I’d award him an Internet, but I have a feeling he already has one.

Sigh. So here it is, the next-to-last evening of my vacation (where have you gone, two blissful weeks, except the bit in bed with the sinus infection, which was still pretty good owing to the Life marathon on Discovery?) and Shoesis, aka the Small Blonde Packing Nazi, has decided to get a two-week jump on relocating.

See, this is a two-bedroom apt, so when I move out, she moves into my room, and Shoemom (who’s been in the living room) into hers. Which only partially explains why I’m sitting here in the living room hemmed in by my furniture and Shoemom’s — including a disassembled queen-size bed — plus two confused cats, while Sis paints up a storm in my ex-place. After which, she and Shoemom assure me, they plan to continue with the musical rooms, the upshot of which should involve me having a place to sleep tonight. Should.

In the event, I figured this would be as good a time as any to make a completely random post. Actually, not quite random — there’s at least a tangential connexion for most of my f-list, and I’m kinda wondering how far it’s spread there. Doctor Who fandom seems to take in the most extraordinary things, I would assume there’s a niche somewhere for this one.

I refer, of course, to what Wiki calls the Max Headroom Broadcast Intrusion Incident… and what the rest of the Net calls The Time That Dude in the Rubber Mask Took Over Chicago, and, Like, Dude.

[ahem] The facts. It’s unlikely Max Headroom has crossed your mind recently, so you might want to have a refresher. For those of you who hate links: mid-80’s C64 graphics. Matt Frewer. New Coke. Right… sorry about that.

OK. So it’s November 1987 in the Windy City, and Max is at his c-c-c-celebrity peak, because they’ve just cancelled his TV show. Not that anybody connected with WGN’s nine o’clock sportscast cares about that — until, right in the midst of the Bears hilights, the picture is replaced by a guy in a rubber Max mask against a corrugated-metal version of his backdrop. He’s waving his hands in the air. No audio, just thirty seconds of silent boogying until the WGN engineers clue in and switch feeds.

Two hours later, PBS station WTTW is showing the Four-era Who ep Horror of Fang Rock… and, uh? Station break? Didn’t realise this was pledge we– AHHHHHHHHH WHAT THE HELL ?!?!

Yep, rubber-mask Max is back, and this time he’s feeling chatty. Since WTTW’s engineers either weren’t as quick or as capable (reports vary), you can catch his entire ninety-second manifesto here. Mildly NSFW. Basically he natters on for awhile like your college roommate at the end of the party, tossing Pepsi cans around and humming the Clutch Cargo theme; then he drops trou and gets spanked with a flyswatter by an accomplice in a dress. And then, the Who ep resumes with the Doctor intoning As far as I can tell, a massive electric shock, he died instantly!

For one of the very, very few times in television history — and the last to this day — somebody had hijacked a major station broadcast. Two of ’em. In one night. Hey, legends have been based on less… well, I can’t think of any offhand, but there have to be some.

As you’d expect, Chicago media and the FCC weren’t feeling much like handing out laurels. Rubber-mask Max faced a $100K fine and a year or so in jail, if caught.

But he never was. In what is possibly the craziest, creepiest detail of the whole crazy, creepy mess, no trace of him or his accomplices was ever found. Not even a boast among the hacker undeground.

The combination of serious tech know-how and daring in the execution — details are sketchy, owing to copycat discouragement, but the necessary equipment would’ve cost thousands and was probably mounted on a nearby skyscraper rooftop — and goofiness in the message, gave the whole a surreal fascination that persists to this day. Who the hell pulls off the hacker coup of a lifetime in order to rag on Chuck Swirsky?

Maybe RM-Max was actually a disgruntled fan, runs one theory I rather like. If you’ll recall, the real show was about a dystopian future in which commercial TV was the All-Powerful and the resistance had to spread the word by… hit-and-run signal hacking. Hmmmmm.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: bobquasit
  2. Trackback: Shoebox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: