the audience seems really preoccupied with how violent they think punk rock shows are and how weird everyone dresses, naturally.
Another clip on the scourge of New York hardcore music from an early “Donahue” episode. This one features journalist Peter Blauner, who wrote a rather incendiary article on the punk scene at the time, and a crowd full of Murphy’s Law fans.
Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics on a 1984 “Sally Jessy Raphael” episode. It seems like Wendy and Sally could have totally been friends. They’re kind of talking about feminism in rock music. LOVE IT.
You can tell local teacher and “Teen Talk” host Joe Feinstein is actually kind of into punk. If not into the music, he’s super into being “down with the kids.” Also, this is group of punk fans is perhaps the least punk looking crew we’ve ever seen.
The punk rock threat spread, and one LA-area talk show host devoted a huge segment of her show to discussing the hardcore band Black Flag. Or has she puts it, “There’s been a great deal of violence associated with The Black Flag.”
“Twin Cities Live” tackled the growing punk epidemic with their very own show, too. Host Gene Rump (amazing) starts things off by saying that “this is going to be a learning experience.” Uh huh. Gene Rump is really fascinated by one guest’s liberty spikes. Geez Gene, you just need some toothpaste or some glue, okay?
Just two years after Regis and Kathie Lee were mystified by their punk rock roundtable, the pair hosted the NYC punk band The Ramones on their show like it was no big deal. The times, they are a-changin’.
The Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra (in a suit and tie!) goes head to head with Tipper Gore and the PMRC. Remember when Tipper Gore and censorship was a thing?
After the punk thing died down, there was the “OMG IS MY KID TURNING INTO MARILYN MANSON” craze. This is Alan, who won the hearts of supposedly dozens of little goth girls thanks to his appearance on “Ricki Lake.”
Speak of the devil, here’s Marilyn Manson on “Donahue.” Sheesh, Donahue really seems to have a boner for going after scary subcultures, doesn’t he?
Did you ever think you’d see Joan Rivers interview Richie Rich and Amanda Lepore? Me either. In this 1993 “Joan Rivers Show” episode, she takes on the club kid trend.
Phil Donahue was also smitten with Club Kid culture. Here’s his 1993 episode devoted to it. Here you’ll see Richie Rich alongside soon-to-be-convicted murderer Michael Alig.
Here’s RuPaul before she was RuPaul, on a “Geraldo” episode about club kids! Always and forever, RuPaul.