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This Public-Access Clown Wants a Home

Utah's Cockyboo is searching for the right big top to hold his children's show.

The clown called Cockyboo is really a man named Job Matusow, who tapes his sketches in a tiny studio in Glenwood, Utah, edits them, prints copies and sends them out to public-access television channels in 70 cities across the U.S.

Now, he wants a cable system or network to adopt his show to help get the word out further and provide him with a steady paycheck.

In a move reminiscent of his self-taught magic tricks, Matusow has converted his one-man show into a full-fledged television circus by combining it with child entertainment acts from 40 public-access channels. There are the Wright Brothers, comic magicians a la the Marx Brothers who come from Maine; the Silicon Kids, out of California; the Rudy Poo Kids, from Iowa City. There is the Doggie Machine; the Hyatt Family Band; Lester Quibbles. Most are professional-quality amateurs whom Matusow met at conventions sponsored by the Alliance for Community Media, an organization that promotes public-access cable channels.

Once their work is spliced together-on the three-quarter inch analog tape Matusow has been using for more than a decade-the collection of ventriloquists, animal acts, jugglers, ballerinas, singers and musicians have joined the children's variety show known as
Magic Mouse Magazine
. The one-hour show, which originates from public-access SCAT-TV in Glenwood, Utah, costs Matusow about $100 to make. He charges users $3 a tape. The formula adds up to non-commercial and non-violent programming from coast to coast.

"Most commercial children's programming is cut down the middle between those that hype products and those that sell violence," said Matusow, 74, from his studio in central Utah. "That is why I went into public access-to find out what was happening in the way of non- violent programs. I think we're a leader."

His do-it-yourself access program is unusual, according to the Alliance.

Jim Horwood, an Alliance board member since 1990 said that other than material put out by political organizations and national non-profits, he had never before heard of a syndicated public-access show.

Given the local philosophy governing public access, many channels maintain strict rules about programs being locally produced using homegrown talent. However, there has been talk of sharing some programming.

"In a new environment things might be thought of differently,'' said Horwood, a Washington-based lawyer. "This kind of thing might work until we're able to get satellite to the point where we can have local footprints."

Matusow has other ideas. He wants to find a cable backer to convey his family-oriented message and earn him a salary.

"I've been supporting myself on my veterans' disability for the last six years,'' he said. "The bottom line is we'd like to find some channel who would like to get us so I don't have to make up 70 tapes and send them out for $3 a piece. We want a new home for our non-violent programming."

Moving to a new home, he says, would also enable him to earn a salary and upgrade equipment.

That may be so, but a cable-owned
Mouse

might not be the same
Mouse
.

Horwood, the Alliance board member said, for instance, that Matusow could not continue to use the studio or equipment if he leased or sold the program to a cable network. More important, how could the show stick to its non-commercial credo?

"I can't see a cable company putting on a program that wouldn't be associated with commercials," said Horwood, who has never heard of an access show moving to cable. "Only the pay channels don't carry commercials."

Matusow has produced
Magic Mouse Magazine

since 1978, picking up customers as word gets out. He usually has at least 70 hours in the can, thanks to out-of-town talent, on-air guests and a good deal of donated equipment.

The concept for the program was born when he was living in Tucson and retiring from the Alliance board. He had done his clown character on the access channel there and also did live theater around Tucson.

Someone suggested that, as a Mormon he might want to move to Utah. He did so, founding SCAT-TV.

His life story could fill its own magazine. Born in the Bronx as Harvey Matusow, he has worked in television, theater, journalism and community activism. He is most known as the man who named scores of alleged Communists during the McCarthy hearings, then took back his testimony-at a price of a four-year prison sentence. Later, he traveled around the world, often playing the part of Cockyboo, delivering his message of harmony and good works for teenage runaways, drug addicts and the poor. It was when he landed in Utah that the
Magic Mouse Magazine

took shape.

Decidedly low-tech, the program is long on imagination. Footage of animals is put to music, vivid stories are illustrated with still drawings, school children play games, and Cockyboo spins tales from Angelville, the tiny home of the Magic Mouse.

Along the way, he has met performers who readily contributed to his program. In 1993 and 1994
Magazine

was named a Hometown Video Festival Winner, sponsored by the Alliance.

After that,
Magazine

got picked up in cities across the country. Matusow is proud of that but prouder still that the show has stuck to its mission. "I get most of my fan letters and calls from grandmothers who say that finally there is something they can watch with their kids without feeling patronized."