Saturday, June 11, 2011
Hot Seat was a syndicated, politically-oriented, though often satirical and comedic television talk-show that began in the early 1980s, hosted by conservative commentator Wally George. It was shot in the studios of KDOC, a UHF television station licensed to (and, at the time, having their studios in) Anaheim, California.
George hosted the show sitting behind a desk and wearing a red, white, and blue necktie, and his completely white hair in a curious comb over. Behind him was a photo of a space shuttle launching with the caption that read, "USA Is #1."
Originally only seen locally, the show gained national attention in 1983 when a self-proclaimed pacifist named Blase Bonpane, who was discussing his opposition of the U.S. invasion of Grenada, suddenly erupted in anger over George's taunts, flipped over the host's desk and stormed off the show. A clip of the altercation aired on national news programs, and attracted attention from program directors at TV stations nationwide, leading to syndication.
George engaged guests whom he called "ludicrous liberal lunatics" and "fascist fanatics," including 1960s drug guru Dr. Timothy Leary and Tom Metzger, a white supremacist leader who was a particular target of George's ire. In many ways, Hot Seat inspired and was the precursor of other similar shows hosted by Morton Downey, Jr. and Jerry Springer. Downey actually appeared on Hot Seat on one occasion; he and George traded barbs numerous times over items ranging from who was a true conservative to the nature of the audience before Downey was tackled by "police".
At the height of its popularity in the mid- and late-1980s, fans of the show would wait for several hours to get a choice spot among the studio's 80 audience seats, where they waved U.S. flags and chanted, "Wal-ly! Wal-ly!" on cue. This ever increasing circus atmosphere became an integral part of the show's appeal; for instance, when Wally yelled "9-9-9", the fans in the studio would holler back "FIVE THOUSAND!" (a reference to the show's ticket line, 999-5000). Fans would often cheer Wally on and boo his guests, as if they were at a sporting event