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The World Of Rocco Giuliano


Rocco Giuliano first appeared on Boston independent TV station WSBK-TV38 hosting the summer movie presentation, "TV38's Saturday Night Drive In." Rocco's presence generated enough buzz that two summers later he returned to the station with a regular slot as "Boston's only 'Underground' movie host" of his own movie presentation venue, "38 Late." For his work on the show, Rocco received two Emmy nominations in Hosting and Writing, as well as notice in the local press. Rocco continued to appear on the station in guest slots on specials and locally originated programming until WBSK changed ownership in 1996.


He is also familiar to New Englanders for his insights into topical issues, as featured on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, and his involvement in speculative TV projects.


Rocco's media career began in the mid-80s with a syndicated radio program called "Verbal Assault." The show was carried by many college and "progressive" radio stations, as well as international pirate broadcasters, including Music Radio Holland, The Voice of Venus, Fantasy Broadcast Service and the legendary Radio Free Augsburg of West Germany. Also in the 1980s, the magazine Popular Communications featured an article about the show which noted that "Rocco refused to answer any questions of a personal nature without his attorney present."


During his checkered past, Rocco has been a beatnik poet, a photographer and a roadie for the Boston-based cult rock band, The Ultimate Spinach. Rocco was immortalized in their ballad, "Fragmentary March of Green," from the album "Behold & See." If you listen carefully, you'll hear his name is chanted in the chorus like a lyrical litany.

Rocco: The "Verbal Assault" Years

by Joe Tyburczy

as told to Shane Delorean


Some say Rocco's association with an obscure University of Massachusetts degree program lit the fuse that triggered his bombastic foray into radio, television, and print. I know this because sometime in the mid 1980s he casually mentioned to me he'd be making an appearance on Fitchburg, MA radio station WEIM as part of a show called "Freedom Means", a public affairs program relegated to the Sunday Morning Ghetto, i.e., a period of time which is so unprofitable for commercial broadcasting that it's assigned to a number of coma-inducing public service, religious, ethical, or ecumenical programs. Some guy named Hendra from UWW, the University Without Walls, had convinced him that he might get his degree faster if he showed up at WEIM to contribute material and lend moral support to the poor unfortunates doomed to inhabit this time slot.


As proof of his appearance, he handed me a cassette tape containing a woefully long and plodding editorial read by himself. Upon listening to it, it was clear to me that "Freedom Means" required him to submerge his volatile persona and create the impression of being a soft-spoken and reasonable person rather than the violently aggressive individual that he is (or was at the time). This, in my estimation, was a tragedy. I immediately invited Rocco to contemplate a suitable vehicle in which he could truly "be himself". At the time, I had several hundred pounds of recording equipment stashed away in a spare bedroom as part of my work with Boston producer Henry Dane, which we used to create segments for our appearances as The Radio Hooligans on WBCN-FM. I offered to produce whatever Rocco came up with, provided it reflected his true self.


Birth of A Tyrant


He promptly came up with "VERBAL ASSAULT", a 10 minute radio show in which he lectured the audience on the pitfalls of modern life while simultaneously berating them for being worthless scum. From the beginning, Rocco was very enthusiastic when delivering his material. His enthusiasm took the form of screaming and pounding the table during recordings. I had to improvise blast filters to allow the electronics to cope with these demands and even assembled a crude soundproof booth out of carpet and 2x4's so that frightened neighbors would refrain from calling the police. (Since Rocco often wore a .357 magnum pistol in a shoulder holster rig while recording {I kid you not}, we did not want the police arriving unexpectedly)


Effect on US Military Troops


At first we gave the show away free to shortwave pirate radio stations in Europe because no one else would touch it. Rocco's diatribes seemed to have a wildly subversive effect on listeners. One US Army Sgt. stationed at the 701st Military Intelligence Brigade's listening post at Field Station Augsburg in West Germany was court-martialed because he went AWOL after regular exposure to VERBAL ASSAULT (we received gushing fan letters from him - written from the brig). I can only imagine what Soviet troops hunkered over shortwave receivers in East Germany thought of the show.


"Verbal Assault" broadcast via shortwave.


In July 1990, more members of the 701st MIB in Augsburg deserted their posts, convinced that the end of the world was nigh. Since old VERBAL ASSAULT tapes were still circulating on the base at the time, there's every reason to believe that Rocco's diatribes helped fuel their rather bizarre delusions.


Transition to TV


One of the main reasons we gave up VERBAL ASSAULT was because of threats. In the late 1980s we'd been able to place the show on some college stations. One of them was WBRS-FM at Brandeis. The young DJ's took Rocco's maledictions personally (I believe he often referred to them as "candy-assed college boys") and began widely denouncing the show and vocalizing dark-sounding plans to "shut Rocco up". Since Rocco was beginning to exhibit an interest in video programming, we decided to drop the radio work and avoid the nuisance of threats altogether.


Rocco made his first video appearance in 1987 when I hired him to act as on-air lifestyle reporter during a series of closed-circuit broadcasts to hotels housing bored Boston conventioneers. He made the transition from radio to video rather seamlessly, exploiting his ability to simultaneously inform, insult, and confuse the audience while bellowing rapid-fire monologues. Based on this performance, TV38 producer and ex-Radio Hooligan Henry Dane recruited him a few years later to star in a series of ill-fated local television projects in which he portrayed variously, an angrily sentimental late night movie host wandering the grounds of abandoned Drive-In theatres, a moody beatnik philosopher offering desultory film commentaries, and the voice of a talking dog.


Writing Career


Perversely, Dane's energetic onslaught of creative TV failures not only brought recognition to Rocco in the form of local Emmy award nominations but also a number of job offers to write scripts promoting lucrative offshore business ventures, local high tech firms, and an array of questionable pharmaceutical products. From there, it was just a matter of time before he became a permanent fixture on the Boston creative landscape and developed a rich mythos from which a younger generation continues to draw strength and inspiration.



Editors note: In 2003 a bootleg CD, The Best Of VERBAL ASSAULT was widely sold and traded on the Internet.

Rocco Ignored On YouTube?

MONDO ROCCO has learned that Henry Dane has placed three short pieces on YouTube in which Rocco addresses the subjects of Entertainment, TV News and sports -- possibly in an effort to resuscitate interest in Rocco among the 18-24 crowd. Reviewer Claire Narcisse in The Winthrop Bugle commented on their disappointing lack of viewership:


"Giuliano delivers his spiel from what appears to be a cluttered janitorial closet. Although the topic is subjected to about 90 seconds worth of penetrating insight by the offbeat hipster, he is decisively riveted to his chair and constrained by Dane's rather static technique. One gets the sense that in the hands of a more kinetically-minded filmmaker like Tyburczy, the material would come alive in a series of thrilling dynamic vignettes"


Dane's response to such criticism in the past has been to disregard it altogether or point out Tyburczy's shortcomings with regard to rendering small animals. But where does that leave Rocco? How will Dane invest Giuliano's solid yet rubbery performances with the eye-appeal that will pull in younger viewers?


Debate over Rocco's Q Factor (relative popularity as determined by TV polls) has been going on since the 1990's. How will future Dane/Rocco collaborations attempt to address this issue? Is there (God forbid) an extreme makeover in progress? Will Rocco be forced into the MTV Jackass mold?


MONDO ROCCO wants to know.

Rocco Goes To The Museum

Boston TV producer Henry Dane is at it again -- this time at Boston's Museum of Science. MONDO ROCCO has received information that Dane began filming sequences for an undisclosed TV project starring Rocco, commencing with a recent shoot on Museum property in March 2007.


As we predicted, Dane's new approach to packaging Rocco for the masses includes a number of innovations -- such as forced ambulatory movement in public locations with a number of Jack's Joke Shop props thrown in for good measure. Observers report that Rocco, wearing a trench coat and pith helmet, participated in scenes which included "a very amusing situation" involving a giant harmonica, a plastic scorpion, and the Museum's 1-million watt Tesla Coil.


Rocco comments in his blog:


"...Henry made me wear a silly plastic pith helmet, and I was verbally abused by children who had apparently been bussed in from the suburbs. It was a wretched experience, but not as bad as the time he broke my leg during a late-night recording session at TV38"

TV Pilot: TBD


No word on the Museum Of Science project, but it appears Dane is busy brewing yet another TV PILOT as a vehicle for Rocco. Insider sources tell us that the new project is designed to piggyback on the popularity of cable TV fare such as MAN VS. WILD and SURVIVORMAN in which a survival expert is transported to some wilderness location where he must create shelter, find food, and make his way to a prearranged pickup point. Key sequences for at least one episode have been filmed, according to our source:


"Decked out in pith helmet and shouldering an alpine backpack, Rocco trudges through Boston's North End, an entrenching tool, mess kit, and canteen clattering at his waist. He approaches mundane features of urban topography as if negotiating some especially perilous backcountry. At a pizza parlor, he discovers "nourishing and edible deposits of vegetable and wheat" which he is able to barter with the natives for. He regards the subway as "uncharted underground passages". A taxi ride is compared to the Native American practice of riding wild horses on the Great Plains and described as "a dangerous business requiring the utmost skill and cunning..."


Dane is reportedly considering such titles as URBAN JUNGLE, WILD BOSTON, and PLEASE PASS THE ASSAULT for the proposed series.


A message from Criswell

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