Ugly George On Mute

1:28 PM

Filed under:
New York


In the early days of Manhattan Cable—now Time Warner—a man who called himself Ugly George could be found on the system’s Channel J, which was a public-access channel devoted to sexual content: porno film loops, escort service ads and The Robin Byrd show. George, whose given surname is Urban, was a chunky, homely guy who roamed the city dressed in a silver Lost in Space-style jumpsuit and shouldering a portable video-recorder backpack to which a handheld camera was connected. Upon encountering a busty and/or attractive woman, George would attempt to coax her out of her clothes and videotape her for broadcast on his Channel J show. Despite having a face for radio, as they used to say in the pre-Sirius days, and a body that wouldn’t be out of place on The Biggest Loser, Ugly George had a pretty impressive rate of success with getting women out of their clothes. And though, personally speaking, five minutes of George’s work was enough viewing for a lifetime, I always admired his originality and his moxie. It’s one thing to roam around the city asking women to take off their shirts for your camera, to do it while wearing a silver space suit and backpack that looked like a jerry-rigged version of something that the Apollo astronauts wore when they walked the moon—well, that took real balls. And for me, George embodied the unreconstructed, in-your-face New York City spirit that drew me to this city in the first place.

My last conversation with Ugly George was in 1998, when I interviewed him for my Transom column in The New York Observer about a website, he was starting up. The fact that George was talking to me while pumping nickels into a pay phone didn’t exactly instill me with confidence that his venture would succeed, but I found it heartening that George was attempting to adapt to the times, even if the porn that was on the Internet even then made George’s stuff look like outtakes from The Benny Hill Show.


Well, strangely enough, the other day, I was walking into the Barnes & Noble book store on West 66th Street and there standing on Columbus Avenue with his video rig on his back was Ugly George. He wasn’t wearing silver—earth tones were what I remember, but he looked healthy and even serene, not like a guy who’d been subsisting on the media fringe for the last two or three decades. Even stranger, not long before this encounter, I’d received a phone call from someone looking to track down Ugly George who had read my Observer piece on the web and wanted to know if I had a contact number. I didn’t, and so when I saw George outside the Barnes & Noble, I attempted to strike up a conversation. I was genuinely interested in seeing how he’d been faring in the digital age. But, for whatever reasons, George was not interested in talking to me. He completely ignored me—he was actually pretty brilliant at it—and despite several attempts to connect with him, I gave up. Perhaps I should have dropped my trousers and waggled my ass for him, but then Barnes & Noble probably would have terminated my member’s discount card. I’ve since gone on the Net to find that George does have a website, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to determine if it’s active without giving him my credit-card number. But, hey George, if you’re out there and you read this, e-mail me. I’d love to catch up.



articles from Vanity Fair by Frank DiGiacomo

The Game Has Changed
March 2008

John Mellencamp: One from the Heartland
February 2007

The Esquire Decade
January 2007

The Gossip Behind the Gossip
December 2004

articles from The New York Observer by Frank DiGiacomo

Puff Daddy’s Black and White Ball ’98
December 3, 2006

The Bling of Comedy
February 8, 2004

Baldwin Aroused
November 30, 2003

Triumph Sniffs a Hit
October 19, 2003

Jack Carter Smothers Brothers at Rip-Roaring Friars Roast
October 12, 2003

» See all posted articles


Me and Mr. Johnson
Here’s a link to my latest feature in Vanity…

And Featuring Scarlett Johansson in the Role of…Angelina Jolie
Following last night’s screening of Gomorra, an invitation-only crowd…

See Naples and Die of Heartbreak
If you have any connection to Italy, be it…

P.S. Elliott
This past summer, I wrote a profile of comic…

If You See Something, Say Something (to the Girl in the Hot Chiffon Top)
The police presence at my local subway stop was…


VF Daily
Shipment of Fail
TV Barn
Andrew Sullivan
The Huffington Post
Geeks of Doom
Big Apple Music Scene
WFMU’s Beware of the Blog
Funny or Die
Drew Friedman
Comedy Smack
The New York Observer
Dead Frog