Queer Edge master tape mystery solved! Or, adventures on the trail of Jack E. Jett

First off: thank you for traveling with me down Queer Edge memory lane all month. The responses from friends old and new has been encouraging and humbling. I really appreciate your interest and support.

Here’s what went down over the last 30 days:

This all started with the declaration that QE host Jack E. Jett—the first out, gay television talk show host on planet earth—deserves to be enshrined in an LGBT media archive for posterity.

One problem: all that exists of the 96+ celebrity-studded episodes are 32 lo-res digital rips I have on a hard drive. The master tapes… who knows where they went?

Well, let me tell you, after some crazy twists and turns that would make Indiana Jones’ head explode, I know where the tapes are. They are safe. They are complete. This is a really big deal!

Jack E. Jett

Jack E. Jett on the sett.

The sad demise of QTN: a recap

The Queer Edge‘s cable network, Queer Television Network (QTN), went out of business suddenly in 2006 with no notice. I mean, we employees couldn’t even get our stuff from our desks (armed sheriff’s deputies had to intervene). Everyone was left high and dry.

Then the network owner died and no one claimed his body from the morgue out in Palm Springs. Talk about persona non-grata. (That’s something for all of us to ponder—dying alone with your “stuff” stranded in the desert.)

The Queer Edge was shot using the most state-of-the-art analog equipment ever manufactured. That’s because QTN studios had all of the last generation analog equipment from the local NBC affiliate (so I was told at the time). The program looked just beautiful on the screen—exceptional.

The episodes were recorded on a now-defunct Frankenstein monster of a format called, DigiBeta. Yeah—Beta, like, from the ’70s. Displaced by VHS, still alive—using supersized tapes—in the 2000s, but encoded digitally. Nightmare. But also wonderful as with this system none of the gorgeous analog video will ever be lost.

But the tapes—the “IP” as everyone worshipfully calls it now—where did they go?

Lost forever?

I reconnected with many of my old Queer Edge workmates, celebrities (thank you for your re-posts and hearts: Sandra Bernhard, Judy Tenuta, Charo, Chi Chi LaRue, Johnny Hazzard, Kate Moennig, Pamela Des Barres, Goddess Bunnie, Michael Lucid, Glen Meadmore, Lenora Claire, and so many more), underground music scene buddies and also met some new acquaintances— kind, loving friends of the late Jack Jett during the course of the monthlong social media takeover.

I learned about the incredible Jack E. Jett Show—the cable access precursor to The Queer Edge produced by director / producer / playwright Chris Rentzel. This is a subject for a future interview/spotlight, but in the meantime, revel in the absolute splendiferous weirdness:

Unfortunately, none of these folks knew where to find the master tapes.

Could I be the only person left with any recordings of The Queer Edge?

Was Jack E. Jett’s QTN legacy lost forever?

Return from the Edge 

It turns out—drumroll!—the tapes were rescued from a desert storage unit by the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project on the very day before they were due to be auctioned off, or pitched into the garbage, in 2007 thanks to a tip from a former QTN employee.

But because the tapes were so “hot,” meaning all the QTN producers, talent, content creators were still so angry over the way the station went under and left them in the lurch, the entire lot of masters was palletized and set aside by archive staff. And then they were forgotten.

Adding to the confusion, an inventory of the tapes conducted a decade ago misidentified the network as “QTV” (a common mistake even while the channel was extant), adding another layer of obscurity.

Then, as part of discussions to donate my materials to the archive, memories were jogged and—voila!—Outfest folks remembered: we have all the tapes. The real tapes, not 320p low-quality rips.

Somewhere up above, Sassy Gay Jesus is smiling.

So when I called for Jack E. Jett to be enshrined in an LGBT media archive? Jack is already in there. All the episodes of The Queer Edge are safe and in professional care. Thank you, Outfest UCLA Legacy Project.

One downside is that the tapes have not been digitized nor are they slated to be any time soon, as the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project is a non-profit and on a tight budget.

Jack E. Jett

Let’s get Jack back.

Which is a perfect time to plug them and say:

Please donate to the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project—these are great people doing important things

I mean, I’d love to help them write a grant to get The Queer Edge back online. Kind of intimidating I will admit. We’ll see what the future holds.

So this is a pause, once again, to the Queer Edge story. But it’s an optimistic pause. Stay tuned. I want to explore The Jack E. Jett Show and the archive…it’s a doozy and I feel like there so much great Jack-related stuff we haven’t seen.

Maybe, with some help, we could do this together? Get Jack back on the airwaves, if only online?

I want to hear from you.

Charo and Jackie Dale Pinson aka Jett, RIP.

Charo and Jackie Dale Pinson aka Jack E. Jett, RIP.

Full Queer Edge episodes are on my YouTube—please subscribe.

View vintage posts from QueerEdge.tv—made live again for the first time since 2006.

READ: Jack E. Jett was a gay TV pioneer—and he deserves some official recognition

READ: Every day a circus: Behind the scenes of The Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett

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