Jack E. Jett was a gay TV pioneer—and he deserves official recognition
This month I want to pay tribute to a landmark cable television production from 2005-06—The Queer Edge—and its one-of-a-kind superstar host, creator, and all around benevolent leader, Jack E. Jett.
Jack E. Jett, a homosexual Max Headroom brought to life in gloriously glitchy 3-D, championed authentic punk rock underground culture and put it on equal footing with old school Hollywood glamor, then took the glorious mess to national and international television audiences with The Queer Edge. All back when the world was mired in the terrifying and regressive George W. Bush era.
Let’s consider for a moment what out-and-proud representation was on mainstream TV in 2005… okay gotta think… um…. hmm… wait… Ellen? That’s about all I can come up with. And Ellen never had porn stars, noise bands or R-rated comedians on the same nationally-broadcast episode.
Jack E. Jett was years ahead of Drag Race, pre-dated Graham Norton, and showcased Hollywood’s most weird and wonderful long before “celebreality” TV took over. He hosted cutting-edge bands and offbeat entertainers too risqué for primetime.
Jack E. Jett brought all of this, five days a week, broadcast live with no safety net from Burbank just like Johnny and Jay for two years solid and then… the show, and Jack, dropped off the face of the earth.
No recognition from mainstream or LGBT media, no video clips on YouTube, no reruns. Nothing.
This is wrong.
After Jack passed away in 2015 from a heart attack at age 58, his outsized contributions became even more obscure.
Jack deserves some posthumous enshrinement——as do the Queer Edge guests, musicians, production folks, writers and crew that supported him.
Therefore I am calling for the recognition of Jack E. Jett for his contributions to broadcasting by an LGBT film and television preservation organization for the benefit of future generations with his programs to be placed in a publicly accessible archive where Jack’s on-air mischief can be celebrated and enjoyed forever.
Grandiose? Maybe. Watch the show.
Jack was from from Texas and he was talked and gesticulated just like his birth state: larger than life.
What’s my angle on this? I’m a Jack E. Jett super fan who graduated to working on The Queer Edge, first as a live music talent wrangler then as a PA. Jack took me under his wing and extended a lot of generosity to me personally. Jack enlisted me his on-set photographer and webmaster of his QueerEdge.tv site. Later, when comedian and actress Sandra Bernhard joined the show as co-host, Jack hired me and made me one of his producers. I’ve been working as a producer in Hollywood ever since.
I was there when another factor obscuring Jack’s dayglo contribution to gay history came into play—the abrupt closure of Queer Television Network. QTN, the cable company that was producing and airing The Queer Edge in the US and Canada ceased to exist in a poof (pun) under mysterious circumstances with no warning in 2006.
QTN put Jack and all of us out of jobs with about thirty minutes notice. It seems the main dude (Frank Olsen) ran off with the network’s money (and then died and no one claimed his body at the morgue… what?). Before the padlocks went up on the doors, Jack told me: “Go to the vault NOW—run!—and get every DVD rip of the show you can and take them home and keep them safe.” I did that, and the discs have remained in my file cabinet ever since.
After much legal wrangling Jack and his husband and co-producer, John, got the original tape copies of the show. Jack said to me, “You can do whatever you want with those DVDs.”
I had hoped for almost 15 years that reruns of the show would appear online but they never have.
Which brings us to today. Recently I rediscovered these discs. And, for posterity’s sake—with no financial stake or any kind of expectation—I have put the lo-res rips that I rescued way back when online for everyone to enjoy and recognize the greatness of Jack.
In upcoming posts I’ll explore how I met Jack and how he mentored me. I’m not a close friend or an expert on his life or anything like that, but his journey from rural Texas to international male modeling stardom to CBS casting agent to AIDS activist to Belinda Carlisle manager to TV host remains as compelling today as it did when I met him.
In the meantime check out The Queer Edge episode guide which I cobbled together. It collects everything I have in my archives from my time as Jack’s webmaster.
The guests and bands will astound you (more on that soon too).
Subscribe to my YouTube and watch full episodes now.
View posts from QueerEdge.tv and this site—made live again for the first time since 2006.
Follow me on Instagram for a monthlong celebration of all things Jack. I’ll be rolling out the very best clips and bits.
In Daddy Jack’s own eternal words, “If it ain’t broke, then break it! Because Queer Edgers—we are a go!”
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