Amazingly enough, this "video journal of underground culture" got its start in 1991 because of a Gulf War protest. "I was working at the Fairmont [Hotel] at the time and the protests were going on down on Market Street," says Reality Check creator and executive producer Hugh “Huge” MacKenzie. "I said, "I'm going to borrow a camera and show all the mayhem that is happening.'"
After documenting the chaos, the New York native and NYU Film grad decided he wanted to air the footage on San Francisco's cable access television station. His idea for an alternative news program quickly morphed into “controlled chaos” as he and his original co-host, Moca D. Lite, realized they could showcase the weird things that happened every time they left the house. The pair aired the first episode of Reality Check on a Tuesday afternoon in September 1991. It featured the war protests, a house party, several bands, and various "shenanigans" at Murio's, the Nightbreak, and other Haight Street haunts. Masterpiece Theatre it was not.
But high art was not the intention: The show's creators merely wished to capture the wacky underbelly of San Francisco society. "We'd try to find the cockeyed humor in everything," Huge says. Classic early episodes included "See You Next Tweak," in which the duo spent all night with a bunch of furniture-arranging, paranoia-spewing freaks, and "The Show With Three Jennies," in which a friend brought home three different Jennies from three successive raves.
The program really hit its stride when Ace and Danny joined in 1993. Ace (aka Edward Annese), a Brooklyn native was a DJ and a hard rock columnist for several fanzines. One night he went to the Paradise Lounge Club for a show. "I saw this thing on the wall that said, 'If you enter the premises, you agree to be filmed for Reality Check TV.' I thought, "That's pretty ballsy for a tiny company to put that up like a big media company. I've got to meet this guy.'"
Ace suggested Huge come down and film the wild shows where Ace was a DJ. Soon, Ace became a regular fixture on Reality Check with segments devoted to local and national celebrities.
Danny, a headbanger with a love for metal and shock rock, first met Huge during a segment chronicling his roommates' Kiss "museum." Afterward, Danny ran into Huge again at the fourth annual SF Battle of the Bands, and Huge stuck him in front of the camera. With his musical knowledge, his fanboy enthusiasm, and his pronounced stutter, Danny made an unorthodox and oddly endearing interviewer.
The last piece of the puzzle was Dragon Dave (aka Dave Dragon), a movie extra from Colombia. Dave began in 1997 as one of many guest interviewers; when he wanted to become a permanent host a year later "I had to figure out what I had to give that they didn't have," Dave says. "I knew a lot of XXX stars from working at a video store where they would come in when they would feature dance. When I told [the other hosts] about it, they said, "OK!'"
Reality Check TV Trailer
Ace and Huge interview -
What is Reality Check TV?
Reality Check TV on ABC News
For some people, the American Dream is about getting a high-paying job, raising a family, and buying a house in the suburbs. None of those people will ever be featured on Reality Check TV. The show's host and editor claims it is for a particular kind of Everyman. "Reality Check is the show for the all-American guy," says D-D-Danny (aka Danny Shipman). Reality Check TV is a non stop backstage rock and roll party and you are invited!
Reality Check TV is a cable tv show and video fanzine that covers Pop Culture, Classic Film and TV Stars/Personalities, Hard and Heavy Music (Rock, Punk, Heavy Metal), performance and other artistic mediums, adult entertainment and whatever else they find interesting. It’s all done with a certain kind of reverence and enthusiasm that is genuine. It's immersive video where the viewer feels like they are on the adventure with the hosts whether it be taste-testing Burning Man specialty cocktails, interviewing metal giants like Gene Simmons, drinking whiskey with Lemmy Kilmiester or catching up with punk legends Green Day. Over time the show has highlighted the noisy, salacious, and totally bizarre, gaining fans such as Rancid's Lars Frederiksen and Metallica's Kirk Hammett along the way.
Reality Check Guest Stars
Then show grew to include it’s own ‘wack pack’ of guest reporters. Scotty ’Stoner Scotty’ Dion is the show’s 420 expert and green man about town. Ron Skullsmasher is resident crypt keeper with a penchant for the macabre and bizarre. The show also included a rotating cast of ‘Reality Chicks’ - ladies who were part of the underground scene as musicians, designers , dancers and creators. The female host with the most longevity is Yvonne Fimbers whose claim to fame is her title of the first Miss Exotic Erotic Ball winner.
By 1999, the show was really rolling. It had picked up two Cable Access Awards -- for Best Music & Variety Show and Best Rock & Roll Video Show -- and its hosts were starting to get recognized on the streets and in bars. They had interviewed such well-known rockers as Joey Ramone, Glen Danzig, and Motörhead, classic TV stars like Adam West (Batman), Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster), and Elvira, and porn stars like Marilyn Chambers, Nina Hartley, and Ron Jeremy. The cameras rolled as musician and producer Todd Rundgren added color commentary at Burning Man, and as Penthouse model and porn star Teri Weigel gave Dragon Dave a hot scoop he'll never forget (or forget to talk about).
On various episodes,you may find yourself at comic conventions, sci-fi conventions, merchandise conventions, the Exotic Erotic Ball, the Grammies, and the Vans Warped Tour. “I was trying to spur on the image of us having this never-ending party," Danny says.
Overall, Reality Check attempts to journal underground culture. "We try to be on the cutting edge, to be the first," says Ace. “At a past Wondercon Comic Convention in Oakland we interviewed Julie Newmar, Gary Berghoff (Radar from MASH), and people on Star Trek. We get local heroes like Sammy Hagar, Huey Lewis, plus had the first interviews with The Donnas, Korn, Nashville Pussy -- they have all been on the show before anyone else was doing anything about them."
Reality Check TV booth at
Haight Ashbury Street Fair
Early 1990's Promo Flyer
Along the way, Reality Check TV has amassed multiple awards such as the world famous “Best of The Bay Award”, Cable TV Awards, awards for video editing and many people’s choice awards.
Over the years Reality Check TV has amassed a huge library of video fun. RCTV has broadcast over 700+ half hour episodes, 6 one hour specials, many streaming live video specials and posted thousands of clips online. Reality Check footage has been seen on E! True Hollywood stories, on MTV, on ABC NEWS and in several award winning music documentaries.
Reality Check TV was an early adopter of video on the web. Starting by offering downloads of small Quicktime clips in 1994, the show would eventually ‘break the internet’ when they launched clips on their early Youtube channel. Even in today’s ocean of content, Reality Check still captures millions of views with a world wide base of loyal fans.
Now franchising, Reality Check TV is in Sacramento, CA starring hosts Cameraman Kev and Shell and plus their team of co-hosts.
Reality Check TV is proud to note that the show has influenced many viewers to follow their dreams. Several locally produced cable TV shows cite Reality Check TV as their inspiration. An Emmy Award winning producer credits RCTV as an early influence. A local concert promoter says he got into the business because of all the great bands he saw on Reality Check. And recently, a metal head from Texas made the move to the Bay Area because he watched RCTV on the internet.
Says Huge, "We do it for the fans, for the artists and for the community. We like to say we are 'Saving Rock n Roll one night at a time!".
What is Reality Check TV ?