Howard Stern would like you to believe that he was the innovator of the outrageous talk show format. However, New York City’s public access cable channel J ran the highly controversial talk show MIDNIGHT BLUE, from 1974 until 2003. Hosted by Al Goldstein, the outrageous publisher of SCREW, a sexually oriented weekly newspaper type magazine with a strong following in NYC, MIDNIGHT BLUE had a very long run until it ultimately was done in with money and bankruptcy problems in 2004.
MIDNIGHT BLUE managed to draw many of the same popular favorite celebrities who would tour THE HOWARD STERN SHOW in later years, including Tiny Tim, Al Lewis and Gilbert Gottfried.
And although the show was content censored and would not be totally sexually explicit, it never failed to offend and outrage many who wanted it off the air, although it had a strong following of loyal fans in the greater NYC Manhattan area. The show even introduced what was purported to be a sex movie starring Barbra Streisand. But, Barbra Streisand was a good sport about the claimed sex movie, discounting that it was not her in the film during a 1977 PLAYBOY interview. Her manager also strongly denied that it was Barbra Streisand in this film as well. But, the woman in the film does have a strong resemblance.
At one point, Time Warner had hoped to silence shows like MIDNIGHT BLUE by scrambling them. However, Al Goldstein himself testified before the U.S. Supreme Court, ultimately winning his case to keep such outlandish cable TV shows on the air for any person who cared enough to watch. Other outrageous cable TV personalities continued to battle with censorship struggles though.
One of the most notable was Jim Spagg, who ran into some censorship problems in the Atlanta area, but then moved to the Portland, Oregon area to host a number of outrageous cable TV shows that featured nudity. The former Catholic school student and U.S. Marine gained a number of fans though, however his show was interrupted for some months when he was forced to serve jail time in Georgia on obscenity charges for selling a couple of mainstream adult video tapes to an undercover cop. While Spagg’s program was mostly just nudity, which law experts argued was constitutionally protected, Spagg stepped over the line by 2003 featuring some outrageous home video of him using the toilet. Cable access officials decided that banning Spagg from the channel for use of some copyrighted material was the easiest legal way to get him off the air and avoiding a cash draining legal battle with the kooky cable TV host.
But, outrageous personalities such as Al Goldstein and Jim Spagg found out that cable TV gave them a medium to present outlandish television. But, it had to be Howard Stern that perfected that formula.
Howard Stern did improve many things beyond what Al Goldstein or Jim Spagg did. He knew how to make money for one thing. By comparison, Al Goldstein was actually broke and homeless by 2004. But, Howard Stern owes a lot of credit to raunchy cable TV pioneer All Goldstein for showing him how to do an outrageous talk show. Howard Stern simply improved on that idea, and made lots of money doing it.
Because so few folks have ever seen the MIDNIGHT BLUE show, a line of DVDs is on the market capturing some highlights of the show including the best celebrity moments. But for many years MIDNIGHT BLUE provided laughs and entertained. It had a good long run before cancellation.