The Filth and the Fury

Never mind the FCC, here's Ghetto Cowgirl

No one has ever accused Marc Norman of being a bad-ass. Maybe of being a dead ringer for Peter Brady or Donny Osmond, but never of acting like the kind of rock 'n' roll animal that would throw fear into the hearts of standards-wary TV producers.

But the curly coifed singer and Ghetto Cowgirl front man more than earned his punk-rock stripes last week with a brilliantly chaotic appearance on KTVK Channel 3's NewShow. Members of the group (Norman and guitarists Thomas Laufenberg and Phil Beach) were on hand promoting their appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe's "Hometown Band Search."

The incident began when Channel 3's resident piece of eye candy, Claudia DiFolco, held up a copy of the band's debut album, Excuses for Losers, with her hand obscuring the cover photo which depicts a dolled-up cowgirl giving the camera the "finger."

Bird is the word: Norman and company get naughty on the NewShow.
Bird is the word: Norman and company get naughty on the NewShow.
Cool taste, fresh breath: Supermint plays Boston's on Saturday.
Cool taste, fresh breath: Supermint plays Boston's on Saturday.

DiFolco sought to explain away the situation by jokingly asking Norman, "She's giving the peace sign, right?" At which point, Norman, wide-eyed and apparently oblivious to the fact that he was not on HBO, gave his own very pronounced version of the single-finger salute to the mass viewing audience.

As far as sheer entertainment value goes, we can't stress just how funny the image of a panicked DiFolco -- breathless gasps and all -- knocking down Norman's hand like an angry schoolmarm was (trust us, we've watched the tape enough times to know).

After a brief and uneasy exchange, the band launched into a song before the feed was sent back to the studio and to a sufficiently bemused Liz Habib commenting, "Guess we're living on the edge tonight." (These oh-we're-so-shocked platitudes continued for much of the program, with NewShow talking heads wringing their hands about the "out of control rock 'n' rollers.")

But the incident didn't end there. Norman claims that after the cameras were off, DiFolco chastised him with a litany of "That was not cool" reprimands. For her part, DiFolco says she was not personally offended by the gesture, but that her concern "was for the children that might be watching at that time." A valid point in theory, but it's also safe to assume that anyone over the age of 6 already knows what the middle finger means.

Afterward, Norman says he abruptly left the set when it was made clear that the band was done for the evening -- even though the original plan called for them to stay on for a later wrap-up segment.

Apparently, the producers had not counted on Norman actually departing and were left scrambling when cameras panned back to a lonely DiFolco, seated by herself and looking quite naked (not literally, you fiends), introducing a taped piece.

Beach and Laufenberg, still in the building packing gear, were reportedly asked to play out a shtick where they would get on their knees and beg DiFolco's forgiveness for their on-air transgression, an idea to which Beach replied with a belly laugh and a hearty, "No fucking way!" The pair were whisked back on-camera briefly, where they offered up a couple of guilty grins and little else before the program signed off for the night.

It would be easy to point to the inherent hypocrisy in a program (and a section of the show in particular) that specializes in what some might deem as tawdry subject matter -- one recent DiFolco remote at a Tempe shoe store was a soft-core-porn bonanza for foot fetishists -- yet turns pious at a relatively inane and juvenile exhibition like Norman's.

Not to mention that an unedited version of the segment aired all night on KTVK-3's cable news channel. "That's what I couldn't understand," says Norman. "They showed it all night long uncut. Every hour on the hour, it's like, 'Hey, look, there I am flipping off Phoenix -- again.'"

But enough soapboxing about censorship; the issue of greater importance (to us, anyway) is the cult of personality that has sprung up around the coquettish DiFolco.

Her live-music remotes, running regularly for most of the year, have been a relatively significant development for the local scene. Admittedly, Valley bands haven't been afforded such frequent opportunities for mass-broadcast exposure in years, if ever. Still, that doesn't excuse DiFolco for introducing acts straight-faced with frighteningly trite descriptions like, "Are you ready for some raw whiskey vocals?"

Of greater concern is that the show has largely chosen to focus on a number of marginal local acts, passing them off as representative of the city's general talent pool -- a disservice by any measure.

Still, there seems to be a legitimate and interesting story buried in DiFolco and the NewShow music morass, and our intrepid staff is already on the case. Look for the results of columnist Brian Smith's night out with DiFolco and crew in an upcoming edition of New Times.

Pub Rock: The local Latin scene gets a much-needed boost next month with the return of Equilibrio. The weekly club night, once a staple at Toolies, will be making its new home at the Big Fish Pub in Tempe.

Billing itself as "Equilibrio II: An evening of Latin alternative live and DJ music," the showcase is set to become a regular Tuesday-night happening in the East Valley.

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