By Gary Chapman
Before YouTube, one of the ways that people could express themself in Public was Public Access television. Public access is pretty much where a person can rent a spot of airtime and put pretty much anything (as long as it follows FCC guidelines). St. Louis Public Access (bar STL TV) was owned by Double Helix, which currently runs KDHX. From 1986-2001, a show occupied the late-night weekend schedule, run by Pete E. Parisi, the simply titled World Wide Magazine.
World Wide Magazine had a simple format, most episodes had Pete going to areas around St Louis and talking about events, like the VP Fair (which they got kicked out of in 1987) or sometimes commentating on area issues like race, the now-closed “Workhouse” and gentrification. He also commented on the population, using the colloquial term “Hoosier”.
The show has gained a cult following on YouTube, with a video titled “World Wide Magazine–Best of Black Jesus” uploaded by the major provider for WWM, Jim Varagona, having over 17,000 views.
The show’s popularity could be attributed to the show’s host, Pete Parisi, having a candid, genuine, and sometimes downright weird nature. He had a weird sense of humor that he was sometimes surprised when others didn’t get the joke. According to the obituary written for him by RFT writer D.J. Wilson, there was an incident that happened to Parisi when he was working at KADI, which is now KNOU. Pete went to visit his nieces and nephews in New Jersey on Christmas Eve. He pulled them over to “listen to the radio” when in reality, he had put a tape that sounded like a newscast of an announcer saying that Santa had burned alive. When the kids, understandably, freaked out, Parisi was dumbfounded.
Rich Dalton said that “Pete had trouble when people didn’t see things the way he did. He’d go too far. It was part of his social ineptitude.”
The show started production in Aug. 1985 when Pete recorded an hour-long program “Every Day I Use a Year’s Worth of Luck” which can be seen here. The show started airing on cable in 1986.
The show had its regulars, the most notable few being Vladimir Noskov, referred to by “The Mad Russian”, and Minister Don L. Wayne, who was referred to under the moniker “Black Jesus”
Parisi stopped making episodes as his health was starting to decline. Pete passed away due to diabetes-related complications on Jan.19, 2002.
Another part of WWM that makes it popular was how Pete’s Hi-8 camera captured parts of STL that don’t exist anymore, like the St. Louis Center, which is now a parking garage and the quirky “Elvis is Alive Museum” located in Wright City, which was closed down in 2007.
So in summary, World Wise Magazine is an eccentric show with a taste of attitude, from asking people at the corner of Grand and Gravois to filming inside the Trophy Room. Pete E. Parisi in essence preserved a St. Louis which is not there anymore while being a polite, eccentric nuisance. He was pretty much the Eric Andre of his time.
Featured image by Maria Martinez Nogueda