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The Last Dance For Les "Boogie" Michaels PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Saturday, 06 September 2008 22:01


September 6, 2008  - Gene Autry was, at one time, a superstar. The singing cowboy created a Christmas classic with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and he was at one point as big a star, if not bigger, than John Wayne.

At the dawn of the 1980s, Autry's days as a singing cowboy were history and he had created an impressive studio operation in California and had aspirations to challenge HBO. His idea? Vue.

Remember, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, cable television seemed to take forever to reach most neighborhoods. Even with cable, the channel selection consisted of 16 channels. This wide array of entertainment consisted of local channels, WTBS, ESPN, USA, and pay channels HBO and Showtime. CNN was not around yet - nor was MTV.

Autry's idea was to launch a hybrid channel - a local UHF station that during the day would air his old movies and an afternoon filled with news, sports and weather. At night, the channel would scramble and convert to Vue, a movie channel one could subscribe to for $22.50 a month.

KAUT went on the air in October, 1980. The news aired from noon through 7 p.m. with a crew consisting of Ralph Combes, Linda Farrel, Ken Hansen, Gene Moore and Bob Barry Jr. Each afternoon, the show would feature a trip to destinations like Will Rogers World Airport and the police training center.

The news programming wasn't intended to be a moneymaker. The FCC rules required that once a license is issued and a channel was assigned, it had to be used. Veu was to be the mother lode at night.

The extended local television news coverage, the most ever attempted in the history of Oklahoma City, and not tried since, didn't last long. I recall watching it from time to time - for some odd reason a feature on a new Factory Outlet Mall of America opening at Northwest Expressway and Council Road caught my attention and remains my one memory of watching the newscast.

But Autry wasn't quite ready to abandon local programming quite yet. Les "Boogie" Michaels was a popular FM radio DJ who was chosen to launch a live "TMC 43" (Top Music Channel 43) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.


When Michaels' show launched in January, 1982, MTV was a four-month-old start-up that only aired on Multimedia Cablevision, a system that served portions of Oklahoma City's suburbs but not the city itself, which was served by Cox Cable.

The format wasn't too different from dance shows that had dominated afternoon television some 30 years earlier (think "American Bandstand"). Michaels would discuss the latest music, interview teenage guests, and let the young dancers show off their moves.

But Michaels also had something new - music videos - and this was my very first introduction to the likes of "Abracadbra" by the Steve Miller Band. The song was great and the video was, for its time, stunning.

On the first day, only 12 dancers showed up - far too few to make for a good dance show. But by the end of the week, the count was up to 117. The following Friday, more than 300 kids were dancing in two large rooms. Suddenly producers found themselves with too many dancers. They started issuing tickets - 30 a day that would require recipients to bring a date for their afternoon on TMC 43.

Viewers were treated to multiple angles thanks to one camera that was mounted on a dolly that wheeled around with smooth motion. It could be elevated to a height of eight feet or lowered to eye level. A second camera was carried by a photographer on his shoulder. He could climb a 13-foot ladder for an overhead shot or lie on the floor for shots of won out shoes shuffling to the beat. Music played from three large speakers positioned 12 feet off the floor.

Fortunes for this hybrid were already looking down by May, 1982, as Cox Communications began to speed up its connections to the city's neighborhoods. The system had 44,000 subscribers, while 18,000 were paying for Veu.

The pay channel had yet to hit break-even.With kids returning to school in late August, 1982, KAUT announced TMC 43 was to cease production. Ironically, several mothers showed up and picketed the station's offices at 11901 N Eastern Avenue.

Carolyn Pierce, a spokeswoman for the picketing women, complained cancellation of the show would leave many teens on a limited income with nothing to do. She noted an estimated 12,000 teens had danced on the show during its eight-month run.

"If the show goes off the air, there would be nothing for our teen-agers to do and the rating system it stinks. We can't see one family setting the viewing trends for the approximately 240,000 families who watch KAUT," Pierce told reporters.

Richard Alvis, Channel 43's talent coordinator, also questioned the firm's reasons for canceling the show. He noted the show played everything from Adam and Ants to Gary U.S. Bonds, from new wave to disco.

"That's just ridiculous," Alvis said. "The show gets over 200 letters every day. One 50-year-old lady wrote and said she watches the show and that her parents even watch the show. Those people over on the West Coast don't sit here all day and answer the phones. They have no idea about the number of people who are concerned about the show. Besides, summer is not a good rating period anyway."

Golden West Broadcasting then made a promise to the mothers - they would bring the show back the next summer. It was a promise they never kept. The next month the plug was pulled on Vue, and KAUT morphed into just another UHF channel.About 250 teens, mostly ages 12 to 16, joined the final show.

Girls, tears in their eyes, hugged each other and cried. A few teens wore black arm bands. Others wore expensive tuxedos with shinny black bow-ties. Michaels read letters from viewers who couldn't make the final show.One girl wrote she felt "a heavy sigh and a soft boo-hoo."

As the last few minutes were ticked away for TMC-43, a few people began running around with balloons. Final thoughts were shared, and Michaels then took the microphone. He told the teens he loved all of them - he reminded them "it's a wonderful world" - and then concluded "Thank you, Oklahoma City."

DO YOU HAVE PHOTOS OR MEMORIES OF TMC 43? LET US KNOW! BECOME A MEMBER OF OKC HISTORY SIMPLY BY LOGGING IN WITH YOUR EMAIL, OR CONTACT US AT This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

- 43 Battles an Image Problem, The Daily Oklahoman, May 31, 1981

- Tuning In: TMC Means Dancin' Fever, The Daily Oklahoman, February 28, 1982

- Pay TV Market in City Slackens But Still Viable, by Linda Miller, The Daily Oklahoman, May 2, 1982.

- Alarmed Mothers Waltz to TV Bandstand' Rescue, Sort Of, by Pat Record, The Daily Oklahoman, September 8, 1982

- TMC Dances Into the Sunset, by Joe Angus, The Daily Oklahoman, September 19, 1982


Last Updated on Thursday, 03 February 2011 03:32