But then I got a phone call.
"Jules," blurted my housemate Joe, with uncharacteristic apprehension. "I have some good bad news for you."
Joe got suckered into adding television to our cable internet: "It came free with our plan."
Now, after three months of plumbing the depths of basic cable television, I have experienced an epiphany. I have eschewed my pseudo-intellectual snobbery of yore; clearly, it was preventing me from experiencing one of Portland's pop culture gems: The Sista Social Show.
Because Portland Cable Access (PCA), our local purveyor of public access, makes it possible for ANYONE to have a television show, it is rife with fascinating programming. However, Sista Social's enthusiastic approach to hosting a talk show is unfathomably charming, and transcends almost every other show I've seen on PCA. The show's tagline says it all: she "interviews interesting people you know with full attitude intact and yes, we're gonna go there!"
That statement couldn't be more accurate. Sista Social combines what can only be described as a hurricane of sass, with a dedication to interviewing important members of the community. And she has one of the most amazing fashion aesthetics in Portland. (The reason I watched the show in the first place: flipping through channels, I saw a blonde-wigged woman wearing hot pink spandex, hot pink stiletto heels, a giant blue scarf, and a turquoise blazer: my favorite colors!!!!!) She's comfortable enough in her own skin to pull off her unusual ensembles: bows in her hair, bike pants, an incredible proliferation of jewelry and always, always, high-heeled sandals with cotton socks.
Sista Social's delivery is both irreverent and vehement. She listens to her guests intently, yet her quizzical enthusiasm is imbued with a sense of waiting waiting to jump in with a witty quip. Often speaking of herself in third person, Sista's energy, overemphasized facial expressions, and fashion sense are such that she could recite the bible and it'd be hilarious. It's a comedic gift that must be seen to be believed--a weird magic that comes to life under the bright lights of the set.
As promised, Sista Social really does feature interesting people on her show; past guests have included stunt men, local bands, and social workers.
She explains, "Mostly, I interview people I know, or who I've come into association with I have a really diverse show. Then, there are fans who write me--two bands, in fact, emailed wanting to be on my show. The last show was the group Menomena. They came on and performed and I was blown away cause they wrote me a theme song! I have my own personal theme song!"
She begins to sing: "'Sista Social will you go there yes you will Sista Social!' They told me they were so inspired by me, they'd written me this song, and they hoped I liked it! They wrote me a theme song!"
Usually, her guests are straightforward and earnest, allowing Sista Social's sassy panache to flourish and play off them, making it less a talk show than a very heartfelt improv comedy hour.
"What makes it so funny is that I get serious people on the show, who are paired up with this wacky woman on the other side," she says.
"We did one show where the theme was 'Christmas in the Caribbean'; my assistant manager decorated the set with tiki torches and we played disco, and I had the Christmas bear with me, and we had some presents, and a little palm tree, and it was Christmas in the Caribbean! We also had a Peruvian singer and her band! It was cool; I got my drink, and I was all, 'It's like bein' in the tropics!' Sista Social is known for liking her liqueur, as you can see."
Sista Social grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana--"I like to refer to it as the bayou, but it's swampland"--and, with a background in theater, she's always had a flair for the dramatic.
"I was into doing acting in L.A.," Sista says. "I remember my mama saying, 'Girl, you're so dramatic, you should be up on the stage.' When I told my mom about the show, I went to visit her one Christmas and brought a tape. She looked at it and goes, 'Lord have mercy, my daughter done lost her mind!' She thinks it's so crazy."
But she's always been an individual. "You never know if you're gonna be here today or tomorrow," she explains, "So don't worry what people think! My grandma used to say, 'When people got to talk about ya, that's usually cause they're jealous, cause they wish they had what you have.' And I've come to find out that's true! Be yourself; it's true for life. Don't try to be nobody you ain't supposed to be; don't emulate anybody else, cause that's gonna be your downfall."
This translates into her show and if she ever goes nationwide, there's a certain famous talk-show host she definitely won't be imitating.
"Quite a few people have told me I should take it nationally," says Sista. "One guy the other day told me, 'It's time for you to replace Oprah!' I've given it some serious thought, so it's just a matter of trying to figure out who to send it to. 'Cause with most of the people in L.A., you have to know somebody. While I'm well-known up here, it's a matter of getting it out there. But it's in my mind to do that. I think it'd be fun. Lord, have mercy!"
The Sista Social Show is on Portland Cable Access Wednesday 7:30 pm, Friday 6 pm, and Saturday 5 pm. Visit pcatv.org for more info.