Despite having appeared in nearly every LEO over the past 19 years, not one person in our office had ever met or spoken with the mysterious authors of The Video TapeWorm, David B. King and Bill Raker. Four months into my job as managing editor and the TapeWorm remained a cheesy enigma. I had to meet them.
What follows is a portion of the transcript of our eventual meeting, an afternoon that reminded all of us around the office just how weird and wonderful life in Louisville can be. While I can understand if you choose not to believe it all, I can testify that it happened (almost) exactly as printed.
Laura: “Meeting. December 1, 2014, 1pm.” With me is LEO Executive Editor, Aaron Yarmuth. We are awaiting Video TapeWorm authors, Dave and Bill. Aaron, are you sure you haven’t met these two before?
Aaron: Not that I remember, but 19 years would put them back in the earliest days of LEO. I was just a kid. Joe Grove was the editor, and my dad [LEO founder John Yarmuth] was often in the office. Are they a syndicate?
Laura: They must be. It’s obviously a professional piece, and who else would write this every week for what we pay? Here they come…
(Two men enter, the first clean-shaven, business-casual, looking like a salesman. He introduces himself formally as David B. King.
Bill Raker ambles behind as if lost, unsmiling, an unremarkable scarecrow of a man in jeans and a t-shirt; shoulder-length dark hair stuffed under a worn ball cap.)
Dave: Hello, thanks for inviting us down.
Bill: Hey, Aaron (stretching a long arm across the table), Last time I saw you were just learning to masturbate.
Aaron: Hi. Oh, yeah, uh, I think I’ve got the hang of it now …
Bill: I hear ya.
Laura: Please, have a seat.
Bill: Bored. Do I smell Funyuns? (Rises from his chair and heads down a hall.)
Laura: Well! Mister Raker seems to be leaving us …
Dave: Actually, the correct term is Dr. Raker, but don’t ever call him that.
Aaron and Laura: He’s a doctor?!
Dave: Yes. Advanced degrees in engineering, math and some kind of computer/robot stuff. Asocial, but a good guy, harmless.
Laura: Why don’t you start from the beginning? Tell us about Dave and Bill.
Dave: Back about ‘95, I was in Suncoast Video when I heard two men having an animated discussion about the new Star Wars Trilogy VHS Box Set. One was Bill, the other worked behind the counter, Dave Conover. They were clearly vid-nuts like myself, so I joined in, as did several other shoppers. This pattern repeated itself every Tuesday (when new tapes came out), and the crowd we attracted just kept growing.
Dave, it turned out, was a writer whose knowledge of movie lore and cultural history was second to none. And Bill was a surprisingly knowledgeable guy who also dabbled in writing. I jokingly suggested that we join forces and write a “zine”, which was all the rage back then. Within a week we had the first edition of “The Sinister Urge” on the rack at Hawley-Cooke, written and self-published by the three of us.
Laura: The Sinister … Urge?
Dave: Sleazy huh? That’s the title of an old Ed Wood Jr. film about the porno business, and if you remember, ‘95 was the same year that the Johnny Depp movie, ‘Ed Wood,’ came out, so it was very timely. (After some commotion down the hall, Bill enters the room again.)
Bill: Man, you guys guard your Funyuns with your life! I had to reprogram that vending machine. Will probably pick up NPR now.
Aaron: How about I find you some coffee?
Bill: That’d be great. I got beans in my pocket. (They leave.)
Laura: So you were producing a … zine?
Dave: Yes. It had articles about Dave’s trip to Comic-Con, movie news and a weekly calendar of the best movies to catch on the then-new cable-TV schedule, as well as VHS releases. We sold a few copies each week, gave away a lot more, and had some fun. Then we got a boost.
Back then the C-J ran Vince Staten’s video/TV column in the Saturday Scene. Everyone loved Vince, but what most people didn’t know was that he also had a syndicated column in the New York Times. He liked the Urge so much that he kindly gave us a plug – and we suddenly found ourselves selling it by mail to vid-junkies all around the country. This turned into a lot of hard work, but it didn’t make any money until Aaron hit Bill with a golf ball.
Laura: What? …
Dave: Didn’t Aaron tell you? He met Bill back then. When he lived at Valhalla.
Laura: Aaron didn’t live at …
Dave: No, no, Bill lived at Valhalla. In a tree house. That’s where he was when Aaron and his dad …
Laura: Wait a minute! Bill lived in a tree on a golf course …
(Aaron and Bill come back into the room laughing.)
Aaron: I DO know this guy! I had completely forgotten about it. Dad and I were on the 12th when I shanked a drive left into the trees. Next thing I know this guy falls out of a sycamore holding his crotch! We had to call an ambulance!
Laura: You are kidding, right?
Aaron: No! I swear it!
Dave: That was quite a place he had up there: three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bath, fireplaces, Jacuzzi. It was hidden about 20 feet up on the left-hand side of the fairway with a nice view of the lake.How’d you swing that crib anyway?
Bill: One piece at a time. The course didn’t know I was there, and golfers never see anything except their balls, so ..
Laura: Stop, stop, stop! I don’t believe any of this!
Aaron: Do you hear the theme song to “All Things Considered”? Where’s that coming from?
Laura: You were telling me about your zine?
Dave: Was I? Let’s see, we were selling it by mail … Bill fell out of the tree … Oh, yeah: While John and Bill were waiting on the ambulance, Bill told him about the Sinister Urge and, to make a long story short …
Laura: Too late.
Dave: … John asked him of we’d like to write a column for LEO.
Laura: So that’s when the Video TapeWorm started?
Dave: Almost. Dave Conover and I didn’t know anything about their meeting. Bill thought he’d surprise us. He wrote a dozen more reviews, each worse than the previous, none of them making any sense. But the editor Joe Grove dubbed it “TV Weak,” and Bill had him give it the byline “Dave Conover and Bill Raker,” which kind of upset Dave — I mean, here was his name on something he hadn’t written.
Laura: That’s not ethical, publishing a piece with someone else’s byline.
Dave: We’re talking LEO! Prostitution ads kept the lights on. And Bill, being something of a sociopath …
Laura: Is Bill “all right”? He seems …
Dave (laughing): Bill is just Bill. Dave Conover went on to publish a book called “War Eagles,” about Merian C. Cooper’s planned followup to “King Kong.” Dave’s book is terrific. I was the business guy and did most of the typing.And Bill was our good luck charm. He can write OK and can build anything that his mind dreams up, but his real talent is as a ‘strange attractor.’
Bill (his voice echoing from down the hall): That’s not what that means.
Dave (laughing): He hates it when I say that. ‘Strange attractor’ is apparently some engineering term, but the oddest things happen when he’s around. But his best talent back then was being in the right place at the right time …