Midway through mixing a Loaded Sherbet, J veered into unexpected territory. Inspired by the colorful nature of the drink, he observed that our show itself was not so colorful. In fact, he noted, every single person in the first forty-odd episodes of ROX was white; the first person of color had only appeared a few weeks before — our neighbor Chance happened by during the taping of “The Eternal Return.”
We weren't proud of this fact. In fact, we were hardly aware of it. When the thought occurred to J, he observed that our society itself is divided along racial lines, and ROX merely reflected this. But why is society still so segregated, even after all these years? J invited viewers to write in with any notions they might have.
When I edited this segment of the TV show, I thought it would be a natural to show what J was talking about. When he mentioned the first appearance of an African-American on our program, I cut in a clip of that appearance. Perhaps I went too far when I added a caption: “Look, an African-American!” I was trying to poke fun at how white the show was.
It turns out that Michael White, our station director, knew Chance by some chance. Bloomington is a small town, after all. Michael mentioned the appearance to Chance in passing, before the show aired. It was the first Chance had heard of it.
To make a long story short, Chance asked to see the show, I showed it to him, and he didn't like it. I think his exact words were: “No way!”
Ever accommodating, I replaced the brief cutaway shot of Chance with a graphic that said, simply, “Your basic white bread TV show?” I was able to make the revision before the show actually aired, so the viewing public never saw Chance's face in ROX #46.
I don't blame Chance for his reaction. Racial politics is a touchy subject in these United States. In retrospect, I'm amazed at my own naÃ¯vetÃ©, but that was entirely characteristic of our approach in those days.